8 tips to help tired moms find time for creative pursuits
Being a sensitive, creative soul has not served me well during motherhood, especially during a global pandemic. When I spend much of my time in survival mode–planning, doing, worrying and running around–I easily become depleted. Parental burn out is a thing, and toxic “mom culture” isn’t helping. The expectations thrust on modern women from the media, well-meaning friends and family, and society at large is not healthy.
If you believe everything you read in parenting magazines, blogs, Facebook and Pinterest, the ideal mother is total contradiction. She’s body positive and full of self-love, but also boot camps and keto diets her way to a summer bikini body and schedules those botox and filler shots at regular intervals. She’s expected to work full time, or at least generate income with a multilevel marketing scheme or side gig, but still keep up her appearance, home and social life to pre-parenthood standards. When she creates something, it’s worthy hundreds of likes on Pinterest and Instagram, a literary agent or Etsy shop.
Social media has many moms feeling like failures for our physical shortcomings, lack of energy or ambition during those tough years of early childhood when you are in the trenches of motherhood and everyday seems like a battle of wills. Add in sleep-deprivation, special needs children, kids’ sports and activities, pets, aging parents, financial difficulties, medical concerns, social and political causes, etc., you can understand how many moms find it difficult to make time for creative pursuits and much-needed self care. (NOTE: Dads are drowning under the weight of societal expectations too… I’m not forgetting about them, but as a mom, I’m focusing on my perspective since that is the only one I can speak to.)
Taking time for creativity, and taking the focus off your to-do list, might be one of the only things besides sleep which actually restores your energy and revitalizes your whole being.Marie McKoy, author
When life is chaotic and overwhelming, creativity is not a top priority. But, what if I told you that finding time to put your emotions on paper or just working with your hands could make you a better mother? Taking time for creativity–and taking the focus off your to-do list–might be one of the only things besides sleep which actually restores your energy and revitalizes your whole being.
A case for creativity
As an introvert and highly-sensitive person (HSP), I crave down time to ground and recenter myself. I yearn to connect with nature, tap into my imagination and express myself creatively. Unfortunately when I’m sleep-deprived, stressed out and running on fumes most days, it is hard to ignite that creative spark… and even harder to find time to keep it burning. But, we humans are literally wired for creativity. It is a basic human NEED, not a luxury.
The theory of cognition tells us about the principle of being creative as a basis for human life. Science proves losing yourself in a creative project with repetitive motions puts people into the “flow state,” where heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety decrease. Producing something new stimulates the reward centers of the brain, and floods it with dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Studies show this can increase happiness, reduce dementia, improve mental health, boost the immune system, and make a person smarter through sharpening their creative thinking skills. (Source: “Here’s How Creativity Actually Improves Your Health” by Ashley Stahl for Forbes.com)
Modern science has something to say about creativity, and spiritual traditions do too. At the heart of femininity is motherhood. Giving birth is the ultimate act of creation. Creating a new human and/or nurturing them into adulthood is to be in your full feminine power. Eastern spiritual traditions tell us the feminine is dynamic and flowing like a river. Her natural state is both calm and chaotic, nurturing and destructive, passive and passionate. To tap into that creative force is to rest in your feminine energy, which can be so nurturing since mothers spend some much of their time in masculine energy, “doing,” “thinking,” and “planning.” Making time for creativity gives moms a chance to cultivate their feminine side and recharge their batteries to come back to their kids with more energy and enthusiasm for life.
That’s great and all, but how do I actual find the time?
- Start small
Don’t plan on painting a mural in your kid’s bedroom or sewing a fancy dress, those kind of projects eat away your time and are fraught with frustration. Go with something easy that you find enjoyable. Coloring books. Knitting a potholder. Beading a bracelet. Sewing a pillowcase. Writing a poem. Even rearranging furniture or accessories can fire up your creative juices.
- Get your kids involved
My kids love drawing, painting and sculpting with Play-Doh (and so do I). When I’m feeling burnt out and tired, I pull out some washable watercolors, brushes and paper and let them go to town. I make a little something for myself and veg out. Instantly, I breathe a little deeper. If it’s a nice day, go outside and draw with chalk on the sidewalk or pick up some pine cones, leaves and twigs to make into animals. Paint rocks. Draw in the dirt with a stick. Cut flowers and assemble them into a beautiful bouquet. Be creative in the kitchen. Try a new recipe or make cookies or cake with your kids to decorate. These little mental breaks can help relax you and your little ones.
- Rethink your down time
I’m talking about nap time, car line, swim lessons, bath time… those little moments in your day when you may be tempted to mindlessly scroll on your phone. Why not bring your knitting project along or a notebook to sketch or write? Or you can be creative on your smart phone with coloring book apps, journaling apps, blogs and more.
- Find your tribe to stay motivated
This one is tough, especially when you’re busy, but seeing what other like-minded creative folk are doing may give you new ideas and motivation. Join a women’s knitting circle. Take a weekly art class. Connect to writers online and share your poems, short stories and novels. Watch and follow expert bloggers and YouTubers to build your skills and keep focused on your craft. Have a friend or two that enjoys art? Have a painting party not unlike those wine and DIY landscape painting events that were so popular before the pandemic. Years ago, I used to meet up with neighborhood moms for a scrapbooking club. It was mostly gossip and drinking, but it was therapeutic. I bet you can find something or someone to connect with, if you think hard enough.
- Ask your partner for help
Do you always do the dishes? Ask your significant other to take over so you can have a break. Schedule time with your partner on the weekend to tackle a creative project. Help them understand spending alone time working on a creative project helps you be happier and more rested parent, and offer to do the same for them. It is so important, but often difficult, for moms to ask for help… but making time to express yourself creatively is truly a need, not a want.
- Find your muse
We make time for something when it is important to us. When we are inspired and passionate about our craft, it becomes a priority. Who or what inspires you? How do you feel when you complete a creative project? Use that rush of love, passion and enthusiasm to propel you on your creative journey, even when times get tough and the stress of motherhood weighs on your soul.
- Accept what is
Sometimes it’s just not going to happen. You may plan to put on a video for the kids so you can create, but there’s a meltdown or unplanned trip to the doctor or a knock at the door. Breathe and let your expectations go. Don’t harbor resentment or frustration for yourself when your productivity doesn’t compare to other creatives in your circle. You are a mom first. You’ve got work to do. You have chores. It’s okay. Really. Try again tomorrow.
- Give yourself some grace
You found your muse, scheduled time, asked your partner for help, connected with others, sought out expert advice and honed your skills, but your creative project just isn’t living up to your expectations… what’s a mom to do? Be kind to yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I have been disappointed with the end result, be it a sewing project, knitted gift, painting, etc. Heck, I’ve even sidelined my first novel after getting little to no response from querying. It’s frustrating. I get it, but PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP. It’s the process of creating something, not the end result, that is the most beneficial for your spirit. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and remember that old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It takes time to hone your skills and perfect your craft. Keep going and find joy in the act of creation.
What are you eating for? Unleash your creativity!
I hope this blog post inspires you to make a little time each day (or at least on the weekend) to create something just for the sake of creation. Tapping into your imagination and creativity is so beneficial for your mental health. During these crazy times, we could all use a hobby to help us relax and recharge. I mean wine, chocolate and binging on Netflix are good, but they don’t give me the same high I get from creating something new. Give yourself permission to be creative. You are busy. You are tired. You deserve to have something for yourself. Even if you never share your creation with the world, it will mean the world to you.
Love and light (and a little kick in the butt),