While your reasons for staying home will vary, all moms can agree that staying home with infants and toddlers is different than working in an office job surrounded by adults or attending university classes. There aren’t any textbooks to study or adults to talk to during your fifteen-minute break (yeah, remember those?)
What I’m saying is that, for many moms, we feel like a part of our life is missing or out of place. And we often struggle to figure out a way around it.
In today’s post, I will be sharing a little about my own struggle with navigating stay-at-home-mom life as well as share some information about creativity and how we can use creative hobbies to help give ourselves a break. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, stick around because you might be surprised by what I have to share. My hope is that by the end of this post you’ll see the value in having a creative hobby and that you’ll want to start a new one (or pick up a long-lost one).
What the Science Says about Creativity
The late Hungarian-American psychologist, Mihaly Robert Csikszentmihalyi, made the following statement during a Ted Talk in 2004:
When we are involved in (creativity), we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
To summarize this 2015 article “This is your brain on crafting,” being involved in a creative project of any kind improves our mood (dopamine is released in the brain), reduces stress (our flight or fight response is quieted), and helps us live longer, more fulfilling lives.
My Journey with Creative Hobbies
As someone who enjoyed her college years because I love learning, adjusting to the period of time after college proved to be challenging. Up until that point, all I knew was work and school. That’s it!
Suddenly, I went from college graduate to full-time mom. For that first year, I spent several months raising my son on my own since my husband worked out-of-state. At times, it sucked. I never did anything for myself. I may have read a magazine or so, possibly a book. I didn’t have girlfriends to hang out with, nor did I arrange play-dates. My life was about caring for my baby boy.
Just before my son’s first birthday, I picked a full-time online curriculum to complete my Bachelor’s degree while I continued to stay home. I decided to go at that time because I knew that I wanted to finish before I spent too much time away from school so that the transition would be easier. In hindsight, I think I just missed the essay assignments.
With the demands of a toddler in my second year of classes, I reduced my college class load to part-time and I quickly got bored (big surprise). As my son approached the two-year mark, I felt less guilty about daycare and sought out a full-time job. I even added a children’s writing course to my studies! I worked and went to school for several months before the economy crashed and my job was eliminated.
Great, I thought. Back to square one.
Unemployed, but still in school, I looked for work, but after I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I knew the workplace wasn’t the right place for me. After finishing up my Bachelor’s degree, and seeing how the job market still wasn’t picking up, I signed up for nine more months of school. I gave birth to my daughter several weeks before I completed my financial planning certificate. Around that time, I also finished up the children’s writing program.
When my daughter was around eight or nine months, having been out of school for about seven, I was bored again, so I decided to experiment with my writing abilities and I created a website for young adults about personal finances.
I loved it!
I was in charge of designing and content creating and everything in between. It reminded me again how much I love to write! At that time (2011), building my website and writing a book to complement it consumed me. It gave me a place to escape from my mommy career. I felt like I was contributing to society again. I felt important.
Yet, when I started work again (part-time) when my daughter was two, I struggled to find the motivation to continue my website. With a heavy heart, I shut it down (2013), mostly because our finances wouldn’t afford us the luxury of keeping it open. I eventually found full-time work and worked until the third trimester of my third pregnancy. Around that time was when my husband took a job out of state and we began what would result in nearly two and a half years of living long-distance.
I was left alone, pregnant, no job – just me and my children.
Amidst the pain I felt from living away from my husband, I came to my senses (I suppose) and picked up blogging again in the summer of 2015. It helped by shifting my focus away from missing my husband and writing allowed me to be a positive voice for other moms. I essentially turned my pain into your gain.
After beginning that blog, I told my husband that I plan on writing for the rest of my life, and while I have struggled to blog during my trial periods, I think I’ve finally realized (with help from recent scientific discovery) that a creative hobby is vital to my health and well being.
All my life I’ve journaled and kept a diary, but I typically turn to it when I’m aggravated by life. As time passes, I write less and less frequently in those journals. And it’s funny that I’ve allowed that to happen because I always tell others that if they journal their thoughts, they will feel better immediately afterward. I suppose I never thought of creating content online (blogging or posting on Instagram) as a way to achieve the same result – even though I’m excited each time I complete a new blog post.
Ideas for Moms to Get Creative
If you are happy just how things are, great (though I doubt it since you’re reading this far into this post)! However, if you feel a little like something’s amiss, maybe seeking a creative hobby can help.
My mom used to craft. I remember her creating wreaths to decorate around the home. She occasionally sewed dresses for us, too. She also created earrings and sold them to her friends and neighbors. I don’t know that she did those things on a daily basis, but she tells me that she misses those creative glue-gun days when she stayed home with us.
I have friends who get really crafty for their children’s birthday parties. Next time you attend a party and it’s clear the mom went a little overboard, smile and know that she was just exercising her creative muscles, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Maybe you’d enjoy it, too.
Others take on creative projects around the house, such as reupholstering chairs or painting. Having painted a few rooms myself over the years, I’ve found the experience to be quite relaxing and fulfilling.
During the pandemic, I started a flower garden and have been enjoying caring for that each new growing season. I also have a small container plant collection that I’ve slowly added to over time as I’ve gotten more confident in my ability to keep plants alive.
Others find adult coloring books to be rewarding. Some play instruments or paint.
Keep in mind that opportunities to be creative are everywhere! Since discovering the planning community in early 2021, I’ve tapped into a whole new way of exercising my creativity and I’m really enjoying it. It reminds me of the joy I found during my high school art class days. Bonus points that I found a community of people who geek out at the sight of stationary, too (T really thought I was a unicorn).
Mama, the key to your sanity is to participate in a creative hobby that you enjoy doing. Don’t have one? Find one!
Hobbies are meant to be a source of joy and relaxation. I’m someone who grew up with the idea that we buy things for a purpose (today’s textbook definition of a minimalist). And I’m grateful for that lesson because it’s helped me to live a life with less stuff. However, I didn’t realize that I had subconsciously attached those same beliefs to hobbies. So, naturally, it was a little hard for me to justify spending money on purchases related to being creative (even though I would without question spend it for my kids’ creative enjoyment.)
So if that is you, be kind to yourself and just start small. Remind yourself that you are worth spending money on. It’s okay to have a hobby that you spend a little bit of money on every now and then if it gives you that outlet you need to get a break from mom life.
Anyway, I hope that you found this post persuasive enough that you are now thinking about which creative hobby you will start or pick back up. Creativity is a great way to combat the stresses of our everyday mom life. And it helps squelch some of that boredom.
It’s an amazing feeling to use your imagination and see your ideas come to life right before your eyes. The pride you feel for having created something is more than enough to make up for all the exhausting energy you put into caring for your kids. Knowing that you had an idea, put all the pieces together and finished is a phenomenal mood boost. I cannot emphasize it enough.
I think most moms out there have the means to creatively let loose, but they just have to give themself permission to tap into that. This is your permission slip. Once you do, dedicate as much time as you can to that activity on a regular basis and you’ll soon discover the benefits for yourself.
PS This post was originally published in August 2016 (when my blog was under a different name). I made a few adjustments to it to make it a little more relevant to current times, but the majority of this was unchanged.