Are children compatible with a creative career?

With lockdown forcing mums to bear the brunt of childcare and homeschooling, we ask what it’ll take to make creative careers more compatible with children and how the industry can begin to close the gender gap

Coronavirus has thrown families of all kinds into chaos, as parents figure out how to juggle work and life in lockdown. Questions around who should take responsibility for homeschooling and childcare have highlighted issues of gender equality, and there’s plenty of evidence that women have shouldered much of the burden.

The Guardian reported earlier this year that mothers in lockdown were putting in four extra hours a day, caring for their children, and that they were more likely to be trying to work at the same time. In some cases, women are taking voluntary furlough or redundancy in order to focus on childcare, potentially setting their careers back as a result. And this is on top of more long-term issues created by men and women taking unequal parental leave, as well as the creative industry’s reluctance to offer women part-time or flexible work.

Copywriter Charlotte Adorjan was well aware of some of these challenges pre-lockdown, having left a full-time job at AMV BBDO because the agency wouldn’t offer her the flexibility she needed. She says going freelance meant more control over her time, giving her space to arrange things around childcare and her son Woody’s regular doctor’s appointments. Woody, who’s autistic, just won a D&AD Side Hustle Pencil for his Woodism project, which turns some of his phrases into linocut designs that are raising money for charity Ambitious About Autism. During lockdown, Adorjan has continued to freelance while her partner has been working full-time as a copywriter, meaning she’s taken on much of the childcare duties.

She says trying to balance the responsibility of work and children has made coming up with ideas much harder, particularly in the absence of the headspace that comes from everyday rituals such as going into the office or getting on the tube.

“Now, even going off for a shower is a snatched moment,” she told CR. “I’m doing so much more multitasking. Even when I’m cooking I’m talking to someone or doing something else. That thinking time is gone completely.”