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5 Ways to Foster Creativity in Yourself (And Also Benefit Your Kids)

In 2011, the little black book came in the mail. 80 blank white pages. My goal was to dream on these pages – to draw, to journal my life, to create. I had signed up for the Brooklyn Art Library, a unique project that offers anyone with an interest in creativity the aforementioned sketchbook.


Once I had turned the pages into art, I would mail the book back to the library. The staff would catalogue it and add it to their collection of thousands. I would be personally fulfilled – art and writing have always had a role in my life – and part of an international creative movement.

Beyond a scribble on the first page, I never drew a thing. As a full-time employee and mother of a teen and pre-teen, life butted in. I was busy. The little black book stared at me. The deadline to submit the book creeped up. Eventually I admitted defeat and tucked the book into a drawer.

At the time it was the necessary choice, but I have always tried to keep creativity in my life. A study has discovered that 75 percent of people don’t believe they’re living up to their creative potential. I can only imagine a huge portion of that would be parents. We produce meals, provide entertainment, chauffeur, clean up, and often work outside the home. Although 80 percent of people think “we all have the potential to create” and “creativity brings my imagination to life,” who has time for optional passions?

 

 

Turns out we should find the time – and not only for internal satisfaction. Parents who are stressed, both by non-parental demands and by the pressing need to be great parents, have a greater chance of raising children with behavioral and emotional problems. These children may also not do as well at school. If being creative is your “me time,” it will help you de-stress.

You’ll also be setting an example for your children. Creativity in childhood fosters important life skills. Our children learn to analyze situations and problem-solve. They come up with new ways of thinking. They learn to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. They improve their self-confidence. (Ditto for us grown-ups.)

Plus if you’re taking “me time,” your children may be getting “me time” too. This unstructured time has been shown to boost focus, creativity, problem solving, and self-control. It may even predict success in school and later on in life itself.

So find a way to carve out the opportunity: before your kids wake up, after they go to bed, once they’re immersed in their finger paints or homework. Then get creatively cracking.

Too rusty to know where to begin? External motivation is a great, well, motivator. As for me, I’ve signed up for the sketchbook project again. The book is currently on its way in the mail. Being proactive, I have already drawn four pages, which I plan to glue in. This book, I’m determined, will not be filed in a drawer.

You too can take part in this project: see details below. Plus learn about four other kicks-in-the-butt that can restart you on your creative path. Now grab that pen/needle/whatever and get going!

1 | Put it to the page

You too could be the proud owner of a new blank sketchbook!

For a moderate fee, the Brooklyn Art Library will mail you a sketchbook (with optional drawing supplies), provide you with a choice of non-restrictive themes, give you a fill-that-book deadline, and set you on your way. No need to be a professional artist here. Even children can submit – so get your kids involved on their own sketchbooks too!

Once done, send the sketchbook back in to be added to the world’s largest collection of sketchbooks – over 36,000 from over 100 countries. Not only can people visit the library and browse the books at the Brooklyn location, but the library often goes on tour, bringing your creative efforts to people across the United States. Plus your book can be digitized and appear online. You even get a tracking number so you can see exactly where, when, and how often viewers enjoy your book.

Collage, doodle or document your vacation. Make people laugh, make people cry, or just make a mess. How you fill the book is up to you.

2 | Stitch it forward

Knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning, bombing – crafts made with yarn abound and are celebrated each year on I Love Yarn Day. On October 14, 2017, dust off your own needles and paraphernalia to join this seventh annual effort to create and share the yarn-based love. Get free patterns and tips on the website, learn from expert designers and bloggers, and join the community on social media through the hashtags #stitchitforward and #iloveyarnday.

Put on by the Craft Yarn Council, the day is not only meant to motivate you, but to motivate those around you. With the theme “Stitch It Forward,” the day encourages you to share your skills by teaching them to at least one newbie. Not only can you get your parental quality time, but, if they’re old enough, you can head your children in this creative direction too.

You’ll get a tangible item and feel expansive. Plus research has shown that yarn-based crafts can help you reduce your stress, improve your mood, increase your memory, and more. One study even showed that knitting can reduce burnout amongst nurses – which is likely true for parents too!

3 | Be collectively silly

You tell your kids to dress respectably, but maybe it’s time for you to throw that rule out the window – or rather, into a subway car. Nourish the exhibitionist in you and learn how to deal with situations on the fly by taking part in the annual No Pants Subway Ride.

The event is put on by Improv Everywhere, whose tagline is “We cause scenes.” They invite you to join them for this annual prank, which takes place in dozens of cities in dozens of countries. (Join the mailing list to be notified of the next date.)

Here’s what you do: Take off your pants (but leave on your underwear). Get on a subway. Pretend nothing strange is going on – even as other pants-less people get on and off the train. The only requirements: a daring attitude, the desire to have fun, and the ability to keep a straight face.

The goal, says the founder, is to share an experience and bring people together through absurdity. Our kids get to play – with no rhyme or reasoning – so here’s a chance for you too!

4 | Add to your talents

The above suggestions assume you already have some creative skill (or at least the ability to strip). But what if you’re more inclined to add to your talents?

Learning in person is a great way to proceed, so check out the offerings at your local art studios, craft stores, colleges, etc. If you live in New York or can travel there or to select other locations, you could try a Creativity Workshop, specifically focused on writing, photography, drawing, mindfulness, and other activities that explore the power of the imagination.

If a book is more your style, take a look at Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist” and accompanying journal. Here you’ll learn 10 tips about being creative – including how to steal ideas from others. If you’d rather shuffle than flip, the Art Sparks Creative Project Deck gives you a month’s worth of ideas.

There are also many opportunities to learn online. Search the options at The Great Courses or Udemy, or find classes specifically focused on creative pursuits at CreativeLive or Creativebug. Proceeding at your own pace is an ideal way to fit the learning in.

5 | Tune out

Then again, sometimes the best way to be creative is to not try to be creative. Research has shown that taking a walk – outside or on the treadmill – helps ideas flow and can generate novel concepts. As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” This also extends to movements like running, dancing, and yoga.

Even if you have a child in tow, schedule the walk around nap time, tuck the smartphone away, and take advantage of zoning out with just you, the stroller, the passing world, and your thoughts. Not only may creative ideas come to you at the moment, but the effect extends to when you get back home too. You’ll be ready to tackle your creative projects with greater zest or, if nap time is over, immerse yourself in the imaginary world of Disney characters like you never have before!

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It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.


Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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Last year my sons and I gave my wife the one thing every mom really wants every now and then: the absence of us.

We woke up that morning, kissed her on the cheek, and got out of dodge. Ten hours later we returned to find her eating carrot cake in a bathrobe and listening to podcasts.

Like so many dads when they do any solo-parenting, I posted a picture to Facebook. It got a big response, with more moms than I expected saying that's just what they wanted, too. I'm not an expert in presents or parenting, but consider this my recommendation to dads to make "taking the kids and leaving" this year's gift for moms—and a much bigger part of your regular life.

Don't get me wrong, we love my wife Kate. She's everyone's favorite family member. She's brilliant and funny and full of adventure. She's both the strongest person I know and the most caring. She's amazing at freeze dancing. She can name one million Pokemon. She knows instantly which injuries need Band-aids and which need kisses... and which, like me stabbing my hand trying to open a coconut with a kitchen knife, need the ER.

That's precisely why on her birthday we needed to get out of there. For a few hours Kate didn't have to do our emotional labor or be the default parent. No one asked her to make his brother return a toy or to check the tone in an email. She didn't have to perform appreciation for a breakfast in bed we would have made wrong. For one day, she didn't have to take care of anyone. It's embarrassing this is rare, but I admit in my family it is.

This brings up some big questions.

Why couldn't we have just stayed and taken care of her for a change? Did we really have to leave?

The answer is yes, at least for now. Our family's modes should include times when we're all around and Kate's not working, but they just don't.

When the kids need a Lego separated, it's her name they yell first down the stairs. If they're bored and looking to gin up some interaction, it's her lap they cannonball onto from the back of the couch. And that all goes for me, too, only without the Legos and cannonballs (mostly). That means whenever we're with Kate she has to be at some level of "on."

She shouldn't have to feel like the decision-maker, problem-solver, and nurturer in chief whenever she's in the same house as her husband and children, but she does. That means, for now, the quickest way to free her from that burden is just for us to get out that door.

That brings us to the biggest questions.

Does one day make a difference when there's such an everyday imbalance in the parenting load?

If Kate shoulders so much of the practical and emotional labor in our house that a day on her own can be a *literal* gift, what does that say about us?

It says a lot of things, but here's the main one: we need to change. If you'd asked us on our wedding day if our plan for raising a family was to divide the load unequally, we'd have both said "no way." But here we are.

So what do we do about it?

Well, the better question is what do I do about it. The problem is—I need to transform my share of the work around here. It can't be on Kate to solve that, too. That means I need to step up, to start doing much more not only of the caretaking and meal-planning and cooking, but the playdate-scheduling, doctor appointment-making, and child-life-organizing.

Leaving the house for one day doesn't turn me into a co-primary parent, but maybe it can be a jump-start. Sometimes the best way to begin changing habits is to create situations where those habits are impossible.

I might not have the strength to change our caretaking patterns when all four of us are together, but if it's just me and the boys with mom inaccessible, no one has another choice. The more days where I'm the primary parent, the more all four of us get accustomed to me in the role we're used to just having Mom in.

Kate might be superior to me in every aspect of parenting—which makes sense, given she's been practicing more than I have for eight years—but it's important to remember that a shared load is better for everyone. Of course it's better for her, but it's so much better for the boys, too. And it's better for me.

Our children are wonderful, hilarious and exquisite tiny humans. The focus on my 5-year-old's round face as he tries to make a card tower. The sound of my 7-year-old's boot cracking a puddle of ice as he walks to school. Pokemon. I miss all that when I'm not leaned forward as a parent.

And it's now or never. I've been a father for eight years. In 10 more, if we're lucky, our oldest will be in college. Childhoods go by fast. If don't become a better dad now, when will I?

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Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, but in many households, it's also the most hectic. Many parents rely on pre-prepared items to cut down on breakfast prep time, and if Jimmy Dean Heat 'n Serve Original Sausage Links are a breakfast hack in your home, you should check your bag.

More than 14 tons of the frozen sausage links are being recalled after consumers found bits of metal in their meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall of 23.4-oz. pouches of Jimmy Dean HEAT 'n SERVE Original SAUSAGE LINKS Made with Pork & Turkey with a 'Use By' date of January 31, 2019.

"The product bears case code A6382168, with a time stamp range of 11:58 through 01:49," the FSIS notes.

In a statement posted on its website, Jimmy Dean says "a few consumers contacted the company to say they had found small, string-like fragments of metal in the product. Though the fragments have been found in a very limited number of packages, out of an abundance of caution, CTI is recalling 29,028 pounds of product. Jimmy Dean is closely monitoring this recall and working with CTI to assure proper coordination with the USDA. No injuries have been reported with this recall."

Consumers should check their packages for "the establishment code M19085 or P19085, a 'use by' date of January 31, 2019 and a UPC number of '0-77900-36519-5'," the company says.

According to the FSIS, there have been five consumer complaints of metal pieces in the sausage links, and recalled packages should be thrown away.

If you purchased the recalled sausages and have questions you can call the Jimmy Dean customer service line at (855) 382-3101.

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Flying with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old isn't easy under optimal conditions, and when the kids are tired and cranky, things become even harder.

Many parents are anxious when flying with kids for exactly this reason: If the kids get upset, we worry our fellow passengers will become upset with us, but mom of two Becca Kinsey has a story that proves there are more compassionate people out there than we might think.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Kinsey explains how she was waiting for her flight back from Disney World with her two boys, Wyatt, 2, and James, 5, when things started to go wrong, and the first of three kind women committed an act of kindness that meant so much.

After having to run all over the airport because she'd lost her ID, Kinsey and her boys were in line for security and she was "on the verge of tears because Wyatt was screaming and James was exhausted. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says 'here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!'" Kinsey wrote in her Facebook post.

Within minutes, 2-year-old Wyatt was asleep on the airport floor. Kinsey was wondering how she would carry him and all the carry-ons when "another mom jumps out of her place in line and says 'hand me everything, I've got it.'"

When Kinsey thanked the second woman and the first who had given up her place in line they told her not to worry, that they were going to make sure she got on her flight.

"The second woman takes evvvverything and helps me get it through security and, on top of all that, she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight," Kinsey wrote.

Kinsey and her boys boarded, but the journey was hardly over. Wyatt wolk up and started "to scream" at take off, before finally falling back asleep. Kinsey was stressed out and needed a moment to breathe, but she couldn't put Wyatt down.

"After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says 'you look like you need a break' and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to baggage claim, hands him to [Kinsey's husband], hugs me and says "Merry Christmas!!" Kinsey wrote.

👏👏👏

It's a beautiful story about women helping women, and it gets even better because when Kinsey's Facebook post started to go viral she updated it in the hopes of helping other parents take their kids to Disney and experience another form of stress-relief.

"What if everyone that shared the story went to Kidd's Kids and made a $5 donation?! Kidd's Kids take children with life-threatening and life-altering conditions on a 5 day trip to Disney World so they can have a chance to forget at least some of the day to day stressors and get to experience a little magic!!"

As of this writing, Kinsey has raised more than $2,000 for Kidd's Kids and has probably inspired a few people to be kind the next time they see a parent struggling in public.

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