mental health.

I've had conversations with many, many women about anxiety and guilt lately.  Sometimes the two of them going hand in hand, but not always.   Real life conversations and plenty across the web too, via emails from readers.  These conversations have taken place with both moms and women who don't have children.   A fact that's widely known across the world is that women are multi-taskers.  Ladies, we can get stuff DONE.  Can I get an amen?! I'm all about multi-tasking (sometimes) and getting things done.  In fact, I thrive when I have a bit of a schedule to most days.  Long chunks of time (like weeks) with nothing to do and no purpose to fulfill leaves me depressed.  
Yet here's what I'm noticing.  In the attitude of "getting things done"…mental well-being is often put on the back-burner, or left off the priority list all together.  I've only come to this realization after receiving a big handful of emails over the past few months asking me if I feel selfish or guilty for creating in my free time. The question always gives a quick answer-"no" but then leaves me a bit speechless.  Why would I feel selfish?  

And then I began to realize that maybe my priorities are a bit different than those asking the question.
I don't value selfishness.  I certainly fight my fair share of it, being mama to two little ones.  But most of the time I know without a doubt I'm putting my role as mama first.  I'm being the best mom I know how to my girls.

 But I also value my mental health.  Anxiety is something I've fought after having both girls….and they are only 17 months apart.  So that's a lot of little people in a short amount of time.  If I play the story to the end…or at least to when the girls are grown women, I want them to remember a mama that was full of life.  That was bubbling over with joy, that sang while she did the chores, danced in the kitchen, and imagined out loud.  That loved and hugged tight.  That played freely.  For all that to happen, I must be of a sound mind mentally.
And so, I've always placed a high-priority on including things in my life and everyday routine that are good for my mental health.  Art in any form fills me up in ways I don't have words to describe.  Art will always, always be on my life priority list.  Grabbing my camera is the best stress-management that there ever was.  It's how I converse with God.  
I've had negative voices tell me I should make use of my free time now, differently.  That I have too much free time, even!  (they don't know what time I rise in the morning) I've tried not to listen.

And then I've had gobs of voices tell me to just wait…that once my kiddos are older I'll be running them to activities and won't ever have as much time at home to create.  I plan to return to work someday too to teach and I know this will also take time.  The silly thing is, I let this anxiety about the future affect my today.  For days I'd get so worked up thinking that the time is now and if I don't make the best art all the time now and grow my business quickly I'll never have a chance to get started.  

How icky is that?! You can guess how well this kind of thinking worked for my art. 
I love blogging and Instagram for several reasons.  One is that it gives me the chance to look up to and admire moms with older kiddos who ARE artists.  One such particular artist is Pam Garrison.  After she recently posted a picture of her sketchbook and said that all the waiting during motherhood for sports and activities wasn't something she had anticipated, I quickly wrote her and expressed my admiration for how often she creates, in all sorts of mediums.  Even with having that busy schedule with older kiddos everyone has warned me about.  Here is what she wrote back: 
"Thanks so much for your kind words!  Creative time is a must for me, so it's way up there on the priority list, but I'm always struggling with/trying to learn better time management skills.  Life-a work in progress, right?  You'll find/make creative time if you want to, I say don't listen to those nagging/negative voices in your head (as much as possible!)"

(I sewed 100 mini banners to my business cards for the first 100 customers at Vintage Market Days)

This just freed me up.  Made me feel like it was okay that I will always (always) carve out time to create.  It might sound selfish to some that I'm giving myself this time…but to me, it's all about who God made me to be and my mental health. 

If I denied myself these little pleasures all together…and took away my camera and my studio and all that was in it, I would quickly deteriorate.  And there would be no one to blame but myself.  I don't know why we feel as if we don't deserve some time to keep our bodies happy, our minds fresh?  I don't find this sinful or selfish or wasteful at all.  I never have.  I understand that our free time varies from season to season.  Some seasons (when I had a newborn) I had hardly any time at all.  And that is more than okay.  I mean a newborn?  You just don't get that time back.  The art will always be tucked in your mind and heart and soul. But even in those seemingly absent seasons, I still believe our minds can stay fresh with our passions and hobbies. A trick of mine when I'm up with a sweet one in the middle of the night is to think about an art project or beautiful part of my day I captured in photo…to dismiss the discouraging thoughts that I'm "losing sleep."  (this doesn't always work by the way, but most times it does!)
For me, tucking tiny little bits of time to freely do ALL that I was created to do, does BIG things for my life.  It makes my hands itch to get back to my housework and girls.  It keeps my mind fresh…an invincible spring in the midst of sometimes long bouts of winter as a mom.
(I almost didn't post this potentially unflattering photo..but it's me.  It's real life me. Sewing away in the early morning, rising happily before my girls)

So what about you?  What do you think about all this?  One of the first questions I love to ask people is "What do you do for fun?"  It tells so much about a person, I think.  Before I was married, I had gobs of free time and almost no hobbies.  Now I have less time than before but am way (way) more productive with my passions.  I suppose my point is, it isn't always a matter of time.

(unless you're a mama to a newborn and then I say nap, nap, nap!! That's the best thing for mental health in my opinion) :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Comments

  1. just remember that everyone has opinions and will give them freely. you get to be the one who chooses for your what is right for you. it looks to me like your kids are enjoying the art right along with you. when my kids were growing up i was a stay home mom with two other kids in my home from working moms. all of them are grown and some have kids and they tell me they spend time doing arts and crafts with their kids because they remember how much fun they had doing it when they were kids. and my grandkids love coming over to spend time in gramma's studio with their easels and paints. its a love that is easy to pass along.

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    1. I just love what you wrote-"It is a love that is easy to pass along"..I think I'm going to paint that and hang it somewhere in my home. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for these life-giving words.

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  2. Sara,
    I love this post! Moms work hard and yes, we enjoy the tasks that are ours to do, but the old saying about "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" is true in the sense that we set the tone for our homes. This is a huge responsibility that I really need to paint on the walls! When I am prayed up and healthy minded, I serve better, love better, feel better and set a better tone for my little family. It just is what it is!

    You are an inspiration to me, to keep that creativity going! I'm one who can get so caught up in projects of the office type, that I forget to just have fun. But, you inspire me to be creative!

    So, let the naysayers learn from you :) Some criticize because they want what you have, but don't know how to get there. Hopefully they will stick around and see that what you are doing with your time, is very valuable to everyone's well being.

    Blessings my friend!

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    1. Thank-you Debbie, for all your wonderful words! They are tucked deep in my heart. What's funny is I have to work very hard at being organized and at the "office" types of things. The creative stuff is easy for me! :)

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  3. I have suffered from anxiety for several years now, only mine came about as I am heading toward menopause and a new phase in my life. It all started when my only child, who graduated from business school, decided she wanted to move to another area (45 minutes from home) and live on her own. I thought I was ready for that, but my head/body had other ideas...anxiety/depression hit me like a coal truck. My mind was jumbled and I struggled to get through each day. I lost interest in everything...nothing brought me joy. A close friend of mine saw my struggle and prompted me to seek medical help. I can finally say that I am feeling better though there are days that the anxiety creeps up on me again. Growing up I have fond memories of my Dad, who loved to draw, paint, and was just very creative in general. I always wanted to draw/paint like he did, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do it. Back in November 2014 I decided it was time to try something that was placed on my heart...drawing...when I started, a sense of calm came over me that I hadn't felt in a long time. I decided then and there that I was going to make time to draw, even if it wasn't like my Dad's. I ended up creating a small area in my home as my creative space...it has been a godsend, that's for sure. One of the sayings I have in this space as a reminder to me is, "Take time to do what makes your soul happy!" It truly does makes my soul happy and that's why I am making time to do it. Thank you for sharing your story and being an inspiration to me! God bless <3

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    1. Thank YOU for bravely sharing your story….what a brave mom you are! I can't even imagine my little girls ever being away from me, even though I know it will come. I applaud you for creating a space for your drawing….both mentally and physically. Friend, if it brings you relief from anxiety I say keep it up! It's what I'm doing..pursuing art instead of anxiety. And so far it's working. I pray buckets of light and sunshine and feeling God in your drawing space… :)

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  4. your post speaks perfectly to the importance of finding your own bliss. it's sad to me that life has become so busy, or more to the point so full of busy-ness that anyone can be criticized for taking time to 'just create.' even when my children were small (they are grown now) i sometimes got strange looks when someone found out 'all i did' was 'stay home' with them. it seems now if people (especially kids) have unscheduled time, they are wasting time. i don't believe that for a minute. i think unscheduled time is every bit as important (if not more) than the play dates, sports games, meetings, school functions. the unscheduled time is when the magic happens. it's when we learn to create for ourselves, find ourselves, learn to entertain ourselves. it's when we hear God and find our bliss. and i see nothing wrong with that. in fact, i couldn't live without it. your post is testament to a commitment to emphasize the importance of the magic time.

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    1. Oh Sharon, we would get along GREAT, I can just tell! I used to be an elementary teacher and I so agree that kiddos need time to simply explore their world…unscheduled time is when I believe we can mostly deeply explore who we are and who we were created to be and our great big world. I loved the last line you wrote-"the importance of the magic time"….there IS still a magic time on earth because God is right here with us. I need to sink deeply into that.
      xo

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  5. Thank you for sharing, Sara! You're voice is refreshing. As mommas, we've got to care for ourselves so we can love, play with, & guide our Littles. Please, oh please... Keep sharing! 😊

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    1. Thank-you so much for your encouragement friend! How I miss talking to you! We should plan a playdate soon :)

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  6. Just have to say those are the "coolest" business cards!!! Love them. Love how you always post the "process" of your art along with the product. Love the magazine page about just simply "being" and enjoying the moment.I too love my free time, but need a routine to thrive.I appreciate your heartfelt comments on what inpsires you! I truly believe there is an art to "doing" and also an art to "not doing"!!! Thanks for this real and inspire filled post!!

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    1. Thank-you about the business cards! And for your compliments on me showing my process. My process may be new and shaky but my hope is that someone else will feel encouraged to take a leap :) If that's happened-I'm happy. The business side of things is just the icing on the cake! :)

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  7. I wish I could see you in person and I would give you a big hug and say hooray.....you have gained wisdom at an early age that is priceless. I had someone tell me one time..'if you're empty you have nothing to give' so confirms just what you are saying.....Your girls will be blessed by your example....

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    1. Dear Nancy, how much you have encouraged me! Thank-you! I don't feel very wise at all…but rather strange for following my bliss. But you have encouraged me to keep doing so.
      Bless you! xo

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  8. So beautifully said! I have always suffered from the guilt and have slowly been conquering that habit. I'm finding more and more time to go into the studio but I find that if I am working on something creative for somebody else , it's easier to justify to myself. If it's just for me or for the joy of creating then a little guilt creeps in. Yuck. And it's all me. My hubby would be happy if I spent most of my days in the studio. He loves seeing me get that joy. This year I vowed to do something creative every day and I'm so pleased at how creative my year has been but I can see that there is a bit of room for improvement.

    I also wanted to thank you for the link to Christi tomlinson's blog. It was just what I was looking for.

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