I am SO very excited today to be interviewing Lucy Pearce of www.dreamingaloud.net as she is working on a book about something very close to my heart – creativity and motherhood. Lucy is well qualified to talk about this topic as she is a mum of 3 and a freelance writer and contributing editor at Juno magazine. Her articles have also appeared in Modern Mum; The Irish Examiner; Rhythm of the Home; The Anti Room; Positive News; European Journal of American Studies; The Guardian; Families Online; Attachment Parenting EU; E-zee Writer; NATE News; Earth Pathways Diary 2011 and 2012;.
Lucy, firstly I’d like to talk about your own experiences as a creative mama and then I’d like to talk about what you have learnt in researching your book, The Creative Rainbow Mama.
How has becoming a mum enhanced or inspired your creativity?
With the arrival of my children has come the arrival of a new burst of creativity, something which many of the mothers I interviewed experienced too. In truth it started in pregnancy when I used the wonderful Birthing From Within to help me prepare for birth. In it the author uses drawing, painting and clay modelling to help you delve into the subconscious and see how you really feel about pregnancy and birth. I loved this technique so much that I trained with her when I was pregnant with my second child and I am incorporating her ideas into my online creative birth preparation classes which I will be launching in late Spring 2012.
My first child was just four weeks old when I realised that I need to correct my creative/mother balance. I started to follow The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Her morning pages exercise reconnecting me with my old sense of self, which through work, training (albeit in arts teaching), pregnancy and now mothering felt like a far-distant land, and one to which I had lost the return ticket.
I chose to stay at home to look after my children which opened up more pockets of time in the day. Which I quickly filled. I have never “just” been a stay-at -home mum. My son was three months old when I started a wreath making business with a friend for Christmas. I have always had creative projects on the go, professional projects, stints of paid work to keep the wolf from the door.
Wanting to introduce my children to creativity, to the beauty and richness of the world, wanting to express my own insight and feelings about mothering. All this and more has instigated a literal renaissance of my own personal creativity.
How has becoming a mum hindered or changed your creativity?
As the kids arrived into my life in quick succession (I am only 31, my kids are 6, 3 and 1). This has been a learning curve in itself. Whilst all my friends were building careers, developing their creativity, I have been mothering. And so I have had to shift my timetable and expectations of myself – both as a creative and a mother. And have felt freer to improvise a life which combines both. My children provide so much learning for me and if it were not for them I would not have either the time, lifestyle, creative inspiration, or be the person I am, to be able to write my stuff. So I keep reminding myself that they will not be young forever and not to waste these precious years. But I need my head-space and physical space and I find the constant being needed of three little kids very challenging. My writing keeps me sane. I write because I have to!
Having kids forces you to become more balanced, not to burn yourself out too often, and it ensures that you keep coming back to the present moment. I won’t pretend that I don’t find it deeply frustrating when my head is in a writing project, the ideas are flowing, and a child comes whinging and hassling me for a milk shake or a story. But I really try to keep my impatience to a minimum – because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have had this time to gestate my creative self. I wouldn’t have so much joy, beauty and fun in my life, I wouldn’t have all the writing inspiration they provide. Without their arrival I wouldn’t be the “me” I am today. And though I explain to them about my work, they don’t really understand, or care. In their minds, Daddy is the one who works because he goes to meetings. Mummy just ignores them by being on her computer. And I feel bad about that sometimes. But I know deep in my heart, that (perhaps ironically) in order to be really present, really loving and fun with them, I need to do my work – my personal and professional work.
So we keep a mutual respect there for each other and our needs. They can see I am nicer and more patient when I have done my work. And I feel less guilty because I am there in body, if not always in mind. They have their mother physically here. And in a moment I am with them too if they need me. In the past, mothers didn’t spend every moment of every day entertaining their children – the kids would be helping in the house, or playing outside. So I get myself off some guilt that way! And I know that in all I learn through my work, I get resources both inner and outer which enrich our lives together infinitely – craft books, knowledge about the role of oxytocin, child brain development, local food, dealing with sleep and eating issues, gentle behaviour techniques. All this and more which I would not be as immersed in if I were not doing my creative thing.
Creating with young children can be challenging – your older two children are similar ages to my two and I know how demanding and disruptive they can be. How do you deal with the competing needs of your children and your need to create?
This is something I deal with a lot in my own book. The way I see it, there is no need for these needs to compete. We have daily family creative time together -where I may facilitate their creativity, setting up a craft activity for them. Or we might do an activity all together – like Amanda Blake Soule’s idea of family drawing time. We do a lot of drawing, painting and crafting – either collaborative projects or each making our own piece in companionable creativity. My father is a potter so we are frequently to be found throwing pots on the wheel or moulding clay figurines. The 6 and 3 year old are superb potters – confident and accomplished.
I save my own concentrated creative time (article writing, patchwork or lesson planning) for after they have gone to bed. Or on weekends where I have negotiated a couple of hours “me time”.
For the past couple of years, as my time has become subsumed under mothering, and yet my writing career has been taking off, I have been yearning for more concentrated time. And finally I am getting it. We have gone another step down the Radical Homemakers path (for more on this see my blog http://dreamingaloudnet.blogspot.com/2011/01/radical-homemaking-week-1-beyond.html ) and so my husband will be working three days a week and I will have two days to do my creative work (book writing, teaching and other creative off-shoots). This starts on the first week of November and I am beside myself with excitement. I have been yearning for this for a long time. My first project is an e-book on Mother Blessings, whilst I wait to hear from publishers about my Creative Rainbow Mama book.
What tools – online and off – support or facilitate your creativity?
My number one tool is my women’s group, which I started 3 1/2 years ago. It is a space for me to be me, to be held, heard, supported and to discover my truth. We are a group of nine women and we meet once a month. For more on the experience of women’s group see my post on the subject http://dreamingaloudnet.blogspot.com/2010/07/mothers-meeting-womens-sacred-circles.html
My vast bookshelf – I devour books for work and pleasure and completely intentionally my work is my passion – so I write about pregnancy, birth, mothering, creativity and mindfulness. I co edit a wonderful natural family magazine, JUNO, and so part of my job there is reviewing books. So I read a lot and fill myself brim-full of ideas, techniques and inspiration.
My friends and husband keep me sane, keep me balanced and help me get back on track when the crazy woman comes to town!
I love the Goddess Circle. Run by the effervescent Goddess Leonie, it is an online women’s circle of wise, creative, loving women who you can spill your guts to, share your excitement over new creative endeavours and business network. As well as her wonderful business e-course which jump started me into writing this book, and a new holistic birth project I have started. For me that course has been nothing short of magic.
And most basically my computer, my camera, my craft materials and my trusty journals… and of course an ever lasting supply of disappearing biros!
What does a normal day/ week look like for you? What systems or support networks have you put in place to enable you to create?
I hate the hour before school: uniform, packed lunch, hurry up we’re going to be late – it’s not a nice way to start the day and makes we wish that we were home schooling. I always thought I was going to, but for me it is a trade off between my soul work and devoting myself to home-schooling, and my creative work wins out. But it’s not a decision I feel perfect about.
I feel he misses out on creative stuff and outside stuff by being in the school system so this is what we really focus on at home: cooking, craft, nature and free play.
Our day basically oscillates between “me time” (writing, reading, checking email and self care etc) “us time” where we might cook or craft or go for a walk, “family time” where my husband is involved too – watching TV together, playing on our local beach, and “practical time” where I try to get as much housework as I can done in the minimum time. I focus on providing as much food cooked with love for my family as I can. I hate washing up and most housework. As does my husband. Our house is a tip. We have a cleaner for two hours a week who is my sanity. I choose to write and spend time with my kids over housework at all times. As a result there is always a tower of dirty dishes, a cluttered dining room table, works of art drying on every surface, and never a matching pair of socks to be found. But we are all happy! Though I am always deeply ashamed of the state of our home when someone comes to visit unexpectedly.
To be honest the TV is my friend. I step away from the guilt and know that my kids are watching good quality programming within fixed timeframes so that I can get on with my work.
Most evenings are spent working: writing blog posts, articles, book reviews, Facebooking with friends. I try and make sure I have a couple of nights a week off. I try REALLY hard to connect with my husband too, but he respects the fact that getting to do my thing in the evening a happy mama makes. Because he is home based we get to chat throughout the day.
I usually go to bed around 10.30 – I need my sleep – unfortunately I have had 3 babies who have woken 5-15 times a night, every night until they were 2. So most days are spent in a degree of sleep deprived exhaustion. Seriously, almost seven years solid of such broken nights, I will be able to take over the world when I’m getting my sleep!
I am a high energy multi-tasker. I love the buzz of projects, I get swept up with enthusiasm for my latest thing: if there’s no enthusiasm, it’s unlikely a thing will get done. I have great starting energy – and leave a lot of part-finished projects in my wake!
Talking about my day in a linear manner doesn’t really give you a sense of it – I am always multi-tasking: I will be planning an article whilst putting the baby to sleep or reading on the toilet, or blogging and watching TV. Rarely do I get a chance to do anything uninterrupted, so I use my time to the full. My life is woven of multiple strands, on multiple levels, and each is a crucial part of the whole tapestry. If I leave one part untouched for too long a hole emerges in the fabric of my life. I find it mostly manageable because it is inner directed and home based. When I was doing a lot of stuff outside of the house: trying to settle baby to bed before running out to meetings, having to be at certain places at a certain time, I found that really stressful, and more like trying to keep plates spinning on sticks. I prefer weaving!
Through your research, what common characteristics have you noticed in creative mums?
There are so few words about the real experience of mothering and the real experience of being a woman. We tend to lack the language, the courage, the sense of value to be able to give words to our realities and our dreams. My book is an attempt to put language to the reality of being the most fabulous, and misunderstood of creatures: a creative mother.
Before a woman becomes a mother it might be the demands of her personal finances or a full time job that take up most of her time and energy. Often a lack of confidence stalls what creativity she enjoyed in her teens. But with motherhood many women find a creative renaissance… along with a diminishment of their time and energy.
The thing most creative mothers yearn for is acknowledgement – of their work, of their mothering, of the constant struggle they have for balance, and that they are doing a good job – that they are seen and appreciated.
I have learned that women’s experiences of motherhood is far more similar than different. Circumstances might be different, but the primal experience, is almost identical. I also learned that women tend not to share their darker feelings and experiences, though they have them, for fear of being judged a bad mother, of being incompetent, of having her children removed.
I realise your book is in the early stages of development, but can you share about when it may be available and from where?
The book proposal is currently with publishers and the reply is imminent. The waiting game is nerve-wracking! I’m hoping that it will be out in print late 2012, early 2013. Do keep up to date by following Dreaming Aloud on Facebook, Twitter and of course checking in with the blog.
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview, I can’t wait to read your book.
You can find Lucy at:
And listen to her speak Honouring Your Crazy Woman at The World’s Biggest Summit www.worldsbiggestsummit.com. This podcast was full of “aha!” moments for me, truly enlightening.