When the summer days of childhood are full of spray grounds and popsicles, school ends and other kinds of schedules begin, and the ripe tomatoes are in full blossom, something else could be blossoming too. It’s creativity! I’m talking to all the mamas now, because gender still plays a role in this. As moms, many women feel like they have to hold down everything. The children need to be active, the house needs to be taken care of, and you need to stay connected to your partner (or your community. or your extended family. or your job!). There is so much guilt built into our lives as mothers, along with the joy and peace of raising a family. It’s built into society, where sexism still exists, women work and raise kids, still do most of the housework, and still hold significantly less leadership positions (see: Leaning In).
Where does creativity come into play in all of this? How does an artist/writer/performer mom balance the life of a creative being and motherhood? It’s the topic that is being explored in many art and mothering blogs right now, and documentaries. And it turns out that there are many moms with a lot to say.
“On becoming a mother, the buried part of myself- the emotional and curious, the creative- roared back to life. I wrote, then began painting again. Mothering had returned me to my expressive creative self,” said Pamela T. Boll, in her artist’s statement. Boll is the filmmaker of Who Does She Think She Is?, a documentary exploring the lives of five women who are mothers and artists. I think Boll expressed a sentiment felt by many of the women I know who are mothers and artists. Mothering provides a sense of urgency and life to our creativity, but it comes with a guilt-ridden feeling of allowing ourselves the small amount of energy and time left over after everyone’s needs are met.
Creative moms, here are some ideas I have in our area and beyond to help you stay inspired, create balance, and live a life of art with kids!
* Give yourself an art date (No time? Take the kids and give yourself a few minutes to get inspired.) I would suggest Philadelphia places like the Wagner Free Institute of Science, which has old-fashioned cabinets of wonder filled with items of the natural world that are perfect for sketching. For writers, local award-winning poet CA Conrad has a whole page of writing prompts in the gallery based off the entire museum collection.
Another art date idea, by yourself or with the kids, is to go to as many local art receptions as possible. They’re free, and if you bring the kids , they’ll be the most cultured lot in Philly (unless they eat all the reception appetizers. Then quietly make your way out the exit with a polite smile and a plastic cup of wine in your hand.) They are always inspiring, by creating a catalyst in your mind that says… Hey I can do that! or I thought of a similar idea! Also it’s a good way to connect with other creative mamas.
* When your kids make art, you make art. Remember that old saying “when your baby naps, you nap”? Why not try the same for art? When you bust out the craft materials for your little ones, make sure to save some for yourself. Make something right along with them. Same thing could be true for writing. Or maybe during their half-hour music class, take out a laptop and start making notes of your new creative project!
* Make playdates with other creative moms. Why can’t we have some playdates and hold what I like to call “creative business meetings”? The kids can have fun while the moms come up with ways to change the world with art (or at least come up with a community art project)!
* Watch films with inspiring stories of creative moms. Here’s my short list, which involves the documentary I already mentioned, another great documentary about artist moms, and the PBS series Art 21. Be sure to check out Sally Mann’s story in the Art21 series, because I loved what she said about art (sometimes it’s just fun), and she used her kids in some of her most famous work. Which brings me to my next idea.
* Involve your kids in your art (in whatever way you feel comfortable). Maybe the children can be the subject of your writing or your photography or your painting. Or maybe they are your art assistants, stitching up pieces of your weird patchwork quilt, adding color to the background of your illustrations, or something else. Or maybe they are your muses dancing in the background to Afrobeat, while you twist up pieces of jewelry.
Philly creative mamas, what are some of your other ideas, tips, or suggestions you have for being an artist/writer/performer and mother?
NW Philly Parents is a partnership between Newsworks and Germantown Avenue Parents.