The Creative Self and the Mother Self

Welcome to May! 

Here in Roseville, Minnesota, it’s been a long cool journey from winter to this month of flowers popping open, trees in bloom, nesting birds, and Mother’s Day. This year, snow fell here the day after Easter and again some days after that. It was so disappointing, even if it did melt immediately. But May Day is upon us. We are unquestionably on our way to summer. And I’m thinking about motherhood. May does that to me.

Mother’s Day is a day I’m very fond of – as a mother and grandmother, I’m keenly aware of the time and energy parenting requires, of the sacrifices that get made every day, of the fierce connections parents have to their children. When we are in the midst of childrearing years, creative pursuits often get sidelined or enjoyed infrequently as we address more pressing needs. And yet, the importance of honoring our creative selves remains. We store up things for later while supporting the development of another human being, our creativity occasionally peeking through as we find ways to teach our children well.

Those lessons of parenthood – grabbing moments when you have them, shifting gears on the fly, letting go of perfection – stay with us. For me, those lessons nudge me to value this time I have right now, revel in the freedom to pour paint or write essays or travel because these moments won’t come around again. I remember many instances of thinking I’d have time later to [fill in the blank]; that isn’t always true. It’s not just true for pursuing whatever creative projects I wanted to do; it’s also true for saying I love you. Those kids who demand so much of us grow up, move away, and that part of the conversation is over. Our own parents who bugged us about our choices are gone forever. 

So, if you’re honoring a mother or you are a mother in need of honoring, have the conversation about what parenthood has required, the sacrifices you’ve made or the ones you recognize as being made for you. Celebrate both. Find the joy that underlies it all. Say I love you.

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I recently had an email conversation with almost-crone Lizzie Bowen (she’ll turn 50 this year) after she contacted me through One Minnesota Crone a couple of months ago. In her initial contact, she wrote of how she, “…had always wanted to be a wildlife biologist, then went on an 18-year-detour of motherhood, and now finally acknowledging that the part of me that wanted to be a biologist was really most interested in the creative and artistic aspect of biology (nature, writing, photography, artwork, interpretation of scientific language to layman’s terms, etc).” Here was another woman who did the hard work of parenting and was now figuring out how to honor her creativity in different ways. During the course of our conversation, I asked a few interview-style questions about what’s next for Lizzie. She agreed to share them for publication here in the hope that other women who are on the brink of their post-childrearing years might recognize something of themselves.

Lizzie lives in North Carolina and runs a blog – Cooped-Up Creativity (https://ultimatecreativity5.wordpress.com/) – where she publishes her own nature photos, sometimes with accompanying writing.  My questions to her are in bold print. Lizzie’s answers are unedited.

You run a blog called Cooped-Up Creativity which you started at the beginning of the pandemic to inspire yourself and others. Did your daily posts do what you’d hoped? Did you rediscover your own inspiration and hear from others who also found inspiration there? How did your efforts change over the last two years?

I’ve always enjoyed creative pursuits. At the beginning of the pandemic, everything was canceled. It didn’t feel like much of a loss (I didn’t mind less time in the car!), but rather more time for creativity. Realizing I had a lot more time at home, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to seriously explore my creative side. So yes, I certainly inspired myself! 

I have never been a specialist in any one particular artistic flavor. I enjoy drawing, painting, doodling, writing, creative problem solving, making music, gardening, and photography, so during the early days of the pandemic, I tried to do something (anything) creative every day. 

No one has told me that I’ve inspired them, but while I’m outside doing sidewalk chalk art, I get a lot of positive feedback from passers by. Basically I enjoy working on my little projects, and if someone else also enjoys the end product, that’s a bonus.

When you contacted me, you mentioned that you’ll turn 50 this year. How do you see this time in your life? What do you find yourself leaning towards?

I feel like a kid when someone asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

I’m all grown up now, but still trying to figure out what I want to “be.” I see this time as an opportunity for exploring my interests. Some part of me has always wanted to “be” an artist, but I didn’t think I could earn a living as an artist (haha, so I chose wildlife biology instead, which wasn’t any more lucrative than being an artist). One life goal I have is to write and illustrate a children’s book. I have several ideas for this, and a couple of started projects, which I hope someday to finish. In the meantime, doing the UltimateCreativity blog allows me to get in touch with my artist side.

Is there any grief with your transition to a new phase of life? Talk about that a little bit.

I can’t say I feel grief. Every phase of life is simply another phase. We’re always in some sort of transition from one phase to the next. It just keeps us wondering, “What’s next?”

Shifting gears a little bit, what parts of your younger self that you gave up because life demanded it do you want to reclaim now?

Interesting question. For the past 18 years, I have been in Mom Mode. It has been a most amazing adventure raising kids, who are now teens. When they are off living independently in the world, I will feel a great sense of accomplishment. Then I look forward to autonomy. It feels selfish to say, but I look forward to a day when I can do what I want, when I want, just because I want to.  This doesn’t have to be complicated, but if I want to spend the day outside working in my garden, then maybe I can do that. Or if I want to take a spontaneous day trip to hike in the mountains, then maybe I can do that too.

What makes you feel powerful?

Powerful? I am not sure I’ve ever felt powerful. Perhaps when I feel self-confident, confident in my abilities and confident in my knowledge, like when I have successfully tackled a challenging project.

What brings you joy?

A hike in the woods

Playing mandolin

Sharing a laugh with a friend

Finishing a project

Having a good conversation with my kids

Being outdoors

Feeling a sense of connection

What are you going to do just for yourself today?

Go for a walk with my camera.

Finally, what do you want to offer the world in this moment, especially other women heading into their wise years?

Have fun getting to know yourself. My favorite quote that I saw recently says it pretty well, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Self-portrait courtesy of Lizzie Bowen 2022

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Here’s to all the fierce, beautiful and creative mothers out there, who work hard every moment, who are both anxious about and look forward to the day when they have more time for themselves. 

Published by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is a Minnesota-based writer who has published work in journals in the US, UK, and Canada.

10 thoughts on “The Creative Self and the Mother Self

  1. What a lovely, supportive, inspiring message, Kathleen. Congrats on being a selfless mom who has embraced her creativity! Loved the interview with Lizzie. She has many, many creative years ahead of her!

    Liked by 2 people

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