One of the most prolific composers of the Baroque period, Johann Sebastian Bach, had a total of 24 children across two marriages while being the music director at five churches at once.
I bring this up because our society is full of messages that a fulfilling career and family are at odds with one another, when they aren’t. I’ve known musicians who tour extensively, all over the world, and who still have families. Active military personnel, who are often deployed for long stretches of time, still have families.
If your own family is something you really want in your life, you can have it, and you can still have a creative career, but like with anything, understanding focus priorities is key.
Family is, by necessity, a lower priority for those who have to spend large amounts of time away from family, such as touring musicians or men engaged in active military service. This doesn’t mean that they care less about their family, since what they are doing is often done specifically to provide for a family; I’m merely saying that, in terms of time and focus, family is lower on the list than professional obligations. The same goes for businessmen who spend long hours working.
People are often dishonest with themselves when it comes to preferences, though, and if you aren’t a homebody you shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to pour more of your time into your creative projects or your work. Ideally, if you are married and having children, you have a partner with a complementary set of preferences that prefers more time with the kids.
When it comes to family, negotiating balance is more complicated, because you aren’t the only party.
If you are somebody who doesn’t prefer to have his or her own family, family itself is probably still somewhere on the obligation list, even if it is just holidays.
Family also includes your primary romantic relationship, as that has the trajectory to become a family (even if you don’t have children). Just like any life area you develop, time with your romantic partner is a kind of investment. The return is a strong relationship that can sustain periods of separation that are both brief (like gigging on Saturday nights) and prolonged (like going on tour).
I should also say that it is necessary and appropriate to budget time for yourself. If you want to make progress on your goals, you need to be spending time on them. Labels like “mom” and “dad” need not be your entire identity – in fact, I think it is good for your children to see and understand the work their parents do, as this helps them to understand just who their parents are.
For me, most of my time is spent on family. Most of my work happens in the margins, but that is how I prefer it. My children are (as I am writing this) still very young and dependent. I will only have that time with them once; I cannot go back in time if I miss portions of their young childhood. When they get older, I know their need for me will diminish, they will become more independent, so my priorities can (and probably will) change in a few years time.
It’s a bit hard for me to step away from my kids to work (while they are awake), but sometimes I need to do that to meet my creative and business goals.
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