Discover more from Sarah Anne Writes
creating a creative legacy
what my mother taught me about motherhood + creativity
My mother gave me my first journal when I was 10 years old. It was a simple composition notebook with the word “journal” written on the front.
Officially, it was a school assignment, but looking back, I think it was more than that. It was my mother seeing something in me that she wanted to encourage—a love for words, a love for storytelling, a love for writing things down and sharing them with the world. Plus, I’m pretty my siblings didn’t get the same assignment.
It took me five years to fill all the pages of that composition notebook.
In the years since, I’ve filled countless pages in going on 37 journals and who knows how many more words in stories, articles, and essays written throughout the years.
I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have become a writer without my mother giving me that composition notebook, but I do know it encouraged me to step into that gift, even as young as 10.
My mother isn’t a writer, but looking back, I see her creativity imprinted all throughout my childhood.
She is a skilled seamstress who made all our Halloween costumes growing up, taught me to sew in high school, and now crafts beautiful quilts for her growing number of grandchildren.
In the golden age of scrapbooks, she spent countless hours putting together exquisite records of our family’s history and adventures, including albums for each of her four children, chronicling our life from birth through high school graduation.
Though never in public, she plays the harp. She bakes and decorates and gardens.
She didn’t sneak away to a coffee shop to exercise her creativity when I was growing up. I don’t even know if she’d voluntarily call herself a creative person. But her creativity is a thread that runs through our family history, literally being used to document it, and create beautiful things that will last for generations.
All things considered, I’m relatively new to the whole motherhood thing.
My son is 16-months-old, so I’m still a baby mom both in terms of the stage of mothering I’m in and my own “age” as a mom, and there are a lot of days when I wonder how creativity fits into my own life as a mother.
Possibly unlike my own mother, I do consider myself a creative person. In addition to being a writer, I’m also a pianist, a harpist, a vocalist, an actress, a dancer, a hand-letterer, a novice photographer, a baker, an interior decorator (of my own home), and a seamstress… to name a few.
Because writing has been my most consistent and also my most public creative pursuit, I often think of it exclusively when I think about creativity. And because of limitations in my space and, admittedly, my own struggles with focus, I have difficulty writing when I’m in my own home, which means my writing is currently limited to six or so hours (if I can stay focused for that long) every other week.
This is the narrative mothers often fall prey to—that our responsibilities as mothers stifle our ability and time to be creative. We are limited to nap times or late nights or the few precious hours we can sneak away to our preferred out-of-home location, while the rest of the time we are subject to the whims and schedules of our children and the responsibilities that come with managing a home.
I am tempted at times to fall prey to this narrative myself, to falsely believe that becoming a mother forever changed my ability to be the creative person I have always been.
Yet, when I think back on my childhood and the way my mother wove creativity into so much of our lives, it tells me a different story.
It tells me that motherhood and creativity can beautifully coexist alongside each other, and that a mother exercising her creative gifts can have a lasting impact on the children she is raising, whether by encouraging them to use their own creative gifts or simply modeling what it looks like to use hers.
The costumes my mother sewed for us provided hours of imaginative play. Every time we flip through one of the family photo albums, we smile and laugh and reminisce about what our childhood was like. The recipes my mother crafted are recreated again and again in my home and the homes of my siblings. Her creativity is imprinted in our family legacy.
My time and responsibilities may be different now than they were before I became a mother, but that doesn’t change my ability to create beautiful things, experiences, and memories for myself and for my family.
I can still write, however infrequently. I can still play the piano or sing songs, both with and for my children. I can bake bread and desserts and all manner of delicious things alongside my children as they grow.
Like my mom, I can take photos and preserve them in books that tell our family story. I can sew costumes for my children to fuel their own creativity and imaginations. I can create a beautiful home for all of those things to take place in.
And in the same way I remember my own mom, maybe one day my children will look back on their childhood and remember all the ways their mom wove creativity into all of life, knowing in the deepest part of herself that becoming a mother didn’t stifle her creativity, but opened up a whole new avenue to share it with the world. However small that world may be.
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This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Create Anyway."