The Bounce Back

I feel like I hear a lot about the “Postpartum Bounce Back”. Do a quick google search for “bouncing back after pregnancy” and you will yield a ton of articles on pelvis binding and postpartum exercise to regain your pre-baby physique. You will also see things about how to regain some “me” time, quiet time you had before baby and other absurd post-baby life desires. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I will ever “bounce back”.

Why do people feel they need to be the people they were before they had a baby? I mean, no one expects you to be the kid you were in high school after you’ve graduated college. If you fall in love with someone. you aren’t asked to be the person you were before the relationship. If you lose a loved one or move to a different place, take a new job, make a major lifestyle or diet change, everyone expects that you WILL change and hopefully grow from each of these life experiences. But after growing then caring for a human, somehow we are supposed to become our pre pregnancy/motherhood selves?

Having a baby has changed my whole life. I am physically, mentally and emotionally changed. My entire being has, like a boat on a lake being rocked by the ripple of a ship sailing by, been affected. Eventually the waves will get smaller and my daily life will not be as moved by the S.S.N.C. but I will be ever changed by her.

My art has been affected too. Not only has the way I create art, like my working hours, changed but what I want to paint has changed as well. I must embrace this. If we cannot get over how our children have changed us personally and professionally, then we will capsize in their waves. We must work with the disruption of water and turn our bows into the waves to face these changes head on, rather than not turning and being unable to see what is coming, risking losing in all. When I work with my daughters schedule and needs my painting days are not as productive as they once were. On those stormy days, I can barely sail forward, but wishing the storm away has no effect and brings my mood down. If I hold onto the need to have more time than I can give I will get depressed and that only hurts my productivity further. I will weather this storm, as many others, and my good days will come. I try to be productive as possible on those good days, and this makes up for any losses I may have had, as well as refilling my cup.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I want to work on my physique too! But I will work with what I am now, not what I was. Just as I do with my art.

As my mother once said to me when I told her I would pay her back for all the money she gave to help me while in college, “don’t worry about paying it back, pay it forward to your children, I don’t need it.” The love you give your children now, they will pay forward.

So, forget about bouncing back, just sail forward.

 

-M

 

Serial Makers

A few nights ago, my husband and I were straightening up our basement. This was following a long day of organizing, cleaning and purging our home of items that were cluttering up our mudroom. Since having a baby, our modest home seems to be busting a the seams with STUFF. In our efforts to keep down the clutter, this is a constant battle we fight, loose and fight again. My general thought while tidying, and deciding what stays, goes, or is stored, is MY things are the easiest to whittle down (since we plan on having more children, the baby stuff takes priority and gets stored). As soon as I start to assess the situation of my things, one thing becomes very apparent, I have a lot of stuff to make stuff.

Rewind to a few months ago, I was shopping with N.C. and I saw the cutest felt hair pin, that was five dollars (!). I thought to myself, “OH, SO CUTE! Ugh, five dollars. I could make that.” Fast forward to a few nights ago and tidying, I stumbled upon a package of felt, box of threads and hair clips, that I acquired to make the felt hair pins for N.C.. I explained the items to my husband, why we had them, and what their intended purpose was, his response was so spot on, he said, “You just have this innate need to create.” I never REALLY realized this. I mean it’s SO obvious but this is how I have been as long as I could remember so I understand why I never had this realization.

I started to tell my husband about being a child of six or seven and being taught how to use a sewing machine, so I could use my mothers sewing scraps to make bedding for my Barbie house. How when I was about eight or nine, I asked my mother to teach me to knit so I could make scarves. Also, we stumbled upon a fabric print of a penguin decoration that I had hand embellished with beads, which was a phase I went through too. There are countless other crafts and things I did as a child and that has continued to adulthood. Our house if FILLED with unfinished projects and their materials. However, in saying all this, when I looked at this felt for hair pins, something I try to remember when telling myself, “I could make that…” is, we only have so much time in a day.

Being a serial creator is both amazing and distracting from a painting career.

Now, I have no desire to tell anyone to stop creating all their things. I really enjoy all my crafts, but sometimes you have to remember to focus on one at a time.

Being able to create a lot of things has lead me down some real rabbit holes. I have been a graphic designer for years. It has been how I’ve fed myself (mostly) for a decade, which I am so grateful for, but something my teacher used to always tell me is, “Don’t let your side job become the main job.”

The need to create is so strong in us artists, that sometimes, especially while mothering, if we don’t feel we have the time or emotional bandwidth to do our main gig, keeping your creative side alive with crafts or other things is wonderful and necessary. But just remember to not let it become the main event.

For me, painting is near the top of the creativity pyramid. My daughter is the first thing I put my effort into nurturing, but painting is my second. All of my other crafts can be done, but not a the cost of painting. If I can paint in that small window of opportunity I get to create, that is what I should do. But also, don’t starve your creative side if the main event can’t be tended to. Creating is so incredibly important to my being, that depriving myself of doing other things is also not healthy.

Remember too that our children are part of our need to create, and nurturing them is part of our creative side. Art and motherhood seems to be so beautifully intertwined as a sort of divinely given master act of high art. This realization makes me feel more full when all I get to do is care for my daughter in a day. I used to get more upset, when her needs would override my painting days, but now, I feel more connected to the act of caring for her as food for my creative side.

So, to my fellow #motherartists, know that what you are living is the ultimate act of creation in the life of a serial creator. Motherhood is not interrupting your creative life, but a beautiful part of it. Keep on creating.

 

-M

The perfect “Mom Blog”

I, like many moms i’m sure, am following a ton of “Mom Blogs”. Mostly Instagram blogs of women who are postpartum fitness gurus or homesteaders naturally dying play silk for children or free birds living with their husband and two children in a vintage Airstream trailer. (Not too many mom-artist ones yet. Can’t seem to find those.) What all these blogs seem to have in common is their “picture perfect” feel. I’m going to be honest, some days it really bothers me.

Let us just make something clear, right here, right now, my life is NOT perfect. I mean we all know this, right? However, even with this knowledge I frequently forget this when I get lost in the seeming perfection of the Mom Blog life. I start to wonder why my life isn’t so beautiful. Why am I surrounded by a pile of poopy diapers in need of washing  (cloth diapers here), a sink full of dishes that need cleaning, a house so messy you can barely walk or put something down, a kid that needs food, sleep and love, a husband who needs the same, a pile of undone personal projects and myself in need of so much self care but no time to do it?! How are these women in not only designer clothes but they are also in shape and have their hair and makeup done (WITH fake eyelashes) and they have SIX kids?! Seriously.

Why do we constantly portray the perfect? I mean obviously these women have their shit together, and ‘YAY’ for them. But also, the reality of it is their blogs aren’t reality, and we must not forget it. They too have their moments where life is real, they just don’t photograph it. It’s fine to be encouraged by these women, but don’t allow your daily success be defined by their highlight reel.

So this all leads me to this PSA: Let’s stop getting sucked into Mom Blog perfection, wishing to look that good and produce that much. There is a side you don’t see. Remember that, pull yourself out of that space, and think about art. Think about what you want to paint, draw, sculpt, make etc. Think about it when you put your kid down for a nap, when they are out playing, when they are doing whatever! Or even better get to making it, anyway you can. When you see those picture perfect moms, stop, drop the phone, and roll out your art brain. Making art takes a lot of heart as well as time, so give the time you would spend looking at Mom Blogs back to your craft.

This mom blog will never be perfect, but it will make you think about art. What more do we need?

-M

 

It’s my time

Earlier this week I got my time to paint. It was wonderful I had great plans and… they all went kaput.

I have to work on guarding my window of opportunity.

In the interest of protecting my time, I declined a get together with a friend with whom I’ve been trying for weeks to get together with. I felt bad, because I really wanted to see her, but I passed on the invite and felt pride that I didn’t give into the desire to blow off work and play.

Later I dropped N.C. off at my friends house for our care-trade and left a bit distracted. Not because of anything she did, I just had a busy brain. My busy brain is both a true asset to my art and a major hindrance to it as well.

I got home and just had to follow through with a few of my thoughts to get them out of my head. Then I ate a little something (something I try to do before I drop off my daughter so it doesn’t eat *pun intended* into my art time). By then it was a good forty-five minutes into my two hour painting window. This knowledge made me really fail to focus. When I know I won’t have enough time, I struggle to get into the project. Top that with friends, who I also have not talked to in forever messaging me, the day was shot in no time.

When N.C. was napping I tried again to paint, but instead I just kept thinking about how mad I was that my precious time got wasted. Then I realized, this is life. It’s part of the human condition. We cannot be “on” every second of every day. Most days it works out, that my work window is productive and goes well, others not so much. But rather than allow myself to get too upset about it, as I used to do, I now try to turn those feelings around and look forward to putting my best into my next work window.

Negative thoughts start a downward spiral that my whole psyche will follow if I allow it. It has kept me down for so long, making sooooo many excuses on why it just isn’t working out. When I find the vacuum pulling me down, I try and think back to when one of my teachers gave me the best advice ever, “just paint”. Forget about all of life’s speed bumps and issues, and try and remember to just make art. It doesn’t matter how little or much time you have, how small or large the piece is, if it has deeper meaning or none at all, heck, who cares if it even looks that good. The act of making art alone is the goal. Because if you can learn how to work through the speedbumps and bad days you can do amazing things on the good days.

Don’t worry if you have enough time, or if everything is perfect, just paint. Just create.

M

Does painting my fingernails count as painting?

I am THE WORST when it comes to self-care. For example my old roommate would celebrate with me when I announced “I shaved my legs today”. Fast forward to many years later and add a kid, self care is even lower on my “Important things to do” scale.

When you run a household, hold down a part-time job, take care of a kid, and try and paint, self-care seems to go out the window with the bathwater. But what I have learned recently is that self-care can help me with all my other tasks. “How?” you may ask, well, when I feel good about myself, I am energized, and when I am energized, I can do anything! Maybe not everything, because I have to wait for my nails to dry, but I can do somethings!

By prioritizing myself and caring for myself both mentally and physically that has given me so much more will to do everything else, especially paint. Painting, like child rearing, is a drain on the soul and body, you need to put time into recharging yourself. So, may I suggest, take care of yourself, you deserve it.

-M

So many of us fall… get back up

Baby is napping and I am getting lost in the internet. It’s ritualistic. Baby goes to Sleep and I “escape” for just a bit to think about grown up stuff.

Frequently I do laundry, cleaning, bill paying or mostly my part-time work from home job, these are the things that typically steamroll around in my brain stomping any and all creative thought. But recently I have been making an effort to steamroll the other crap. Dedicating my mind to certain tasks/thoughts for the day has been helpful, or I just will auto-pilot to thoughts of the mundane.

The past two days have been for thinking about art. I’ve done some creative thinking about what I will paint for the Swain’s Christmas Miniature show that I signed up to be a part of this winter. I haven’t been able to participate in this show the last two years due to moving then having N.C.. But I have also been working on my website and Facebook. I try not to go on social media while N.C. naps because its a vacuum! You can get sucked in and then your precious nap break is gone, all gone. However, for work purposes it has to be done.

Anyway, to the point of this whole post, I stumbled upon a profile of a woman I went to school with who got married, had a child and seems to have stopped producing art. Typical story. I know, I’m there now. Now I say this with no judgement to her, because I KNOW. I know how easy it is to fall into the pattern of life. I know that we want to enjoy our families and art takes a lot out of us, so sometimes that’s all you can do. I know. I want to say to her, and to any one else going through the same, I know, I see you, and I want to make sure, that at least sometimes, you think about art. THINK ABOUT IT. Don’t even worry about making it. Think about it. Keep at it, don’t quit. You can fall into this routine, but GET UP. I say this because I need someone to say it to me sometimes.

So, get up and think about it. Please.