I was the house-husband to our kids as they were growing up. At the same time, I wrote books. It never occurred to me that having children ought to prevent me from maintaining my writing life.
Of course, I had less time than I’d had before—and I was saddled with that old-fashioned instrument, the typewriter, and all that came with it: carbon paper, correction ribbons, white-out, and (it exhausts me to remember this), the need to retype the whole manuscript draft to draft. Golly!
And still, I produced many books. As I say, it never occurred to me that I would somehow be “forced” to stop writing just because I also had to make spaghetti and change diapers. And the kids turned out just fine: both are happily married, one has written a pair of excellent books, the other is a top researcher at Stanford.
Today’s creativity coach, Erin Hallagan Clare, echoes that sentiment, that we can raise our children well and also maintain a creative life. I hope that you’ll enjoy her post and her three tips. Erin writes:
As a COVID-coerced stay-at-home mother, I quickly came to resent the phrase “work-life balance.” Pandemic notwithstanding, the whole journey of having a child completely disrupted my prior way of creative living—teaching workshops, tending to my projects, serving on arts boards, and doing freelance writing on the side. If anything is “a la carte” these days, it’s laundry, grocery shopping, and tidying up the tornado that makes its way through my den every few hours.
Somewhere through the fog of uncontrolled chaos, however, I stumbled onto a profound realization: Balance is what I make of it, and I can either be a victim or master of my reality.
The truth is, a sustainable and healthy creative practice is all about perspective. And just as life changes and evolves, so does our practice. We have two choices: to resist or go along for the ride. As for me, I’ve found changing my perspective on three main points has made the ride much more enjoyable.
1. Hitting the Creative Gym
As a fervent believer in the idea that creativity begets creativity, I’ve started approaching daily “kid” activities as a way to strengthen my “creative muscles.” Boxes become forts; paper towel rolls become telescopes; musical instruments are everywhere. What’s more, other important “muscles” essential to the creative process are being honed—practicing patience; being in the moment; cultivating imagination—all skills that hardly received as much playing time prior to having a child.
2. Reclaiming Time and Self
The big lesson of motherhood I’ve learned thus far is that everything is temporary. Lessening the big emotional grip on what’s lacking (time, personal space, sleep) and redistributing that precious energy has been monumental. Now, inspirational podcasts regularly play in the background; I drastically limit television and social media; I go for walks with my toddler and the idea I’m currently dreaming about. I’ve also made significant efforts to “find my people” while letting go of old relationships that no longer serve.
Most importantly, I’ve had a conversation with family about honoring the times I set aside for my creativity. Modeling the importance of a creative practice, in fact, is something I consider a responsibility to my children, and an example I’m proud to set.
Beyond that, I feel a sense of responsibility to other parents in debunking the myth that creativity is only reserved for the undomesticated. We parents have a great gift in our children, one that simultaneously opens our hearts up to vulnerability beyond imagine, while also catapulting us into expert time-managers, psychology majors, and well-rounded beings capable of multifaceted identities.
Having this sense of purpose, as it turns out, helps.
3. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Despite my best intentions, the one constant of childrearing is its unpredictability. Even though there are many days where I don’t have the time or energy for my creative projects, the powerful reality is: Every day is a creative practice. Whether the lesson is in letting go, or letting our little ones teach us a thing or two, we are given the unique opportunity to grow more deeply into the people we want to be. (Not to mention, kids are indisputably the most creative, playful beings on the planet—don’t forget to pack your notepad!)
After all, what kind of parent to your creative projects do you want to be? One who’s unrelenting, perfectionistic, and full of expectations for the unknown? Or a nurturing caretaker who gives space for them to take on a beautiful, untethered life of their own?
Learn more about Erin Hallagan Clare at www.inwardandartward.com
This post was previously published on Psychology Today.
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