I would be lying if I said being an artist and a mother doesn’t often feel like the perfect storm. My selfish artist side took a hit in the gut when little people started to invade my studio space. What? I have to share? Not only my physical space, but my precious paints and brushes…and time?
I don’t hear a lot of people talking about being a mother AND a practicing artist. I guess because it’s just plain hard to do. How popular is the general topic of ‘sacrifice’ anyway in our culture? Maybe some of you have seen the documentary, Who Does She Think She Is, featuring five women who navigate the sea of choosing to pursue having a family and being a professional artist. It is good to watch, but I admit I was a bit disappointed with the lacking success rate for marriages and healthy families.
I have had to decide to see my family more as inspiration for my art, than an obstacle to creating my art.
The longer I’m a mom, this struggle, though still very real, is becoming less of a storm maker. The biggest challenge I have found is that I just can’t work when I want to or feel inspired. I have to put it off until time and circumstances allow…until I’m not needed. But, let’s face it, moms are needed quite a lot and by the time everything seems taken care of, we are ready to fall hard into bed. I rarely feel enough energy or creativity to make art even when time finally allows. What I have learned is that if I don’t take care of myself, my artist self included, I’m just not a healthy version of me. Satisfying my artist self actually makes me a more peaceful person; a better thinker, listener, spouse and mother.
I have come to see that there are unique things I can give my kids as an artistic parent, such as a studio space in our home where they are welcome to create too. I decided early on that there would be an open door policy. As tempting as it was, and still is, to shut the door and get my version of peace and quiet, I just feel I shouldn’t. I don’t want my children or my spouse to think there is somewhere in my life they are not welcome. I choose not to shut them out. I want them to see me fulfilling my call, challenges included, to see persistence, joy and the fruit of diligence. I want them to see me set my art aside at times to meet their needs, but also on the flip side to see that there are times when their requests must wait. My world then doesn’t revolve around my art (like I admit it used to) or my identity as an artist…nor does it revolve around my children and my identity as a mother. It isn’t an either or. God has called me to both, and I trust He will give me the daily wisdom and guidance it takes to know how to invest my time and energy, thereby calming the storm such a struggle can bring.
After years of navigating the sea of art creating and family investment, my children are growing to understand and respect the space mom needs, rather than be in competition with it. It was at the tender age of 3 that my son must have observed my being antsy one day and said, “Mom, you just need to sit down and make art!” From the mouths of babes! And, now, I can say that I do experience joyful moments with my kids IN my studio.
There is little more satisfying then seeing my son beside me, engrossed in his own artwork, while I paint. Now, my studio is not just a quiet isolated place for one, but has developed over time into a place of collaboration and family, being cluttered with a workstation for each member. Does having that community take sacrifice? Yes, absolutely, but the payback is invaluable and may very well reach into the next generation of my family. I’d rather leave a legacy of loving sacrifice and creative inspiration (even if sporadic), than one of struggle, bitterness and discontentment.
Original Artwork by Geniene Carson www.geinene.com