I was a career working woman during the 70s, an era that was all about changing the world. Because of the sexual revolution, we were no longer expected to be confined to just the “home”. Many careers were now available for women and we could burn our bras and let our hair down without criticism or judgement.
Growing up, I wasn’t the kind of girl who dreamed of having a princess wedding and diamond rings, and I didn’t save wedding gown clippings from Vogue magazine. I didn’t worry about finding my prince and raising a brood of children, either.
My dream was a goal I was diligent about achieving. I was a creative from the get go! Graduate from high school, go to an art school, get my degree, become a designer, and later own my own business. It was a difficult journey, but with hard work and diligence, I made it all happen. Of course, my journey had several detours along the way…Life happened! I got married at age 27, started my business, and when I was 30, I had my first child, a son, Jonathan (Jon). My daughter, Janelle, was born when I was 35. Along with my beautiful babies, came a rush of responsibilities.
Having grown up as a latchkey child in the 50’s and 60’s, much of my childhood was filled with responsibility, so I was already primed for what was to come. My siblings and I grew up quickly in order to hold down the fort, while our parents worked all day. By the time I was 7 years old, my responsibilities after school included picking up my baby brother from the neighbor across the street, childcare, cooking, washing dishes, ironing, cleaning the house, and doing my homework every day. As teenagers, my sister and I continued to manage the household on our own, hold part-time jobs, and go to school.
Although this experience prepped me for being on my own when I left for college, it also helped me with motherhood. What caught me off guard as a young mother was balancing “motherhood” with my multi-talents and career, what I call my “creativehood”. Throughout the years as a young mother, I felt an intense responsibility to be creative. It was like a gnawing pressure that I placed upon myself to be creative. I was torn between the responsibility of being a good mother, and the intense desire to act on my “creativehood”.
I’m normally a high energy person, so I do push myself hard onto everything I do. No matter what the project is, whether it’s a simple chore around the house, or a major design project for a client, I get the job done without overlooking one detail. I worked from a studio in my home from the time my son was born until my daughter was over 5 years old. Cradling Jon with one arm, and designing with my free hand while I sat at my drawing table… I did the same for Janelle, only by then, Jon was also playing in my studio, too. So for over 10 years, I multi-tasked as a working mom/designer from home.
Did I try to do it all because of my obsessiveness in believing that I needed to be better at everything, or did I do it to be a good mother? My “creativehood” spilled into my daily life. The simple task of planning my children’s birthday party was, for me, “not just a kid’s party”. It had to be the most memorable event of the year for my kids. I wouldn’t dare let go or ignore one detail, because if I did, I would be disappointed in myself and the anxiety would leave me unfulfilled creatively and intellectually.
Creatives believe that a successful presentation will prove to family and friends that we are either gifted (though I never saw myself as such), or “just doing too much” trying to pursue both creative ambitions and family responsibilities. I think that we carry an on-going battle within us. As a young mother, I was trying to be SUPERMOM with my motherhood responsibilities, while finding that balance to include my creativehood, as well.
In my efforts to be a good mother, I tried to always incorporate my children’s childhood into my creativity. As an artist, I always made art materials available at my children’s fingertips, from the day they were born. They started drawing with pencils and crayons as soon as they could hold it in their fingers. I have doodles as early as 3 and 4 months from both my children. Through the years I collected their doodles and artwork, dated them, and placed them on the pages of several scrapbook albums. I presented each of them on their 18th birthdays, their personal creative albums. They were pleasantly surprised to see the progression of their artistic endeavors throughout their childhood.
When I was growing up, my mother always sewed our clothes. She even made all our Halloween costumes. She would design them and sew them from scratch, without a pattern. When I had my children, I wanted to do the same, so there were times I whipped out the costumes from scratch just like my mom did. I didn’t use patterns much because when I had an idea, I loved the challenge of making my own patterns. It’s like a picture in my head, a total vision, and I see every detail, down to how to do it. When my children would explain to me what they wanted to be for Halloween, I envisioned it, and made it. When they had school projects, and weren’t sure how to tackle them, they always came to me and knew that “mom would figure it all out”.
Decorating the house for Christmas was super fun for me! My favorite time of the year, I approached it with attention to detail, and created so many DIY projects. Instead of taking the easy way out and just buying decorations at the store already made, I made them from scratch. Where I found the time, I don’t know, but somehow, I did, and now I have boxes of DIY Christmas decor as old as my son. I remember one Christmas when I decorated with a “Teddy bears” theme, so we decorated the children’s tree with candy-like garland and fabric teddy bear ornaments I sewed. I tied holiday bows on all the stuffed animals and we put them all over the house. Yup! I still have some of those Teddy bears.
I bought personal ornaments every year, for Jon and Janelle, and printed the year on every ornament. Two years ago, I decided to let them go, so I checked them over, made some repairs, wrapped them with tissue, and put them (along with all the other Christmas ornaments they made in school), in special decorative boxes. Last year, I presented to Jon and Janelle ther personalized box of childhood Christmas ornaments. Janelle’s ornaments today are 30 years old, and Jon’s will be 35 years old on his birthday in two weeks.
Today, my children are all grown up and married. I’m going to be a grandmother soon to Jon’s first child. The pressure in my heart to always go beyond the norm, to be unique, and to succeed at being that person, good at motherhood, good at grandmotherhood, and good at creativehood, is now a gentle pressure, because my motherhood responsibilities are less. However, I will never lose that desire, though the intensity may be less. I love to write, and have always dreamed of writing my first book (in process). There’s a part of me that will not give up the feeling deep inside that I can write, and whether I am a good writer or a great writer doesn’t matter. What matters to me most is that I believe that I can write that book and I will become a published author, it will sell, and if it becomes a movie…Great!!! I believe creatives dream beyond what is real and unique, because to limit our thinking and dreaming is to block our creativity.
Multi-talents and Creatives are driven by passion as well as a fear deep inside that we may not be the person we want to be. Or maybe our fear is because we are afraid that we can’t be greater than what our parents and our friends think we are. So, we drive ourselves to be more than we are and push ourselves beyond the ultimate, because if we don’t, we are giving up on ourselves. To do so would be expressing defeat and sabotaging our own success.
With all this said, I just want to say to all the young mothers and mothers-to-be who are creatives and multi-talents, learn to embrace your success, your career, and all that God has blessed you with — your “creativehood”. For whatever reason, you will always be driven to want to let it happen. Whether it’s because of an obsession, or a personal fear, the end results will help you to feel more fulfilled and happy. It will only further enhance your “motherhood”. You will discover that your life will be busy, but you will live a more fulfilled and balanced life. When you are happy, everyone around you will feel your happiness. One thing for sure will happen when you do, you will end up with a lifetime of creative memories in your storage to share with your children.
There is nothing more memorable than seeing your child or grandchild’s face beaming with a smile from ear to ear, because of something you have created with love, straight from your heart! And, if that’s not enough reason for you, then think what a great big smile you will have on your face when you open your closet and discover DIY projects as old as your kids!
I am the proud mother of two creatives and multi-talents, Jon and Janelle. My son is a Developer Advocate at Twitter in SF, and formerly he was an Agency Technologist at AKQA Advertising Agency in SF. My daughter, Janelle is the Senior Manager for the Global Creative Team, Design strategy & development for HD and mobile games at EA (Electronic Arts) in Redwood City, and formerly Sr. Creative Account Executive for Print, Motion & Digital, at The Refinery Creative in LA. Jon and Janelle are also talented photographers and designers. While Jon’s design background centers on creative interactive web development, Janelle’s centers on graphic design, print, motion & digital. She also dabbles in painting, drawing, and crafting.