Sasha entered treatment with me when her back pain became unmanageable – and nothing else she had tried was working. Sasha was trained as an opera singer, but had stopped performing when pregnant with her daughter. Though she had intended to go back to music in a professional capacity after her child was born, one thing after another got in the way – her husband’s job required them to move; she had difficulty finding reliable childcare; and then another baby came along. It had been more than four years since Sasha had performed, and as she admitted to me tearfully, she had begun to think she never would again.
Being a mother can indeed interrupt a creative life. When others need so much from us daily, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to invest in our creativity. In an article entitled Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom, the author quotes a photographer, who explains that she has not been able to pursue her art since having kids.
There are moments when I feel like I’m dying a little more every day. I feel like a fish that’s been caught and then abandoned on a dock, lying there, flopping and gasping, each gasp weaker than the last.
Sasha, too, felt as if a part of her were dying. We wondered together whether she could reclaim her deep connection with music while continuing to mother. Is it possible to mother and live a creative life? Could it ever be that motherhood could feed a woman’s creativity?
Sheila grew up the only daughter of an alcoholic single mother. Her mother was harshly critical, and Sheila suffers from crippling doubt. The first time she ever experienced a sense of trust in her own creativity was shortly after her daughter was born.
“The first person who ever gave me any confidence was Crystal, because I could see that what I did by instinct was working,” Sheila told me. Being a mom to Crystal was not a panacea that restored Sheila’s creative self to her once and for all. However, it did begin a process that years later led her to work in a creative field that fed her soul.
The novelist Fay Weldon found that being a mother put her in touch with her own wellspring of creativity. In a 1978 interview, she stated that “the process of being pregnant and then of having the baby and getting up in the night only puts one more in touch with the fecund part of one’s self. …It reminds one that there is always more where that came from and there is never any shortage of ideas or of the ability to create.[i]”
In our work together, Sasha was eventually able to find ways to honor the importance of her creative life. Though it was difficult to hold the tension between investing in herself and being present for her children, she found that doing so paid off. She felt more at home in her body, and capable of accessing joy once again.
What makes the difference between mothering that helps a creative process versus one that hinders it? Might it sometimes be a little of both? I recently explored this topic further in a podcast episode of “Launching Your Daughter.” In it, I discuss some additional case examples, and talk about creativity in motherhood using the fairy tale “Rumpelstiltskin. ” I hope you like it!
[i] Nina Winter, Interview with the Muse, Moon Books, 1978, p. 40.
Originally published on PsychCentral.com.