Part 2 of an interview with Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart,
authors of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom
In our social media age of handcrafted children’s parties, artistic Instagram photos, tutorials for renovating old furniture into new treasures and blogs filled with poetry, prose and other expression, clearly a brand-new generation of inspired women is rising up. It is a renaissance born not in Italian cathedrals or Harlem jazz clubs, but in kitchens, nurseries and living rooms around the world. However, when Christian women become mothers, they often feel expected to give up their creative pursuits to parent properly.
In Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom (Kregel Publications) authors Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart show that “a mother’s natural bent toward imagination doesn’t just wither and die with the birth of a child. This core component remains part of her intricate design.”
Q: Why do you think a woman feels like she must give up some of her own interests when she becomes a parent?
Wendy Speake: It’s simple math really. There are only 24 hours in a day, and children fill up nearly all those little minutes. The leftover spaces are few and far between, and when they present themselves there’s another pull: simple self-care! Most moms would also like to lose that baby weight by walking on the elliptical machine out in the garage, and a shower would be a delightful extravagance as well! Such small space is left over for a woman to indulge in the passions that once fueled her days. For the majority of creative women who become mothers, there are few afternoons at her easel; dinner parties with multiple courses are exchanged for simple suppers feeding baby as her own food gets cold, and slipping out the door to rehearse with the worship band at church requires all the planets aligning.
Kelli Stuart: We begin the book by acknowledging the tug-of-war that happens in an artistic mother’s heart when she gives birth to children. Suddenly her attention is divided, and when the children are very small they take up a lot of mental and emotional energy. Art is naturally pushed aside during this season, and this is a sacrifice many mothers make willingly. But God never intended for us to sacrifice our unique gifts on the altar of motherhood. Though the creativity and art may need to be set aside for a time, we believe when the slivers of a creative mother’s days begin to lengthen, she’ll find the art is there waiting. It may look different — in fact, it likely will be different! Motherhood changes the creative woman, but the miracle of this metamorphosis is the art transforms with the mother. What once looked like opera and poetry pre-children comes out of her life today as home-decorating and party-throwing, or any number of beautiful displays of her creative self.
Q: Often young mothers tend to feel reprimanded for dreaming dreams outside the home. What advice can you give them?
KS: There is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming! Our children need to see mom chasing after her dreams. I worked on my novel for 10 years, all of it with growing children by my side. I let them see the process, and I made sure they understood what I was working for. I got up in the wee hours of the morning to work because I had a dream I wasn’t willing to sacrifice. And when the box of books arrived, my oldest was there to help me open them. He’d been there through the entire process, and that moment with him was one of my proudest mothering moments because he saw the reward of all the sacrifice and work.
As mothers, it is second nature to cheer our children on toward their dreams. We do it with our husbands too. But we tend to tuck our dreams aside, afraid to define them or offer parameters to our hopes outside of motherhood. What Wendy and I found in talking to the many women featured in Life Creative, however, is when we’re willing to embrace our own dreams and to bring our husbands and children into the journey, a unique blend of life and art starts to come together. It’s beautiful and messy, and it looks different for every woman and every family. This book offers many examples of women who are walking the tightrope of motherhood and creativity.
Q: In the age of Pinterest and Instagram, it seems as though there’s a lot of pressure on mothers to be creative. Is that a new trend born from social media?
KS: Absolutely, and for some women the stress is real! They feel it when throwing birthday parties for their children, or when it’s their turn to bring refreshments to a Sunday School class. Others feel like losers on Facebook because they don’t think of themselves as articulate, or they’re embarrassed their picture of their children on Easter Sunday is less than share-worthy because the family’s outfits didn’t match, the baby’s hair looked like a rat’s nest and the middle child never looks at the camera. Oh, the shame!
But creativity isn’t doing things like every other pinning, uploading, Etsy-selling woman is doing! Creativity is being exactly who God created you to be! I love that. Our creativity is simply us being who He created! Picking up pre-made cupcakes from the grocery store can feel like you’re admitting defeat before you even try to whisk up some simple ingredients. But if God made you an extraverted singer, then embrace that and yodel “Happy birthday to you!” over store-bought confectionaries! Embracing the person God made you to be is our spiritual act of worship.
Q: What advice would you offer for the mom who sees herself more as a “Pinterest fail” rather than having creative talent?
WS: I have friends who love social media because it fuels them and other friends who despise it because it makes them feel like a failure before they even try their hand at the simplest DIY project! In Life Creative we welcome women from both camps: those who are self-professed creatives and those who are only now, on the other side of birthing children, trying their hand for the first time at calligraphy, cooking, blogging, photography, jewelry-making, etc.
Pinterest and Instagram are definitely capturing this modern-day Renaissance! But you don’t have to pin a single recipe or upload one lovely little square to Instagram to be invited to our Renaissance Faire.
Comparison is a terrible beast, killing creativity before it’s even given life. We believe all of us, and our husbands and children too, were created in God’s creative image. There was no mistake made when God doled out gifts. Just as there are varying skin tones, eye colors and pitches to our laughter, so are there innumerable talents living from home to home throughout the world.
Q: You believe all women were made to be creative. Can you explain why?
KS: Yes, we believe we were all created creative in some capacity. Each and every one of us is a perfect reflection of the Creator Himself, endowed with His ability to imagine something out of nothing. We call this inspiration, and isn’t this how the universe came to be? His creation, first imagined and then executed. From nothing He made every atom, every molecule. We were fashioned able to live, move and breathe in the fullness of His creative likeness!
WS: One of the things I discovered in the writing of Life Creative was creativity is a very broad, all-inclusive camp! Some men and women, boys and girls are creative thinkers, problem solvers, changing the world one answer at a time. Businesswomen opening online stores, using their profits to do extraordinary things throughout the world are creative, out-of-the-box people too! The woman who makes scripture art for your wall or bibs for your baby — creative! The teacher who loves on your child with dyslexia, coming up with new methods to teach him, though others have thrown their hands up in exhaustion — creative! My husband who built our boys a tree fort and my mother a back porch — he’s creative. And my father whose main love language is mathematical diagrams — creative!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: All are welcome to this modern-day Renaissance Faire!
Q: How will the mom who doesn’t see herself as creative benefit from Life Creative?
WS: While we believe all women are fashioned in God’s creative likeness, not every woman sees herself as an “artist.” Life Creative is a call for women to embrace their God-purposed uniqueness and to remember God didn’t just make her children “fearfully and wonderfully.” He crafted her that way as well! Whether she once delighted in canning preserves or reading novels late into the night, writing letters or hosting dinner parties, Life Creative is a letter to all women to look at how God created her and say, “Good job, God!”
KS: Life Creative isn’t just about the painters, writers and photographers. It’s also for the woman who loves her home. It’s for the woman who delights at creating new meals in the kitchen or moving furniture around to give the living room a quick face lift. Life Creative is for the mom who finds great joy in throwing birthday parties or who pours her energy into her duties as the home-room mom at her kid’s school. Life Creative isn’t just for women who are making a living from their art, but it’s for all women who simply enjoy pretty things. Women will walk away from this book with a new appreciation for how they were uniquely designed as creative beings.
Learn more about more about Life Creative at www.lifecreative.me, and join the community on Instagram (@lifecreative).