When my husband and I decided it would be a good idea for me to be the primary stay-at-home caregiver for our two-year-old daughter, reality hit. Balancing a creative and buoyant freelance career with messy diapers and tantrums proved to be a bit difficult. Of course the toddler giggles and silly songs make up for some of the chaos, but I still need to keep perspective for my career to grow. With some reflection and trial-and-error I’ve been focusing on five tangible ways to nurture my creativity amid the throes of toddler raising.
Use Those Hands
Most of my freelancing relies on the written word. Either I’m writing words down or I’m reading them. Enter knitting. It’s a creative outlet that has nothing to do with reading or writing, which is very important for my well-being. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day with yarn and needles is enough to give me perspective and a welcome brain break from the day-to-day grind.
With or without daughter in tow, getting outside is crucial for nurturing the part of me that creates. By walking through the backyard garden, tromping around the block, heading to the playground, going for a run, or fitting in a bike ride, I’m able to get some exercise and fresh air. Plus, my work benefits when I can take time out to think about the world around me, not just the world inside.
My family and I try to eat as much local, organic, and fresh food as possible. When we skimp and fall back on more processed foods, we all suffer. Interactions with our daughter are more labored, my writing is slow, and we just don’t collectively feel good. So we load our diets with fresh fruits and veggies and drum up our meals from scratch as much as we can. In doing this, we all feel better, which helps me feel better as I put time into freelancing.
Whether through phone calls, snail mail, email, or social media, I try to connect with three or four people each day. Making these contacts is crucial in keeping perspective — it gets me outside of home life and writing mind — and both family and career thrive from the personal connections.
Once or twice a day I try to read the news headlines and three or so online stories from major U.S. daily newspapers. I do this so when my husband comes home from work we have more to talk about than housework, so our daughter can see what it’s like to have a social discussion, and so I can get out of my head and into the world a little. The relationship I have with my husband gains from the conversation, and my work as a writer is more productive. It’s a win-win for all of us.