Suzi Banks Baum, writer and artist, is one of 13 contributors whose wisdom appears in the e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. If you’re not already reading Suzi’s blog, Laundry Line Divine, add it to your roster of regular reading, pronto. What follows is the gift of Suzi’s words as taken directly from the e-book. Enjoy!
When our son Ben was born, I was ready to simply focus on having a child. Prior to my pregnancy, I was pursuing my acting career and running a custom-made clothing business from our studio apartment. I would swipe away the fabric scraps to write every morning, then polish a monologue in the same space where we ate, lived, and carried on our married life. Adding Ben to the mix in that small space made it nearly impossible for me to do anything but care for him. I left off auditioning and doing readings completely. I wrote every morning. And, happily, had not much attention for anything else.
My husband Jonathan, from the first days of Ben’s life, made sure I took time to write. Journal keeping was my lifeline through the early years of mothering. If I did nothing else for myself, I wrote for 45 minutes. Jonathan’s support made it possible for me to keep those thin tethers to my private thoughts supple and alive. Without him, I might have grown resentful of the time I devoted to mothering.
I kept sewing small projects I knew I could do with a long deadline. And the most important thing I did was learn to knit. My best friend teases me to this day about her first visit to us when Ben was 5 months old. She would hold Ben and play with him and I would keep telling her, “Just let me finish this row.” Up to that point, knitting was one fiber art I had not studied. I leapt in fully and became an accomplished knitter. And I learned other creative things I could do with a child around me, like preserving, gardening, and other needlework.
The most specific mindset is to find things you can do in stages. Try projects — and this may be a new way of working as an artist — but do things that you can put down and pick up again a day or a week later. The newborn and baby years are not the time to start your master’s degree or commit to an engagement with immoveable deadlines.
My biggest piece of advice is this (and I know how hard this is to accept): During the early years of your kids’ lives, let yourself off the hook. Don’t try to accomplish so much that you make yourself nuts. As a new mom, you are susceptible to massive self-doubt. You will double your grief by holding yourself to standards you kept pre-baby. Just take a break. Nap. Dream. Navigate these waters of motherhood knowing that things will change.
As kindly and well as you care for your child’s needs, turn that same attention on yourself. Nap, feed, and clothe yourself with the same amount of care. Schedule art dates for yourself just as you schedule play times for your children. Choose your friends wisely. Spend time with mothers who are living as you’d like to live. Find common ground and dwell with them there.
If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$5.99. Available for download here.