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9 Ways Busy Parents Can Reignite A Creative Practice

“Me time” is a well-intentioned catch phrase that conjures in my mind a harried young mother whose weekly highlight is dishing with her parent crew at Chick-Fil-A while their kids run circles around the joint. I am not that parent, yet the sentiment behind the phrase persists in my life.


There’s nothing more infuriating than someone reminding me to “take time for myself.” I assume it means I look like I’m about to lose a grip on my life – that my bangs are sticking up and there’s grape jelly smeared on my jeans and my left eye is twitching. In other words: I look like my kids are kicking my ass and I’ve neglected my own needs.

While that may be an accurate summary of my appearance from time to time, it’s rarely because my kids have me stretched too thin and I’m in dire need of a champagne bubble bath with control + alt + delete potency. More likely, I’ve been entrenched in an intensely productive creative phase and have managed to emerge triumphant, albeit unshowered, despite the five-year-old who is learning to make his own sandwiches and the six-year-old who has been practicing braiding on my hair while I type at my computer.

Whether you miss your former, pre-kids creative self or you’re ready to retool your schedule to make room for a creative process, the following steps will help you make the most of your time and energy without sacrificing sanity or family.

1 | Ignite yourself first

Identify activities or patterns of engaging with the world that ignite your inner creative energy. These may or may not be directly linked to your particular medium. For example, contemporary art, live music, walking in the woods, eavesdropping on my kids’ conversations in their bunk beds, and late nights out with interesting people stoke my creative writing fire.

Ask yourself: what makes you feel most alive? Cobble up a list, and then work those things into your life. Harness the energy they produce and ride whatever waves they give rise to.

Meanwhile, cut activities that drain you. For example, I cut meaningless playdates with kids who have helicopter parents. Two hours of small talk with these parents was an excruciating waste of time.

I also decided that I don’t believe in living a life whose weekend hours are dictated by a five-year-old’s social schedule. So they were cut.

Outcome: more time for other, more valuable activities for the whole family. This summer, we spent our weekends exploring new swimming holes, catching crawdads with our bare hands, and listening to nature’s music. Consequently, I was able to do something that energizes me creatively and share higher quality time with my kids, who, frankly, will have plenty of social opportunities in the years to come.

2 | Be already ready already

There’s a 90s Tropical Freeze commercial in which two women are sun-bathing poolside while a third woman goes to the kitchen to make frozen daiquiris. Frazzled, the hostess chops fruit wildly and stuffs ice into a blender while her friends grow impatient. Cut to a bag o’ daiquiri poured smoothly into a glass and the tagline voice over, “Tropical Freeze: it’s already ready already.”

Make this slogan your own. Ensure that the moment you have an hour at your disposal, or the minute inspiration strikes, all you have to do is show up to your workstation and execute your idea. If you have to clean, organize, locate tools, or think about where to begin each time you sit down, you won’t get anything done. If you paint, keep your workspace set up and your brushes ready to go. If you write music or short stories, keep an index card handy that lists projects in progress and ideas to explore. If you write and don’t know where to begin, keep your pens and paper near your laptop along with a few writing prompts close by.

3 | Show up during quiet time

Yes, you could watch the new episode of “Scandal” after your kids go to sleep and no one would be the wiser. You could also match socks or replace the filter on the furnace or look for a new job or balance your checkbook or…well, the list goes on as always.

You deserve all manner of indulgences, and at some point, the socks will need to be matched. But I promise you that choosing instead to write or paint or draw or strum your guitar – however you choose to direct your creative energy – will pay dividends in a way that empty tasks and television simply can’t.

No sugar coating here: creative work won’t make itself. You must work at it and work at it often. Take yourself seriously. If you don’t, who will? Try cutting your unwind-time routines or busy work in half and replacing what’s left over with creative work.

4 | Leave the house

Whether it’s for an hour or a weekend, regularly claim some space outside of the home. A change of scenery invites a shift in thought processes and perspective, making it a great way to get creativity flowing. It also cuts down on distractions, guilt, and anything else related to home that might stand in the way of your burgeoning process.

Claiming space can be as simple as bringing a notebook to a café or doing sketches in an urban area.

A favorite generative activity of mine is sitting alone in a restaurant with a pen and notebook. I listen for the most interesting conversation within earshot, then write down what I hear. Absent conversations, I might sketch a character from a man sitting at the bar. I might sketch a woman’s tattoo, then guess at what her life might be like.  Often, I’ll read a supposedly complete essay over coffee at a new café and I’ll find it’s not quite right, or that it needs a slight reshaping.

5 | Find direction

So you’ve got all this creative energy, you’ve prepped your tools and workspace, and you’re ready to commit some time to developing a true practice. Now you’ll need direction.

At first, allow yourself to spend some time spinning your wheels and noticing your work habits, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and cycles. Writers can try working from prompts. Makers of all kinds can keep a visual or written record of observations or creative sparks, then look for patterns that can be developed further. Use of collage or found parts can help reveal connective tissues between disparate subjects.

The point is to first capture what grabs you, then allow it to grab you back. Once you get through this initial experimentation phase, identify a project for yourself that will take you a while to complete – say, three or four weeks. An actual commitment that will require you to optimize your time management and incorporate additional tips in this list.

This timeline is great because achievement is key. If you can’t push a creative practice into the end zone of completion, you risk feeling defeated and abandoning your work. So challenge yourself, but be realistic. Even if you don’t love the outcome, completion can establish the foundation of a life-long practice.

6 | Capture creativity on the go

Once you’ve got a project in mind, you’ll want to nurture it. But creativity, much as we might like it to be so, is not easily domesticated. It’s more like a feral cat you’ll start feeding and eventually grow used to, but that won’t stop it from revealing its wild nature from time to time.

This is to say, sometimes you’ll have epiphanies at inappropriate times and places. You’ll tell yourself you’ll remember them later, but trust me when I say you will not. Therefore, you’ll need coping strategies. I write notes to myself on my phone when I’m out and about. Over the years, I’ve learned that barebones notes often don’t make sense later, so I try to label or categorize them by topic or project. I also capture inspiring images or artwork on my phone and email those to myself.

I’ve learned I have three risk activities, or situations in which I’m both more likely to have a good idea and more likely to forget it if I don’t immediately preserve it. These situations are taking a shower, falling asleep, and driving. None of which are conducive to writing. These are times when my brain and body are most relaxed and open, which invites the mind to expand into areas it doesn’t occupy when, say, talking on the phone or working.

So I do what any logical person would do: I get out of the shower mid-shampoo to write down the fleeting thought; I scribble in the dark on a notebook I keep on my nightstand; and I speak my thoughts into an app I can access without risking my life on the road.

7 | Creative time for all

Make your creative practice a family thing. I keep several small plastic tubs filled with creative project materials for my kids and get them out when I need to write and solitude isn’t possible. (Examples: marshmallows and toothpicks for making sculptures.)

To encourage this separate-but-together-time’s success, give each person their own “space” to do their work. (And don’t call it work. Call it “maker time” or “creation time,” or something that sounds more fun than work.) Set a timer for a length of time your child can handle developmentally. When the timer goes off, invite each person to share or present their work.

This communal creative time allows you to develop your work, familiarizes your child with his or her own creative process, emphasizes completion, and encourages positive family bonding around the arts. It will also instill in them respect for creative time and space, especially if they can glimpse the final product during “share time.”

8 | Control screen time

Usually this parenting advice is offered with regard to children. But let’s be honest: the same rules apply to adults. You know the drill. Sign out of Facebook, turn off your phone. Remove any and all sources of distraction.

9 | Seek support

Keeping the momentum going once you’ve started is crucial. Just like with diets, accountability yields success. But how does accountability translate in a creative practice?

An Instagram feed documenting process and progress works for some, especially visual artists. For others, sharing work with peers in a workshop, critique, or discussion setting drives them on. For writers, even getting feedback and support from a single reader is enough. For still others, publication, presentation, and recognition provide the support and accolades needed to continue.

Find ways to hold yourself accountable to your process and projects outside of yourself. Whatever motivates you and helps push you to the next level, incorporate it into your process.

You may end up carving yourself a new career.

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If you thought the arrival of your baby meant the end of fun, urban vacations, think again. With the right planning (and the right equipment), it's still possible to get up and go with your little ones on every adventure. That's why we love BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One, a soft, supportive baby carrier that's as comfortable for your baby as it is on your back.

And New York City is one of our favorite places to take it for a ride.

We partnered with NYC mama Neha Leela Ruch of MotherUntitled to share her favorite Big Apple hot spots for littles. If you and your family are headed East on your next vacation, here are the places you can't miss with kids.

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Neha with her family at the Union Square Greenmarket.

The Union Square Greenmarket

You'll love the ready availability of locally grown produce and handmade goods―your kids will love sampling the wares and taking advantage of all the conveniently located activities nearby. "I love the efficiency of the location on a slow morning!" Ruch says. After shopping, hit up the nearby playground, visit the Barnes and Noble kids' area across the street, or head to Union Square Play for a movement or dance class to burn off any remaining energy.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside

Another attraction worth the subway ride out of Manhattan is the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park. With year-round skating (ice in winter, roller in summer), a splash pad in the summer, and all of Prospect Park surrounding for more exploration, there's something to keep everyone entertained no matter when you visit.

The Seaglass Carousel
Have your camera ready for this stunning ride in the Battery Conservancy. Unlike a traditional carousel, the Seaglass moves riders on four turntables as LED light fixtures mimic the bioluminescence found under the sea. Take a ride before taking in the waterside views or having a picnic in Battery Park.

SEE

Neha out and about in NYC with her BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One.

Domino Park

One of the newest parks in NYC, this Brooklyn-based hangout is sure to become a fast favorite of locals and travelers alike. The reclaimed-material playground teaches kids about the sugar refining process with silos and chutes designed to resemble the actual factory that used to reside on the park's location. There's also a Fog Bridge, sports fields, fountains, a dog park (in case Rover is along for the trip!), and more you can walk and explore with your little one in their BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One.

Central Park + Central Park Zoo

While there are plenty of reasons to visit Central Park on your New York City vacation, the convenience might be one of the biggest. Ruch says, "We grab coffee and treats from the Tavern on the Green to-go stand, walk east to the pretty carousel, and then onward to the zoo, which has a little kids' petting section for the smallest babies but also a pretty significant proper zoo with penguins, seals and bears."

Allbee Baby

With a nearly 100 year old story, this family operated business on New York's Upper West Side is the place to stop if you need something mid-trip. With a thoughtful curation of the best brands, it's full of solutions for parents and kids (as well as a selection of products from BabyBjörn)!

EAT

Maman Café

Need a quick pick-me-up? Maman Cafe is a popular spot for your favorite coffee and a snack. "There are a handful of locations around the city, but each has a pretty feel while still being warm and welcoming," Ruch says. "It's an elegant part of the day even when I have two littles in tow." Snag an iced coffee and an almond croissant before popping your baby back in their BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One and heading off on your next adventure.

by CHLOE.

And when that moment comes in the midst of every trip where you realize everyone needs to eat something nutritious, by CHLOE is a great stop to find healthy options to satisfy everyone in the family. Vegan, plant-based, and all natural, it will keep you energized for the rest of your adventures in the City That Never Sleeps. (Make sure to try the avocado toast!)


Making the time to explore is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family―and yourself. And thanks to BabyBjörn, now everyone can come along for the ride.

This article is sponsored by BabyBjörn. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Sometimes inspiration just strikes.

Diana, our Motherly Experts Editor, had a moment just like that. The result was magic. "I was tucking my middle guy in, and he was all toddler-perfect... lost in a sea of blankets, so cute and little, and I just had this moment of, "wow, one day he is going to be a grown up, and someone else is going to love him..." And the rest is history :)" These poignant moments of motherhood touch the heart in immeasurable ways...balh able bla

After the tears have dried, this unique story, inspired by the overflow of love in a mother's heart, stays with you for a loooong time and is bound to resonate in your heart fas long as a mother's love remains for her child, long after they've left home. That's motherly. And, that's Motherly.

"To the person who falls in love with my son" went viral.

This video, more than the sum of its parts, has provided an overall experience that has transcended its concept, writing, execution, quality of craft—and heart.

• It has been viewed 26,387,039 times.


• It has reached 58,287,532 people.


• It has garnered 2,363,086 social engagements (comments, likes, and shares).


This video elevates what is in plain sight to something timeless, universal, and memorable. Bound to live in the heart of anyone who views it, this video is destined for legend in the parenting community online. Our innovative strategy, tactics and creativity combine to succeed at truly engaging our community.

Motherly not only has over 3X the engagement of competitors in the parenting space but also across women's interest and lifestyle categories.

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS VS. ENGAGEMENT RATE

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With a clean and direct design aesthetic, our content does not get lost in the overload that is so endemic to other brands. Our unique sense of honesty and our authentic and emotional content connect with our community of engaged Millennial moms across channels to deliver results that empower and inspire. Through the powerful lens of motherhood, our content generates mom-to-mom sharing and valuable conversation, unlike any other brand.




Meet Motherly.
We are a community–driven lifestyle brand redefining motherhood. Motherly occupies a unique position in the media landscape, sitting at the intersection of parenting, lifestyle and women's interests to address her entire life and connect her more fully.

At Motherly we have a voice.

We are the only positive, encouraging parenting site reaching and influencing Millennial moms when they are looking for and absorbing more information, products and services than during any other life transition. How we think, act, and express ourselves is why we have built such a strong community of mamas.

Our community engages across all platforms, at Motherly, on Instagram and on Facebook, because mamas are on the move.

Motherly supports mamas through their entire parenthood journey, delivering women-centric content that addresses her whole lifestyle through thousands of articles, images, videos and classes each month with Mom-to-mom insights, inspiration and empowerment.

Our innovative strategy, tactics and creativity combine to succeed at truly engaging our community.

With a clean and direct design aesthetic, our content does not get lost in the overload that is so endemic to other brands. Our approach to content and how it is presented crosses all platforms for a cohesive and truly branded aesthetic that is fresh, clear and direct, always light and enlightening.

With a unique sense of honesty, our authentic and emotional content connects with our community of engaged Millennial moms across channels to deliver results that empower and inspire. Through the powerful lens of motherhood, our content generates mom-to-mom sharing and valuable conversation, unlike any other brand.

Motherly not only has over 3X the engagement of competitors in the parenting space but also across women's interest and lifestyle categories.


FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS VS. ENGAGEMENT RATE

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Sources: Facebook Analytics 2018


The synergy of our compelling content, pure aesthetic and fully engaged community has afforded us staggering fan growth.

In October, 2017, we doubled down on our engagement strategy to reach our community with our innovative approach to content and realized a stunning fan growth of 442% over the following twelve months.



That "something" extra...

Through our social presence—encompassing concept, creativity, content, structure, visual design, functionality and interactivity—women are encouraged and have the confidence to know, "I've got this". As savvy, digital natives, Millennial mamas take Motherly everywhere for information, inspiration, and empowerment—we are the brand that helps her redefine what it means to be motherly, every day.

Vacationing with a baby isn't for the faint of heart. But while it typically means more luggage (hello, travel-friendly bassinets, clothes for all seasons, and more diapers than you can shake a boarding pass at!), it's still possible to have a fun, memorable adventure with your little ones―especially with the right equipment.

Our favorite family vacation saver? The right baby carrier, like BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One Air. The breathable, mesh design is perfect for a variety of climates, while the supportive construction will help you stay comfortable while you trek across your favorite destination.

One of our favorite family-friendly locales? Los Angeles. That's why we teamed up with LA mama extraordinaire Magin Birrenkott to share the best places to play in La-La Land when you have little ones in tow.

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La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
Perfect for your little dinosaur lovers, the famous Tar Pits and art museum feature something for everyone. Take the tar pit tour to learn more about excavation, or simply let the little ones run around the park to see the variety of sculptures. The museum features a Fossil Lab, atrium, and even a 3D theater to learn more. "You can have lunch and play on the grassy areas around the tar pits and fossil areas, as well as grab a coffee and stroll through the different art exhibits around the park," Birrenkott recommends.

Kidspace Children's Museum
Who says vacation can't also be educational? This incredible children's museum helps your little ones learn about everything from physics to biology―all through the power of play. Babies can face out in the Baby Carrier One so they'll have plenty to look at while staying snuggled up to you. Bigger kids will love experiencing the indoor and outdoor exhibits. Note: Several attractions feature water play, so pack a spare outfit for any kids who like to get messy.

Magin navigating a day out in LA with two little people and one free hand, thanks to the BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One Air.

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Lions, tigers, bears...and more! The LA Zoo is home to a variety of animals from around the world―all of which your kiddos will love to admire. The bird show and giraffe feedings are especially popular hits. "Make sure to plan the short trek to the giraffes between 11:00-12:00 and 2:30-3:30. For $5 you get three branches and are able to feed them up close and personal!" Birrenkott says.

Move your little one to your back in the Baby Carrior One Air so they can get close to the action too. "We like to go at the very beginning since they can get full and sometimes walk away if there were too many people in front of you." After letting the kids run out their energy in the zoo, the Botanical Gardens make the perfect spot to relax and have lunch. "There's a beautiful grassy area that's quiet where you can set a blanket and enjoy the beautiful LA weather. And for us struggling tired mamas, there's a coffee shop that has the most amazing lattes and cappuccinos. Huge win."

SEE

The El Capitan Theatre

More than just a must-see on your tour of Hollywood, the El Capitan Theatre is an excellent spot for family memories. There are "Tiny Tot Tuesdays" for families with younger children (AKA, no one will give you a dirty look if your kiddo wants to sing along...or just throws a tantrum mid-show), and all of the family-friendly movies feature something extra, whether it's live Disney cast members, gift bags, or extra effects like confetti. Check the website to find out what is showing during your trip.

Aquarium of the Pacific
If your kids are fans of Finding Dory, they're going to love the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. With everything from penguins to sea otters to sharks (not to mention millions of fish in every shape, size, color), there's something to catch the eye of everyone in your family. The aquarium also features seasonal festivals and events, so check the calendar during your visit to make sure you don't miss their best shows. As for your littlest family members, they'll enjoy a comfy ride through the aquarium in their carrier.

"Our weather is all over the place sometimes, but in the BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One Air, he didn't get sweaty at all!" Birrenkott says. "Plus, after two days of activities, my back is in one piece. I can babywear him all the time now!"

Traveling Tikes
Forget something at home? Traveling Tikes on Santa Monica Boulevard is the perfect spot to scoop up any baby gear that didn't make it into your suitcase―including the BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One Air for easier travel around town. One other store we love? KIDSLAND on Wilshire Boulevard.


Making the time to explore is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family―and yourself. And thanks to BabyBjörn, now everyone can come along for the ride.

This article is sponsored by BabyBjörn. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

If there's anything better than dressing your kids up in adorable holiday outfits, it's gotta be matching them.

We rounded up seven of our favorite looks for this season. 🎁

1. Classic Christmas for kids

Go crisp, clean, classic and Christmassy with a Short Sleeve Smocked Holiday Dress from Feltman Brothers.

Short Sleeve Smocked Holiday Dress, Feltman Brothers, $67.95

BUY

Classic Christmas made modern for mama

Match your cotton cutie in a crisp and modern shirtdress that can last you far beyond Christmas.

Kowtow Monologue Shirt Dress, Garmentory, $93.00

BUY

2. Nordic-themed sweater set

Get cozy + complimentary with black and red family sweaters that you can wear all winter long.

Oh Sno Happy Christmas Collection, Hanna Andersson, $68 - $92

BUY

3. Matchy matchy mommy

A super-affordable option for the matchy matchy mama.

Emmababy Mommy and Me Matching Plaid Long Sleeve Shirt Dress + Princess Tulle Tutu Dress, $14.99

BUY

4. Mommy + me tutus

Tutus make everything, including the holidays, a bit more magical. Grab a matching set to enjoy a twirl with your girl.

Mommy and Me Tulle Tutus, Etsy, $110.00

BUY

5. The perfect plaid dress

Quick! This one is perfect, grab it fast.

Ruffle Trim Babydoll Dress for Toddler Girls, Old Navy, $20.00

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Mama's plaid

Mama deserves ruffles and plaid, too.

Relaxed Plaid Twill Classic Shirt, $24.00, Old Navy

BUY

6. Best sweater set yet

Moms and sons can play match-up, too. Grab a sweater set you can return to the entire season.

Festivewear Sweater Sets, Boden, $55.00-$130.00

BUY

7. Big blue

Light up the night with Santa's sleigh and a sleek little number for mama.

Festive Big Applique Dress, Boden, $48.00

BUY

Blue for you, too

The perfect LBD (little blue dress).

Flippy Pencil Dress, Boden, $170.00

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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