Creativity and Parenting

I am the creative type.  I am the person who does not fully enjoy watching a movie if, by the time the credits roll, I don’t have a crocheted hat to show for the time I’ve spent sitting still…  I love to make things.  As a child, I spent hours drawing pictures and writing stories that I stapled together into books.  When I was in kindergartedn, I kept a diary.  My brother found it, and to my complete embarrassment, he read it.  The most humiliating entry was titled “Love.”  He paraded around the house, reading aloud in his most theatrical voice, “I do not know…if I am in love…”

I made paper dolls, designed cars out of big boxes, we had drawing contests and “art shows.”  My hands were always busy, and I was never happier than when I had a finished product to show.  I have always been interested in visual art and music and poetry and performance, without much direction as to what I would do with the knowledge of it all.  When I graduated high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.  I entered into college knowing I wanted to learn some things, but uncertain if I would carry it through to any logical end/degree.  Thanks to my lenient advisor, this was my first sememster: drawing, painting, photography, Spanish, piano, voice, and guitar.  I eventually continued on in art, always journaling and writing songs on the side.  I graduated with a degree in studio art and went on to grad school, where I studied photography and video in depth.  Along the way, I was always crocheting, making books, making cards, writing poetry–anything to keep my hands busy and to get the constant flow of ideas out of my head and onto paper.  I have gone through all types of creative phases and have found that my creative voice is always saying the same thing, whether I am writing a song, drawing a picture, hand-making a gift, etc.  All of my creative endeavors are very personal to me, and I find a lot of meaning in making/creating things that I can share with others.

So, this was the pattern of my whole life.  I used to spend hours at a coffee shop, sitting, drinking coffee or tea, and writing ideas about future projects.  I loved doing this.  I was incredibly productive.  I was handmaking all my gifts, I was researching every artist that inspired me, I was trying every idea I wrote in my journal.  I could write an entire song in one sitting, and it just flowed right out of the pen.  Like it was there all along, just waiting for me to shake it out.

And then, I began to have children…  At first, I couldn’t put my finger on the thing that seemed strange.  Apart from morning sickness, extreme fatigue and lack of sleep, physical discomfort, hormonal puzzles, and record-breaking emotional highs and lows, something seemed wrong.  I stopped being creative.  I was too tired to crochet.  I didn’t have good ideas.  My mind was sluggish, and my body was exhausted.  It was as if all of my creative energy was being sucked right down into my belly.  Of course, I am not complaining about that.  My children are undoubtedly the best created-things that I have had any part in bringing into this world.  But being pregnant definitely changed my creative energy.

And then, my first child was born.  I remember about 6 months after she was born, I sat down to make a simple hand-sewn journal.  I suddenly felt this rush of joy, like someone coming out of amnesia.  I remembered something that was really important to me–making things.  And I felt so much satisfaction in just sitting there, cutting and folding paper, sewing the pages together, gluing pictures on the cover of my little book.  It was a significant realization for me.  I need to do this.

Well, I now have three children, ages 4, 2, and 9 months.  I have had seasons of great ideas, writings, craftiness, etc. but they are much harder to come by.  When I write songs, I have to work at them.  A line here, a line there…  It may be months before it all comes together.  It may be years… For the most part, I have found that I really have to make time to make it happen.  And I think I know why.  I use so much of my creativity just trying to get my kids to eat their vegetables.  Being a parent means constantly creating inventive ways to deal with the ever-changing situation at home.  Trying to make your children’s lives happy, trying to get them to eat right and not spend the entire day in front of the tv, trying to raise them to help you and others–these things take an enormous amount of brainstorming and creative thinking.  Yesterday I made brownies.  I actually substituted 1/2 cup of pureed spinach for the 1/2 cup of oil my recipe calls for.  This was a solution for the problem of not having mastered the art of making my kids eat spinach.  Creativity at work… Yesterday morning, after the girls complained about having to take a shower, Randy turned the whole morning into a make-believe search for treasure (which Paloma called The Pink Chocolate) which eventually led them to great waterfall (the shower).  The next day, Rosie was begging to take a shower.  Creativity at it’s best…

Creativity is useful in coming up with ways to keep three children happy in the grocery store.  It is necessary to be creative, because while putting the baby in the carrier, the toddler in the front of the buggy, and the big girl in the cart itself may work for a little while, soon the big girl will want to walk and you will have to rethink it all.  And once the baby gets out of her crib, you will think of creative ways to keep her in her bed at night…  You will think of creative ways to either A) nap or B)get all the housework done during naptime, until one child stops napping.  Then you will think of creative ways to A)rest without sleeping, (especially when you are pregnant) or B)get housework done while you continue to meet the needs of the child who is ever-awake.  A parent’s job is always changing, always adapting to ever-growing children.  It takes creativity to adapt to rainy days and upset plans.  It takes creativity to put the items in the pantry together into a meal that everyone in the family will eat.  It takes creativity to keep the schedules of an entire family from clashing with one another.  It takes creativity to see that the old way will no longer work in this situation and that a new solution must arise.  The abilities and needs of the children must be constantly met with flexibility and creative foresight on the part of the parent.

I am realizing all of this, after have children for four years.

Having children has used up much of my personal-store of creativity–the kind I could just turn on at any time and make whatever I wanted to make.  But in other ways, they have brought out a much deeper, much more useful type of creativity.  It is the kind that is immediately useful for someone else.  It is much less selfish, much less analytical and ultra-personal.  I like it.

I also see that my time is coming back around.  I am teaching my children the things that I love, and in doing so, I am able to allow myself to take the time to be productive in a way that is meaningful to me.  As a mother, I do spend so much time on things that are never done–the dishes, the laundry, the HOUSE, meeting needs all day and night.  It is nice to make something that is finished.  I take great joy in sharing this time with my children, teaching them the things that my parents and brothers and sisters taught me.  And I want to take the opportunity to learn from their bright imaginations and their fresh, hopeful opinion of the world.  There is enough inspiration there to humble even the greatest of artists.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. I love this one, Mackenzie. You have managed to make me believe that I am creative, too! That is one word I would never use to describe myself, and yet, as I thought about the descriptions of life as a mom, I realized that you are spot-on in your reasoning. Parenting–good parenting–does take creativity. Thank you for encouraging me tonight!

    1. Andrea, you are one of the most resourceful people I know. Resourcefulness seems like it is the most important kind of creativity. You are a constant inspiration to me.

  2. deairby says:

    great entry, Mac, well stated! (been there, done that)

    1. You’ve done that a lot longer (and more times) than me! Thanks, Dea. You are an inspiration to me. Love you.

  3. Monica says:

    Beautiful.

    1. I love you. Glad we get to figure all of this out together…

  4. Kim Bohannon says:

    WOW! You have such a way with words! Mackenzie, you could write a book about your life… it would be a good book!

    I connected with what I was reading, also a mother of young children, also very creative… also struggling to stay creative and yet juggle home and family including mealtimes! You are doing great to call it “creativity” that keeps a child in his/her bed at night! oh wow…

    It made me laugh, reminded me that my life is normal, others suffer similar trials while raising kids! Thank You, Mackenzie for sharing this glimpse into your life! I am very much encouraged to continue being the very best mother I can be and to keep on with the creativity I call mine, also to teach my children the things I love so much to do… like reading, quilting, crochet, Dancing, etc… Thanks!

  5. Mackenzie I loved this post. Having four children of my own I was able to really relate to what you were saying. I think raising children leaves you less time to do those creative things for yourself. Finding that creative outlet with your children and being able to share that with them is very special!

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