Are your creative aspirations in hibernation mode? I was just visiting with a mom friend whose life is full: three kids, one who requires some intense parental attention. She told me she wishes she could learn to sew. And she wants to paint. But neither of these activities fits into her life as it is. Finding that big block of time to yourself is like a mirage; chase it, and it disappears before your eyes. The only way to focus on being a “good” mom is to put art aside. At least that seems to be the conclusion many of us reach.
I used to look at the things I made before I had children – oil paintings from various classes stacked in the closet, a sketch book of exercises from “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, a wreath of multi-colored glass balls woven in strict accordance with Martha Stewart’s instructions, a notepad listing the menus and recipes I had prepared for friends – and wonder wistfully if I would ever be able to experience that free feeling again. Whether you like to write, or draw, or bake or make, doing any artful activity gives a sense of well being. Having some sort of creative practice feeds the soul. And that improved sense of well being makes you a better mother. So why give it up?
Our lives present boundaries that can be frustrating. But they can also teach us to channel our interests in alternative ways. One satisfying creative outlet I have found is making stretch bracelets. I collect beads when I see them, and keep them in a small plastic container that’s easy to tuck away. When my kids were younger, they enjoyed sorting the beads like Halloween candy. And while they were busy, I could string together a bracelet. Each little gem took only about 10 minutes to make, but it was fun to choose the colors, to feel productive and inventive in some small way. And giving one to a friend for her birthday or a teacher as a thank you let the satisfaction last even longer.
Other moms I know have figured out ways to incorporate creativity into their challenging situations as well. One mom who missed having a creative outlet started making bath bombs. Her daughter liked helping her stir all the ingredients, and the final product was something she could give to her friends, or throw into the bath to help calm herself and her family. Yet another found that gardening – and taking beautiful photos of her produce – was a good way to feel creative. And yet another draws a tiny sketch every day. Doodling and dabbling satisfies, even if it’s not the silent studio time she used to have.
I pulled out my bead tray when my friend was visiting, and we each made a stack to wear. The act of making something gave us both a boost, and she went home inspired to inject a simple creative practice into her life.
But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. – Madeleine L’Engle
After analyzing how other mothers find creative satisfaction in the midst of complicated life situations, reading all about art and healing, and practicing on myself, here are a few tips I can offer to help you infuse your life with a little creativity:
Let small bursts count. Let go of the ideal of having an uninterrupted block of time. Grab whatever time you have – and find ways to create in the midst of it all.
Find an alternative. If you can’t get away to a studio to pursue your art of choice, why not try a different creative activity? How about learning to knit (the repetition can even activate your body’s relaxation response!), or growing a small herb garden?
Try working together. Including your children in a project can be fulfilling, and it’s excellent modeling as well. Create with clay, or finger paint, or food – whatever medium works for your family.
Enjoy the process. Its easy to get hung up on outcomes, especially if you have high standards. Instead of worrying about making something fabulous, allow your creative work to be about the exploration. That’s where we find meaning.
Let me know how you decide to get your creativity infusion.