When you hear the words creativity and motherhood, what comes to mind?
Do you see them as two opposing forces?
Does creative work feel incompatible with your responsibilities as a mom?
Photo by Deeana Arts
Even before having children, I wrestled with feelings of guilt every time I sat down to write a story, paint a picture, or compose music. On the one hand, I felt called to create, and doing so filled me with joy. On the other hand, I feared that my work might be seen as “trivial,” or as having no practical purpose. It wasn’t earning me money. It wasn’t meeting any explicit need. As fulfilling as the work was for me, it seemed like I was the only person who was benefitting from it.
I had it in my head that creativity = self-indulgence.
And then I had kids.
Photo by cottonbro studio
Ironically, it was in the first year of motherhood that my perspective of creativity changed. In those early months with my colicky, inconsolable newborn, I learned quickly that creativity was not at odds with my role as a mother. Rather, it was (and still is) vital to my survival—and flourishing—in that role.
Ashlee Gadd, founder of Coffee + Crumbs, addresses this struggle in her latest book, Create Anyway:
Sadly, creativity is often viewed through a lens of unimportance because in our society, art rarely has value unless an audience applauds it or offers to buy it. […] It’s easy to slide creativity into the hobby category, filing it away as nonessential, insignificant, or trivial.
Perhaps even… selfish.
When we label creativity as selfish, it’s understandable that we’d feel immediate tension with the selflessness we typically attribute to motherhood.
What we need, Gadd continues, is to change our view of creativity. Instead of seeing it “as something that takes away from our families,” she encourages moms to view it “as something that breathes life into our families.”
Something that breathes life.
Photo by cottonbro studio
As Jonathan Rogers, author and writing teacher, says in his note to moms:
I want to suggest to you that your creative efforts are among the most important ways that you can be loving and giving to your family and to the communities in which you find yourself.
At its best, creativity can be a way to love our families.
Whatever form it takes for you—whether it’s sewing, painting, gardening, preparing meals, decorating, fort-making, singing, planning parties—your creativity is a gift to those around you.
So consider this your permission slip, friend.
Do you have a creative outlet?
Something you’ve been wanting to pursue, but haven’t felt that you could justify?
Maybe it’s something that you set aside when you became a mom, telling yourself you’ll get back to it once the kids are in school?
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
I would like to encourage you: Don’t wait until then. Start now. Even if it’s just a little dabbling in the margins—which was what I did, in those early months with my colicky newborn. It may not feel like much, but a few paragraphs scribbled during a twenty minute nap is better than nothing.
Sure, you could use that time to knock out half a sinkful of dirty dishes—but you won’t come away feeling nearly as rejuvenated. (Unless dishes are your thing…)
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: Whenever I’ve allowed myself to pursue creativity in the margins of motherhood, I have come away feeling more positive, more joy-filled, and much more prepared to meet my family’s needs with patience and sensitivity.
And that alone makes it worthwhile.
What does “creativity in the margins of motherhood” look like for you? Let us know in the comments!
For more encouragement, I definitely recommend checking out Ashlee Gadd’s book Create Anyway.
Jennifer is a freelance writer and musician living in Pennsylvania. Once an aspiring Latin teacher, she is now a stay-at-home mama of two children, and is blessed with a husband who can fix just about anything she breaks. Jennifer leads Jr. High Sunday School with her mom and loves attending musicals, giving homemade gifts, and sharing tea with good friends on the back porch.