I’ve never been 100% content unless I have successfully struck a balance between my normal responsibilities and painting. This can be tricky enough when juggling things like work, a social life, chores, etcetera…but throw a baby in the mix and it can become exceptionally challenging. I have heard many women complain that once they became mothers their previous identities faded away. I’m determined to not let that happen. Not just for myself, but for my daughter. I strive to be a strong role model for her. Not only by being the best parent I can be, but also by teaching her the importance of being an individual and nurturing her imagination by raising her in a creative environment. So here are 5 steps I’ve come up with to help get my creative juices flowing again.
Keep in mind, it’s important to not rush into this... Don’t pressure yourself to get back into your studio right off the bat. For the first 3 or 4 weeks I felt like a complete zombie. I had no clue what day of the week it was and sometimes whether it was day or night without looking outside. It took me a while to start feeling human again. Getting back to creating was the last thing on my mind. You must allow yourself the time to adjust to all these crazy new changes. Your mind and your body need rest. You’ve been through so much and you must become acquainted with this awesome little person you just popped out, so just cuddle up with that baby until you feel ready.
1. A Routine Start
Now, this is a new one for me.
I’ve never really been one for routines. Before baby, every morning consisted of struggling to wake up and get to work on time. Some mornings I’d have time for breakfast or simply just to take a minute to breathe, but more often than not, it was a mad dash to get out the door. Now that I’m a stay at home mom I’d like to make the most of my days. Since I’m not a morning person and I struggle to get going, I figured starting each day the same way might make this transition easier. Now when I use the word “routine,” I’m using it very loosely. For me, this “routine” consists of having a cup of coffee when I get out of bed, because let’s face it, most of us can’t start the day without one, especially if your baby is like mine and refuses to sleep some nights. After that, and if my little one allows it, I complete at least one chore. It’s hard for me to create without feeling guilty if the house is in total disarray. Contributing to the household by washing the dishes, doing laundry, or vacuuming before I start on a personal project makes it easier to relax and focus.
Originally, I intended to create a more structured “routine,” and hopefully I eventually will, but trying to stick to any sort of schedule is impossible with an infant this young. She’s in control now and frankly, she couldn’t care less if mommy has time to keep the house in order and complete a painting. It’s important to not stress over this, especially early on, or you’ll just get frustrated and burnt out. Let loose and let each day happen as it will. There’s time for more structured routines down the road but holding on to that one familiar start to the day helps to at least get me up and going.
2. Make space (for you and your little one)
Create your own personal space in your home where you can create and feel comfortable.
Make it inspiring. Whether that means a space filled with images that get your juices flowing or one that is neat and streamlined, create a space that will help you get to where you want to be. Atmosphere plays a huge role in creating. If you try and create at the kitchen table, chances are you’ll feel inhibited. You may feel guilty making a mess in a shared space of the home. (Or you may thrive being in the center of the family happenings, it’s up to you!) But if you have your own room, a place in the basement, or even just a nook you can put a screen in front of, you can easily hide your mess. You can just close the door and pick up where you left when you’re ready.
Don’t forget, as a new mom you need a place for you little one too!
I have a drafting table set up for myself in a corner of our spare room and next to it is my baby’s pack ‘n’ play. This one is a great option if you’re like me and prefer to buy multi-functional items. This can serve as your changing area, sleeper, portable rocker, and day-time hangout spot. It’s like getting 4 items in one. Thank goodness for the vibrate function. This keeps her content, so I don’t have to constantly hold her and try to draw or paint one handed. The portable rocker will come in handy if you don’t have room for the full pack ‘n’ play in your creative space. It can also easily move around the house with you all day. Trust me, you’re not going to want to lug the whole pack ‘n’ play from room to room.
And when the pack ‘n’ play doesn’t cut it, my boppy pillow comes in handy. With it in my lap I’m able to use it to support her weight and she’s satisfied laying against my body while I work.
And if you prefer to stand while creating, which I sometimes do, this carrier is fantastic. It feels more secure than some of the others I’ve tried and even comes with a detachable spit up guard, which you know you’ll need. With 4 different carrying options, it will grow with your baby and your needs.
With a space set up for baby, and back up options in place, I can do my thing and constantly keep an eye on her. She’s happy when she can see me and I don’t have to get up over and over, interrupting my process to go check on her.
3. Set goals
They don’t have to be major goals. In fact, it’s best to start with small, easy to accomplish ones. Goals that you know you’ll be able to reach. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure right from the start. Don’t set strict deadlines for yourself in the beginning either. Remember, you’re a new mom. You and your baby are still figuring things out. Your baby can’t tell time and she’s not concerned with how much of it she’s taking up with diaper changes, fussy fits, and so on. It will take time for the two of you to work out any sort of schedule. My daughter just turned 4 months old and we’re certainly not on any sort of schedule. Some days she demands my undivided attention practically the entire day and I’m not able to accomplish anything besides caring for her. That’s okay though. She’s number one, of course. As time goes by, we’ll learn more about each other and the older she gets the more independent she’ll become. Eventually she’ll be able to entertain herself by playing in her pack ‘n’ play, but for right now she needs mommy to comfort her pretty often. You want to take advantage of these baby cuddles while you can.
4. Want it
You must want it. Really want it.
Trust me, I’m sure you’ve heard this before and I realize this is easier said than done, but if you are serious about regaining your creative drive, you’ll have to demonstrate some self-discipline.
It’s going to be difficult to balance your creative time and baby time. There will be days when you think it’s not possible or worth it, especially if you’ve gone back to work. If this is the case, you’ll likely need to seek the help of your partner, friend, family member, etc. in order to find this time for yourself.
There will probably be days or weeks when the only chance you have to create is when your baby is napping, and you’ll have to make the difficult choice between napping yourself or working on your projects.
Keep in mind, it’s likely you may never get your momentum exactly back to the level it was pre-baby. But you’ve got to be okay with that. You’ve created this new awesome little person and they are priority number one. You probably won’t have the time to totally immerse yourself in your art like you once could. Your little one is depending on you now and before they were born you probably didn’t realize just how much time babies take up. Just remember to put your baby and your health first (I know many artists don’t tend to themselves like they should, but now you must care for yourself in order to care for baby), and everything else comes after. For me, and I think for most moms, this new order of priorities kicks in automatically. It can be hard to make time for anything beyond your top priority and that’s why you’ve got to want it, bad, or creating will just turn into something you used to do.
I’ll admit, I was initially going to say that the more time you make for creating the easier it will be to fit it in on a regular basis, and that was true pre-baby, but then I tried it and frankly, it’s not working. My baby controls what I have time to do and not do now. So far, I don’t have time to sit down and work on any personal projects most days, but I am able to find a handful of moments most weeks. Don’t give up, but be sure to take advantage of those moments when they present themselves.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Don’t forget, being a new mom is a challenging full-time job with a large learning curve. You’re not going to be cranking out masterpieces all the time, even if you did so before the baby came. There’s simply not enough time or energy left after caring for an infant to instantly pick up where you left off. You’re not going to be the best mom you can be and the best artist you can be 100% of the time. There will be days when your little one needs you more than usual and you won’t have time for anything else, but then on other days baby may make things easy on you and you’ll spend more time creating. And if you need to, don’t feel ashamed to ask your partner, family member, or friend to watch your baby so you can make time to create. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a day for yourself every now and then. While it’s going to be a challenging process to get back to where you want to be on a creative level, it’s important to hold on to that part of yourself, for your sanity and to become an inspiration to your greatest creation of all, your child.