I would be lying if I said being an artist and a mother doesn’t often feel like the perfect storm. My selfish artist side took a hit in the gut when little people started to invade my studio space. What? I have to share? Not only my physical space, but my precious paints and brushes…and time?
I don’t hear a lot of people talking about being a mother AND a practicing artist. I guess because it’s just plain hard to do. How popular is the general topic of ‘sacrifice’ anyway in our culture? Maybe some of you have seen the documentary, Who Does She Think She Is, featuring five women who navigate the sea of choosing to pursue having a family and being a professional artist. It is good to watch, but I admit I was a bit disappointed with the lacking success rate for marriages and healthy families.
I have had to decide to see my family more as inspiration for my art, than an obstacle to creating my art.
The longer I’m a mom, this struggle, though still very real, is becoming less of a storm maker. (Even now, as I write, my son is vying for my attention to see his new “scooper truck” he made out of legos, quite the invention I must say!)
The biggest challenge I have found is that I just can’t work when I want to or feel inspired. I have to put it off until time and circumstances allow…until I’m not needed. But, let’s face it, moms are needed quite a lot and by the time everything seems taken care of, we are ready to fall hard into bed. I rarely feel enough energy or creativity to make art even when time finally allows. What I have learned is that if I don’t take care of myself, my artist self included, I’m just not a healthy version of me. Satisfying my artist self, actually makes me a more peaceful person; a better thinker, listener, spouse and mother.
I have come to see that there are unique things I can give my kids as an artistic parent, such as a studio space in our home where they are welcome to create too. I decided early on, that there would be an open door policy. As tempting as it was, and still is, to shut the door and get my version of peace and quiet, I just feel I shouldn’t. I don’t want my children and my spouse, to think there is somewhere in my life they are not welcome. I choose not to shut them out. I want them to see me fulfilling my call, challenges included, to see persistence, joy and the fruit of diligence. I want them to see me set my art aside at times to meet their needs, but also on the flip side to see that there are times when their requests must wait. My world then doesn’t revolve around my art (like I admit it used to) or my identity as an artist…nor does it revolve around my children and my identity as a mother. It isn’t an either or. God has called me to both, and I trust He will give me the daily wisdom and guidance it takes to know how to invest my time and energy, thereby calming the storm such a struggle can bring.
After years of navigating the sea of art creating and family investment, my children are growing to understand and respect the space mom needs, rather than be in competition with it. It was at the tender age of 3 that my son must have observed my being antsy one day and said, “Mom, you just need to sit down and make art!” From the mouths of babes! And, now, I can say that I do experience joyful moments with my kids IN my studio.
There is little more satisfying then seeing my son beside me, engrossed in his own artwork, while I paint. Now, my studio is not just a quiet isolated place for one, but has developed over time into a place of collaboration and family, being cluttered with a work station for each member. Does having that community take sacrifice? Yes, absolutely, but the payback is invaluable and may very well reach into the next generation of my family. I rather leave a legacy of loving sacrifice and creative inspiration (even if sporadic), than one of struggle, bitterness and discontentment.
I love this, and shared it with my sister, also an artist, and her daughter who has a 3 yr old and one due any day now. They both love your art work and now also appreciate your writings, as they can imagine your life so well!
Thanks, Stellise. I’m amazed that my daily musings would be share worthy, but I’m so glad to encourage others.
I think this one needs to be tucked away for “someday” 🙂 Thanks Geinine– You are a wise woman– so thankful to know you!
Reblogged this on Phoebe Thomasson and commented:
This is SO pertinent to me at the moment; just storm after storm created by frustration of a creative soul that just can’t find the time to get down to work! It will come and this has given me the juice I need to persevere to the next level where me and my little boy (3) can create together in peace and harmony. The dream is growing, but not without big adaptations….it’s all good. Read this and you will understand!
Phoebe, so glad this resonates with you. Yes, as you stated, it is a growing dream that requires constant adaptation. I have been stretched and inspired in ways I would have never experienced if it wasn’t for the blessing of having children. I create sporadically but I have found that my work has acquired a new depth and that leaves me content. Blessings on your journey. Do stay in touch. Encouragement from people who understand is priceless.
That is just what I feel! Every day I am challenged but emboldened by the totally unexpected developments and yes, depth too! Thank you for you’re inspiration. I will stay in touch. x
Your article continues to resonate with me as I battle through the belief that we cannot be more than one thing…the ‘artist’ archetype being perhaps the most demanding of all. I wonder how much of that comes from the fact that the single minded model we have has been developed primarily by the males of the species and the women’s perspective just hasn’t filtered through yet. Surely our multi-tasking brain is super wired for just this type of challenge, but believing we can is so important to making it so!
Phoebe, I so appreciate your constant dialogue and struggle in this as a fellow artist and mother. I hear your frustration with the lack of models and the seemingly male dominate perspective. Yes, the wiring we females have for multi-tasking is certainly of help to me as I jump in and out of the studio as daily happenings afford. However, I also find that the very nature of multi-tasking can also hinder me from being able to be still and focus, a trait that is foundational really for any artist to create work based on deeper thoughts, insights and passions. There is this battle to stay realistic and intentional about how much I can invest in my work in this current season, YET also the need to still give permission to be optimistic, cautiously ambitious and carefree. It is a delicate balance to strike. However, I must find hope in the constant evaluation.
Oh gosh yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. I was just this minute journalling to stop my head from spiralling out of control as I am hopping around from this and that at a super-speed. Yes this kind of behaviour is doable but it certainly takes it’s toll on the ability to focus.
I’ve rekindled my meditation practice as a result and this seems to be helping as it’s all about realizing the ‘space’ in things.
I am working on doing work that feels like seamless and effortless play; something that reflects this frenetic pace. I think I’ve discovered I can doodle whilst sitting peacefully with my toddler who will happily sit and watch choice TV programmes. It’s the only way I’ve coped! Without the ‘down time’ TV affords I don’t think I’d still be sane!
As I allow this to be our meditative time together our creative spells are becoming richer. I think the less try and the more do, but gently and bit by bit works well.
It is a constant evaluation, and I’m heartened that others such as yourself are ‘in it’ with me! 🙂
I’ve re-blogged this! I am very inspired by this and plan to overhaul the ‘spare’ room for me and the boy as soon as possible…if you can’t escape, make room! 🙂