Columnist Helen Martin is contemplating motherhood and creativity in the run up to Mother’s Day.
“As Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve started thinking about motherhood and creativity — how nurturing females have helped my creativity, and how I’ve combined my creative passion and joy with being a mother.
‘Make something!’ was always my answer when asked what I’d like to do as a child. Mrs Golds taught me to knit aged seven, my granny showed me how to make a mean lemon drizzle cake, and my mum carted me round to years of pottery and drama classes. My mum’s creative too and passed her sewing and art skills on to me. She’s still sewing, but now includes play mats, tunic dresses and little tops for my children, so thank you mum.
I’ve discovered approximately one million things since becoming a mother, but the realisation that I’ve got different time constraints is one of the biggest. It’s something that applies to many of our increasingly busy lives, with or without children. It can be hard to find time to allow our creative minds to be set free. We can’t just wedge an influx of ideas into a restricted slot every Monday at 3pm. Then, when there is time, in moves the fairy godmother figure on your shoulder. Mine’s in tree pose and adorned in an all-in-one yoga outfit, the bumbag round her waist brimming with cleaning products, while a laptop and notebooks fill her clock-shaped backpack. In one hand she has my phone (Instagram ready-loaded), in the other she’s wafting an unfinished blanket ‘Sweetie, what’ll it be today?’ she asks. ‘Clock’s ticking.” Perhaps, simply sleep! Be gone fairy godmother.
Life changes when you’ve got children, but you can work with the changes. I took my first baby everywhere — from interviews and meetings, to baby sensory and psychedelic art exhibitions. Life continued on and despite sleep deprivation, it was infinitely brighter. It appeared – to my own huge surprise – that ideas darted out at me everywhere I looked. Then, as my baby grew and then I added another baby, I had to rethink how myself and my accomplices could work together. However, by then I’d figured out some creative/time essentials (disclaimer: I’m 100% not an expert, your own instinct is everything):
- Sleep is so important. Always nap if it’s needed and be sensible. I can stay up with my laptop, red wine and chocolate, writing my heart out like the old days, but I may have to call it a day at 11pm, not 1am. (Plus, maybe a chamomile tea instead of wine?).
- Creative work comes to me more easily in the evenings, while admin tasks work well in the mornings, so I shape my days around this. I can also work well under pressure, if I focus.
- It’s a good idea to write a header on ideas pages on my phone and notebooks, so they’re not just random words and names decorated with flung Weetabix.
- It’s quite mystical/powerful/useful to have a night notebook for those moon time ideas and boring ruminating to-do lists before bed.
- It’s not necessary to clean the house.
- It’s not indulgent to have a shower, maybe do a spot of yoga and enjoy that coffee.
- Scroll Insta for five!
- Always read.
- Go to art and craft classes in the evening, or when you can fit them in. Keep learning and enjoying new things.
- Do creative activities with the children, turns out they love baking, gardening, painting, making pom poms for hanging stick creations and anything that involves potential mess. It stimulates everyone’s creativity and it’s fun.
- Take the children to work and meetups if you can. It’s good for them to see what you do and to be involved.
- Don’t ever give up on the creative pursuit that makes you happy.
The more essentials I’ve learnt, the more my fairy godmother shoulder-dweller has become kinder – a friend. Because if there’s one thing you need, no matter who you are, it’s to be kind to yourself. Following this non-superwoman vibe has given me the air to breathe, as well as to be more creative and open to ideas.
Creativity is incredibly liberating and exciting. If you’re a mother your creativity doesn’t leave you. As the author Zadie Smith said: ‘The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd.’ It doesn’t just go. However, you must nurture it and make and incorporate time for this part of you; whether that’s an hour at a life drawing class, or a week in a cabin in the woods.
The most important for me is that creativity should be freeing. We have a saying in our house when it comes to making, drawing, painting, or cake decorating — ‘You can do it however you like’. There are no rules — yes there are guides and tips and ideas, but it’s all open to your interpretation. Last week I had both my children sat beside me and we painted small terracotta pots with acrylic paints; great blobs, swirls, zigzags and splats. We were all so content, focused and enamoured with creating. We chose plants for the pots and I could feel the glowing pride as the children watered them. Yes, the smallest one painted the cat’s whiskers and painted whiskers on himself but he had a great time doing it.
So I’m thinking about creativity this Mother’s Day. We’ll be away in Morocco on the day and I’m hoping for some heat, swimming and maybe some poms poms. It’s usually a delicious breakfast in bed clattering up the stairs, sweet homemade cards and chocolate hearts. For some, I know that Mother’s Day isn’t an easy time. But whoever you are, and whatever the day means to you, remember to be kind to yourself. So says your fairy godmother.”
Helen is the founder of Lionheart, an independent lifestyle publication. Each issue features inspiring, thoughtful and passionately created words, photography and illustration. From interviews, style and interiors, to poetry and stories, it’s a roaring 96 pages of print. Find it on Facebook, Twitter and Insta.