Welcome back to our collaboration with our friends at BUNCH Magazine! Over the next year, they will be sharing some of their infinite wisdom by answering pressing questions about career aspirations, transitions and callings. We welcome their knowledge on the creative, professional and entrepreneur space, and think you will love their insights as well.
I am 22 and will be graduating with a BFA in painting this month. Until this point, I had big plans for my career as an artist, and next steps all mapped out: apprenticeship, MFA, followed by what I hoped would be a lifelong career creating work that would establish me as a painter. I was ready for the struggle, the grit that sometimes accompanies following your passion in a big city (my goal is to live and work in NYC). But here's the catch, I am pregnant.
I want to believe that I can stick to my best laid plan, but part of me knows this may not be true. Taking on the role of single mother was not on the agenda, but it is a decision I have made. I guess my question is, do I need to abandon my professional dreams? I am still young, and hope that there is time, but perhaps I am naive and need a dose of reality. Please, BUNCH, give it to me straight.
First things first: congratulations on everything! The fact that you are bringing life into this world is something to be celebrated and approached with excitement and joy. We can also probably agree that it can be a very emotional time that brings on a set of challenges and complexities that are difficult to prepare for. Becoming a mom at a young age is a different way to experience your twenties but it doesn’t always mean less opportunity. Let’s chat! We have a few specific suggestions...
Be the (wo)man with a plan.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to live a creative lifestyle. People often think of creatives as “starving artists” doomed to lives of struggle. While it’s certainly true that creatives are sometimes underpaid and overworked, this doesn’t always mean committing to sardines for dinner, forever. The craftiest creatives are the ones who aren’t afraid to put on their business caps.
Whether you were pregnant or not, I would give you the same advice: draft a plan. The good news is that you seem to have already done just that. While pursuing an apprenticeship and MFA certainly won’t be easy, it won’t be impossible. There are MFA programs across the country that are designed for working professionals, and many of them can be completed online for even more flexibility.
A short story: years ago, while living in New York, I met a woman who was one of the top art restorers in the world. Throughout our discussion, I learned that not only was she pulling in seven figures a year as a trained painter, but she had done so as a single mom. She needed a career that would allow her to utilize her talents and support her and her child. She started off small, freelancing for galleries and building a name for her restoration business, all while working a nine-to-five until her business became the premier destination for art restoration.
Think about the small, actionable steps you can take to get to your goals, and then take them. Don’t be discouraged if they require a little bit more time, and don’t compare yourself to others—just get them done.
Find your tribe.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and truer words have never been spoken. If you’re in the position to lean on family and friends, then you should absolutely do so. I’m not suggesting that you completely depend on others to raise your child, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Devise a specific plan (see above!) that works for those who are willing to help.
Besides the logistical assistance, a sense of community should help give you moral support. There are tons of networks for moms of all ages, like The Young Mommy Life and The Mommies Network, which allow you to join different forums and meet other like-minded moms so that you don’t feel alone.
You’re still you.
Can we be frank with each other? Being a mom automatically means someone else’s needs come before yours, but it doesn’t mean casting yourself aside for all eternity. You may have to adjust your plans so that they accommodate your little one, but that doesn’t mean abandoning who you are and the goals you have set for yourself.
I recently spent time with a good friend of mine who’s a single mom of a 9-year-old. She became pregnant during our senior year of college and has never had the support of her child’s father. She didn’t come from money and didn’t have a huge financial cushion to fall back on. Today, she has a smart and beautiful daughter who is involved in dance and excelling in school. She also has her own enviable career in senior management at a Fortune 500 company and is on her way to purchasing her third home. When asked how she’s making it all work, she said it’s because she had to be the best person she could be for her daughter.
I wholeheartedly believe that in the end, if you pursue your own goals and become the best version of yourself, you will foster a sense of resilience and inspire your beautiful baby.
Wishing you the best!
Editor-in-Chief, BUNCH Magazine
p.s. Do you have a pressing career question? Looking for advice on the next step in your professional path? Email us and we may share your letter here next month!