Creative work can be challenging with children in your life.
“I’d be in the middle of a sentence and someone needed to go to mall for new shoes, so the sentence would be lost.”
That is a quote by Amy Bloom, who has worked as a psychotherapist, taught at Yale University, and is Wesleyan University’s Writer-in-Residence.
In an interview about being a mother and writer, she commented, “When I started, I wrote late at night, after they were in bed. I could do that and get away with it because I’m not much of a housekeeper and I didn’t need much sleep. I liked my kids and didn’t care much about my house, so it worked.”
But, she admitted, “writing with children present is not productive. They really never go away. My daughter made a sign for my study door that says ‘Come in’ on one side, and on the other side it says: ‘Knock first, then come in.’ That’s a perfect description of me as a writer.”
From “Mothers Who Write interview” by Cheryl Dellasega, PhD.
See the Amy Bloom author page for a list of her titles.
Balancing parenthood with a need to be creative
Emma Thompson commented: “I’m very lucky I write as well. I don’t see how I could be as effective a mother as I’d like to be if I had to go away and act all the time.
“So I’ve sort of pulled back from acting, which is fine, because I’ve found over the years – and this was a surprise to me – that I can get the same kind of creative satisfaction from writing as I have heretofore gotten out of acting. It’s very encouraging, really.” [imdb.com]
In addition to acting, Emma Thompson has movie credits as an Executive Producer and Screenwriter, and is author of a children’s book “The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit.”
In her article “The Special Challenges of Highly Intelligent and Talented Women Who Are Moms,” psychologist Belinda Seiger writes that in her private psychotherapy practice and her personal life, she has “known many gifted women who seem to possess what I refer to as the ‘rage to achieve.’
“They are constantly driven to learn, to create and to be intellectually productive even while raising young children.
“Many of these women face periods of frustration when the demands of family and their need for intellectual immersion collides.”
Mass chaos and family responsibility
Seiger adds, “As one friend who was getting her second master’s degree put it: “mass chaos” ensues when one attempts to become immersed intellectually while simultaneously remaining attentive and available for family responsibilities…”
She notes that “Like gifted children and young adults; gifted adults are distinguishable not only by their IQ’s but by their intensity, multiple talents, high energy, curiosity and obsessive need to increase in-depth knowledge in subjects that interest them.
“Trying to ignore these qualities can result in a depressed mood, anxiety and feelings of being unfulfilled emotionally and intellectually.”
Those kinds of feelings and reactions may also be part of burnout from either attempting too much, beyond your emotional and physical resources – or being chronically frustrated at not being able to pursue creative ambitions, whether or not you consider yourself gifted.
Tina Fey is the creator and a writer of the wry TV comedy series “30 Rock” and also stars as the producer of the TV show-within-the-show, Liz Lemon.
Fey acted in a fun American Express commercial as Lemon, a multitalented, multitasking marvel who was called on for a series of executive and creative decisions, as well as being a mom. Lemon handled the demands with apparent ease.
But this was, after all, a fictional character and a commercial.
In real life, do people with multiple talents realize their abilities as readily and fully as they want?
Tina Fey herself is certainly multitalented: a writer, screenwriter, comedian, actress, and producer, and also the mother of two young children.
In an interview, Fey said, “I don’t think you should limit yourself. The sky is the limit. Your dreams and goals are only as big as you make them.
“It literally is a full time job juggling all three positions [acting , writing, producing ’30 Rock’]. Aside from my job, I’m a full-time mommy too.”
“First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.
“Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance.
“Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes.
“And not have to wear high heels.
“What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.
“May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.”
>> Most of the above text [not photos] is from the Motherhood and creative work section of my book.
See more About the book.
Note – the book also has a section: “Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout” related to my article by that name.
Motherhood and parenting are not experiences I have had, but they could push mothers toward overwhelm, especially if they are highly sensitive, as most creative people are.
Here is some additional material (not in my book) :
Even before parenthood, pregnancy can impact creative thinking.
In an interview, actor Mindy Kaling talks about her pregnancy:
“It’s so unknown to me. I have a lot of control over a lot of aspects of my life, and this is one where I’m like, ‘OK, it’s out of my hands,’ which is kind of a fun feeling.”
She adds, “My mom was incredibly fierce and so devoted to us, just loved us and really wanted us to be happy no matter what we did.
“My career choice was not something that she was familiar with and she was just so supportive of that.
“And if I could give that to my child, just that open-mindedness, I’d be so happy.”
Mindy Kaling Confirms Pregnancy In Sweet Interview About Motherhood By Leigh Blickley, HUFFPOST 08/15/2017.
Photo from Facebook/OfficialMindyKaling.
Giving up or reducing our need to control can be “kind of fun” as Kaling notes, but it can be challenging for many of us, although it can support creative thinking.
Psychologist Robert Bilder has commented, “Creativity is at the edge of chaos.”
Creative thinking involves dual and often opposing qualities such as convergence and divergence, control and abandon, order and disorder, certainty and uncertainty.
From my article Creativity and Chaos.
Amy Adams thanked her 3-yr-old daughter Aviana for “Teaching me to accept joy and let go of fear” in her 2014 Golden Globe acceptance speech (Jan 12, 2014; Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, for “American Hustle”.)
[Photo: “Amy Adams: Shoe Shopping with Aviana!” from justjared.com.]
Fear is an experience everyone has sometimes, to some degree – and how we relate to it can impact how well we live our lives and express ourselves creatively.
See one of my articles on the topic: Living and Creating: Fear Is Not A Disease.
Emma Thompson commented about portraying P. L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, in the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”:
“She was in pain all her life. It often happens, of course, that people who had traumatized childhoods turn into very good children’s authors.”
From Parade mag. – see photo and link in my post.
Many people, including mothers, of course, make use of creative expression to deal with trauma and challenges; see one of my related articles: Creative People, Trauma and Mental Health.
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Alanis Morissette on motherhood, inspirations and her mood challenges:
“The last album [Flavors of Entanglement, 2008] was my break-up record. Splitting in 2007 from my fiancé Ryan Reynolds [who went on to marry and divorce Scarlett Johansson] was devastating.
“I always knew that marriage and motherhood would inspire me. ‘Guardian’, the first single from the new album [Havoc and Bright Lights], is about my son Ever, but also about taking care of myself.
“It took a while to feel that rush of love for the baby. I didn’t know this person. He knew exactly what to do – he breast-fed immediately, which was a gift. I was in a stupor. It’s a love unlike any other and the most functional because there is this steadfast connection.”
But she also experienced – and recovered from – postnatal depression.
“The degree and intensity of it shocked me. I am predisposed to depression, but what surprised me this time was the physical pain. I hadn’t realised the depths to which you can ache: limbs, back, torso, head, everything hurt – and it went on for 15 months.
“I felt as if I was covered in tar and everything took 50 times more effort than normal. I wished I could have cried but there was no relief during that time; my version of depression is almost below crying where there is just despondency.
“Amazingly, it didn’t hinder the creative process and I wrote the album. I had various therapies and now I feel all light and springy.”
From YOU exclusive interview with Alanis Morissette By Moira Petty, Daily Mail 11 August 2012.
On how motherhood has changed her music
“It did affect it, in the sense that I was able to finally have my maternal energy channeled into an appropriate relationship — versus having done it super-dysfunctionally with ex-boyfriends and in professional relationships. Being a mom with my actual son was very appropriate.”
Alanis Morissette On Anger, Fame And Motherhood by NPR Staff, September 02, 2012.
Photo from my page Conference with Cheryl Richardson and Alanis Morissette about the “Self-Care for the Creative Soul Retreat” March 2nd-6th, 2014, at Miraval Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
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Here are two programs specifically for mothers, by holistic health coach Lisa Byrne of WellGrounded Life:
“These nationally recognized authors, speakers, artists and experts, who are doing remarkable work in the world, open up and share honestly about navigating the journey of motherhood while pursuing their dreams.”
The guests were Brene Brown, Jennifer Louden, Renee Trudeau, Dr. Sara Gottfried, Pamela Slim, Jill Savage, Kelly Rae Roberts, Andrea Scher and Tsh Oxenreider.
Teach Your Life to be Extraordinary online course:
“No one in the history of humans has ever mothered in a world like we live in today. Now mothers want self expression, they want to contribute their unique gifts AND they aren’t willing to sacrifice that which they hold most dear – particularly in the realm of family and mothering.
“One of my secret wishes is that we, as inspired mothers, start a riot around the world redefining life and mothering on our own terms.
“I want us to be agents of major prosperity, laughter, kindness and creativity – not only for ourselves, but paving a new path for our sons and daughters to follow in as well.
“It’s the journey of a Life On Purpose and it is a radiant thing to behold. It’s also pretty simple once you get the basic pieces in place.”
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Actor Jennifer Connelly commented on motherhood on being a single mother to her then two-and-a-half-year-old son:
“It has changed absolutely everything. I mean, it’s changed my life. I think I’ve changed as a human being more since I’ve had Kai than in any other period in my life.
“It’s such an incredible catalyst for growth. I found myself questioning absolutely everything: how I spend my time, how I speak, what kind of projects I work on, how I look at the world.” [Reel.com 3.21.00]
She has also said, “I don’t think I would be doing this quality of work if it hadn’t been for my son. He’s changed me. He’s helped me to understand myself and find my place in the world.” [imdb.com]
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Some women, including artists, choose not to be a parent, or can’t be.
Holland Taylor: “I don’t think I was born to be a mother. During those years when my body would have wanted [babies], my mind wasn’t listening.
“My creativity was so starved… I was very seriously thinking about adopting a Chinese girl. A part of me wanted a love that would be mine and always be there for me.
“But somehow that just made me psychologically uncomfortable.” [People 11.29.99]
Anjelica Huston: “I have a very full life and I am very happy with where I am now. I don’t want to change anything.
“I once wanted to have children and it was not my choice not to have children but it hasn’t broken my heart that I haven’t.
“I think unless you’re truly whole-heartedly prepared to make a full-time commitment, you have to really think about it.
“I certainly wouldn’t adopt children just because everybody in show business seems to be doing it.” [imdb.com]
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Artist and creative business consultant Lisa Sonora Beam talks about mothers and creative expression:
“I thought it was really a waste that someone like my mom, who was so creative and naturally talented, didn’t find the opportunity to merge her creative passions with her livelihood.
“It was a waste because of the years spent being underpaid, under-appreciated, and away from her kids (she was a single mom until I was 8 and worked a lot of jobs); a waste of the beauty that didn’t get to exist – that only she could bring to life; and a waste for all of us who would have benefited from her particular genius.
“I hope my mom doesn’t mind me using her as an example. The fact is, she is one of the most creative people I know. Growing up with someone so creative, yet not finding the appropriate outlet for her creativity, definitely shaped my destiny.
“By the way, it’s never too late to answer your creative calling. There are loads of examples of people who did not even start on their creative business path until midlife or retirement age. My mom, and people like her, can still make their creative mark on the world.”
From interview with Mary Daniel Hobson, Director, Arts & Healing Network.
Lisa Sonora Beam is author of The Creative Entrepreneur: A DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real.
Here are two of her online programs:
Creative + Practice – an 8-week, multimedia e-course.
Dreaming On Paper – a four session online workshop “where I guide you through the process of visual journaling in your own creative sketchbook.”
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Book: The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity into Your Life by Shona Cole.
“Shona guides you through the Artist’s Workshop, a 12-week course that includes step-by-step instructions for making artwork inspired by your children.
“You’ll also be introduced to seven other artistic mothers from whom you can draw inspiration and encouragement.” [Amazon.com summary]
On her blog [shonastudio.blogspot.com] Shona Cole writes: “Many people ask me ‘How do you do it all?’ when they hear that I have 5 kids that I homeschool and I do art, photography and write poetry. Well, I wrote my book in part to answer those questions.”
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To Be Creative and A Mother
How does being a mother affect a creative woman, especially someone engaged in a career in the arts? “The motherhood thing – I think of it like a marathon, except a marathon is over in a day. It’s an endurance test and it’s something you absolutely can’t stop for a second. Part of what makes it really cool and interesting is almost anything [besides motherhood] you commit to, you can take a breather.”
Artists are Crazy; Mothers Can’t Be Artists, and Other Myths
Ideas about creators include these: “Artists must be poor and sacrifice their well-being for their art.” … “You can’t be a mother and a successful artist.”