Being creative with kids and a job - why starting a project might be just what you need to find more time and space.

“Why are we even together anymore?” asks my six-year-old son.

“Yeah, why don’t you just run off with a male prostitute,” chimes in his twin sister.

We are in the cereal aisle of a supermarket and I am fielding some concerned looks from the other shoppers.

“They’ve memorised lines from my play,” I state loudly. No one looks convinced.  This is just one of the bizarre situations I’ve found myself in recently as I attempt to produce the first full-length play I’ve written in eight years. Last time I did this I had a full-time job, husband and a very needy dog – (I still have all of these) – but now I also have three kids in tow.

Writing a play is fairly solitary, self-sufficient activity that I did over a whole year whenever I had a spare hour or so, but producing a show is the opposite. It takes a lot of time, energy and resources. It has a deadline – a date when the curtain must come up! Before I decided to do this, I wondered should I even start a creative project? I work full time, have limited time with the kids as it is, shouldn’t I be concentrating on them? Why was I doing this? Was it to prove I could still do something I had done before the kids? Was it to spice up my work day?  Was it to have something for myself? I’m no psychologist but I suspect it was D) all of the above.

Woman Implodes poster. Image supplied.

And with less than three weeks before the show hits the stage, how am I faring? Well, as it turns out, working on a creative project has had some unexpected results in many different spheres of my life.

Firstly, and most importantly, rather than take time away from my children, by including them in the process, it’s brought us closer together. Made us a little production team.  Now while my show Woman Implodes is no Reservoir Dogs, it’s not Finding Dory either (as you might have guessed by the lines spouted in the supermarket), but I’ve broadly explained the plot - working mother under pressure loses her cool and alters time and space - to my children and they generally understand what it’s about. Heck they know the lines! My kids love having an aim – whether it’s trawling $2 shops in Northland looking for reindeer ears, trying to explain to the teenage hardware store assistant why we want to buy silver concertinaed air-conditioning ducts (robot arms) or loitering out the back of the loading dock at Harvey Norman’s for the perfect-sized cardboard box - our weekends have become scavenger hunts of the most imaginative and odd proportions.

Kids are also generally good at craft which means they are ideal for production roles such as prop making. It does help that we’ve chosen to go with a B-grade sci-fi theme (think Plan 9 From Outer Space) for the AV and props. That means the more obvious cardboard constructions, the better. Armed with enough polystyrene, aluminium foil and gaffer tape to bring about an ecological disaster we’ve created the moon, a rocket, a robot, a giant loom band of doom and we’re about to start on a full size spaceship.

My daughter painting the robot's head. Image supplied.

Secondly, having a creative project, has actually given me a real supercharge – rather than drain me. This has bled through to work where I’ve been emboldened to try new approaches to old problems and made me more confident in my decision-making. I also don’t have time for office politics or to pussyfoot around issues that would have caused me to be anxiously immobile before.  Another side effect is that I’ve become better at about delineating where work ends and home starts. No more vacantly gawping over work emails on the weekend, I’ve got video segments to film, space sets to build, postcards to leave surreptitiously in cafes of the north.

An example of one of the video segments in B grade movie style.

The time you tried to make a fishtail loom band:

Thirdly, I feel more well-rounded as a person; embarking on a creative project is nerve-wracking, and risky, but there’s also reward in the adrenaline rush and a genuine sense of accomplishment.  It’s a challenge to reveal your inner most thoughts so publicly, for example, what are the mothers at school going to think about me writing about a male escort?  By setting a deadline, (preview is 13 September), I’ve forced myself to carve out some time for my own project. I won’t lie, this has come at the expense of clean school pants, lost notices, running late for gymnastics/ swimming/ work, and my kids knowing some very exotic phrases, but it’s also an achievement outside of work and the kids that I can feel proud of. I know this is a luxury of sorts, I am lucky to have an incredibly supportive partner without whom this would not have happened.

So will it be a success or will it be a case of life imitating art – and I implode from the pressure of trying to keep all the balls in the air? In less than three weeks, we’ll find out.

The show runs from September 13-18 2016 at the Mechanics Institute in Brunswick. You can buy your tickets here.