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A Step-by-Step Guide to Staying an Artist While Having a Baby

Virginia artist Sarah Irvin provides a practical reproduction and childcare model for the studio aesthete.
The author and her child.
Courtesy the artist

As part of 50 States of Art, Creators is inviting artists to contribute first person accounts of what it is like to live and create in their communities. Sarah Irvin analyzes the social, political, and economic position of mothers through her visual art practice.

Follow this step-by-step guide to sustaining a studio practice while starting a family.

Step 1: Marry a future attorney.

Step 2: Delay parenthood by obtaining birth control through health insurance paid for by your parents. Ignore the feeling that you aren't a real adult because of their support.


Step 3: Get accepted to an MFA program in an area with the highest cost of childcare in the country.

Step 4: Get pregnant.

Step 5: While pregnant, save money for childcare. You will need $400 per week for full-time care.

Step 6: The attorney will not have any paid paternity leave, so take only one class the semester of your due date and work mainly from home while caring for an infant.

Step 7: Breastfeed in your studio while meeting with your advisor. Don't worry, she'll be comfortable with it. She will also be a she, so you'll be comfortable, too.

Step 8: Return to school full time when your child is four months old. Put your baby in daycare two days a week.

Step 9: When your baby is in daycare, tally the cost throughout the day and continually doubt that what you are doing with your time is worth it.

Step 10: Pump breast milk at school to send to daycare. Wonder if your studio meets FDA standards for food production.


Sarah Irvin, Rocking Chair Series

Step 11: When your baby is not in daycare, bring it to school.

Step 12: When you need to go to the bathroom, put your sleeping baby in a container. Scream "Don't let anyone steal the baby!" to the person in the neighboring studio and sprint to the restroom.

Step 13: When installing exhibits at a gallery, put your baby in a baby carrier. Don't worry, all babies enjoy being in a carrier all of the time, so this will always be a convenient option. No one will consider you unprofessional.


Step 14: Rely heavily on free childcare from fellow students. You will never be able to return the favor.

Step 15: Hold your baby during final critiques because you never figured out back up childcare for when daycare won't take your sick baby.


Sarah Irvin, Measurement Project

Step 16: Run out of the childcare money you saved while you were pregnant.

Step 17: Take a work study position running a gallery on campus covering half the cost of childcare for your final year as a full time student. Avoid student loans by having your parents pay for the rest. Remember to keep feeling like an adult.

Step 18: Graduate and move to a more affordable mid-sized city.

Step 19: Continue using similar strategies to negotiate childcare arrangements as a professional artist, because artists face these same challenges in your new affordable city.

Step 20: Dedicate yourself to finding a way to replace steps 1-19 with a sustainable system that actually works for all parents, regardless of circumstance.


Sarah Irvin, A Bringing Forth - Silver Spoon

You can follow Sarah Irvin on Instagram.


All year, we're highlighting 50 States of Art projects around the United States. This month, we're covering Arizona, Mississippi, Nebraska, Maine, and Virginia. To learn more, click here.