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Filling the Well with Well-Being

Mothers take care of other people. It’s what we do. And we don’t get sick days. You’re so tired you can barely move, but you still have to scrape yourself off the floor and go change that poopy diaper or drive your teenager to ice hockey practice at some ungodly hour.

With so many non-negotiable tasks at hand, it’s easy to slip into an abyss without even realizing you’re in free-fall. Everything seems fine on the surface: you’re taking care of home and family, getting your work done, and nothing unusually stressful is going on — and yet something isn’t right. You’re vaguely aware that you aren’t spending much — if any — time being creative, except you’re too busy to think about it. But you start getting irritated with your spouse and children. Even the dog starts bothering you with her constant shedding and slobbery ways. Your beautiful home morphs into a giant pair of shackles, and you’re suddenly only the laundress, cook, scullery maid, assistant, chauffer, accountant, and charwoman — and likely also earning a paycheck. No one appreciates what you do, or the fact that between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. you have about five minutes of downtime. You get resentful, sometimes even angry, which may mean you stop talking and perhaps drop each loaded dinner plate onto the table a little less graciously than you’d intended.

When you spend your life careening from one responsibility to the next — even if you enjoy those responsibilities — it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and start resenting the people you live with, which doesn’t work for anyone. Consider the aphorism “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” If you’re feeling grim, all the little sponges in your house are going to pick up on that vibe, even if they don’t verbalize it.

When you’re already doing so much that you can’t imagine doing more, how can you find time to reconnect with yourself? Start small and simple. Reconnecting may or may not involve “art,” per se. Chose something that makes you feel good. The feeling of ease is what restores your center. This spills over into your creative process.

When are you at your happiest? Interestingly, some mothers aren’t able to answer this seemingly straightforward question. Can you? Grab an index card or a notebook and write down everything you can think of that makes you feel good. Is there a way to integrate some of those conditions or activities into daily life? What can you do every day to help ensure that the present moment feels like the gift that it really is? Are there three small things you can commit to doing every day that might impact your sense of well-being? This is really about developing a few new habits, rather than about heaping more “shoulds” onto the pile. (Goodness knows, the last thing we need is more shoulds.) With a bit of intention and some new routines, you may find yourself living more fully — in art and motherhood — than you ever thought possible.

What works for you?

This piece was reprinted from the last issue of the Creative Times, our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe!

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. i force myself to grab moments of peace, the rest of the family and house be damned. but they are typically only moments. i have to fight for real time and space out of my home to work on my manuscript, and i’ve gotten better about prioritizing that in general. i am mixedly blessed to have my mil at home, too, so she will watch the little one, but has some difficulty dealing with my older 2. so that’s always a negotiating point with likely fall out when i come home.

    i felt ready to strangle everyone between the end of school and the time to drop my boys to their distant father. honey and i scheduled a camping trip with the little one and the dog,at the end of parental switch, and while we had our challenges: my ankle, dog, 3yo, rain or muggy buggy heat, it renewed my spirit in ways i hadn’t been renewed in a very very long time. i have about 3 blog posts about it already. there may be one more, because i didn’t get my hands on Honey’s camera yet.

    and i feel renewed about working on my manuscript, too, in this hard edit phase. got another chapter done today!

    July 13, 2011
  2. It occurred to me this week that i can’t possibly squeeze anything else in, and am in fact having trouble sustaining my new initiatives. I don’t need to do more, I need to do less. And by that I certainly don’t mean giving up the goals and dreams I’ve identified – it just means that I need to hone in on priorities more, and then do the basics better. By basics I mean self-nurturing activities that build my well-being, which in turn increases my focus, productivity, and joy. Especially joy!

    I tried to keep it to three activities, but ended up with five essentials.
    1) Sleep more…….. (as I write this I am up way too late which makes morning yoga/journaling unlikely – when will I learn?)
    2) Eat more lightly……(increasing my energy, reducing my need to compensate by exercising more, which hasn’t been happening lately anyway)
    3) 1 hour of meditation/yoga/intention journaling/”me time” in the a.m….. (because it feels good and helps me get off on the right foot for the day)
    4) Gardening time… (to commune with my plants and the earth)
    5) Running/walking in the woods… (to move my body in tune with nature)

    One thing I feel good about is that I know what I like, and what feels healthy for me. It’s just a matter of sustaining these practices. I like using the word practice, because it implies that I am trying to learn something new, and failure is a natural part of the process, but so is trying again.

    July 14, 2011
  3. I am a creative woman – an artist. But I never fully realized my passion until the children grew up and out of the home. What I have learned is that I should have demanded some “me” time. Everyone else got their “me” time. By being at the mercy of everyone elses schedules, demands, wants and whines – we devalue ourselves. Creative women – stand up and schedule a time for yourself each week. The children will live, the partners, husbands, boyfriends will adjust. Take a yoga class, write, garden, paint, dance…. but DO something! You are creating a poor role model for everyone in your household if you play martyar.

    February 9, 2012
    • So well put, Art Epicurean. If we don’t do it ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us. Sure, it’s hard, but that’s not a reason not to do it.

      Thank you!

      February 13, 2012
  4. Reblogged this on Only Trust What you know and commented:
    Ahh Motherhood 🙂

    November 29, 2013
  5. I’m a new mother myself, but not new to giving away my time like charity. Up until the day I went into labor I was working full time, and with another job as well. I’ll be cutting my maternity leave short, but in the meantime I’m trying to center and get over these hormonal roller coasters. Knitting is my hobby, but I still have yet to finish Guinevere’s baby blanket I started 8 months ago. I also find it easier to center when I write, so I’ve been on the computer obsessively (eating into my sleep time). I’m comforted by a cozy cup of coffee, but since I’m breastfeeding I’m afraid that my caffeine intake is what’s causing Guinevere’s sleep schedule to be flipped, so there goes that.

    January 11, 2015

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