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Posts tagged ‘family’

The Monday Post: 11.6.17

Ursula K. LeGuin quote

Happy Monday, friends! What in the creative realm would you like to accomplish this week? Comment below with the what, when, and how! And if you commented on last week’s Monday Post, let us know how things went: the hiccups as well as the successes.

How to Start Creating Again After Kids

Emily_Bennett

Emily Bennett

By Emily Bennett

It was about two weeks after my son was born when I said to my husband, or maybe I wailed, “I am going to have to do something because this is SO HARD!”

Two weeks into motherhood and I was a poop-covered, milk-soaked, tear-stained, sleep-deprived mess. And I was losing it.

Before Babies

I always knew I wanted to be a mom someday. I always loved kids. They are pretty much the best humans, as far as I can tell.

I was always an artist as well. At the age of 5, I made the world’s smallest quilt — 3” by 3” in size. As a tween, I painted an ocean mural on my bedroom walls, including a cartoon octopus using each arm for a different beauty tool: comb, brush, lipstick, hair dryer. Just because. You know? In college, I studied art and made these drippy paintings of clothing on lines and hangers. Creativity always came easily.

But then I graduated from college. No more deadlines, no more critique groups, no more assignments to keep me working. That childhood spontaneity to just create was somehow gone. Huddled alone in my freezing garage studio rigged up with clamp lights and space heaters, I couldn’t help but wonder what on Earth I was doing.

Also, life demanded practicality. I needed health insurance. I needed a savings account. I needed to have a “real” job. So, I got busy being practical; I became a teacher. That channeled my love of young children, so it was good. And I had a steady paycheck, and I met my husband and got married and bought a house and had stability and all the things.

And I stopped making art. I gave up my studio. I might have even have told people that I was done with all of that.

Time Plus Suffering

Then I gave birth. I quit my job to be with my son, and faster than you can say, “post-partum depression,” I was in the middle of the darkest time in my life. My son didn’t sleep, or, if he slept, I couldn’t sleep. He had reflux. He wouldn’t nurse. He wasn’t gaining weight. We didn’t know what was wrong. My son and I spent days just bouncing on the yoga ball waiting for my husband to come home. It was mind-numbingly, bone-crushingly hard.

P1020607Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be with my son. I feel immensely privileged to get to spend time with my children. What emerged in that period was not just an over-abundance of time, but also the deep personal necessity to DO SOMETHING.

An Idea

As the darkness lifted, I started to look around. I was bugged by how baby clothing is so stuck on gender stereotypes. I didn’t want to put my son in the “Mr. Tough Guy” onesie. Sitting around at a moms’ group with my friends, I said, “I want to put a dump truck on a pink onesie. What do you think?” And they said, “YOU SHOULD DO IT!”

That rallying cry fueled my desire to create. I began to draw again — teaching myself how to use drawing software, learning how to screen print from YouTube tutorials. I started to put my hands on fabric and ink and make something new. And it was awesome. It was a deep and rushing joy that I had forgotten existed.

More Than Just Time

Now that I have two children and a growing business, there’s hardly a moment to spare. I look back on my practical, pre-kid life and think, “I had so much time! Why didn’t I spend it creating!!??”

Before children, I had vague ideas of art I wanted to make but nothing I truly felt passionate about. With the dump truck project, I had an idea that brought together my love of children, textiles, and graphic design.

There was one more thing missing, though.

I needed more than just time to explore a project. I needed an avenue for sharing my work with others.

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Within my group of new mom friends was a creator who helped me find my way. She made artisan bath products, and she knew all the things: how to sell at the farmer’s market, open an Etsy shop, and aesthetically arrange her wares in lovely piles on a folding table. She introduced me to a new world: the world of selling your stuff.

In all my time in critique groups and art classes, I was never taught how to bring my artwork to others outside of a school context. In my friend’s example, I saw how it was possible. She taught me the nuts and bolts of being in business (business license, sales tax, etc.) and I’m not sure my nascent creative practice would have taken hold without her help.

Suddenly, I had a critique group again (customers) and I had deadlines (holiday bazaar), and those two motivated me to Go and Do in a way I had not gone and done since college.

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I didn’t set out to create again, it kind of just happened when time met passion plus an outlet for sharing my work with others. This experience has brought me back to a part of myself and an understanding of how to have a creative practice that I hope to never lose again.

Advice to You, Artist Mama Who Wants to Get Back to Making

1)     Make time.

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How do we find time as moms? For me it happened because I chose something I could work on while my son was with me. What can you do while your kids are with you? What other dedicated time can you create? If you have the means, give yourself permission to hire a babysitter regularly. Schedule with your partner 30 minutes every evening. Can you cut back at work? Start looking for the little moments. I almost always work sitting perched on the toilet while my kids are in the bathtub. (At right: Me sitting on top of the couch to work with my son in the room — without him being able to bang on the computer.)

2)     Decide what you’re passionate about.

If you want to get back to creating, then you probably have your passion in mind. What does that look like? What do you want to say to the world? Put it down on paper! Tell someone! Something is there that you want to bring forth. You have a need, and it is such a precious thing! Cradle it in your hands as it begins to grow.

3)     Find a way to share your work with others.

If you don’t have an awesome friend like mine, look up local art festivals in your area. Sign up! Don’t worry, because you will get in and you will sell things. Go visit local maker fairs to get inspired. Create your own free website, and then tell everyone that you did it! Share the link on your personal Facebook page. Check out local entrepreneurial resources. Sign up for a class on business basics. But most importantly, sign up! Go and do it. Once you have done one thing, sign up for another. Incorporate the feedback you get into your work for the next event. Make sure that sharing, scary as it is, becomes part of your regular regimen, so that your awesome creativity is getting out to the world and you have a reason to keep creating.

 


About Emily Bennett

family

Emily Bennett is the owner and creator of Baby Blastoff!, a line of baby clothing that honors the spirit and possibility in every child. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, and went to Whitman College, where she studied studio art. After graduating, she moved to New Mexico where she earned a master’s in education at the University of New Mexico. Emily came back to creating and started her business after her son was born in 2011. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband and two kids.

Connect with Emily! Find Emily’s awesome baby clothes at babyblastoff.com. Follow her on Instagram at @babyblastoff and on Facebook at facebook.com/babyblastoff.

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Why You Need to Leave

MH_crowDespite our romantic fantasies of the tortured artist producing works of genius, creativity is supported by wholeness and authenticity. Just as the best crops grow in ground that has been appropriately prepared and fertilized, the fundamentals of how you live your life have an enormous impact on who you are as an artist and the degree to which you’re able to produce work you find satisfying.

Several months ago, I posted the piece below to my personal Facebook page. In addition to a warm embrace from my community, I received private messages from women in my distant network who wanted to share their struggles and thank me for my transparency.

I share this post with you today. If one person reading this blog reads the words she needs to hear, the public display will prove worthwhile. This piece also serves as an update for previous readers who wondered about the long silence. With love:

Understanding that Facebook is not the best place for emotional exposition and vulnerability, here goes.

If you’ve been jaded by years of difficult and/or abusive relationships, have faith. After two marriages spanning 25 years, I’d concluded that the harmony and deep affection I wanted in a relationship was simply a fairy tale. When I emerged from my second marriage in January 2015, I decided that I was done for good. If dealing with conflict in a relationship necessitated yelling, violence, and intentionally inflicting pain, I was ready to spend the second half of my life alone—and happily so.

But the universe had other plans. I’ve spent the last 18 months in a relationship with a man who wants, as I do, a relationship based on kindness, unfailing mutual respect, adoration, and delight. We’ve shouldered considerable difficulty and challenges during our time together—but everything that life throws our way brings us closer. We are not a study in the attraction of opposites; we have uncannily similar life views, sensibilities, and curiosities. I did not think it possible to be so fully myself and be so fully embraced for it.

Now we’re engaged. It will be a long while—years, most likely—before we tie the knot and cohabit fulltime. Our first priority is our kids (all seven of them!) and ensuring that our relationship continues to enhance, rather than disrupt. Until we meld households, we’re able to spend 60%-75% of each week together. And we wake up every morning feeling like we’ve won the lottery.

To my female friends, especially: Hold out for the person who adores you—and demonstrates that esteem through behavior, not just words. Hold out for the person who possesses deep integrity. Hold out for the person who is characterologically incapable of saying unkind things to you. Hold out for the person who treats you like the princess, goddess, and warrior that you are. Hold out for the person with whom you experience an intense physical, emotional, and intellectual attraction that only grows over time.

Relationships need not require walking on eggshells. You don’t have to origami yourself into a form so foreign that you no longer recognize yourself. You don’t have to withstand criticism, unkindness, or cruelty. You are not asking for too much. And for the love of god—if you have children and you’re subjecting them to your abusive partner—whether a biological parent or otherwise—just stop. You’re scared to leave, but staying is worse than any unknown. My single biggest regret is keeping my five kids (three from my first marriage and two from the second) in a highly toxic environment for so long. The pain and guilt I carry for failing to protect them is inexpressible. Please, don’t make the same terrible mistake.

Be you, dear friends—follow your truth, and wonderful things will happen. Everything fabulous depends upon you being who you really are.

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How to turn your life on its head in 12 months or fewer

selfieSome of you have noticed that our sweet little blog has been neglected this summer. In retrospect, I should have scheduled and declared a short blog break, but I didn’t have the foresight to know how busy the last few months would become.

Now that I’m back, let’s have a little catch up.

In July 2014, my husband and I moved from Massachusetts to Washington State, relocating to a beautiful island due west of Seattle with our two sons (now 10 and 7). I immediately felt at home here, but it was disorienting to leave loved ones behind. I have three children from my first marriage; my two oldest sons (24 and 21) are in Boston and my daughter (19) is heading back to CU Boulder for her sophomore year. My mother lives in New Hampshire.

Life unfolded, as it does, and with the settling in came the understanding that a relocation and the passage of time would not heal the pain from years of conflict between my husband and my three oldest children. In January, after 14 rocky years together, I reached the end of my marital rope. The accumulation of hurt and resentment forced me to look in the mirror and own the many ways in which I’d failed my children — and myself. Of course, there were ways in which I’d failed my husband, too. I’m not an easy person to live with — I know that — and ultimately, I don’t think I’m capable of the compromises that marriage requires. But if I had to stamp a single label on our situation, I would have to go with “blended family fail.”

While we’d had a few dress rehearsals, it was — is — at times searingly painful to leave someone who you still love and are attracted to. The pain comes in waves, which is something I’d heard before but never quite understood. Over time, one learns to keep breathing when the waves hit. And they start to lose some of their crushing weight.

I no longer believe that love conquers all. But I do know that my priority of existence is this:

  1. Myself, because if I’m not taking care of my own needs, I’m of no use to anyone else.
  2. My five children, regardless of how old they are.

And that’s it. Everyone else — family, friends, acquaintances — are part of my life because they have a net positive impact on #1 and/or #2 above. It’s that simple.

Today, I am living in a lovely little rental cottage. I share my two youngest boys 50/50 with their dad. Our relationship is surprisingly friendly and cooperative. (I give my ex a lot of credit for that.) We’re both committed to staying here on the island and raising our boys as co-parents.

I am repairing my relationships with my older children. Every day, I am profoundly grateful that they didn’t give up on me. My daughter came for a visit last month, and it was an enormous gift to be able to spend time with her without the burden of ever-mounting guilt that I used to carry. The guilt from past mistakes doesn’t go away, of course — and there are some things I will never forgive myself for  — but at least I’m no longer adding to the inventory.

Moving twice in a year — including a cross-country relocation — and getting divorced adds up to rather a lot of recovery. But amidst this period of intense change I am finding myself. I am more “me” than I’ve ever been before. My life is full of new friends, new experiences, new places, new tattoos, and new men. (Don’t be alarmed — I’m not using new relationships to bury my emotional pain, but rather connecting with other people to rediscover and redefine myself.) There’s also the usual challenge of making enough time for my client work. That’s been a struggle given all of the other things I’m focused on.

As I find my feet, I am awash in creative energy. I fought for some time to maintain my creative practice before allowing myself to just do what I’m doing. As summer comes to a close, and I near turning 46, I’m preparing to reconnect with a structured practice — but until then, I have put down the whip of self-flagellation.

So, that’s where things are at on my end. I look forward to sharing on a more regular basis and supporting you in your creative work.

Much love.

Meme of the Week

If you marry meme....

Happy Friday.

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Making Creative Hay Outside

Enjoy this seasonal reprint from the archives!

If it’s summertime in your part of the world — or if you live in a mild climate and enjoy fair weather more often than not — think about using outside resources to your creative advantage. When younger kids are out of school, making outdoor time a regular part of your routine can yield many benefits. We often end up spending time indoors just because it seems easier than setting up camp outside. But don’t let the force of habit inhibit your summertime fun and creativity.

If you have a yard of your own, make the most of this bonus. If you have a fenced-off space — even a small one — so much the better. Many mothers are able to sit on a lawn chair and write, read, or sketch while their kids play safely nearby. You can peruse that stack of magazines you haven’t read yet — any reading material that is easy to put down as needed. Outdoor time is also a great opportunity to take photographs of your kids or the world around you.

To stack the odds in your favor, use this four-pronged approach to outdoor (and indoor) downtime:

  1. Make sure everyone is well fed, watered, and toileted.
  2. Spend some time totally focused on the kids.
  3. When the kids seem engaged or playing independently after having some Mommy face time, turn to your creative work.
  4. Try to remain flexible. There will be days when the kids don’t want you staring at a notebook for even 30 seconds, and there will be other days when they’re happily immersed in their own worlds for 30 minutes. Go with the flow.

If your inventory of outdoor toys seems insufficient, yard sales and consignment shops are great places to pick up a few more. You might also send an e-mail to friends with older children to ask if they have anything hiding in their garages or attics that they no longer want.

Many toddlers and young children love to play with water. Consider filling a small kiddie pool with a few inches of water and a bunch of bath or beach toys — often good for at least 30 minutes of interest. For other outdoor play activities, do a bit of google searching and jot down the ideas you like best.

Food always seems to be more fun outdoors, too. Whether it’s just a snack in the backyard or a full-on picnic basket in the middle of a field, eating outside makes everyone happy.

When you’re headed to the park and your kids are old enough to play safely without constant supervision and won’t walk in front of the swings, don’t forget to bring a notepad, sketchbook, or something else to spend time with while you keep one eye on the children. You may find that it’s worth going out of your way to visit a playground that is fully enclosed and is equipped with a good amount of safe climbing structures to keep your kids entertained.

While you don’t want your kids to feel like you’re constantly on standby, waiting to bolt off to your own thing, you do want to be prepared to squeeze in some creative work when the opportunity arises. Over time, you’ll find the middle way that feels best for your and your family.

What works for you? Share your experience!

How to Do One Thing this Summer

kids' summer schedule planningIn the Northern Hemisphere, it’s warm and the days are long. The kids are out of school. We hope for leisurely days, hours spent outside, lots of reading, cooking on the grill, and hopefully a bit of actual time off — whether that means a staycation, an exotic getaway, or something in between.

Unfortunately, we still have to get crap done maintain some level of productivity.

If, like me, you work from a home office and have cobbled together a variety of childcare options for the next two months, your schedule may be turned on its head. Those with fulltime jobs outside the house must also navigate seasonal schedule changes. With the load of juggling that summer requires, it can seem near impossible to get through even a few things on your daily task list — despite the extra hours of sunshine. On top of your workload, you still have to maintain a vague semblance of functionality on the home front, keep everyone fed and clothed, and serve as cruise director. So we shoehorn the necessities into as few hours as possible in order to get the kids to the pool or go for a hike or spend some time working in the garden.

As you already know — all too well — when there’s a time crunch, the first thing to go is the stuff that matters only to you. Creative work, personal practices, personal care. The things you care about but that no one else particularly notices. There may be an indirect effect, as in, if you’re doing your creative work and meditating every morning you’re nicer to be around (as opposed to when you skip those things for too many days in a row and you morph into a raving lunatic get a little grouchy). But on the whole, these are the things that directly impact only one person when ignored: you.

morning freedom reminderDecide on One Thing that you’re going to focus on during the next two months. This could be a creative practice, such as writing or drawing for 30 minutes every day, or it could be that you’d like to complete a specific project during this timeframe. You might decide that your One Thing is a midsummer artist’s date; four hours on a Saturday afternoon to visit a museum by yourself, browse in a bookstore, or sit outside with an iced soy latte while you journal. Maybe you want to save one evening every week to enjoy that pile of magazines that never get read. Or you might be pulled to the self-care category: Perhaps you’d like to do yoga at home every morning. Whatever it is, pick One Thing that is important only to you, and claim it.

Can you pick more than One Thing? Of course. But One Thing, if chosen wisely, is accessible and doesn’t spawn overwhelm. Set yourself up for success. Make your One Thing something that is exciting and doable; realistic while pushing yourself just enough to feel your muscles stretching and strengthening. (I don’t recommend committing to write an 80K-word novel this summer, for example, unless your kids go to overnight camp for two months and you’re barring the door at a remote cabin. You get the idea.)

What’s my One Thing? At present my creative practice is rock solid (I haven’t missed my 500-word daily quota in more than six months), so I chose something that supports “focus,” one of my three words for 2013. I decided to enjoy my mornings and evenings without the distraction of social media and e-mail. This means no facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, or e-mail before 9:00 am or after 7:00 pm. Not on my iPhone, not on my laptop. When I adhere to this boundary, I avoid getting sucked into the vortex and have more time for things that matter. Social media is a amazing tool for connectivity — and I manage social media accounts for several clients, so actually get paid to be on facebook, ha ha — but on the personal front, idle social media usage that too easily too easily turns into an hour of wasted time. So the ban is essential — framed as something positive (which it is) as opposed to deprivation.

evening freedom reminderThe three steps to ensure that you do your One Thing:

  1. Put a stake in the ground: Write your One Thing in your calendar or daily schedule, as appropriate. If you have a project goal, decide how much time you’re going to devote to this work on a daily or weekly basis and add it to your calendar as you would an appointment.
  2. Create accountability: Since you already know how easy it is to skip out on what matters only to you, accountability is essential. Share your One Thing here as a comment. Then come back at the end of August and tell us how it went.
  3. Establish reminders: Write down your One Thing on sticky notes and place them in obvious locations around your house. Use reminders on your phone. Or use an app just for this purpose. I’m using the app Intention, which allows you to create visual reminders to keep you on track (the images that accompany this post are from the app; available for iPhone and iPad). The combination of intention with positive visuals is powerful. (For the record, I’m not a paid spokesperson.)

So pick your One Thing, follow the three steps, and enjoy the next two months.

I look forward to seeing what you chose for your One Thing, and supporting you in your success!

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