Thursday, June 19, 2008
They Are Why
When I first got pregnant, my creativity disappeared completely. I mean, gone. I didn't paint, I didn't write poetry. I didn't write fiction. I didn't even watch movies that would make my brain work. The strangest of all, I barely even cracked my journal.
I mean, for ME to not write in my journal, my constant companion of the previous twenty years, was almost incomprehensible. In fact, I couldn't comprehend this new state of my being, and fell into a funk. I have since learned that much of my experience was related to brain chemistry and hormones, and actual BRAIN SHRINKAGE (with actual scientific proof and all). But even knowing that, I was at a loss of identity. I did not know who I was outside of being creative. Never mind that I was creating a human being, I didn't understand why I wouldn't be able to create a collage.
As time passed on and the baby was born, life moved on to being about, well, the baby. And figuring out all it meant to be a mother, to take care of a baby, of a house, of a relationship, of myself (yeah, right, I pretty much ignored that.) And then, even before I finished nursing the first one, I got pregnant again. In some ways it was better because I wasn't so shocked at my transformation, and in other ways, it was worse, because I had to take care of a toddler while being pregnant. I did manage to write a first draft of a novel in the few months of the second trimester (thank you nanowrimo and the fear that the impending second baby would make it impossible to ever write again.) Except for that novel, my creativity was pretty lame, actually. I would try, but whatever came out was so dry and uninspired.
I held on to the hope that the magic would come back. Mothers who had been there and done that gave me the advice that it would indeed return. The truth is, it's hard to be the mom of a baby and remain creative. It's even harder to do it with two kids only 20 months apart.
So this is the bad news, kids. Having children makes it much harder to be an artist. You don't have the uninterrupted time to ruminate and be creative, you don't have unbroken nights of sleep. You hormones go wacky and mess with your head and your moods. It's more pressing to make chicken nuggets than it is to make sculptures. Your world shrinks down to the needs of one drooling, pooping, gummy smiling little being. The world is no longer just about you and your journal and your pen and your paints. Sorry.
But before you despair, before you decide to hang up your ovaries and close shop on mommyhood, there is a creative upside.
Sure, being the mom of babies is hard. But once you get past the hormonal upheaval of pregnancy, post partum and nursing, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And it's a complicated, powerful light.
When you are a mom, you have a reason to do the things you do that extends beyond yourself. Your creativity is no longer simply about your own happiness, it is about your children, it is about the world, it is about the future. Because you are creating the world that your children will live in, and if creativity is important to you, then you will be motivated to make it a part of your world.
You learn how to utilize what little free time you have. No longer will you fritter away your long and uncommitted days, knowing that you can create later. Now, whenever you have a fifteen minute stretch of uninterrupted time, you will jump to your sketchbook, your computer, your art. And you will not dawdle. You will get to work.
You will be inspired by your children. By the things they do, the things the say. By the things you do to make them happy. By their responses to your own art work. By what they look at and how they look at the world. Having children opens up a whole new realm of humanity to you, one that you only saw from the outside before.
Children make you grow up. In a good way. So many of the little things that stopped you before will now seem silly. Like your own fears. Or what the neighbors think. Or the desire to be fabulous and party. You have a new understanding of the things that are important, and if art is important to you, then the unimportant things will no longer pose such a barrier.
I get the feeling that parenthood actually has unlimited benefits, along with its difficulties (maybe because of its difficulties). These are the the plusses I can grasp right now. Does anyone else see how having children has increased their creativity?