We mothers often struggle with feeling selfish when we do something for ourselves instead of our children. Although most of the time we love our children and being a mother, it’s easy to feel guilty or conflicted about putting energy into our other interests, in particular, our creative passions.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t able to reconcile these conflicting feelings and either consciously postpone our creative lives until our children go off to college or write it off altogether as not possible. This was common in the earlier generations, and still continues today, though it is becoming less of a given.
It is possible to be a committed, caring mother while pursuing your own dreams and passions. Finding that balance isn’t easy, though. Here are the steps that have helped me the most with keeping my creative fire lit while being a mom.
1. Give yourself permission to be creative
Start by giving yourself permission to be both a mother and a creative woman. This permission has to come from yourself. Other people may or may not be supportive, but it’s the permission you give yourself that makes the real difference. You don’t have to sacrifice being a mother or being creative, but you do need to learn new ways of being with your creativity. Some will involve compromises, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. Give yourself the green light. Believe that you can have both.
2. Master the art of flexibility
As a mother, meeting the basic needs of your children dominates most of your waking hours. While there may be some structure, much of this time is unpredictable and changing depending on the developmental stage of your children are or what mood they’re in. Before children, we were able to be in a creative mindset when we chose to be, much more often and more easily. Now, in motherhood, we need a different set of skills to be able to hold onto the creative muse and follow it’s rhythms.
Mastering the art of flexibility involves three stages: learning to navigate interruptions, working in unusual circumstances and giving up the need to be completely alone in order to be creative. Fortunately, the creative flow is very fluid when you are open and fluid yourself. The muse is available to you in all moments, long or short.
3. Find and use small windows of time
Before having children, we were used to having big chunks of time to ourselves after work and on the weekends. Once we became mothers, however, those luxurious chunks of time disappeared from day one.
This loss of personal space and time is one of the hardest aspects of motherhood most women don’t talk about. As our kids get older, it becomes easier to carve out some space for ourselves here and there. But even when you do get a little time for yourself, it’s easy to feel like you should be spending it on your partner, the house, errands, or other obligations.
If we want to stay connected to our passions and live a creative life as mothers, we can’t just wait for those big chunks of time again. Learning to utilize small moments when they show up as well as how to create small chunks of time is a very powerful tool for staying creative.
I wrote two albums of songs using small chunks of time over the last seven years, sometimes as small as five minutes! I know another mother and musician who created her first EP this same way and actually titled her CD “Little Windows” for the short moments she used to nurture her creativity while raising her first child.
Just these three steps are often all it takes to get your creative life moving and be a mom at the same time. Your children want all of you, and if you are a creative being, then this part of you needs to be included in some way in your life. If it’s hard to do because you feel too much guilt, then think of it as a gift you’re giving to your child. You’re giving the gift by example of what being creative is all about.