When I talk to clients about self-care, one area that rarely comes up is creative outlets. Creativity isn’t just art, it’s anything that allows you to express yourself.
Parenthood is inherently a creative endeavor (we literally create people), and raising kids requires flexibility and new ideas. That said, a lot of people think that motherhood doesn't leave enough room for creativity or art in your life.
While I would argue that becoming a parent requires us to be more creative overall, we may have limited time and energy to express that creativity in our preferred ways.
So how can you incorporate creativity as part of your self-care? Below you'll find a lot of ideas and suggestions for activities, but also for ways to fit it into the life you have now. It's not about big projects, but about an approach to life.
Find Ways to Creatively Express Yourself Every Day
Visual arts are probably the most obvious examples, but also the hardest to wrap your head/schedule around if it’s not your job. It may also bring up thoughts like, “But I don’t paint!” which is totally reasonable (I sure don’t).
There are so many other ways to be creative, however. I’ll start there and keep going with suggestions. And remember that just because you don’t know how to do something YET doesn’t mean you can’t try it. There’s so much value in learning something new and being a beginner. You don’t even have to get good at it and it’s still worthwhile.
How can you find ways to be creative in your daily life?
Everyday Visual Art Ideas to Beautify Your Life
There are painting, drawing, and photography, of course. What about pottery and ceramics, scrapbooking, printmaking, design, hand lettering and calligraphy, or videography?
Home decor can be a powerful method of expression. Can you add more personalized touches to your home? This could mean a remodel, or a new throw pillow, or finding a small space to create an altar or vignette. Maybe it’s just framing some art you already have, or rotating out some furniture or art items for a refresh.
Arranging flowers is an art form, and gardening can be, too. That's often an easy one for kids to participate in, from watering the plants or digging a hole nearby, choosing seeds or seedlings to plant, or helping plant and harvest fruit, veggies, or flowers.
Do you take 8 million photos of your kids every like I do? Try some new photography techniques, or actually grab your real camera if you have one to mix it up. Print some photos to frame or make a photo book for yourself or as a gift (these are great for grandparents). You could even sign up for an Instagram or other photo challenge if the accountability is helpful.
I could go on and on with ideas in this category. Do any of these appeal to you? If you’re already excited, go forth and create! If you can only see the obstacles, you might need some help getting started.
So what if those aren't for you? What else could you try?
Crafting, Paper, and Fiber Arts
Sewing, embroidery, cross-stitch, quilting, knitting, crochet, weaving, macrame, origami, papercutting, art journaling…
Some of these can be more fun when you have kids to make things for. We have amazing baby blankets and quilts from friends that our kids love. Add a social element when you host a virtual or in-person “crafternoon,” quilting or knitting bee, or “stitch and bitch” session.
Macrame is making a comeback as both an interior design element and a way to hold up all those plant friends people bought during the pandemic. Pinterest is your oyster! Follow artists on social media for ideas. Set up a challenge for yourself to try new things. There's no wrong approach.
If you're not as visual, or can't handle the mess, what else is there?
Sing Like No One Can Hear You
If you already sing or play an instrument, can you do that more? Play for or with your kids. Singing in the car or shower counts. Get a karaoke machine (find a karaoke bar at your own risk due to COVID right now), or sing duets on TikTok. Learn to play the ukulele or guitar or bongo drums or whatever intrigues you. Join a choir or band in the community.
Or just sing silly songs to your kids. We make up songs about my kids’ names, we have a special song to prevent naps in the car, or we change lyrics around to be funny. Make playlists for your kids or for yourself. If you have a smart speaker or the like, program alarms with songs instead of bells.
Closely connected to music is dance! Dance with your kids, dance with your partner, do an interpretive dance to convince your littles to clean up, or learn a new viral dance step for fun.
How else can you incorporate music into your day?
Writing For Yourself (or Others)
A lot of my writing is for work, like this blog, social media posts, or my book. But I also journal, which is a practice that covers many areas of self-care for me. A journaling or writing practice can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Here are a few approaches to consider.
- Write down 3 things you’re grateful for each day in a notebook, on a phone app, or in a digital document.
- Write one thing you learned about each day.
- Pull an oracle card and write about what it means to you.
- Send a postcard, note, or actual letter to a friend.
- Only update your Facebook status in haiku format.
- In November, join the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge to write the draft of a novel in 30 days.
- Get a magnetic poetry set and make poems on your fridge.
- Write a story or article to submit to a website or publication.
- Start a blog or podcast to share your voice.
- Write letters or emails to your children as they grow up.
- Join a writing group.
- Sign up for a writing class.
Do any of these appeal to you? You can always try something as an experiment first.
Cooking, Baking, and Presenting Food
Sometimes I feel like a short-order cook, but when I actually have some time, cooking can be a creative endeavor for me. I love getting boxes of seasonal produce to transform into meals. With everyone home so much lately, I’ve been more willing to just feed the kids whatever they’ll eat, and making something more interesting for my husband and me.
Who started baking bread during the pandemic? Baking, decorating cookies and cakes, and artfully arranging baked goods is a delicious outlet for creative energy.
Even charcuterie is having a moment right now as the “food on boards” trend continues. Who would have thought that waffles on wooden planks could be delicious for the eyes as well? Make those meat flowers! If you need to eat anyway, it might as well be aesthetically pleasing food.
If your kids are like mine, they eat approximately 12 billion times per day and takes up most of your waking hours. Next I'll cover how you can incorporate creativity into your parenting and with your kids.
Be Creative With Your Kids, Not in Spite of Them
Maybe you embrace your Pinterest Mom identity and throw amazing themed parties -- own that! If it works (and don’t feel guilty if your skills and interests don’t overlap all the time), do arts and crafts with your kids.
Set up watercolor paint for them, and join them. Sculpt with playdough or clay. Have drawing time as a family. Paint rocks together to leave around your town. Do sidewalk chalk drawings. Help them design a box fort. Have them dictate a story to you and type it for them. Design and plant a garden. Grow flowers, pick them, and make flower crowns, bouquets, or pressed flowers. My kids love drawing comics and making books together.
But what if you want something that's all your own? That's OK too. It's important for our kids to see us take care of ourselves -- both so they can see us model self-care, and so that they see that we are our own people with actual interests and hobbies.
Next let's figure out tiny ways to fit small moments of self-care into the cracks of the day.
How to Find or Make Time for Creativity
The biggest obstacle I hear from clients is that they simply don’t have time for a hobby or creative endeavor. And sometimes that’s true. If you have very young children, a long commute, a disability, are a single parent, etc., it may feel like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
Sometimes it’s from getting so excited about a creative prospect that we suddenly have a masterpiece in our mind that may not be viable in the time we have to do it. If you’ve missed painting but haven’t done it for a few years, a giant canvas might not be the most accessible first project. Maybe you start with a small art card to send a friend instead.
As I talked about in a previous post, setting goals that focus on the process, not products, are great for keeping you moving forward. That could mean that you aim to write or draw for 10 minutes a day while you drink some tea. Building that habit is more important than what you accomplish or produce in that time.
For some people, participating in a challenge like NaBloPoMo, or a 365 photo-a-day group can add helpful social accountability.
It's not just about time management; it's about redefining how you find ways to express yourself. A lot of the art/writing ideas are more introspective, but what about how you express who you are to others and the world? The next section addresses that.
Express Your Personality with Hair, Clothes, and Makeup
Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of eternal leggings and a bun, but actually wearing items that make you feel good can be a powerful method of self-expression. This could be wearing more colors you love, accessorizing, getting a new haircut, or even just wearing makeup if that makes you happy.
If you follow me on social media, you probably see me in bright lipstick which is a little self-care moment for me. In my mind, people who wear lipstick have their acts together, so if *I* wear lipstick, I do, too. It somehow works for me. It only takes a minute to toss on lipstick, too.
With really young kids it can be harder since you might want to stick to washable clothes you can nurse in and run around at the park. But maybe it’s something small like a colored streak in your hair, a scarf, sparkly eyeshadow, fun earrings, nail art, etc.
What if that's too loud for you and you want to keep it private? That's totally fine.
You Don’t Have to Share Your Art with Others - Unless You Want To
For anyone who needs to hear it: You can just do art for yourself. You can write for yourself. You can sing for yourself. You can dress up and wear makeup and style your hair for yourself.
There was an amazing piece of advice from author Elizabeth Gilbert in the first episode of her podcast, Magic Lessons, when she told a writer, “Sometimes you’re writing the story you need to write, not the story you want to publish.”
Creativity is a way to get what’s inside you out. You don’t have to be “good” at it for it to help. Not every moment of our lives need to be spent “being productive” in the capitalistic sense. It benefits our mental and physical health to rest and make art. That’s why there are cave paintings -- and I don't think they impacted the Neanderthal real estate listing.
That's a lot of ideas, and I hope something appealed to or inspired you. So what's the next step?
Just start. Doodle something. Find your lipstick. Fold your napkin like a rose. I can't wait to hear about it!
Having trouble convincing yourself? Feeling stuck or overwhelmed? Can’t figure out where to start? I've got you.
← Try my Pocket Coaching mini course. I'll walk you through a series of exercises that I do with my individual coaching clients so you can feel more clear and less overwhelmed, get new perspective on your goals instead of feeling stuck in survival mode, and then identify what's really keeping you stuck so you can overcome it. It's free!
Or if that sounds overwhelming to do on your own, schedule a call with me to talk it through. We'll discuss what's going on for you right now, where you want to be, and what kind of support I can offer. No obligation, and you'll leave the call with something to work on regardless.