Hailey Bartholomew is a director, photographer, founder of the 365grateful project, mother of two, and an all round amazing Australian woman. Bron Bates heard Hailey speak a few years ago and was moved and inspired by her thoughts on living a creative life. She asked Hailey how her life has evolved as an artist and mother of (nearly) two teenagers. This is what she told her.
Can you tell me about some of the challenges you’ve faced combining your creative work with raising children?
When the girls were little, the challenges were more pronounced. I wanted to make something and they wanted my attention, so I often felt creatively frustrated. Andrew had a more traditional job at that point and it was that longing for more freedom that really spurred us into our own business and creating the lifestyle we now enjoy.
The creative work and motherhood ended up melding quite well. Even when we started our business and went full on into commercial work, I’ve always kind of dragged one or another along to some extent. Our girls know an awful lot about small business and clients and filmmaking and photography! I think often of children raised in developing nations and how the family business is passed down. The expectation is that you learn on the job, help and contribute together. We’ve kind of fostered that in a small way in our lives, while also giving space for the girls’ own desires and learning.
Having said all that, Andrew and I haven’t had a lot of extended family to lean on for babysitting and other care of the kids, so we’ve really had to juggle things a lot ourselves. Usually, one of us is more focused on kids and food and house and one on the business. For the last five years, I’d say Andrew’s been more focused on the kids. While he does work extensively in our business and on his own projects, his number one priority has been the girls.
Unschooling for the last seven years helped us have even more flexibility. We have not been tied to anything in any way. We’ve had the ability to pursue our dreams and also be with our kids.
I’ve had a lot of freedom to really build and work when needed, because I know I have the best person ever covering things at home. Having a supportive partner has made finding the balance between work and raising children not as huge a deal for me as it is for others.
How do you and your partner negotiate child rearing together?
We have our ups and downs and disagree on things for sure, but mostly we both have a similar level of commitment. From the beginning, I’ve always fostered – and Andrew has certainly embraced – the idea that the kids are priority number one for us both. I’m pretty good at watching and noticing what life is like, and what is and isn’t working, and both of us are brave enough to try new things. I think the hardest times were when the girls were breastfed. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at times.
We’ve made choices around what sort of work is fulfilling and exciting and bringing energy to us, rather than what makes the most money.
What kind of choices have you made to allow yourself space for creative work and family life?
We chose fairly early on to run our own business, to work from home and also to unschool our kids. Unschooling for the last seven years helped us have even more flexibility. We haven’t been tied to anything in any way. We’ve had the ability to pursue our dreams and also be with our kids.
Unschooling – which on one hand could be a challenge to creative work because your kids are around all the time – has also been a creative outlet in itself. I’ve enjoyed facilitating, fostering and helping the kids reach their goals and dreams. The ability to take the kids with us on jobs or travels has been an amazing way to educate them and work creatively.
Even with good intentions, sometimes we do the wrong thing for our child. But the best we can do is what we feel is right at the time.
Probably the biggest other choice we’ve made (to allow space for creative work and family life), has been to not pressure ourselves with making lots of money as a top priority. We’ve made choices around what sort of work is fulfilling and exciting and bringing energy to us, rather than what makes the most money. This has been super important to me and meant I’ve been able to chase all sorts of things I probably wouldn’t have given myself permission to if I had not been putting my priority onto a creative journey.
What’s the loveliest and least lovely part about this stage of parenting?
I think seeing your child grow so quickly over the years is the most beautiful thing, but quite heart wrenching too. When I look at them now, I sometimes tear up with pride. The way they’ve found what they love to do and how they want to contribute to the world. I love seeing the passion they put into the things they love. I’m astounded by the talent and perseverance they both have.
Sometimes, I look at these amazing people and wonder where they came from! I used to know them, but as time goes on I realise I need to continue to get to know them over and over as they change and grow. We’re not to be held to the way we were as small children. We as humans have such a huge capacity for change!
So, the loveliest is seeing each of them find their space in the world and the way they want to contribute. The confidence and talents emerge and the delight I find in learning about them anew.
The least lovely…haha! Well as my kids are both online and old enough to read, I’ll be tactful here! The hardest part at this age is letting go and realising they both need and don’t need you. Knowing which it is at any given moment is tricky.
When I look at them now, I sometimes tear up with pride. The way they’ve found what they love to do and how they want to contribute to the world.
The letting go of the baby you had or the child they were and really fully embracing this amazing emerging adult or woman. Sometimes I just want that little one back again to snuggle in bed or to kiss under their chubby neck…surprisingly enough they aren’t super keen on me kissing them as much anymore and neither of them have cute chubby baby necks anymore!
What are some of your hopes for your daughters?
I have a lot of hopes for them. I hope that they live happy and fulfilled lives. That they find work they can delight in and a partner that is kind and loving. That they understand themselves and what they want out of life and go after it wholeheartedly. That they keep in mind the whole world…that we are here to contribute to the overall.
The best parenting advice you’ve been given?
My girlfriend told me once, stop stressing about messing up or doing the wrong thing with the kids. She said, “You totally will mess up. Accept it and move on!” She said we all make mistakes, and even with good intentions, sometimes we do the wrong thing for our child. But the best we can do is what we feel is right at the time.
The best creative advice you’ve been given?
Probably ‘Create, don’t compete’. Another is ‘Create more than you consume’. In other words, spend more time creating your own stuff than sitting looking at other people’s stuff. Both of these are good guides for me if I ever feel like I’m losing my way.
What drives your creativity?
I’m not sure what drives it to be honest. I love to have a project. The first thing I remember making is dolls clothing…and then bangles to sell at the market, then raffia hats and then rag dolls and somewhere in there brooches too and screen-printed kids clothing.
What would be your ultimate creative project?
My ultimate creative project is travelling with my family making films and taking photos. Lucky for me, I’ve got to do that a few times already! I also want to create more longer-form documentaries on a variety of subjects. All of which I hope help young women embrace who they are, and what they have, and enjoy life to the full.
Something about you not many people know?
I was in a kids circus. Consequently, I know how to juggle and ride a unicycle. Haven’t ridden a unicycle for awhile, but pretty sure I can still do it!
What’s next on the cards for you?
We’ve decided to tackle this year a little bit differently to previous years. It’s the first year in seven years we’re sending one of our kids to school. Our youngest, Poppy, is off to high school for the first time. So for us that means less work on weekends and a more traditional lifestyle. I’m currently pitching for funding on a variety of cool projects and am working on a great TV commercial and online campaign for the State government, encouraging women and girls to exercise more.
What does being a mother mean to you?
As the girls have gotten older, I’ve pondered this lots. For me, it’s the briefest honour to hold hands with a child as they come into their own presence and it is about loving and nurturing them enough to feel loved, but also standing back and letting them understand themselves and trust themselves too.
Hailey Bartholomew is a director and photographer who lives with her husband Andrew and their daughters, Zali, 15, and Poppy, 12, in Queensland. Visit her websites, You Can’t Be Serious and 365grateful and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.