September 25, 2014

Motherhood and Ambition: How Art Fits into My Life and Family

By Crystal
Introduced by Amy

Friends!  How are you?  I've officially been a momma of two for a month! :)  I am definitely not accomplishing my days gracefully, but both my toddler and infant have survived (baby Miles is actually getting a little chubby!) and I've managed to take several showers this week!  Haha!  Miracle.  So, today's guest post is very timely for me, and I hope for you too!  It can be easy as mommas to lose sight of the talents and passions we were pursuing before we started raising a family--that's why I find it so inspiring to see a mom like Crystal who is giving her best to her family, but still able to carve out time to pursue her own dreams.  She is inspiring.  

Crystal and I were Art Majors at BYU-Idaho together...let me tell you, this girl impressed me.  Yes, by her artwork (she is sooo skilled) but I was most impressed by who she is as a person.  She is fun to be around and easy to talk to, yet she has this grace about's hard to describe.  She is wise and intelligent and kind and works tirelessly to accomplish her goals (She graduated with a double-major...I would have died!)  So pretty much I admire her a lot.  :)

Since graduation, I've kept tabs on her through Facebook, so I knew that she's still putting out incredible artwork, though she is a busy momma of two.  I had to get her input on how she accomplishes all that she does while caring for her girls.  Her ideas are super helpful, no matter what you goals and dreams are!  Enjoy!

When my husband and I got married, four years after meeting in an oil painting class at BYU-Idaho, we entered the marriage with the understanding that his primary role would be to provide for and protect our family, and that mine would primarily be to nurture and care for our children. We also had a mutual understanding that children would be a high priority, and both wanted to have a large family. We had both graduated with Illustration degrees, and at first, we were both able to spend an equal amount of time painting.

But of course, having a baby changed things quickly. After Eden was born, I had no idea how to keep being productive in anything except keeping my baby alive. How in the world was I supposed to get stuff done if I couldn’t have a schedule? It was obvious right from the beginning Eden wasn’t interested in following my schedule. I started to feel like it wasn’t fair that I never got to paint anymore. I got upset when James would walk in from a long day of painting and tell me how hard it was. I wanted to paint sooo badly, but day after day, it seemed more and more impossible. I read the biography of Minerva Teichert, who milked the cows before dawn, homeschooled her kids in a log cabin on the Wyoming prairie and pumped out massive paintings like nobody’s business. How did she do it? I don't know how it worked for her, but I’ve started to figure out some ways that it works for me.

1. Own your own goals. 

By that I mean don’t set goals (esp. about developing your talents) that require another person’s time, work or sacrifice in order to be realized. “But,” you ask- “Shouldn’t my husband help support me in my goals?” Yes, that would be nice of him, wouldn’t it? But if your goal is dependent on him, then you’re shifting accountability for it onto him. That means if you fail, it’s his fault, and if you succeed, you might not feel much sense of accomplishment, because he caused you to succeed. When I told James I had figured this out, he let out a visible sigh of relief. And to my surprise, I instantly felt empowered.

2. Figure out what you’ll need to sacrifice to pursue your talent, and then decide if it’s honestly worth it to you. 

I had heard other versions of this all the time from Leon Parson, my painting teacher, but back then I had no idea how I would need to do this as a mom. For me the sacrifice was sleeping in. After three years of sleepless nights with crying babies (our second daughter, Ember, came 15 months after Eden), my body had become conditioned to crave sleep in the mornings. I knew I would have to give that up. If I wanted to paint, I would have to get the painting started before they woke up. Then I could come back to it when they were napping or busy with some activity for 30 seconds here and there. You’ll have to figure out what it is for you.

Painting after the girls have gone to bed.

3. Involve your kids in the pursuit of your talent. 

This is something I’ve learned from Torgesen Murdock, an oil painter who has raised a family while actively participating in art shows, demos, and other events. Her kids never resented the time she spent painting because they got to put strokes on her canvas sometimes, or do their own paintings next to her. She also did live drawings at their school events, which made her popular with their friends. My girls have a low painting table near my easel. After breakfast, they make a huge mess with watercolor while I sneak a few more strokes into the painting I started earlier. Eden loves mixing the paints so much that when I ask to see her painting, she holds up the mixing plate instead of the paper. She also likes to teach Ember the names of the colors and show her how to do everything. It’s fun to listen to a two-year-old tutorial. Even though making an actual schedule doesn’t even cross my mind anymore, my girls respond really well to having a routine. Throughout the day, I step over to my easel for a couple of minutes when they’re eating lunch, napping, or playing in their room and make slow but steady progress on the painting. Then I can go to bed satisfied with my small but actual progress and also know that my kids had my attention when they needed it.

This summer we came to a three-month period of unemployment. With the help of some good friends, James and I were able to make preparations to spend the summer living out of a camper, doing plein air (outdoor) paintings in Montana. We replaced the roof on the camper. I converted the dining bench in the camper into a crib by stretching a volleyball net across the open side. James and I worked out an arrangement for the trip that allowed us both plenty of painting time. I painted mornings while he explored and played with the kids. Then he painted afternoons while I made dinner and cleaned up camp with them. We caught wild rabbits, ate wild huckleberries, and played with wild cousins. James and I both came out of it with some decent paintings to sell, and we look forward to repeating the trip every summer. In the meantime, I’m just doing my best to use “downtime” moments to work on painting goals, so I can use my talents to bless my family and others.

Making dinner!

Helping Dad paint.

If you're also a mom who is trying to develop a skill, my hat’s off to you! May your nights be quiet, may your children nap at the same time, and may piles of laundry to fold not distract you (at least not every time) from your great and worthy goals.


Such wise advice, right?!  Thank you Crystal!  Right now, I fear my only "great and worthy goal" is an afternoon nap.  Haha.  :)  What did you think of Crystal's tips?  (...And her gorgeous painting!)  Several other women I also look up to have told me their time to exercise, read scriptures, work on projects, write, etc. is early in the morning before their kids wake up.  *Groan.* I don't love to hear this, cause I am SO not a morning person.  I'd rather stay up late...but, right now that isn't really an option since I wake up through the night with my little babe, and a super late bedtime makes me too worthless and wiped out the next day to be a happy/patient momma.  But, early morning does seem like the most un-interrupted time!  (We'll see if I can ever get my sleep-loving self to quit pushing snooze till I am absolutely forced to get up.)

Since I'm still in the newborn haze, I pretty much feel like a sleep-deprived dairy cow and diaper changer with no other ambitions in life but to catch a little more sleep.  But Crystal has inspired me to set some (tiny) goals and keep moving forward!  (PS. Check out Crystals' amazing painting blog.)

Friends, I'd love to hear your input!  What are your passions/goals?  How do you pursue them while being a mom?  Or while working a busy job?  Or doing both?  When do you find the time?  Are you also a early morning accomplisher?  (I am in awe!)  Or week-ender?  Or maybe you're a night owl like me? :)  Also, if you appreciated this post, please Like, Share, comment, and/or Pin!  Thank you! :)

PS. Did you miss when we talked about our Secret Passions?  So many great comments!

1 comment:

  1. Love the advice! I've slowly come to realize each of those and need to implement them better. I'd love to finish small decorating projects around the house (sand/stain/hang two shelves, decide on carpet, etc) and to experiment more with photography. I'm like you Amy - very much a night-owl and HATE waking up earlier than I have to, but anymore I'm so tired by the time kids get in bed, my motiviation is GONE. That's where I need to convince myself (cause it's true) to go to bed earlier instead of piddling around the house till 11, and get up earlier to read scriptures AND work on a project - even for 1/2 hour. I think most of us women need to create - and it's different for all of us what that is - and it can make a world of difference in our sanity :). And Amy - don't you feel bad about just doing a newborn, toddler and yourself right now - THAT is a feat in and of itself! The time will come again :)


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