In amongst all the family cacophony in my 2 adult, 5 child household, there has been one anchor for me and that has been creativity.
9 years ago I became an insta-mum to 3 children under 7. My partner came as a package deal with a 4 and 7 year old daughter and 6 year old son who we had 50/50 share care for. Early in the piece our family faced a major medical crisis when the four year old was seriously burnt in a kitchen accident resulting in months in hospital and years of ongoing treatment. Not long after that my partner’s mother was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer which saw us front row as her support team. A couple of weeks after her death I fell pregnant with my first “of my womb” baby and a couple of weeks after that I was plunged into hellish morning sickness that saw me periodically hospitalized and profoundly unwell.
After the birth breastfeeding was a challenge and sleeplessness and I were not friends. Add to the mix the four kids, and a new business we had launched; overwhelm was an understatement.
3 years later we did it all again! The extreme exhaustion of a newborn and new realities of 5 kids hit home. All my life creativity has been my thing. I’m a musician, arts business consultant and general creative all rounder. And if you can believe it, in amongst the daily realities of such a large, dynamic family, motherhood has gifted me many creative lessons that have lifted my joy and given me a deep gratitude for the gift of self expression.
1. Embrace The Imperfection
One of the biggest lies I hear creatives tell themselves is the lie of perfection. We wait for a time when our creative product (craft, song, dance, film whatever it is) is perfect before launching it out there. We think if we can’t create to a high standard then that act of creation is a waste of time. Lies, my friends, all lies. It’s all about the act of doing and there are well researched and implemented studies that prove that this is the truth. As a creative mama, my perfectionist drive has been forced on the back burner. With 5 kids to cook for, clean up after, drive around, shop for, wash clothes for (you know the drill), I just don’t have the time to keep my head up the proverbial arse of perfectionism. I discovered that I had 2 choices,
1. wait for some future time (when I’m really, really old) when I have time again to go back to striving for perfectionism
2. or embrace the imperfection and just do it.
Without my kids chewing up all that time and energy, I would never have truly given myself the chance to ditch the perfectionism that was in fact holding me back. I know I’ll not achieve that perfectionist height and surprisingly (or not surprising if you actually read the research) my creating has improved and the quality and my focus is at a higher level. Most importantly I am loving my creativity in a way I never used to, because now I create with a joy and abandon I never gave myself permission to have pre-kids.
2. You Have a New Muse
All that “I’d die for you”, ”You complete me” romantic gibber was meaningless to me until the day I held my first son in my arms and then in a flashback maelstrom of 80s love ballads, I got it. This is the soul mate, unconditional love I never thought I’d truly and lastingly understand. There is no romantic bubble to burst and the love just keeps growing, doubled because I’ve fallen in love all over again with my second son. Please note there are days my boys are the devil incarnate and I am soooo tired I question my entire reason for living and no matter how deep the love I would sell my soul for a housekeeper, because no level of love for my kids will make me love housework. Even on the worst motherhood days and probably especially on the tough days, my children have taught me about my huge capacity for love. Now I write my best ever love songs, about my kids. They inspire me to create and follow my passions, because that is how I want them to live their lives. They are my muse.
3. Get The Kids in on the Act
A friend of mine is a talented jeweler and mixed media artist with 4 children. She developed an entirely new way of working based on the realities of creating with kids. She set up a craft table in the corner of her studio space and would create in snippets with the kids working along side her. Her work became based on layering, according to what she could achieve in the 30 minute windows she had available to her. There are times I can’t get a babysitter or inspiration strikes in non designated creating time and for moments like this I have a basket full of instruments I pull out for the kids and they frieking love it! They feel a level of ownership and investment in what I’m doing and better still they are learning the value of creative expression. I am normalizing creativity and following passion for my kids.
Having kids has forced me to remove all unnecessary road blocks and busy time activities from my creative processes. If I have a window of opportunity I launch in with a focus that pre-child me did not always have. I know if I spend too much time writing lists, talking around things or preparing the space perfectly, my time will be up. So my creating time these days is very productive and focused. Because I have to organize in advance the time to create I have learnt to create on demand, rather than ambling on waiting for inspiration to strike.
5. Make Time
For the first few years of parenthood I failed to realize the need to designate and claim time for myself. The balance at my bank of resentment couldn’t contain the deposits I was making as I felt myself swallowed whole by a martyrdom model of motherhood. I know so many mamas are here or have been here and at some stage for most of us the bottom falls out of this style of parenting. I felt so lost and disconnected and knew that my lifeline was in creativity. With 5 kids underfoot and a family business that was bigger than big, no one was there offering to set me free to go play guitar for a couple of hours. I don’t even think I knew where to find my guitar, so buried under the never ending washing pile that I was. My answer, make time. My creative lifeline has been Bali, I rent out our family home and turn the proceeds into a trip overseas. I get a local sitter, send the washing to a laundry service, order in and create my guts out a couple of weeks a year. I play my guitar, write, do workshops and binge create. It recharges the creative batteries and gets my flow back on. Back at home I’ve realized that time out to create is not a luxury to me, it’s a vital part of my health and well being. I book a sitter, rehearse weekly (no matter how tired I feel), go away for the night, bring my creativity kit (guitar, iphone, notebook) on all holidays and weekends away and consciously carve out space to draw in the breath of creating. Living my creativity makes me a happier, kinder and more joyful human being and mother.
This article was first published on May 18, 2015 for the MamaBake community.