I remember when I was at my lowest point as a mother. I left my job and became a stay-at-home mom, believing that I was going to be so much happier.
In retrospect, the complete opposite happened. The floor was ripped out from beneath me and I was sorely mistaken about what this new life would be like being with my children 24/7.
Up until that point, I had been a career woman, and sure I was stressed, but I also had a chance to miss my child.
I had an opportunity to focus only on myself for a few hours of the day. I ate my lunch in quiet. I read what I wanted during lunch break. I ate what and where I wanted to eat. I went to the bathroom alone. All things I had no idea would be hard to do later on.
I didn’t realize the full extent of the sacrifice I was getting myself into by leaving my job. I thought I would be happier, but the internal struggle became worse and worse.
My lowest points were when I would develop extreme anger and rage, towards anyone or anything. I resented my husband for everything. I wished my children would behave/do/be anything other than who they were. I tried to control everything around me, because deep down I felt my life was out of control, and if I could just FIX it all, then I’d be okay.
Then I felt guilty for disliking motherhood. I also felt like I had made a huge mistake by leaving my job. This was so much harder than I ever imagined and I couldn’t figure out why other people had it easier. I had to give up the person I was, in exchange for a person I didn’t want to be.
It felt like one big failure.
This really began to take its toll on my marriage. My husband couldn’t help. Nothing he said made any difference. Nothing he did was enough. I resented the fact he didn’t do more and that he had no idea what I was going through. We fought a lot. I cried a lot. And I was an anxious and depressed person.
I felt like I was letting my children down and sometimes they might be better off in daycare.
It wasn’t until a healing mentor told me that I had to use my creativity to get myself out of this mess that I began to see a huge shift.
As an analytical thinker, I felt I had *tried* everything. I researched things all the time. I changed food, my environment, our routine, visited self-help websites. I felt that surely I could learn to be happy if I thought long and hard and figured it out.
What I didn’t realize is that being in that mind space was actually keeping me unhappy and sick.
The more I sat in my analytical thinking brain, the less chance I had of getting better. I couldn’t outsmart myself into feeling better. And I wasn’t going to get there by over-thinking every single aspect of my life.
My first hurdle to creating was admitting that I *could* be creative. I had held onto those beliefs that creativity wasn’t something I was blessed with. It wasn’t in my DNA. But that mentor gave me permission to buy a $25 set of watercolor paints and a $15 art journal and told me I needed to do this. So I did. And that’s when the changes happened.
I kept going and going with painting, and the feedback I was getting about the changes others saw in me was so supportive and helpful. It was freeing and opened me up to the benefits of creating. My mentor finally said to me, “Amanda. I think this is your medicine for the world.” And that’s all I needed to hear.
I scooped up every bit of art healing I could find. New techniques, online summits, courses. Art therapy, as I called it, was alive and well in my life and I knew it was something I would never ever stop doing. It was like a light switch was turned on and I couldn’t turn it off.
Looking back, I wish someone had prepared me for some of the difficulties I would face transitioning to motherhood. Most people say “these years go so fast. Enjoy them. There’s no greater feeling than being with your children.” What they don’t tell us is the identity crisis that goes along with motherhood. How you will never think about yourself or your life in the same way.
Now I know, in retrospect, that if you don’t hold onto that little shred of yourself, and cling to it with dear life, how easily you may lose her and how it can take years to get her back.
What I would have given to have had a mentor during the early phases of motherhood, who could have taught me a little bit of practical self-care that didn’t involve hot baths and naps - two things I haven’t had since becoming a mother.
Our self-care is so much more than that. It’s self-preservation. It’s taking care of ourselves in a way no one else can. It’s taking up space and not feeling sorry for it.
If someone would have handed me a paintbrush and an art journal in the same instance my baby was handed to me, I could have known more deeply how integral it was to keep my creative juices flowing.
“Congratulations, you created a baby...now don’t stop creating.” Therein would have been the medicine. The answer to surviving those crazy first years.
It would have been the antidote to the screaming, raging mother I had become. It would have been the answer to the resentful, martyr wife I turned into.
If someone would have shown me HOW I could use art to SURVIVE my transition into motherhood, I would have saved so many years of anxiety and sadness. I would have been ever so grateful.
That is part of my Why. Part of the reason I am so adamant that women, mothers, make space in their lives to create.
I know firsthand that being creative is in our blood. It’s a universal need we all have as women. And when we don’t exercise it, a part of us dies a slow death.
If you are a mom and any alarm bells are going off, I urge you to listen to the inner voice and follow the signs. There is a better way to survive and thrive in your motherhood. And you have all the creative skills you need to get there.