Work/Life: Kids

“Yes, I know I’m supposed to be bathing him tonight, but … Yeah, I know I didn’t bathe him last night either, but tonight we’ve got a hell of a lot to get through, client changes and … What time? I really have no idea, you know I can never tell until we … Dinner? No don’t worry about dinner, we’ll call out for take-away from here … Yes, I miss you too … He’s asking for me? Tell him I love him and I’ll definitely bathe him tomorrow night, I promise … .”

Anything in the above bit of fictional dialogue sound familiar? Yes, it does for me too. You see, we are creative people us motion folk and perfecting a design, a texture, a storyboard, a render or whatever it may be takes time. And despite working like demons all day to be “out the door”-bang on leaving time, fate and clients all too often conspire to derail our best intentions.

Now, when we just have ourselves and perhaps a willing “other half” (who has decided to throw their lot in with us) to consider, late nights at work are bad enough. Bags under the eyes and cold shoulders in bed are no fun. But throw kids into the mix and it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. Concerns and neuroses multiply and multiply again: My folks were around for my bedtime, and so should I! If I don’t see her all week, will she still know me? Is my patchy bedtime attendance causing her long-term psychological damage?!

But all the while, perfection is drumming its fingers on the desk and we can’t let something half-assed go out the door. And there you have it, the classic creative parent’s tug-of-war: Do I rush this thing and leave on time to see my kid or do I do myself justice as an artist and give this the extra four hours it needs? Do I leave my design baby screaming in the cot whilst I rush home to bathe and put to bed the human one?

Well here at the Motionographer Work / Life Think Tank (disclaimer: “Think Tank” may in reality refer to a couple of casual email threads), we have decided to throw this open to you, the readers. Why struggle on your own when you can take solace in the fact that many others are having the very same problems? To this end, we’ve created a questionnaire to see how work life after kids is shaping up for you. And those of you without nippers, we want to know how you think becoming parents will change your working lives.

When the results are in we’ll pump out a couple of fancy looking diagrams which will show us what you the Motionographer readers think about work/life with kids.

36 Comments

luka tisler

Can’t wait for answers of other colleagues with kids. I’m expecting one in couple of months and I’m really scared… So, please give me some advise how to balance projects (tight deadlines, client changes) and family.

Kris Boban

It may make life a little busier, but being a parent is the greatest feeling in the world.

Stephen Fitz

I’ve still got a lot of friends in full time gigs on-location and I’m not sure how they handle the kid juggle (if they have kids).

I left my staff position in LA after it eventually wore me down to a nub, and may have eventually left the industry all together because it is so unforgiving (deadlines don’t move for anyone). I found though, that switching to off-site freelance was the best way to protect my boundaries, time, and future family because the way I used my time was no longer an object of scrutiny, the end product was.

There is enough time in a day to do good work and make a living AND have a balanced family, but I think ONE of the ways to do it (my way) involves up-ending the traditional staff/freelance model and taking ownership of one’s own schedule and fate. There are other ways, and I’d love to hear what people do. The one year of hell approach was interesting (in that it paid off I think). What other ways are working for people? I’d love to see more profiles of the top artists trying to find balance.

This is a deep subject, because it can be analyzed based on different measures of balance and success. A happy functional family is success, to some success is creating masterful work with no compromise, to others success is simply pulling down a good living.

Filipe Carvalho

“because the way I used my time was no longer an object of scrutiny, the end product was.”

this is very true. I work remotely for US studios, and the way I manage my time is no bother to them – what matters is that I do good work on time.
I also work full-time at an agency here in Lisbon, Portugal. And the hours seem to grow every month.

Bran Dougherty-Johns

Stephen, I’ve done exactly the same thing. Since moving from NYC in 2006, I’ve worked remotely for studios or independently. I maintain a pretty regular schedule (most of the time). And since I work from home, I’m always around for my family, can take breaks, eat dinner with them, etc. even if I need to stay at work late and finish things on deadline. If I hadn’t made that move, I doubt I’d be in the industry any longer. 

David Dimeola

Well put Fitz. Looking forward to hearing more about how you balance a super active family lifestyle with A List creative.

Two words.. Bike Rack

John Fischer

I use this for myself, but I think it’s a legitimate question when you’re asking yourself should I be doing this.

At the end of your life, are you going to be thinking of that kick-ass graphics package you did for some big national brand .. or are you going to look back at the things you did & experienced with family & friends?

Maybe it’s a bit simplistic, but I think it helps to keep things in perspective.

Sometimes you have to take chances too .. but you need some balance or I think eventually you’ll burn out.

I have 3 kids in Milwaukee .. and as much as I would have liked to move to LA and join that whole scene .. I don’t think it would have been fair to my family to come home late at night & maybe never/rarely see them.

Life is about choices, the ones you make and the ones you don’t.

PJ Richardson

thats exactly what i tell myself now. ill pick my 4 or so projects per yer i wanna really charge on hours wise but the balance of family to a graphics package is pretty one sided towards family. well put.

Lee Wignall

It’s funny how some peoples reactions to these recent posts on this theme are very negative towards it being part of anything creative i.e. ‘somethingsavage’s’ comment ‘what the hell, i dont want to read about this shit http://t.co/7Q4edot2 its a motion design blog, not your personal vent section.’ 

Pardon me, but surely the people around you and the life you lead dictate every creative idea you could ever involve yourself in. Motionographer has always been a site dedicated to the process of creativity as much as the end product and if that involves the age old struggle (and is probably the ultimate human struggle) of juggling family and work, then it deserves a mention and probably more so than what software someone chose to use and why. And this conclusion is based purely on the penultimate fact that once all is said and done (read: once you’ve copped it) who’s going to give a monkeys about your personal goals? Thats right, your family and depending on whether you decided to let your goals consume you or not, your family ‘giving a monkeys’ will either be a negative or positive reaction to you as an individual. I’ve rambled on a bit there, but I feel very strongly about the balanced integration of work and family life.

daniel savage

#firstworldproblems

Scott Benson

#zing.

Every problem that isn’t directly related to basic hunter-gatherer needs is a first world problem to someone.

Lee Wignall

Everyone who reads this site is of first world origin and there isn’t anything that’s going to change that. You can’t help where you’re born for good or bad.

If I were moaning that work prevented me from buying the new 4s, then your comment would be more than valid, but I’m not.

I do see your point and feel incredibly privileged and lucky to be where I am and never ever consider most of my problems to be that important in the grand scheme of things, but wherever you’re from this issue is the same and this particular debate transcends industry, race, social and economical standing.

All we’re saying is, ‘family is important, don’t let work get in the way of that, as once its gone its gone.’

daniel savage

I want to follow up on a serious note. 

I have worked at places that force slave labor, but I have also worked at places that let us out at very reasonable times AND produce great work(superfad for instance). My point is if you have a family, find a job that lets you live a healthy lifestyle. Career should fall second, not EVERY creative job forces long hours. 

I love simon’s work and mean no disrespect, but its an obvious choice. 

Anonymous

None taken. I didn’t really write the article from my own perspective. It’s more an amalgamation of thoughts I have based on the sorts of problems people in our industry with kids have. In my case I have one kid, an 18 month old boy. Gradually with the help of my wife, bit by bit I’ve reigned myself in. I now get away on time 9/10 times or thereabouts. What’s taking a real hit is the personal projects, hence the question in the survey…

Anonymous

I have been waiting for a article like this for along time.  Time to put on the big boy pants.

Michael Urbansky

I have two essays that relate:

The Real Axis of Evil

In National Geographic, March 2011, page 72, see the chart graphic of a 3 dimensional cube. One axis measures population, the other measures technology based on patents. The third axis measures affluence based on GDP. Affluence is a euphemism for over-consumption gently directed to the National Geographic readership. Notice how the vertical axis of affluence adds to the shocking exponential growth after 1950.

Any child born after the mid ’80’s should not exist. That is the time our planet surpassed it’s population carrying capacity.  I learned this from my work on the film GrowthBusters.

Peter Singer head of philosophy at Princeton did the fifth grade math in a 1999 NYT essay. By studying world statistics on overpopulation and over-consumption he found, if we’re getting and spending more than 30k per year we’re basically guilty of murder.

So basically everything is going to crap in a hand basket just as Revelations predicts. The only thing not mentioned is the exponential speed part. Humans don’t intuitively grasp the exponential mean. So I believe all we can do is treat each other as lovingly as possible as we watch the whole world go to crap in a hand basket at exponential speed.

—-

Taming the Wild

National Geographic, March 2011,”Taming the Wild” on page 34, talks about the domestication of foxes and dogs but seems allude how humans have both domesticated and nomadic traits. The domestication trait in humans has been likely “selected for” over the centuries possibly because it fosters scenarios for humans to work together on large projects and systems. This is important because I believe we’re here to evolve, and evolution is information building on information. Our genetics are information storage and we have now created further information storage systems such as books and computers.

But this same domestication trait leads to overpopulation and over-consumption. The nomadic, wild hunter-gatherer traits seem to lead to more innovation but has been “selected out” over recent centuries. We have plenty of evidence to show how smaller companies consistently provide more innovation than larger over-consuming organizations. We may need to understand how these two behavioral traits can work together in a positive way.

It requires a careful, dynamic balance of management for both traits if we are to successfully evolve with the resources we have. Now for all the fear-mongers out there, I am not suggesting Eugenics. I am suggesting we understand how these traits matter in the larger picture and we manage it somehow.

—-

To sum it all up in practical terms, in order to have friends, family and coworkers we can’t say this. We can only think this:

If they are getting and spending more than 30k on themselves per year. They are guilty of murder.

If they are even the slightest bit overweight that is undeniable evidence of over-consumption.

If they have or want children born after 1985 they are making extremely selfish life decisions.

It seems the numbers support this.

jake sargeant

Thank you Simon for putting this post and survey together! As a brand new father for only the past few months, it’s quite the balancing act to do great work and be there for your family in this industry. A tricky tightrope act to say the least. But having a kid (or kids) is one of those things that you can never really understand from the outside until you’re experiencing it for yourself. It’s a pretty amazing ride so far and I’m sure will continue to be.

Anonymous

I have been fortunate to have a stable F/T 8 hour day. Having a child has changed my attitude towards work, as I would like to take more creative career chances but I can’t in anyway jeopardize that steady paycheck and benefits.

I think I would like to try remote working from home. That seems like to best way to achieve balance 

Anonymous

I have been fortunate to have a stable F/T 8 hour day. Having a child has changed my attitude towards work, as I would like to take more creative career chances but I can’t in anyway jeopardize that steady paycheck and benefits.

I think I would like to try remote working from home. That seems like to best way to achieve balance. Having a child is the best thing that ever happened to me

Andrew Hoeveler

How about re-phrasing that last question to be “IF” you have children…? Or even a question about “Do you plan on having children?” I’m not sure why it’s assumed in our culture that one will feel the need to procreate.

Pasha Shapiro

Jogging from recent barrage of family related topics, someone in motionographer team having a baby -congrats! (if that is the case)

it’s 17 years last week as i juggling fatherhood and career in motion design.
First of all let me tell you – it dose get better, first two years are pretty hard.
As your children grow you realize – there is more to this matter then just money/time aspect. Sooner then you think your children’s opinion of your work start to affect clients you choose, projects you take and creative choices you make. My son was two when he was running to TV every time identity spot i designed would come up. And for me his appreciation ment more then festival prizes i would get. In last 5 years i moved from identity to character animation , and in a hindsight it’s also has to do with me subconsciously seen my kids as an audience.
And now my youngest is 10 and not only his but his classmates opinion is extremely important to me. In my opinion most important thing you can do as a parent is provide your kids with guidance and the only effective way to do it -your own example. Therefore do what you love and what you good at.
it may be more important to them going forward then making sure you spend enough hours with them.
make sure they know what you do share with them your passion. 

Anonymous

What a great comment from someone with the insights only time as a parent can bring. Puts a totally different spin on things for me :)

Anonymous

I feel for you Dads, and I feel for this community.  I wish there was a way I could help as an energetic junior in the industry.  What can we do in preparation for this dilemma?

Anonymous

I’ve been a Motion Graphics Designer for 10 years. I’m single and a woman in my 30s.

Like everyone else, work takes up a huge part of my life. It’s not just a demanding job with crazy unpredictable hours it’s also unfortunately, my need to get it looking pixel perfect.

I often read and hear about how difficult it is for us in this industry to balance work and a personal life. I’ve witnessed the break-ups of some my co-workers and I feel for them, I really do. One of my co-workers doesn’t get to see his kid after a failed marriage.

And usually, it’s from a guy’s point of view. But what about the women? Women in Motion Graphics/ VFX are a rare breed. Personally I find it difficult to “meet” anyone (someone who gets it) let alone trying to have a “heathy” personal relationship. I guess I would like to have a family one day but I can’t imagine having one if I keep going the way I am.

I am here today because of choices I’ve made, some better than others. I love what I do. But sometimes I wonder (while waiting for renders to be done), what else I could be doing if I weren’t in motion graphics?

Would love to hear the views of other female motionographers.

alessandra leone

yep, let’s talk about women in motion graphics . because I’m sure the father + deadline combination is a hot topic, but what about mothers, pregnancy, etc…?

Ryan Cuppernull

I am really appreciating these new angles on articles; this one and the 40 hour work week. Keep it up.

Anonymous

This is an interesting discussion on a subject I know all too well.
I am a woman working in the motion graphics industry while raising a 1 year old son. Yes I struggle balancing my life and work, and what I will say is that there is no balance. I made the choice before my son was born to take a fulltime job with a television network. The work is far less meaningful or creative than I would like, but there is a steady paycheck, benefits, and when it’s time to go home (to do what really matters), I walk out the door and don’t give it a second thought. You see, for women there is a different set of choices. You either focus on your career, or when you have a family you bow out in some way. I guess working for a corporation is my version of bowing out. And it hasn’t been easy. TV is a man’s world, I have endured the jokes about my huge pregnant belly, I’ve  stepped away from production meetings to puke, I’ve stayed up all night breast feeding and strolled into work everyday not remembering if I washed my hair. And yes my work has suffered. But I’m hoping this is a temporary leave for me.  My feeling is that if I’m slaving away trying to find perfection at work, then I’m not doing my job as a mom. I’m a teacher now, teaching the most primitive of concepts – eating, walking, and talking. Isn’t that more important than finding the perfect font? I’ll let the young bucks go ahead and blow each other over the latest graphics package they created or the amazing environment they modeled. I created a person and he is my best creation yet!

Michael Urbansky

Philosophy and author Alian de Botton says we find meaning in making a difference in our community by way of either being able to alleviate suffering or produce delight in another human being.

Alain de Botton on the Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
http://fora.tv/2009/04/23/Alain_de_Botton_on_the_Pleasures_and_Sorrows_of_Work

——

This is somewhat incomplete in that it ignores evolution and there is misinterpretation of evolution. Evolution is information building on information (i plus i). The energy transferred through evolution is propagated hierarchically which then overlaps to produce a rhizomatic (aka semi-lattice structure). The more complete formula would then read (i plus i)^h.

Deleuze & Guattari on the Rhizome
http://www.motionista.com/wp-content/files_mf/deleuzeguattariontherhizome.pdf

A City is Not a Tree by Chris Alexander
http://www.motionista.com/wp-content/files_mf/a_city_is_not_a_tree.pdf

——

Based on my definition most human activity is trivial & redundant, yielding a higher likelihood for a meaningless human experience for many, but not all. Those who are fulfilling the basic tenants of evolution are pursuing the leading edge of information and making new applications with novel perspectives while at the same time extending the possibility for others to pursue the same leading edge of information building on information. Factoring in figures on overpopulation, over-consumption and existing advancements the bar is now set very high for most people.

For example, If I was a genetic engineer working on the space station and dating Björk I would be fulfilling the criteria. If I’m pursuing the leading edge of information through research and education I can stick around. So perhaps since I have developed this explanation and am broadcasting it I have saved myself from being evolutionarily meaningless. Perhaps not but more likely now that I’m broadcasting my beliefs.

In any event, it turns out that my idea of framing issues in terms of evolution is catching on. See page 32 of Scientific American Jan 2009.

David Morrison

I sympathize and respect anyone that can have kids and stay in this industry. The company I work for has a set 10 hour work day which, with all the late nights working to meet a deadline, usually turns into more like a 60-70 hour week. Then you add in weekends during “crunch time” before a delivery. Whats funny to me is how there never seems to be a non “crunch time”. There is always the next job to get out and the next set of clients to please, often overlapping the previous one. I am not sure how we got to a point where these hours are standard. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do but I think we can all agree that we are way outside the standard in the US http://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/  And while i realize some of you here are not from the US, I am so I can only speak from my point of view. I would hope that if you were unhappy with your working conditions you would speak up as well and I would certainly support you. I want to propose something that I am sure most people will think is radical but it is better then sitting around doing nothing. Let’s organize a walk out day across the board for all creatives, freelance and full-time to raise awareness about this, maybe meet up in out respective cities and discuss solutions. Just a thought. I know there are rumblings about unionizing as well that have been discussed for years unfortunately no one seems to have the time to figure out how to do that and the freelancers union seem like nothing more then a way to get cheap insurance.

David Dimeola

Family First helps me get it done as well as exclusively working remote.
Everyone needs to go through the machine for the first few years but once kids are around you really need to have a plan in play for working with flexible parameters. Easier said then done!

Anonymous

Interesting and great comments. Ill throw out a little different perspective if I may. Iv observed that people in our industry are so deep in a bubble that they dont realize what world they live in anymore. For example, most people in our industry on a day to day basis without really thinking about it, assume that most people have lets say… an iPhone, in reality, only about 2% of people in the world have iPhones, just as a quick example.
My point is that people making comments of being able to work from home making it sound like thats whats fair, is really a viewpoint from a bubble. And secondly, making it sound like working from home is good parenting is even a bigger bubble. Any family’s priority is trying to give the best quality of life for their children, and guess what, most people can not sip a latte, make some polygons, play on a lap top sitting next to that computer, while playing music from an iPad that is sitting next to that laptop, and texting from an iPhone thats sitting next to that iPad, and all the while demand 6 figures for doing so.

The main point Im trying to get to is that guess what, motion graphics is not the only job on earth that requires time away from family. Security jobs, where people have to work late night shifts, construction jobs also have deadlines where crew have to pull a some extra hours when its crunch time. Lawyers, doctors, all get some stretches of long hours. Truck drivers, have to be away for weeks at a time. Fishermen, months at a time. And lets not forget our soldiors on tour away for as long as a year defending our “freedoms.” And there are dozens of more examples. When you compare that, to seeing your kids for an hour a day and not the 24hours we so desire actually isn’t a bad deal. Not to mention the comfort of being in a studio, with air conditioning, working on fancy computers instead of some nasty job; the deal is actually pretty good, considering the fat money, way above the average blue collar waits at the end of the month. So you couldn’t check homework with your son that wifey was however able to because you can afford for her not to work, and thats still not fair? I have children, and when I need to work long, I work long. It beats being at sea for 6 months, or on the roads for weeks at a time. Im sitting playing with an iPad and I get to spend most weekends and evenings with my family. Occasionally we get some jobs that need a few weeks of late nights. Im not even going to mention living in a third world country where I am from, and telling you about sacrifices parents make there. Complaining about the setup we have in this industry would be arrogant. We have great jobs, so much so, that I would hardly say we make sacrifices, if you really want to be honest about things, or put things in a real perspective. Dont get me wrong I too wish I could just sip on coconut juice at home all day, “take breaks when I need to,” go to concerts any night of the week, take long weekends when I dont feel like working because I command my own schedule, but at some point after daydreaming about it, you have to realize what we do and how lucky we are to be doing compared to what MOST people are doing. There are enough studios out there from which to work, and enough reputation for people to know which studios do long hours and which dont. There are only a few studios which work constantly long, most dont. Of course there are crunch time days or weeks in all studios, but I would hardly call that “unfair on my family.” This might not be the most popular reality check, but it is just my opinion after all, oh and the truth. 

Guest

I’m a motion designer with kids and no partner. I guess I’m disqualified from this questionnaire as I am unable to answer the required question ‘is your partner as understanding of your need to work late sometimes?’ I find the assumption that people with kids are partnered offensive. It suggests a conservative state of mind, not so conducive for a create occupation.

Victoria Main

Us single parents are screwed. Our situations aren’t even an option in the questionnaire. 

Chris Seibold

I was pretty put off by the absence of an option for single parents in this questionnaire. I second your comments Victoria. Single Parents are Motion Designers [People] too ;)

Anyway, being a parent and working has its challenges and if you choose to be available for your kids and give them the care and attention they need to thrive then sacrifices and compromises to career and finance will follow.

I remember being married with small children and the constant negotiations and battles over time between my ex-wife and I. We were both working parents, paying a mortgage, renovating our house and bringing up two small children. We both needed to earn an income as well as run a household. It put an enormous strain on our relationship.

I don’t envy working couples with small children. My ex-wife’s and my relationship crumbled under the pressure. I can say with confidence though that you are less time poor and better equipped with time management skills the older your children get. If you can accept that your career, sex life, social life and finances will each experience losses and you choose to honour and nurture your shared love then your relationship may have a chance. Relationship aside, you will have the opportunity to re-ignite your career in the years to come.

I guess maybe a good chat with your partner about your priorities and some sort of unified action plan may help (work extra hard at being caring towards each other). Excellent time management is sure to aid in your ability to achieve your goals during this period. 

Putting my kids, renovations and finances before the best interests of my business destroyed my business and I now am basically a part-time freelancer looking to re-build my career. I pushed out increasingly rushed work, under the above pressures, to my established client base and degraded the good will earned with those clients to the point where I lost those clients or the business that they did with me was significantly reduced. 

Thanks for the article Simon. You definitely touched a nerve. Kids are hard work! They were the straw that broke the camels back but they also brought enormous joy, connectedness, growth and maturity to my life. I am a better person for being a father. Embrace change.

Harry J Frank

I remember the exact moment when I had enough of this shit. I was drawing a bath for my son (1 yr old at the time) and famous-name-brand design director  calls me at 6:30pm looking for animated logo completed by morning.

There was no respect for me, my life, my family. Just “I need it done.” I said no. Never heard from him again. I wasn’t willing to work “harder” ;)

I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had at the various studios at which I’ve worked. But, I’m very glad to be full time on a low stress, at-home gig.

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