Our Creative Mothers group – a small clan of moms struggling to carve out small niches of time to write, sew, weave or paint. Mothers who have come together not so much because of a common interest, but because of a common drive: to satiate the creative impulse. We sit around our kitchen tables, if we can sit long at all, before one child is plastering stickers in another’s hair or finding marbles to mouth. Our conversations are as disrupted as are our daily lives, when only a half-load of wet laundry makes it to the dryer because of a bloodcurdling sibling squabble over a tiny Lego Star Wars gun.
“I’m just amazed they’re still alive,” one astonished mom says, and we can laugh at this. It’s true – I can look at my boys and marvel at how they are thriving, are robust and growing. Before children, it was my creative ambitions I nurtured. But when my son was born, I paced the hospital room as he cried, feeling I already was failing at this nurturing thing. I might have questioned whether I would succeed as a writer. But what if I failed at THIS, succeeding as a good mother? Who could soothe and quiet my son if his own mother couldn’t?
In the space of the hour or two we Creative Mothers get to spend together, our children of various ages and stages reek havoc on our houses. Pillows become steppingstones from room to room, couch throws make-shift tents erected across living room, and every bin of plastic play food, blocks and legos are eventually picked through and left scattered.
But long since, from their first forays into tissue boxes and Tupperware, we have learned to appreciate the messes of our children; it is in the mess-making that we moms can find time to exhale, to take stock of who we were and who we are becoming. At least for me, motherhood has left me a bit stunned, as I hadn’t anticipated my complete derailment creatively –– my creative life is no longer linear. My third novel hasn’t gotten written yet. This is the most writing I’ve done in ten years.
But because my linear life has turned cyclical, I have been forced to reinvent myself, several times in fact. With the birth of my first child, I reinvented myself as the content stay-at-home mom, and I reveled in that new role. I was content not to be writing, not to have any creative endeavors at all, beyond the immediate one of this new baby. Who at 3:00 am, with his very first gurgling smile, could give me the same pleasure I’d only ever gleamed from the perfectly revised sentence.
This new-found contentment lasted what seemed a good long time, but really only until measuring cups no longer proved such easy entertainment. When he’d rather find his own entertainment, with forays out the door in his diapers to go dig up the fresh mulch in the garden beds. He was still of course, my child. He would always be my son. But, with his own impulses, his own mindset, he finally belonged to himself. Not to me. Without my having realized what he had been, I saw what I had lost in him – my creative outlet.
Since then, weaving has become the creative endeavor I have pursued with the same ambition I did writing. For another mom in our group, with a degree in film, she is now pursuing her ambition to write a novel. In one way or another, we are all trying to answer to our creative impulses, in as much as they might have been reconfigured by our priorities as mothers.
Our get-togethers end with our having to pick up the messes, as much as we do encourage our children to pick up the strewn pillows and Legos themselves. But they also end with our having been able to reinforce each other – I think for all of us, our creative endeavors have been challenged by having children. And, for me at least, I feel indebted to this challenge. This derailment. Because the cyclical life does necessitate reinventing, it has proven far more invigorating, more inspiring, than the linear one.