Our fourth child, Remy, was born 15 days ago. Life is starting to even out into a normal routine–although we are still eating off of paper plates and (thanks to dear, generous friends and family), I have yet to cook a meal for our family of six since he was born. I am recovering really well, the baby is working himself into the beginnings of a schedule, and Rosie (age 5), Paloma (age 3), and Kells (age 22 months) are becoming accustomed to waiting for me to finish feeding the baby before they can get/do/have whatever it is that they are wanting at any particular moment.
I have begun feeling the need to be creative again. I am always happy when this feeling comes back around, because as a mother of four children ages 5 and under, I can truly say as an expert on the subject–pregnancy, life with a newborn, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, etc. have a huge effect on creativity. This was something I was unprepared for when I became a mother. I was used to spending countless hours in solitude, working on my own creative work, trying to “emerge” as an artist. Life as a parent is wonderful and rewarding, but it is demanding and exhausting as well. There are so many other things that are more pressing than making a personal creative mark. And in many ways, your child is the most important mark you will be making anyway.
But I always feel like something is missing when I am not being productive in a creative way. And I feel that I am a happier person and a better parent when I make making things a priority.
I have only been a mother for 5 years now. But I would like to share with you some of the strategies I’ve come up with for staying creative while raising a family. I am working to put these ideas into practice in my own life–reminding myself that I cannot do everything at once. But my goal is to continue to cultivate a life of creativity as a mother.
Here we go:
1. Make Time. Everyone in this world gets 24 hours a day. If being creative is important to you, carve out some time in your schedule to write your book/paint your picture/plant your garden/etc. You may not be able to do it every day. Start with once a week. Give yourself the luxury of two hours a week. Make yourself a pot of tea, get your stuff together, put a do-not-disturb sign on the door, put on some music (or better yet, white noise!) to drown out the chaos that is happening in the rest of the house, and start making steps toward giving your creative vision life.
2. Find Your Space. If you are like me, you do not have the good fortune to have your very own studio space. Most of my major messes are made at the kitchen table and have to be cleaned up at least three times a day for meals… With six people living in a two-bedroom house, personal space is hard to come by. I made myself a spot to sit and write on the stairwell. There is a nice big window above that lets in beautiful morning light. I have a little shelf for books and a tea tray, and a little seat for me. The best part about this space is my view–a few stairs that lead to a closed door. This means when I am working I am completely oblivious to the messes upstairs and downstairs. I find this refreshing. Find a space where you can think and work in peace.
3. Stay Inspired. Check out books from the library. My new favorite thing to do is search on amazon for a book I like, then see what other books come up. When I find books that look interesting, I go to our wonderful GA PINES Library website and place the book on hold. Then I wait for the email that my book is at the library and go pick it up. Right now, I have 23 books on hold for me–sewing books, doll-making books, bookmaking books, journaling books, diy craft books… And every day or two I get an email from the library telling me my book has arrived. It is like getting presents. And reading is one of the few things I can do while nursing a baby, so it is nice to have new books to read.
4. Keep a Journal. Journaling, brainstorming, list-making–the act of writing out ideas is so important to the creative life. If I don’t have the right kind of journal, I just don’t have good ideas. I always have a blank book to write and/or draw in. It is the only way I will remember the spark of a good idea. This is especially true since I have become a parent and the good ones are much fewer and hard to come by… ( I won’t go on and on about journaling, but if you’re interested in my history with paper and pen, read Journaling, or The Story of My Life)
5. Be Creative With Your Children. This is something I am just starting to realize–my creative needs can be met while I am spending quality time with my kids. This is also a wonderful way to introduce your little ones to the things that you are passionate about. A few weeks ago, I was itching to sew. (My sewing skills are extremely basic…) I knew if I pulled out the sewing machine that the girls would have all of my thread unwound and all of my fabric strewn about the house. Before I got started, I pulled out my big box of fabric scraps. I went through with the girls and let them pick out the pieces they liked best, and I cut a portion off for them to put in their very own fabric boxes. Then I got out an old black sweater and sewed up a little kitty cat for Kells (which he affectionately named “Meow-Meow.”) While I was making Meow-Meow, the girls were happily cutting up their scraps into miniscule little pieces and getting globs of glue all over the place. But I was able to work, and they were having fun and making things–we were all happy. My goal (not yet realized…) is to do this every day–even if we just sit down and draw together. I am realizing that the type of creativity that flows in the heart of a child is an endless wellspring of inspiration.
6. Be Flexible. Know that it will probably take you longer to complete things than it used to. That is ok. I used to write songs so fast that it seemed like they were writing themselves. I dreamed songs. It was effortless. Now I labor over them. I have pieces of songs that I have been working on for months and years. But I am still working on them. And I hope one day to finish them. I know that I can only do what I can. And that is enough.
7. Nourish Creative Friendships. I am so grateful for the friends I have who inspire me to be creative. Keeping in touch (in person, via phone, through letters or on Facebook) with these women has made me want to continue to create. Seeing them in all seasons of life and how resilient they are to change, how enduring their creative spirits are through transition–it gives me hope that I can continue through these seasons myself.
8. Live Creatively. Enjoy life! Make braided loaves of bread. Smell fresh lavender. Plant fresh lavender! Learn the names and songs of birds. Notice things and draw them. Listen to all kinds of music. Try new foods. …Slow down… Life is not all about the one big project. It is all the little things–all the beauty in this world. What better gift can you give your children than to be creative, to live an artful life, and to nurture their creative spirits?
What better gift can you give your children than staying creative while you raise them?