Welcome to the next edition in the fortnightly Creative Mothers series. This is a space for people to reflect on the impact of parenthood on their experience of personal creativity. If you would like to take part with your thoughts, please take a look at the Creative Mothers page and do get in touch.
In this post Jess from Babi a Fi shares with us her history with creativity and the tweaks required to combine her passions with parenting. It’s a great reminder that, as parents, we don’t have to drop our previous interests, we might just have to find new ways of making time and headspace for them.
And while we are on the subject of heads, I am so envious of the way Jess has used herself and her styles as a creative outlet in the past. I need a new hairdresser, oh and a stylist would be good too!
I always thought that having a baby would make me more creative. I’d be sewing appliqués onto little outfits, cooking up top-notch organic nosh, and devising engaging play sessions for every day of the week. The truth is that I didn’t and I don’t – if Marianna’s happy playing with an empty crisp packet for half hour, I count my blessings and put the washing on.
Still, growing up I always considered myself a creative person. I loved to draw, and write, and make cardboard houses for first my trolls and later my dolls. The fact that the houses were awful never really mattered, it was the process which was important. My granddad (probably taking pity) made me a doll house when I was about eight or nine, and I found a whole new creative outlet in miniatures and the goal of creating realistic dioramas.
I thought about pursuing a creative career for a bit, but taking a GCSE in art quickly dissuaded me from that idea. It was way too boring and labour intensive, and I decided to focus on the humanities instead. They were still kind of creative, after all.
Make up and fashion became a real creative outlet for me over the next few years, and also became a way of wearing my interests, quite literally, on my sleeve. One day I could be a Victorian doll, the next I could dress like something out of the 1940s – so it was no surprise when I was soon off to university to study history. My major hobby at this time however was creative writing. I wrote original fiction, and I wrote fanfiction. I wrote stuff for kids, stuff for adults, and adult stuff, if you know what I mean. By my last year of university I was churning out hundreds of thousands of words of fiction, plus non-fiction research and essays, alongside a blog I was updating daily.
Then another chapter came to an end.
I graduated in 2010 and returned home to South Wales to find myself a job. I ended up in the third sector, working first for a youth charity and then for one tackling depression. My creativity went into updating websites, writing newsletters and putting together lesson plans. I was also volunteering at youth clubs and for a vintage fashion store which focussed on upcycling. I loved it, and got as involved as I could.
Eventually I went back to university for a short stint, then got elected to my local council in 2012. Suddenly there wasn’t much scope at all for creativity in my day job, and not so much time outside of it, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence that this was when I rediscovered dolls and miniatures. The difference between this time and the last one was a) more money, and b) slightly more patience, which made those realistic dioramas way more achievable. I made miniature clothes, food, packaging, soft furnishings, and just about anything else I thought to try my hand at. There’s just something so satisfying about recreating the world in miniature, and the online doll and miniature community is way bigger than I could ever have imagined.
Fast forward to 2015 and the arrival of Marianna. Having a baby didn’t make me more creative, but it did change the way in which I am creative. It’s not so easy these days to set up a miniature scene, or get my craft box out. I’ve had a baby wanting constant attention, and now I’ve got a toddler who’s desperate to put anything which will fit into her mouth. Fiction, too, became more difficult to focus on because when I have an idea I want to get it all down on paper (well, a word document). Instead I’ve become more interested in things which I can pick up and put down at will, and add to at any point in the future. I’ve started scrapbooking for Marianna’s baby book, which can be done in five minute bursts whenever those five minutes present themselves, and have got back into blogging.
It doesn’t mean I’ve dropped my previous interests. I just have to schedule time for it. In some ways it has improved my creativity in that I need to plan my projects more carefully. I have a much better idea these days of what I want to achieve, and how I’m going to do it. As Marianna gets older I can’t wait to involve her more in crafts and, who knows, maybe a newfound love of messy play is just around the corner…
Jess blogs at Babi a Fi. She can also be found in the following places across social media: