ArchiTalks #18: Architecture and… Parenting

Welcome to the 18th edition of the ArchiTalk Series. It is a series curated by Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect, where a whole bunch of architectural bloggers all blog about the same topic on the same day. This month’s topic: ‘Architecture and…’. It was a pretty easy choice for me since being an architect and a parent is what this blog is all about. So I’m going to highlight some of the super awesome things about being a parent and an architect, and I’ll touch on a few not-so-awesome things too. Don’t forget to check out the links of all the other bloggers at the end of the post!

awesome things about being a parent and an architect
1. construction sites

Xander at Jobsite Cropped

What 6 year-old kid wouldn’t want to visit a construction site and see the big trucks, the raw inside of a building and get to walk around a site/building before its complete!?!? (Answer: a 6 year-old with a fever… but that’s a different story.) Its pretty amazing and fun to be able to bring your kids to a construction site, or even just take them to a completed building that you helped to design. And (usually) kids think that construction sites are pretty cool.

2. an abundance of tracing paper and large format paper
2015 Art Wall

Our ‘Art Wall’

Both my husband and I are architects. As a result, we’ve got a lot of tracing paper around. Our kids love to draw, but my son especially loves to trace and embellish drawings. I can see my kids’ creative energy grow when they layer on tracing paper. We also have loads of old large-format drawing sets that our kids can color on the back of. At one point we had about a 20′ length of wall covered with paper for the kids to draw and create on- and it was awesome.

3. exposure to cool architecture
sears tower

The kids checking out Willis Tower in Chicago

As a kid, I spent most of my vacations with my family either camping, or in the mountains of Montana- which is super awesome- but I didn’t get to see the buildings that would inspire me to become an architect until I took an architectural tour with my humanities class in high school. Since both my husband and I are architects, we both like to visit cool architecture. We do this both here in Minneapolis, as well as when we travel. As a result our kids get to see some pretty fun stuff. We love being able to show them the built environment and explain how it inspired us to study architecture.

4. drawing and spatial problem-solving skills
fan fort

The Fan-Fort

Both of my kids draw a lot. I can’t even tell you how much paper and art I throw away because of the sheer volume that they create between the two of them. Both of our kids have developed the ability to communicate through drawings already – which is essentially what an architect does. Now, of course they do it a little differently than we do. But last summer when our son was asked to draw a house- he drew a building section and, in detail, drew everything that would go in each room and how the stairs would work. My husband spends a lot of time drawing with the kids (a skill I tend to be lacking), but I love spatial puzzles- or any puzzle really. I love playing games with the kids and helping them solve problems in different ways. Like building a fan-fort, which is a super awesome way to cool-off and build fun space.

1. long hours

Recently on a Saturday afternoon, I headed out to meet a friend for coffee. I was giving the kids hugs and kisses on my way out the door, and my daughter asked ‘Mommy, are you going to work again?’. Ouch. That hurt. The truth is, as architects we work really hard and are often incredibly dedicated to our clients and to seeing that this project that we’ve been working on for a really. long. time. is going to be great. We’re dedicated. And sometimes that dedication means going in on a Saturday. And sometimes, that is not-so-awesome.

1a. the ‘second shift’


You may think I’m referring to the ‘second shift’ of parenting after working a full day at work. No… here I’m talking about going back to work after the kids go to bed. This could be literally going back to the office, or just logging in from home- but a lot of architects do it. I imagine that a lot of people in varying professions do this- so its likely not unique to our profession, but it is something we deal with.

2. pumping at work, or the job site


This certainly doesn’t apply to every parent, but I pumped breast milk for a full year after each of my kids was born- several times a day. And it was hard. If a meeting went long, I would have to excuse myself (if I could easily do so) or run the risk of embarrassingly leaking. My days were scheduled around when I could pump, and I continually worried about whether I was producing enough ‘liquid gold’. If you ever had to go to a job site, or had a meeting at a consultant’s office, you always had to plan in advance and possibly have to ask a contractor where you could find a private, secure location to pump- which inevitably ends up being a bathroom. Gross. And not fun.

3. deciding who will stay home with the sick kid

There aren’t too many parents that I can think of (in fact, I can’t think of any right now) where the architect is the sole bread-winner of the family. More often than not, if one parent is an architect, then both parents are working in some capacity. So if both parents have jobs, who stays home with the kids when they are sick? If one of our kids wakes up with a fever, we both quickly look at our schedules to see if either of us has a clear schedule, or can easily cancel a meeting. Usually my husband and I will split the day- one of us staying home in the morning, and the other coming home for the afternoon. But I dread the day that we both have a really important client meeting, and Grandma or Grandpa can’t take the kids. It will happen one day, and I’m already dreading it.

So there you have it. My list of some really awesome ways that parenting and architecture combine well, and a few of the drawbacks as well. Obviously for me the good outweighs the bad- otherwise I wouldn’t still be in this profession. What about you? What do you find to be awesome about being a parent and an architect? What’s not-so-awesome? I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this!

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Architecture and Photography

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Architecture and a Future Without Architects

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture and __

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architecture and Travel

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture and Storytelling

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Architecture and Gaming

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
architecture and m&ms

Rosa Sheng – EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)
Architecture And the Era of Connection

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 18: architecture and… the bigger picture

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks 18: Architecture and Mathematics

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Architecture and Yoga

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Architecture and Ego

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Architecture and Ego / The Architect’s Unique Struggle with ‘Good’ Design

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Architecture and Kids

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Architecture and More

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Architecture and the Myth of the Master Builder

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Architecture and Interior Design

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Architecture and Wrestling

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Architecture + Memories

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Architecture + Memories

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[#ArchiTalks 18] Architecture and Strange Travel Etiquette

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Architecture and…my Generation.


  1. Addie

    March 18, 2016

    As a single mom working in nuclear physics, I often have a hard time balancing work/family time. I mean, you should see the looks I get when I need to go into the lead-lined safe room to pump! We can split atoms, but I still can’t get the bathroom to have a tampon dispenser!

  2. michele grace hottel

    March 7, 2016

    i think the whole pumping thing is the reason why there are a lot of moms who don’t breastfeed past a certain point. i have mentioned my response to people who say, “why can’t you pump in the bathroom?” i don’t know, i don’t see many other people fixing their lunch in there, do you??? i started working for myself after i had my first and would do consulting but it is always extra work and extra joy being a parent 🙂

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