This actually happened.
This Is How I Work
(If you’re not interested in my working life skip this part.)
I’ve always wanted to do one of those “this is how I work” posts that I read about on tech and life hacking blogs. They always have some cool editor or globe trotting journalist talking about their working habits, tips for staying productive, and the cool tech they use to get the job done when they’re stuck in some hellish commute in some romanticized, overly crowded city. How I envy them. Truth be told, I used to live in big cities, had a hellish commute, and just stared at my phone the whole time. Being stuck on a train for an hour to go nine miles is not romantic. I guess I never took to city life. I could never see myself having a family and raising kids in a place like NYC. Luckily for me, given my penchant for road rage and distaste for large crowds and pickpockets, we live in a small town. Life is calmer, but how is the career now with a baby? How’s the working life of a stay at home dad/illustrator?
Well let’s explore.
Raising Emma is my first and main job. It’s essentially all the positions you need to run a hotel all rolled into one. During the day I’m the manager, the receptionist, the cleaner, the plumber and maintenance crew, the chef, the bellhop… I’m everything. Then when Kelly is home she can be everything because I sneak off for a long break that leaves her saying, “where the hell is that guy? It’s only a fifteen minute break!” (She’ll never know where I sneak off to..)
So my days are eventful… and very full.
I’m really just trying to keep up with Emma’s development since it seems like she grows into new habits and new developmental stages each week. Once you think you have her figured out she up and jukes ya. One constant that I can bank on is her nap time. That’s when I try to get some work in. I’ll either tackle client work, this blog, personal projects, or try to manage the constant disarray which comes with having a baby and has consumed our home.
Mainly, in regards to professional illustration, I work at night. Sometimes I lose sleep and sometimes I dread going to sleep because I know I’ll be up in 45 minutes when Emma needs to be fed or changed. Oh, holy crap, btw, night time changings are the devil.
La Scenario Del Diablo
Here’s a scenario- your baby has a wet diaper, you can feel the weight as the diaper sags off of their tiny tuchas, what’s more, you can smell it. Now, most parents have an instinctual urge to keep their children clean and for me that kicks in with a fury when I get a whiff of the dookies. So now you have to change your kid’s diaper, but you also know that if you go to change them they’ll wake up screaming bloody murder and they won’t go back down for another hour. That’s another hour that you’re awake in the middle of the damn night and you really like to sleep because you don’t get a lot of it.
I’ve never had a hidden addiction or a vice that would ever get me on that show Intervention; nothing I’ve ever had to hide from my family and sneak off to enjoy. If I did, though, it would probably be sleep. There’s no greater feeling than the way I feel when everyone one else is asleep, I finally put the baby down where she’ll stay down for the night, and I slowly creep through the house, double check the locks, and finally crawl into bed and await the warm embrace of slumber. I am dead to the world when I sleep. If I get more than five straight hours I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
That being said, I also have obligations to my clients, so sometimes I don’t get to sleep.
Back to Work
When I started working from home I got myself a nice set up, I did. I recreated the the old workstations I had when I was an in-house artist for various studios- a really strong desktop, big @$$ Wacom Cintiq, and a dual monitor setup. Only this time I got myself a good strong, gaming PC that won’t buckle under pressure because I do a bit of animation, too. I also set up a very respectable studio space in the new house and it’s done up to the nines. I’m surrounded by all my reference books, art, degrees, toys, and a nice mini bar with seating for clients and friends. What’s it like spending my days in this amazing space you ask? I couldn’t tell you, I don’t have any daytime to myself.
During the day the majority of my work is done on one of two devices- my phone or my tablet. I’m a big Samsung fanboy and have been a huge geek for their S Pen since it came out because it uses Wacom tech to operate. From these devices I’m emailing clients, researching, getting some preliminary sketches done, tracking hours, sending invoices, chasing down payments, and of course taking calls. I even get to write this blog and do my weekly doodles from the comfort of my companion devices. Well, it’s more convenient than anything. They let me multitask while I’m caring for Emma. I can be in the same room when she’s sleeping, playing… that’s it. She sleeps and she plays. She eats, too, and I can feed her while I’m emailing or making calls.
I do try to keep that to a minimum, though, because I don’t want her learning bad habits or growing up wanting to spend all her time on phones and gadgets, it’s apparently unhealthy for children. Plus, I really want to spend quality time with her. I don’t want her seeing me pay more attention to a phone than to her. In fact, I’ve really considered decreasing the amount of tech in our life so Emma isn’t completely surrounded by it at home. The phone is a big problem as it’s my sketchbook. I’m always on it and not necessarily sketching. I’ve wanted to switch to a Light Phone or a companion phone that limits the amount of time I’m staring at a screen by simply offering me less to do with my phone. That’s partly why I got a desktop instead of a Surface or a laptop- I don’t want to bring my work everywhere I go. Unfortunately, when you run a business, and in the case of being an artist where you are your business, you can’t stay disconnected during the working hours of the day. I’ve actually lost a client because, despite the quality of work, I wasn’t as available as they wanted. Luckily, word of mouth and social media have actually found me more work than I would have imagined, which is good and bad. I’ve ended up prefacing all my deals with the fact that I’m a stay-at-home dad and pull my 40 hours a week in the early mornings, at night, and on weekends. I couldn’t do that if I didn’t have Kelly, though. In fact, I couldn’t do a lot of stuff without my wife. I’d probably be a troll living under a bridge right now if it wasn’t for her and Emma.
23 weeks or 5 months… something like that
Speaking of which, Emma is an old lady now! She’s got that Benjamin Button disease…
Nah, she’s 23 weeks old and amazeballs. She looks so different and more grown up every time I look at her. She’s almost crawling. She has all the pieces she needs; she can prop herself up on her arms and reach out (for toys), scootch, pull her legs underneath her and push them back out. Everything’s there, she just needs to put it all together. Sometimes I feel like a Russian gymnastics coach for the Olympics. I’ve instituted regular tummy time so she can become more mobile, which I’m told, is something that I don’t really want. I can see that. She’ll be going places and it’ll be hard to keep an eye on her… but it might give me some reprieve from carrying her everywhere. I don’t know. I’m new at this so I’m probably getting it wrong.
She should also be on solid foods by now, according to the experts. Kelly and I are waiting for our pediatrician to give us the OK, though. Here’s the weird thing about waiting for the pediatrician to green light solid foods: your baby has a 4 month check up and a 6 month check up so they can get their shots.
VACCINES, PEOPLE, OR WE’LL ALL DIE OF THE MUMPS!
Well, what about all the milestones in month 5 like grown up human food?! Huh? Am I just supposed to figure it out on my own? I can’t do that! Example- Kelly’s parents told us how they dissolved puffed rice cereal into her milk to help fill her up. I said, “Like Rice Krispies?”
No, wrong, dumb.
They have puffed rice cereal just for babies, apparently. I would have been pouring bowls of Rice Krispies for my kid thinking everything was fine. How many adults who don’t have experience with baby food know about this mysterious Rice Krispies Jr.?
Am I psychic? Are my cartoons premonitions?
I’ve had a revelation- I’m partially psychic. Or my cartoons are psychic. I might have a super power. Last week I drew a strip where Emma grabs Shinobi’s ear and she yelps. Well 2 nights after that post that literally happened to us. We were just sitting on the couch, Emma on my lap, Nobi on her blanket next to me and all of a sudden this very sad and pathetic whine started to grow. Shinobi didn’t bark, growl, or nip at Emma… she just sat there and sadly whined at us. It kind of intoned, “Are you serious with this right now? Why me? Pay attention and fix this situation because my life is really crappy right now. PLEASE GET THIS KID OFF MY EAR. PLEEEEAASE!”
It broke my heart, but it was a teachable moment. Emma got another lesson in good touch/bad touch, which I’m sure stuck with her considering her excellent grasp of the English language, or as I like to call it “American.” And as it turns out, since Shinobi didn’t bite back, we don’t have to kabob her. Not an edible pet. That’s good news for the family.
I’ve also been drawing Emma grabbing my beard. I thought it was funny, you know, for the pictures. It’s now a reality.
Now that I might have a super power or magic drawing abilities Kelly wants me to draw other things that might become a reality. So I’m drawing us having hit our health goals. I might draw me in a jetpack or with a really cool sword riding a winged tiger and a like a Viking braid in my beard with a wicked little skull bead. That would rock.
Ow, my beard
Speaking of beards, thank God I started proper beard maintenance or I’d look like Mr. Clean. My little girls favorite thing is to grab two big handfuls of beard and yank my face around like she’s driving a car. It’s funny until it hurts. Oh, and if she grabs the stache part it’s all over. Daddy cries. It does have its uses, though. I’m the fuzzy face in the house and I think my beard has become a symbol of comfort and something familiar for her. I came to this conclusion after a few nights of rocking her to sleep. Sometimes, when she’s fighting how tired she really is, she’ll reach up and caress my beard. She won’t look at me, she’ll just close her eyes, snuggle into the nook of my elbow, and reach up and pet my beard. It melts my heart every damn time and I feel like a good dad.
That’s it for this week. I’m off to train my kid to crawl. Thanks for reading and Happy Parenting.