How Studio Night Saved my Marriage

“But there never seems to be enough time, to do the things you want to do once you find them…”
–Jim Croce:  Musician, Lover, Dreamer, Mustache-Wearer

jimcroce

Jim never took anything for granted. Which is good, cause he died in a plane crash in 1973.

A funny thing happens when you commit your life to another person:   You don’t get to do what you want all the time.

Then the two of you make a new little person (or two or three), and then you really can’t do anything that you want, EVER.   You can’t get drunk and spontaneously  board a bus to Milwaukee.  You can’t eat ice cream for dinner.  You can’t get busy in the parking lot behind Radio Shack.*  You can’t even keep fresh cut flowers on the table, because certain little people will knock over the vase, spill the water and eat the flowers.

Don’t get me wrong—despite what my combat-boot-wearing self said 15 years ago about perpetuating the oppression of the patriarchy— I love being married.  I adore my children.  Being trapped in this straightjacket of domesticity is like being embraced in a warm, sticky hug, 24 hours a day, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

WHATDIDIJUSTDO

When you get married in a basement, it’s all uphill from there.

However, there comes a time when you have to scrape off the boogers, pull on some real pants (with a belt), and shift your energy to more creative pursuits.  But, girl, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Since I’ve started this blog, a couple of people have asked me, “where do you find the time to do all this crap?”  And the answer is, STUDIO NIGHT!

(Also, my house usually looks like this:)
Picture 1143Strangely, nobody ever asks Scott where he finds the time for his comics, but if they did, the answer would be “STUDIO NIGHT!” (plus a day job where nobody seems to pay attention to what he’s doing).

WHAT IS STUDIO NIGHT?
STUDIO NIGHT is on Monday.  It starts when the kids go to bed. It ends when we go to bed.  It lasts about 3 hours.  There’s no TV watching, no talking about our days or about our feelings or what needs to be done around the house.  There is only doing.

There are two simple rules to STUDIO NIGHT:
1)    Do something creative
2)    Don’t bother me

A BRIEF HISTORY OF STUDIO NIGHT:
When I met Scott, he was already a father to an adorable 4-year-old boy.  We quickly settled into a routine that revolved around the custody schedule: Max nights (Tuesday, Thursday, every other weekend), and Date nights (Monday and Wednesday).  There was always enough time to spend with Max, and each other, and alone.  This worked well for a few years.

See why I married him?

See why I married him?

Then, in the span of 4 short years, Scott and I got married, had a baby, and then had another baby.   Oh, and I lost my job right before the first baby was born.

Suddenly, I was a full-time mommy.   I loved my babies, but at the end of the day I wanted nothing more than a glass of wine and some adult conversation.  I didn’t care so much about art, or writing, or making stuff.   It was enough to get through another day.

IMG_2985

Whoah, how did this happen?

I never stopped to think about how quickly the trajectory of life had changed.  My entire adult life — including college — had been occupied by challenging jobs that were full of outlets for creativity and even humor (like constructing a giant pair of women’s panties for a street theater action on Michigan Avenue,  or orchestrating this Billion Dollar Bake Sale in the state capitol).

I was used to sharing my days (and many evenings) with smart, passionate, funny adults.  And now they were shared with stinky, whiny, endlessly needy children.  I did get another job, but one that allowed me to stay home with the second baby.

Scott managed to keep up his gaming and other hobbies, and I’m not sure he understood my hunger to just DO NOTHING every night after the kids went down.  I tried to write, but it went nowhere.  Meanwhile, as Scott got more serious about his comics, we designated one or two nights a week for him to do nothing but draw. I supported him wholeheartedly, but inside I was feeling lonely and stuck.

Picture 690

Scott’s first comic expo. As you can see, I’m dying inside from lack of intellectual stimulation.

After a few months of self-pity, I stared hard at a list of projects that I could never find the time to finish.  Nothing big;  just little projects around the house, stuff that I could never get done when the kids were awake because they involved needles or power tools or toxic fumes.  Stuff that would make our daily lives just a little bit more beautiful.

Then I used Scott’s drawing nights to actually finish my projects.  And it felt really good. So I started a blog and promised to update it once a week, to give myself a false sense of accountability (and also because I was jealous that Scott had a blog and I didn’t).

And then — suddenly — I had something to write about.  And remembered how much I loved writing, and making beautiful things.  And maybe, how much I loved my husband.

Thank you, STUDIO NIGHT!

“I’ve looked around enough to know that you’re the one I want to go through time with.”

Jim on stool

Thanks, Jim!

 *We’ve never done any of these things.

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78 thoughts on “How Studio Night Saved my Marriage

  1. Love this. The longer I’m married, the more I believe in the importance of finding ways our separate interests can intersect. Your approach is a great way to keep building out personal interests without growing apart in the process. Wonderful post.

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  2. This is an excellent article and one that certainly feels close to home. Since marriage and children it has been an eternal struggle to find the time to do things that seemed automatic previously. Fortunately, we’ve found our balance, our new routine and we are both now happier and more creative than ever. So thanks for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it very much.

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    • Thanks, James. When you have kids, you quickly learn the importance of a routine. Kids thrive on routine. But as it sounds like we’ve both discovered, creativity can thrive on routine as well. I’ve also learned that when you’re juggling work, marriage and kids — if you don’t schedule time for it, it ain’t gonna happen. How does your family do it?

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      • Much the same as you it seems. We’ve discovered that time doing our own “thing” is as important for the health of our marriage as doing things together. However, our son comes first so there is not a lot of time for either – but there is SOME time and we’ve learnt to make the best of it. And it is working! Glad it is working for you too.

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  3. Thanks for this! I divorced 9 years ago and haven’t re-married nor dated since but that is mostly because I have a child to take care of (his father (my ex-husband) is who knows where, hasn’t seen the child since he was 1 year old. I sure know how to pick em! *rolleyes*).

    Having ONE kid is alot for me. I admire those who take on more than one child! I kind of have a “Studio Night” but it mostly involves me sitting in front of the tv to watch my favorite shows on Sunday Nights, after the boy goes to bed. But wow, do I ever look forward to my Sunday 2 hour tv night.

    And congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

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  4. I can totally appreciate what you are going through!. I have been there but now my children are 28 and 30. It’s difficult and exhausting being a stay at home mom because you do miss the adult conversations with people that are not your spouse. I have written a book on how to refresh your marriage and date night is one of them. I had a reader tell me that she alternated date night (one week his turn, one week her turn) so they would reconnect and learn about each others new interests. They said it helped them greatly understand and appreciate each other more. They were trying new things (like ice skating and antique car shows) that without the book What to do before you say I Do, they wouldn’t have tried. My book offers more ideas that you may find helpful! I do understand your struggle for autonomy.

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  5. Thank you for your blog. I don’t have kids but I can really relate to this blog as a wife who enjoys art and design. My passion has always been for traveling and after getting married that passion has almost completely died. My hubby tries to help by coming up with travel ideas but we are on such a tight budget. But I learned I can live without travel. What I couldn’t live without was art. It wasn’t til 2 years after we got together that I realized how not making time for my projects or his was negatively affecting us. But over the last 6 months we’ve learned to give each other the time we need for our projects and this has helped us in so many ways. Sometimes we forget that we can’t take care of others if we can’t take care of ourselves.

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  6. This is great! While I am not married w/ kids (yet), I can still find that sometimes life gets away from you and the next thing you know, all you’ve done is work, eat and sleep for weeks on end and you need some creative stimulation! I may have to start my own studio night 🙂
    Thanks!

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  7. Children aren’t something I am planning on, ever. But I get the idea of being completely un-stimulated, intellectually. That was one of the intentions behind starting my blog, too. I’d dropped out of college several years ago, had been working full time in food service for a while, then I met my current boyfriend, moved in, and worked part time, and kept house part time. Then I took a job (along with two others I had) that made me feel stupid on the daily, and like I was useless and incapable. We were getting out and doing our hobbies, as boyfriend’s job is no walk in the park for him, either. I quit the awful job. But I still felt like my brain was atrophying. My “studio time” is mid-mornings on Mondays and Tuesdays 🙂

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  8. Studio night is going on my schedule. It’s hard enough to pour creativity into mediums even without having children or a marriage. Keep your chin up and congrats on your Freshly Pressed

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  9. It is the paradox of how children can actually make you happier: they lower your expectations of what you “need.” Prior to being the mother of three children, could you ever imagine that only three hours a week of creative work would be enough for you?

    Great job on the blog, and congrats on being fp!

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  10. This post is encouraging! I’ve recently married and for the time being am not working. My goal is to use this season to be super creative, but so far I’ve lacked the discipline to make that happen as much as I want it to happen. I know it will only get more complicated and challenging as time goes on and children are added to the family. MUST. FIND. DISCIPLINE. NOW!

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  11. My house looks like yours only the toys are bigger! I started my blog to do something like this but my husband doesn’t have an outlet himself. I’m hoping that’ll come in time. Thanks for helping me think about it again!

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  12. I call them “artist dates,” and they are sacred. I’ve only been doing this for the last 4 years of a very happy 26 year marriage. Good for you to have discovered them so soon in your marriage.

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  13. What a great idea. I have the opposite problem: I have too much time (newly retired) and not enough urgency to get anything done. I’m going to adopt a Monday studio night!

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  14. Love your blog! Three members of my family do this every night, but of course it’s easier with no small children around. Do you ever post any of your husband’s comics? I started my blog just so I could fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a comic strip artist. You can see the results (amateur though they are) at http://pezcita.wordpress.com/.

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  15. I wholeheartedly agree in the importance of maintaining a creative outlet. I’m a musician married to an artist. We have four kids, two aged under 2. We’re aiming for your model but sometimes there just isn’t enough energy to go round! Thanks for your post.

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  16. Wow, you just spoke to my heart. It’s amazing how quickly life can change, seems like yesterday I had my dream job designing hospitals and now, I’m a stay at home mom of twin boys yearning for that adult connection and sense of self expression like you talked about. I’m thinking ‘Studio Night’ will be a good option for my husband and I.

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  17. So awesome! I’m not a mom yet but I have so much respect for those who are. (I have many friends who are and have seen how it has changed their lives.) Really glad you came up with Studio Night. You deserve it!

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  18. I felt like I was right there with you both, blessed to get to glimpse a part of your creative journey together and what an inspiration it was! Thank you for sharing this, for the beauty you’ve put out into the world because of it, and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

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  19. I love this. Really good post … and FP’d, too! Congrats! Some days I read so many “meh” blog posts, so when I come across something really good (like this one), it’s a mood-maker 🙂

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  20. What a great post and I totally agree with your sentiments. I schedule my creative time too, early in the morning before my kids are awake. I feel most alert and clear at that time. I’ve learned how important it is for me to keep up with that and commit the time for myself. Ultimately, I am much happier with myself and in my marriage.

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  21. I share my creative time with my kids. I tell them stories, and they tell me stories back. We write them down together and read them to each other. We visit gardens, and take photographs. We put them on the computer and look at them, and decide if any are good inspiration for stories. I don’t have a studio night, but I snatch 5 minutes here and there. The picture of your stepson playing violin with you husband in the background was adorable. My oldest plays violin, and my middle, cello. We have happy times together with music and stories. Good work on finding your focus and meeting your own needs. It’s so important.

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  22. “A funny thing happens when you commit your life to another person: You don’t get to do what you want all the time.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. Sadly, five years later, I’m still trying to convince The Wife of their veracity.

    Studio nights sounds like a great idea.

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  23. Love this! We all lose ourselves for different periods of time as Mom’s. I love how you figured it out much sooner than I did!! My kids are now 20 and 17 and I am making more and more time for my creative side every day! Keep writing!!
    Tomasen

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  24. *We’ve never done any of these things. Of course not – just another example of your creativity burgeoning as a result of Studio Night- obviouslly…
    Loved this piece!

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  25. Loved your post! I returned to art classes a few years ago after taking way too much time off after the birth of my daughter. Creativity nurtures the soul–and the spouse and kids! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! I look forward to hearing more from you!

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  26. I definitely needed this, and we don’t even have kids. We just have a running tab of all the homework we need to do for school and rotting windows that need replacing. Writing a blog post is a luxury that I’d be better off taking. Maybe then I’d be relaxed enough to get the “important” stuff done.

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  27. I’m a mother of six and after parenting for over 25 years, I finally have my own office to write and some time to write. Good for you for carving out time NOW. I wish I had done that earlier. This is my favorite line. “Being trapped in this straightjacket of domesticity is like being embraced in a warm, sticky hug, 24 hours a day, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” I used to call having little kids Baby Jail. But, now that most of my kids have moved out and my youngest is ten, ya’ know what? I actually miss those crazy years where you spend hours wiping both ends of little bodies. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

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  28. Great post from a fellow mama + maker and time constrained lunatic trying to do it all. I think that you are right about scheduling. It seems to be the only way to make it work.

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  29. This is a nice story. I am a married woman for almost two years with my husband but unfortunately I was lacking something. Hope to find something that can stimulate my intellectual and find something that would interest me sooner. Thank you for sharing your story..^_^

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