Artists Say Work-Life Balance is Possible – With Boundaries

We often hear Minted artists talk about the concept of work-life balance—and how to be better at it. When we looked up “work-life” balance in the dictionary, the definition is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

And so, I guess the larger question is: Is work-life balance possible? After talking with Minted artists Dave Douglass and Lena Barakat—both of whom are busy parents of three and who work from home—our answer is possibly maybe. It’s likely less about striking some sort of perfection and more about living life based on your own definition of balance and happiness. And, just want to add that Lena graciously wrote her answer during her 40th week of pregnancy.

Dave Douglass
Madison, Wisconsin

As a freelance designer with three young children, balancing work and life can be a real challenge. I’ve found that dividing my attention and trying to “multitask,” as they say, leaves my work unfocused and everyone in tears—including me. Setting aside blocks of dedicated time where I am either 100% Dad or 100% designer is the only way I can be the best at both. With the help of my incredible wife (currently a full-time PhD student), we are both able to strike a balance.

I’ve also learned to become realistic about taking on new projects. If a job is so involved that it’s going to take me away from my wife and children for weeks, I politely decline. Rolling a ball on the floor with my toddler is something I’m going to really miss when she’s a moody teen embarrassed to be seen with me. Cue: “Cats in the Cradle…” now.

The thing that is probably hardest for me has been practicing the discipline required to just sit down and dig into the work—to force my creative process even if I’m at home and Better Call Saul is beckoning me to binge-watch. If you have the privilege of being paid to draw pictures and design beautiful things, make the most of it and get to work. People are out there scrubbing disgusting objects with disgusting scrubbers… you’re wearing comfortable pants and sipping a latte.

Lena Barakat
Dyer, Indiana
Lena’s Minted Artist Store

Work-life balance is something I still struggle with, but I’ve learned to become much better at these three things:

1. Stay organized
With twins and another little one on the way, the key ingredient to helping me stay focused is a to-do list. I’m very meticulous and write everything down—I mean, everything—from picking up a birthday card to making file edits. I can become easily distracted, so this helps me stay on top of things and prioritize what’s most important. There’s a sense of accomplishment when I happily complete a task, big or small.

It’s the little things, too! Before going to bed, bottles are filled for breakfast and clothes are laid out for the next day. Mornings can be quite a whirlwind.

Blush” foil-pressed bridal shower invitation by Lena Barakat

2. Learn to say no

When I first began freelancing, I felt the need to take on every opportunity to help grow my business, build experience and my portfolio. My hours were all over the place, from late evenings to weekends. With the Internet and cell phones, I created a world of constant accessibility. Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons, one of which is setting boundaries. I do my best to not overwhelm myself by not taking on more than I can handle, as well as shutting down all aspects of work when I’m with my family. I am still disciplined when it comes to work, but my children will always come first. I truly believe in making quality time and memories.

Wedding Waltz” foil-pressed wedding invitation by Lena Barakat

3. Carve time for myself

In order to take care of my family, I have to find the time to take care of myself too, which is something many busy parents often neglect. Even a good night’s sleep can make all the difference. Building a support system with friends and family can also help on days when I feel overloaded. There will always be good days and not-so-good days—the key is to continue to work at it.

What kind of #ArtistAdvice do you want to read next? Share your suggestions in Comments below or email Minted Content Manager Amy Schroeder at with your ideas.

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Published February 19, 2016 • Become part of the Minted Artist Community. Submit to a Challenge here.

  1. This is just the advice I needed today! I’m a new mom who is blessed to partially work from home. I have also been attempting to continue with my side freelance work – but that’s been a slow process. At the end of the day, family definitely comes first, and something’s gotta give! Hoping we can all do what makes us happy while continuing to better our productivity and work-life balance.

    Thanks so much for sharing your helpful insight!