ArchiTalks #28: Crafted Moonlighting

This is my first stab at writing a post for “architalks”.  This is a network of practicing architects who blog monthly on a common topic.


The topic of the month is MOONLIGHTING.


#Architalks:  Crafted Moonlighting


Moonlighting.  To have a second job in addition to one’s regular employment.

I have been working in the architecture world, in one way or another, for about half my life.   


BEFORE:  Moonlighting = no sleep + no life


When I was young, no kids and single, moonlighting was about pulling all nighters, doing some fun stuff on the side.  Anyone that has been through architecture school knows that all nighters and being a workaholic are pretty much expected.  Moonlighting used to mean a little bit of extra cash, no big deal.  I would work all day in my conventional office job as an intern, and then I would go home and work on a project or two at home.  No one cared if I worked all night.  When I became a cranky witch due to lack of sleep, it was my problem.  


NOW:  Moonlighting = working, all the time, sort of.


Moonlighting takes on a very different meaning to me now.  I am a mom of two young boys.  I am a wife, a line-cook, a crazed multi-tasker, psychologist, referee, laundromatic SUV shuttle service, all the stereotypical stuff.  I see these roles as important, and they are definitely jobs.  I also started my own architecture firm last summer.  All nighters are no longer a possibility – this ship will sink if I do not sleep.


So I will sculpt the topic of moonlighting into a description of how I operate as a chronic moonlighter mom.


Crafted Moonlighting


I am always moonlighting.  What is my “regular employment”?  I have lost track, honestly I don’t know.  The line is totally blurred.  If I am not moonlighting from the mom thing, I’m moonlighting from the architecting thing.    


After my second child was born, I simply could not deposit my young children at a childcare facility.  So I started doing stuff “on the side”.  Missing architecture, I started to write about architecture for our local newspaper.  But this made me miss architecture even more.  I wanted to DO architecture.  I did some freelance work for a friend, and I started a firm of my own.  


This wasn’t always the plan.  I guess I thought I would always work on prestigious airports and community centres from the 13th floor of a fancy tower, but things changed.  I wanted to walk my kids to school, meet people in the neighborhood, have time to be a mom.  I wanted to stop feeling guilty about having to leave early to pick up kids.  I wanted to have control of my schedule and to do my own thing.  


As a result, I have learned to use my time with ultra efficiency.  This is a consciously crafted scenario, and it is not the easy route.  I had no role models, and no frame of reference to work from.  In my version of moonlighting, I divide my time freely between being a mom and an architect, switching constantly between the two modes.  I optimize every second of my time, and every moment is an opportunity to advance (yea, right..but that’s what I aim for).  Not just time to work, but moments to enjoy, to be inspired, to have grandiose visions.  Time to review and refine my values.


If I’m in the kitchen, I often take the laptop with me and draft as I stir.  Sitting at the park or waiting to pick up kids?  Notebook and pens to jot down ideas, do some sketching.  (Note:  when in public with kids, it’s typically frowned upon to be frantically working on a cell phone.  But a sketchbook with nice pens, people think that’s cool.)


The key is to slow down, keep the amount of work manageable, and to say “no” to the things that don’t relate to the big picture.


I also walk, a lot.  Everything that we do and need is walkable.  Big thinking can happen when you travel by foot.  You see details when you walk.  Time slows down.  I am engaged in my community, I observe construction sites, review gardens.  If I continued to spend the entirety of my hours seated at a screen, this would not be happening.  


I have a network of childcare strategies, ranging from preschool, part-time nannies, and neighbourhood babysitters.  My kids are happy.  They walk everywhere, they get to see me a lot.  I am engaged in their lives.


I am done with apologizing for how I practice architecture.  Bored with feeling lame about being a mom.  I wanted to be an architect since I was a kid, and I am going to do it my way.


This is how I have crafted my life as a moonlighter, an architect plus various other roles, and it works for me.   It allows me to be integrated in the community, I can be with my family, I can still do the things that I love.  

Drawn by Henry. It’s me and my laptop.

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weekend studio assistants.

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Please take a moment to read what others have written about moonlighting:


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