(Disclaimer!!!!! ---these are my personal experiences, opinions, and ramblings. You may or may not find them utterly useless. Either way, its all good.)
How do I stay motivated with a young child?
Boy oh boy, is that ever a tough question!
I'm kidding! …sort of
About a month ago I would have answered that question with a lot of tears, a high-pitched maniacal laugh, and a big fat "YOU DONT!!!!!"
But then hubby suggested we find a sitter we know and trust to take our highly energetic bundles of joy and entertain them for a few hours/days a week. Right now I am only utilizing one day a week but that one day makes all the difference in the world for me. I'm still not back to my productivity norm, but I'm getting there.
Progress is always good!
Little ones are a lot of work. And work (which includes art) is a lot of work. Being a wife, a cook, a boo-boo fixer, a personal assistant, a soccer mom, a scorpion killer, a maid, and every other bit that gets wrapped up into that SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) job title can really take a toll on your energy levels. It has taken me two children and almost seven years to finally catch on to this one most important universal super spectacular Truth…. are you ready for this?…. here it is:
You HAVE to take care of yourself.
There is a lot of fear and guilt wrapped up in parenthood (I'm not a good mom if I don't do this or that or if I let my children watch cartoons or eat hot dogs, yadda yadda yadda), but the truth is that our children are better off if we mommies are at our best.
We are better mothers, wives, friends, and artists when we are on the top of our game. That does not happen when we are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually drained, dried-up, shriveled little husks of the spectacular human beings we once were. Its an easy trap to fall into. We just have to find our way around all the personal and societal expectations of who we should be and what we should be able to accomplish. All too often I think I am supposed to give everything I have without taking the time to refuel. Then I find myself standing on a box in the yard, screaming to the universe "I CAN'T DO IT ALL!!!!!!"
The Universe already knows that. So does my husband (poor guy, haha!). But that's OK, it's therapy.
So here it is. Take some time to hang with the girls every once in a while. Meditate. (Some form of daily meditation/prayer will benefit you, your art, and everyone around you, so I highly highly HIGHLY recommend taking it up if you haven't already). Pass baby off to dad and go to a movie or read a good book in a bubble bath with a glass of wine, go for a run, make a gluten-free raw vegan cashew cacao cheesecake then eat the whole thing by yourself… ahem… or whatever helps you feel rejuvenated. Creativity requires energy. Sometimes that means exercise, sometimes that means a nap. That's on you.
Many women have caught on to the realities of "everything goes in cycles." Our monthly visit from Aunt Flo (sorry guys) is a prime example. Christiane Northrup, M.D. mentioned in one of her books (sorry, you'll have to find the reference on your own because I can't remember right now) that our creativity levels often ebb and flow with our menstrual cycle. Wild, eh? But I get it. I can almost pinpoint when I will have creative bursts so I try very hard not to freak out when I am in a slump. If that sounds like you, start paying attention to your own internal creativity clock and have everything set and ready to go for an artistic explosion when the time is ripe (but don't sit and wait for it). Better yet, have everything set and ready to go ALL the time so you can work at a second's notice. Even if you only have time for two brushstrokes, GREAT! That would be two more than you would have done if your projects and supplies were stuffed in the hall closet. My studio is still in the planning part of construction so I am currently working from home (when a SAHM morphs into WAHM). I carved a little space out of the kitchen/dining area and keep my supplies out and a canvas on the easel at all times. I would probably make one painting a year if I had to put everything away after every painting session. I also have an inspiration book. I cut images of paintings I like from magazines and glue them in a book. Flipping through those pages or looking through books about William Merritt Chase or Edgar Payne or any other of my faves get my creative juices flowing faster than a shopping spree in an art supply store!
You really just have to find what works best for you.
If you are like me, you'll have to keep an open mind and allow yourself and your schedules to flex… a LOT! -And use whatever you have available to keep the kiddos occupied.
Example: This morning I got about three hours of painting in (fist pump and can I get a woop-woop?) not consecutive, but pretty close. There were diaper breaks, snack breaks, cuddle breaks for kid and dog, and several puppy-has-to-go-outside-to-take-care-of-business breaks, but I got a lot done. I sketched the painting in yesterday and got it mostly mapped out in paint this morning. Tom and Jerry were in full force and Ruff (the puppy) supplied some good distraction for my little pant-less tractor wrangling' cowboy. I also have an Ikea children's easel set up in my work space. I covered the chalkboard side with chalk and gave Rowdy (my almost 2-yr-old) a container of water and some paint brushes. He paints often. When the water dries, the chalk is still there, just pushed around a bit. I haven't had to re-chalk the board yet. Woohoo!
Soren (age 6) has Legos, costumes, books, a good sized video library, and six fancy storage boxes filled with art and craft supplies to turn to for self guided entertainment. For itty bitty ones, I suggested investing in a nice baby carrier- Ergo classic is my own personal fave. Painting with a papoose can be tricky at times, but hey- you gotta do what you gotta do.
Last but not least…… and this is so important that it's in bold type:
Motivation and inspiration are not something to wait around for.
You HAVE to make time for and demand an audience with your Muse. That means paint even if you don't feel like it. Draw when you can't paint. Take reference photos or look at art when you can't draw. Make yourself work even if it means you have to pull yourself off the floor after a full-on toddler-style "i don't want to" temper tantrum. There will be plenty of times when everything feels like an end-of-the-world struggle. But if you push through it, all that work will bring you to periods where the entire process flows without effort, when the painting paints itself into your best work yet and the experience is like a spiritual awakening that has you floating on cloud nine for what feels like an eternity.
Aaaaand then you find yourself in another struggle to mix paint and can't seem to get that green juuuuuust right. Frustrations and outside obligations set in and there's that whole cycle thing again.
Remember that struggle equals growth.
Think about those fabulous milestones our babies go through, and we are always proud of, and we celebrate and brag to everyone who will listen about our genius baby's progress.
Knowledge is like a stack, or pyramid, of children's building blocks. You can always tell when a baby has reached another milestone because they sort of backslide a little. Actions/movements are a bit clumsier than usual and baby is more frequently frustrated. (Check out the Wonder Weeks if you get a chance. They have a handy-dandy app for the mommies of young-uns out there)
When he hits a new milestone, Baby has, in a sense, added a new block of learning to his tower of knowledge and knocked the whole thing down in the process. Talk about frustrating! Now he has to put everything back in place. But once everything is back where it belongs and the new learning is assimilated, baby gets to experience that glorious feeling of accomplishment and things are easier for a while. Then another block is added to the structure, everything is knocked over, and the cycle begins again.
That, to me, is exactly like the creative learning cycle.
So. Next time you find yourself in an artistic slump, look for the cause. If you are feeling run down, take time for yourself. You'll thank you later.
If you are waiting for the urge to hit, force yourself to draw, paint, or whatever your form of creativity is. Just remember- it's all about the process. We are constantly growing, learning, changing, just like our little ones who will soon be independent little dare devils fighting bad guys in the back yard for hours at a time.
It gets easier.
And I will promise you that- if you promise to remind me of the same thing next time I'm at my wit's end and about to implode. Hahaha!
Here's what is on my easel:
I don't like the angle of the roof on the right side, so that will change, and there are some more dark spaces to block in, but I am happy with the progress so far.