Monday, March 26, 2012
Creativity and the Dreaded “Mommy Guilt”
Connie has written some excellent blog posts in the past about how effective guilt is at stifling creativity; I know this firsthand.
Ever since I became a mother, almost a year ago now (although it doesn’t seem like that long ago!), I’ve been battling the dreaded “Mommy Guilt.” It doesn’t matter that I took a year off from my high-pressure position as an editor and inhouse author in trade publishing (and recently resigned from it) because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, I still often feel guilty about the hours I spend each day on my keyboard, freelancing part-time as a “book doctor” and editor. Most of those hours occur when she is tucked away in bed for the night, slumbering sweetly, but some of them necessitate her going to nursery school two days a week.
However, as my girl grows and increases in independence by the day, I’m beginning to realize that—even if it means late nights and sacrificing some time with my child and a good deal of my social life—my work has benefits for her as well as for me (and for our household in general). For me, my work in the creative arts is not a luxury: it is a necessity. While I devote much of my time to freelance editing, and sometimes begrudge that it doesn’t allow me enough time to write, I am one of those lucky individuals who can say, for a fact, that I truly love what I do. It is my passion. I love taking a diamond in the rough and polishing it up to add more facets. I love helping other authors make their work the best it can be.
For my daughter, my passion for my work means that she not only gets to see firsthand the value of having a strong work ethic, but that she will also grow up appreciating that work should be a delight, something you actively look forward to doing. Already, I am seeing the shoots of her own burgeoning creativity as she indulges in her daily play. My love for the written word has also inspired in her a love of books. Even at just one year of age, she loves to carefully turn the pages (now recognising that pages are for turning and not for tearing) and to point to the bright pictures. Spending time reading to my darling is quality time, and although she is too small yet to fully understand the stories I write for her, I hope that one day they will number among her favourites.
When she was very small, my guilt at snatching short, private moments to write was overwhelming—and sometimes paralysing. But as she grows, I’m realizing that she, too, actively values time spent alone in creative play. She doesn’t always want an adult playing with her or hovering over her; sometimes she wants to explore objects in solitary (although supervised) reflection.
Interestingly, my book of short stories, “Cage Life,” although written some years ago before I became a mother, deals with themes relating to guilt and freedom in motherhood. In it, a young mother longs for the carefree life she once led, which leads to disastrous consequences. Now that I am a mother, it is probably not a story I could bear to write, but I still feel that it explores many of the wistful, private moments that mothers, particularly first-time moms, struggle with: the loss of a singular identity; the guilt; the longing for freedom, either creative or just a few hours to take a long bath or to go to the hairdresser. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother. My child will always be my greatest work, and a work-in-progress for my entire life. But, as a creative, I also know that I have other children—children stuffed away in drawers and hastily scribbled upon in brief snatches.
My advice to all new mothers who write, and who are struggling to find the time to be creative while keeping up with diaper changing, feeding, playing with and consoling babies, is that we should try not to feel guilty about anything that rounds us out and makes us who we truly are. Our children need us to be ourselves, with all of our passion, creativity and individuality intact. It is how they learn the value of those elements to humanity. And if nothing else, writing provides an escape from the everyday that is empowering and fully imaginative. We may be covered in baby vomit, have been up since 5 am, and really, really need to mop the floor sometime today, but in our heads we can be dancing flamenco, solving murder mysteries, trying to eke out a living on an alien world, or any manner of other exciting possibilities. So guilt be damned! Tonight she is sound asleep and for those silent hours in between the little cries in the night, I’m not a just a mommy, I’m a writing mommy, and write I will!
Karin’s book of short stories Cage Life is available from Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Cage-Life-ebook/dp/B005DC6AHM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332765096&sr=8-1
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cage-Life-ebook/dp/B005DC6AHM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332765161&sr=8-1
Her book of poetry, Growth is available from:
Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Growth-ebook/dp/B005D5RCD0/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2
Amazon UK Growth
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/growth-karin-cox/1104361734?ean=2940011380730&itm=2&usri=karin+cox
Follow Karin’s blog at www.karincox.wordpress.com
Read more about Karin’s work www.editorandauthor.com
Follow Karin on twitter @Authorandeditor
Or Facebook www.facebook.com/KarinCox.Author