A Space Of My Own: Motherhood & Creativity

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt

~ Sylvia Plath

After seeing the success I was having with my writing and the positive changes in my self-worth that came with it, my husband surprised me one weekend by giving up a lot of sleep and time to disassemble and empty our walk-in closet and mark out a new space that would become a hidden office and writing space for me. I came home from a weekend away and walked into a transformed room — it was the most beautiful gift he’s ever given me.

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As is the way when raising young kids, the ongoing renovation and steps to completing that space were long and drawn out. But every one of those steps, like when he chose the wood that would become my desk top and then sanded and stained it or the window he found someone to cut into the brick wall so I would have natural light, were tokens of love and appreciation extended to me by him, and I felt each one as a vote of confidence. I had every intention of showing him that it mattered to me and would make such a difference in my productivity and creativity.

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But for the past few months, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my fear that I’ve lost my creativity. I worry it’s been buried under my responsibilities and the grind of parenthood. And I don’t mean that in a way that implies resentment; I’ve made my choices, and I know they were right. But I do feel a sense of loss, and pretending otherwise is not fair to me or anyone one else who is trying to parent while finding the space to create.

I feel like I’m failing to show him how much it meant to me and that’s taking up a lot of space in my brain, too. What does motherhood do to creativity? It’s a different experience for everyone (read this article for a good start). For me, writing began as a justifiable way to escape and now it threatens to smother me with its expectations — and that’s the simple answer. I know there are a lot of factors playing tricks on me, and some may have nothing to do with being a mother.

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Right now, I’m stuck somewhere between guilt and frustration. It’s important for me to continue to do work that helps support our family, and because I’m doing that work at home, I feel responsible for all the other day-to-day business of family life. But it’s hard to do all those things with purpose when I don’t give myself time to focus on what inspires me as an individual, separate from those responsibilities.

Around and around I go, shaking my compass and willing it to show me which way to go.

I don’t know why it was easier for me when the kids were younger. I’d look forward to being relieved by their dad and taking a couple of hours to do some writing or explore others’ written words. Somehow, when the work of parenting shifted away from hands-on care to helping my kids find their way in the world outside our home, I got lost.

Two weeks ago, I had a pocket of time hidden in all the other things I needed to get done, and it happened to be in the neighbourhood where our town’s record shop is located. Knowing I wanted to get a gift for my husband’s birthday, I went in determined to check it off my to-do list. There was a long lineup at the cash, so I wandered over to the vintage record bins. Nothing is in order; records are placed there as they arrive. It takes time to flip through each one, lifting any that catch your eye. I found Tapestry by Carole King and knew I had to have it. When I got home and played it, it took me back to the girl who sat on her bed filling journals and notebooks with words. And I wondered why I let her get away.

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I have wanted (for a long while now) to share photos of this incredible gift, as both a thank you and reminder that I am deserving of my own space. Initially, I imagined it would come together as a feel good home decor post about a cluttered closet becoming a bright writing space — but that doesn’t feel right anymore.

It’s a story about a transformation that’s waiting to happen. And I’m the only one who can tell that story. It’s waiting for me.

And you have treasures hidden within you — extraordinary treasures — and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

So today, on the morning after my birthday, I looked at it with new eyes and I let my compass show me where I need to go: through the door, to my desk, and wherever the words take me.

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Back To The Beginning

 Our first glimpse of our firstborn

Our first glimpse of our firstborn

I counted down to the moment of our 20-week ultrasound with so much trepidation and excitement. I wanted nothing more than to see our baby and know that everything was okay. But I also wanted my husband to be able to see him/her, too. I knew it would help him feel like he was more a part of what was to come. 

The road to that grainy snapshot of our firstborn was not an easy one to travel. Or at least it didn't look the way we thought it would. It was much longer than we had imagined, and it was scary with all its unexpected interventions. Still, we knew we were among the lucky ones. 

Each symptom and change to my physical body took me on a wild ride from elation (that I was having symptoms) to terror (that something might be wrong). I had to use a lot of self-restraint to avoid calling my midwife every time I felt a twinge, and many times I called her anyway. I peppered her with questions when I did see her, and I scoured the internet between appointments — I don't know what I would have done without the pregnancy boards I found online. 

Lately, I've been trying to reach a goal of organizing all the photos and other sentimental scraps I've been collecting since the beginning of our story. There are bins of loose photos and papers tucked into different hiding spots in our home. These beautiful reminders have followed us to five different houses, and I want them to be carefully preserved.

Last week, I found this photo of the guy who held me up through all my worries (never getting frustrated with any of them), and I cried. I felt all those emotions again, and it reminded me about something he wrote to our baby-to-be. I had been writing in a journal once a week throughout the pregnancy, and sometimes he would surprise me by leaving a note there. 

It has been a few days since we saw you for the first time. It has taken some time for me to fully take in those beautiful, grainy black-and-white images. The first thing I saw were your tiny little legs kicking and then your fingers dancing and reaching across your perfect, little face. My eyes couldn't leave the screen, as the technician scanned quickly back and forth taking her measurements of your petite frame. It was such a relief and such a wonder. I still can't believe you're in there. Part of me thinks you're just going to show up at our front door; a package brought by the stork! Now that I have seen you, I can't wait to hold you. I love you, baby. 

We didn't know we were having a daughter. We wanted to be surprised. But so much about what he wrote that day is a perfect description of who she is, and I must have read it at least 10 times while I cried some more. Those days were magical and they changed us in so many ways. We often joke with each other about the ageing and worrying that comes with parenting, but there is nothing we would change about the gifts we've been given. We are always grateful. 

When I was asked to contribute to a pregnancy by the week feature for Today's Parent magazine, it was such a wonderful chance to experience those early days again. I contributed weeks four to 10, which are often the ones that bring a lot of worry. But, parents-to-be, those days bring a lot of wonder, too.

You can explore the newly launched feature here: Pregnancy By Week

 

Happy Birthday, Baby

I hear the sound of the stepstool being scraped and shoved across the tiled bathroom floor. I'm in another room helping your big sister with her homework. Your dad is somewhere else in the house, trying to tackle a science fair project with your brother. 

I don't stand up. I don't go to you. 

I'm a different parent than I used to be. Maybe you've benefited from that or maybe you were always this way and we both got lucky because I was ready for you.

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