Jesus H Corbett, I’m tired.
I have sick in my hair, I ache, I don’t know what day it is and I’m so very, very tired. Ten years ago, this would have simply meant it was Sunday, but these days it’s all down to another very small, very big reason.
You see, three months ago, Brody Benneworth-Gray popped into the world and brought with him a life of adorable chaos. And bits of sick.
From the off, he threw my professional life into a spin. A lot earlier than expected, he inconsiderately arrived in a week full of deadlines and paperwork. For the first few weeks, the little blighter lived in the Special Care Baby Unit, and so that’s pretty much where Dr B (my wife, my incredible how-does-she-do-it wife) and I lived too. Even when I did tear myself away from the hospital – bleary-eyed and heartbroken – getting anything vaguely work-related done was out of the question. My brain was frazzled and elsewhere.
Fortunately I had some very understanding clients and that perfect storm of deadlines was mercifully deferred for a bit. I managed to get some admin and writing done in the hospital coffee shop, but there’s only so long you can spend working on an iPhone before your eyes melt. It turns out that this period of working in the wrong place on the wrong device at the wrong time (with the right caffeine) perfectly foreshadowed the months to come.
Incidentally, if you happen to suffer from the design disease (I wonder if it’s hereditary?) the last place you want to spend any amount of time is a hospital. A glance at any given wall will be an insult to your fragile little eyes. That an institution so vital to our society relies so heavily upon Comic Sans and Word 95 clipart is most, most upsetting. The message it sends is that the NHS values amateurism and disorder over attention to detail and effective communication. Not that reassuring when your baby is plugged into it.
But now we’re out of the hospital. I’ve discovered many benefits to working from home (trousers, what trousers?), but none of them come close to the fact that my son and heir is constantly within earshot. Playtime is always around the corner. Of course, this also means he’s a major distraction – every little thing he does is a good reason to get up from my desk for just a moment. Yeah sure, I’ll sort that subhead out in a bit, but look at Brody! He’s making that ‘Dilophosaurus attacking a 56k modem’ noise again! While punching himself in the face! And farting! Awwwww. Now where was I?
With a big chunk of the day taken up with cooing and cleaning up pooing, other bits of my life – designing, sleeping, eating – fit in to whatever gaps remain. Thanks to the wonderfully irregular hours you get to keep as a freelancer, it’s already hard enough trying to figure out what day of the week it is. Throw a baby into your life and all structure of time goes out the window. Weekends, months, regular meals – such things are for the rested and childless. Bastards.
I’m constantly surprised by just how much Brody’s presence in my life is changing what, when and how I design. He’s disrupted my intake of creativity-fuelling culture-mulch: all the books I read have flaps; I can’t watch a simple Rice Krispies advert these days without welling up at the beauty of it all; Design Observer has been replaced by Mumsnet; and this is probably the longest I’ve been without a trip to the cinema since I was five (the last film I saw was in two dimensions for crying out loud). Just a few months ago, my idea of design was Eames, Ive, Rams, Bass. Now it’s Sophie la Girafe. All of this must be having an impact on the work I produce. Maybe I’ll become the next Anne Geddes. I bet she’s had sick in her hair for years.
It’s daunting to think of what’s to come, but laughing and talking and walking are all on the horizon. And then, just like that, Brody will start creating things himself. He’s going to grab crayons and LEGO and he’s never going to let go. He’s already my biggest inspiration, my design hero.
It’s all new, it’s all different, and oh my it’s all tiring. But I love it. Chaos. Splendid, lovely chaos.
Daniel Benneworth-Gray is a designer based in York. He maintains a blog at his website, danielgray.com and also tweets regularly at @gray.