A friend reminded me the other day that: “A happy mum means a happy family”. I can hear you say “What has that got to do with creativity?” My response: “A lot”. So often parents forget themselves in the flurry of changing nappies, feeds, lack of sleep, caring for the household, remembering the significant other, remembering to eat and being on time for appointments. Parents forget who they are and who they were before children (BC).
Creativity BC comes in all shapes and sizes. Some creative endeavours are more obvious, but creativity is definitely not limited to the artistic world. Music, design, accountancy, sport, healthcare, developing a business, computing, engineering, etc. – they all need a measure of creativity. What these occupations all have in common is that, BC, an individual is able to take an idea, develop it and bring it into the world without the distraction of small people or of family life.
Once a family comes along the ball game changes. Formal creativity often goes out the window when you are a parent; usually, you tell yourself, because you don’t have time anymore. A new and different person emerges – one who is able to multi-task and juggle endless, often monotonous, tasks with all the survival technics of a combat soldier.
I hear the parent in you ask, “So you want me to be creative on top of everything else I need to do?” My response: “Yes, yes, yes”. A parent can still being creative, only in more varied, different ways than BC. We all have creativity in us and we can all use creativity to be better parents (and better employees if, and when, you return to work). Making time for you is essential to ensuring you are happy (so, in turn your family will be happy). Some suggestions:
- Your child won’t eat – you get creative with funny faces on the plate; head of mashed potato and zucchini, with peas for eyes, carrot for the mouth, a cherry tomato for the nose, and grated cheese for the hair.
- Your child needs entertaining and asks you to read “The Cat in the Hat” for the 100th time – you get creative with finger puppets bought from the local school fair/fair trade store/from the in-laws or use teddies, dolls, pieces of wood, pegs, or sticks to act out characters from the book.
- Your children under five won’t stop bickering/pulling each other’s hair/saying horrible things to each other – you get creative with a large bubble bath with some diluted food colouring in it, put some old towels around the peripheral of your bathroom and let the kids be kids with plastic teapots, teaspoons, yoghurt pots and other containers from your plastics drawer.
I find it difficult to be creative at times – to think of the right bunch of words for articles or right creative medium for my children or, the biggy for me – to get messy with the kids. However, I know from experience that getting down and dirty with the kids is both rewarding and plain fun. The pain of cleaning can be minimised through keeping the mess to one area, eg: goop in the bathroom so it can be cleaned up easily and the kids can be put straight in the warm shower after play has finished.
Your little people won’t think your creative efforts are bad/terrible/grim/embarrassing. Children don’t mind what societal level of creativity you have. All children care about is having you, their parent, around to share ideas with–together. And, put two (or more) heads together and you can come up with some brilliant stuff. Put aside time each day for creativity. Collect interesting things you see and feel, capture an idea in a photograph, write it down, draw it, scrap book it – together with your family.
Creativity doesn’t need to be expensive when you are testing the waters: source out materials from school fairs, secondhand shops, supermarkets, friends, paint and stationary shops. Get the basics, try them out then get more if you need them. Look for inspiration from galleries, library books, on-line creators. Practice lots. Brainstorm. Take the time to try out as many different things as you can before you specialise. Try being creative in different environments to see how you best work – both alone and with your family. Share your ideas.
Take that latent talent (we all have something – be it cooking through to building) and use it-work hard to make it work. Try something new – poetry, collage, painting, a short story, build a playhouse, try a new musical instrument – get the creative juices flowing. Be inspired by others – no idea is truly original, it comes about through the works of many others before them. Let others give you and your children feedback. Not everyone is going to go “wow” and some people are going to be down right rude about what you have achieved, but the important thing to remember is that you are creating for you, and for your family. And, remember that no one needs to see your creation unless you want them to.
Be unafraid to make mistakes and to experiment. A sobering reminder is that Picasso created some 50,000 works and not all of them were masterpieces!
Your creation may well never get into the Tait Gallery but both the time and energy, not to mention the product you made will be treasured as an act of creative togetherness.
Creativity can be nurtured and grown. Having fun is the aim. The only tool you need to be creative is the willingness to try something new, to go outside your usual square. Our families appreciate our efforts to learn and grow and it does wonders for our, often fragile, parental egos. Get rid of the rules that exist for adults and be a ‘creative kid’. Finding yourself or reinventing yourself through creativity can reignite the fire in your belly. Incubate those creative ideas and show them to the world!