making the impossible possible: creating with kids featuring Rachel Denbow & Amanda Oaks

magic blueberry bears by zukzuk - click image to view more

Many new moms take advantage of the time their children are small to do amazing work of their own. Ya know, work that doesn’t involve pushing an 8 pound infant out of your nether regions and then nursing its every need for 3 years.

But many other moms look at the task of nurturing engaged, adjusted children as overwhelming enough without adding the stress and expectations of personal concerns like crafting, writing, or starting a business.

Trust me, I understand both sides. Both kinds of moms are heroines in my book.

Though, if you’re here – and you’re a newish mom, I’m willing to bet you’d like to start introducing some self-love, in the form of creative work, into your life.

So, instead of giving you any more crazy advice of my own, I asked two of the most productive moms I know to give me the low down on how they create for themselves while creating with their kids.

Rachel Denbow is the sassy vintage momma behind Smile & Wave and Amanda Oaks is the warmhearted advocate behind Kind Over Matter. Both have a baby and a bigger kid home with them full-time. Both do extraordinary work. What’s their secret?

Rachel & family via Flickr

I asked Rachel:

It’s obvious that you adore your kids and put them at the center of your world. But with all the creative goodness you produce, I’m thinking they play a part in it! How do you play with your kids in a way that builds your creative momentum?

Rachel said:

I think a lot of my project ideas come from imagining ways to make their lives more fun or their environments more conducive to creative play.

One wall of their new shared room was born out of my desire to bring home vintage chalkboards for them to draw on. What was a fun purchase for my kids on a few random occasions has now become a grand focal point in their room that not only looks interesting but is interactive.

My kids have given me the opportunity to work with materials and ideas I would have never had a reason to work with otherwise and in return, I hope I’m teaching them to think outside the box.

A ha! You don’t have to separate your making from your kids’ making. Making something beautiful, engaging, and full of expression is a family affair.

What works for you as a mom might just work for your kids too. No need to detach your creating from theirs.

Amanda & Mr. Kind Over Matter via Flickr

Might Amanda say something similar?

I knew she had a penchant for take camera phone pics – just like I do – so I thought perhaps she’d know of other fun ways to create when you can’t concentrate.

I asked:

What are some other easy things you do to kind of stretch your creativity when you can’t focus on a big task?

Amanda said, “I play.”

My kids are great facilitators to my creativity.

Watching them live and go like they do, how they play and playing with them daily, it totally stretches my imagination. Over the years I’ve unlocked different levels of my creativity by playing, by teaching myself things.

By playing with paint or paper, creating poetry, entertaining myself with graphics and web designs, they are all hobbies for me. I really think that most creative people are kids at heart.

I think that it’s my kids’ creativity that stretches mine in a way nothing else really can. Not only does it energize my creativity but it also keeps our lives joyful.

So when you’re stuck just walk away, give yourself time to play to rediscover the magic and what your passionate about and also the magic in your everyday. Because ultimately what we want to get to is our work becoming our play, right?

Right, Amanda. Sounds good to me!

Playing is part of the creative process. You can’t take yourself – or your art – too seriously when creating is a game.

So not only can we include our own creative time in our kids’ creative time but we can use their creativity to stretch our own. Beautiful!

lola - 2 1/2 years old

This is very similar to my own experience. While my work is generally done in the times I’m not actively parenting, I do find other ways of being creative and modeling a creative life when I am momming it up.

I’ve acquired 3 progressively more sophisticated cameras and numerous camera phone apps since Lola was born. My interest and skill (whatever is there…) definitely arises from the creative spark she has awakened in me. I have nearly 5,000 photos on my computer, most taken after her birth, almost all taken by me, the vast majority of which are pictures of her and our mutual environment.

It’s my work, it’s my play, it’s my creative outlet. Without her, it likely wouldn’t exist.

Our children and the amount of time we devote to them don’t need to be obstacles to our creating. They can be – and are – assets.

The child you created may just be the greatest asset to your own creativity.

The full interviews with Rachel & Amanda are part of The Art of Action, a digital program for finding your initiative & making big stuff happen. Click here to find out how to join this community.

Find Rachel on her blog and on Twitter.
Find Amanda on her blog and on Twitter.

8 thoughts on “making the impossible possible: creating with kids featuring Rachel Denbow & Amanda Oaks

  1. Great post and interview! I have a 3.5 year-old, and I think as a new mom I was so afraid to embrace those parts of me that yearned to create. I felt that my whole focus should be on parenting. Slowly I started to learn that embracing those parts of me, and allowing myself time to create actually made me a better parent.

    I completely agree with Amanda when she said, “I think that it’s my kids’ creativity that stretches mine in a way nothing else really can. Not only does it energize my creativity but it also keeps our lives joyful.”

    Kids are the best excuse in the world to just play, imagine and dream big!

  2. Having no kids and being past the age that it will happen makes this post no less potent. I actually just this morning reminded myself that I need to mix it up a little and have some fun. Adults need play time whether or not we have kids and it is in that time that ideas tend to happen.
    The other lesson kids teach us is how to create-play without fear. They just put it out there with no worries that wearing mismatched socks or singing at the top of your lungs in public might be “wrong”. They just do it.
    Thanks Ladies for the reminders. We all need a little kid magic in our lives!

  3. Missy & Gwyn, thank you so much for your kind & thoughtful comments!

    Missy – “I felt that my whole focus should be on parenting. Slowly I started to learn that embracing those parts of me, and allowing myself time to create actually made me a better parent.” – I can relate with this so much. It took me about a year to realize that me stifling my creativity, was not only detrimental to myself as an artist but also as a parent. — Wise, wise words.

    Gwyn – Yes, I totally agree with you, before becoming a mama, play was essential to my joy. I used to work in home health care, the lady I took care of was a spitfire at 93 – she & I had an absolute BALL every single day, Mon-Fri, laughing, joking, just PLAYING – I feel that her embracing that element of herself was not only vital to her quality of life but those that took care of her. It was such a pleasure to be in her presence. Embracing Silly takes courage… watching children, anyone at any age embody it, is welcoming & magical! — One big YES!

    Thank you Tara! You are an absolute rockstar, big love to you! xox

  4. great article. i linked over from Rachel’s site, and had to give you guys a thumbs up. i’ve had kids in my life for over 10 years now, of all ages (four of my own, plus three full-time stepkids, plus teaching!) and i can’t begin to express how much having all of their joy and fun and creativity in my life has inspired, awed, and saved me from the life of a dull and boring academic. their agile minds and ways of thinking around problems have sparked my own creative process countless times. my youngest isn’t yet two, so i have a lot of ‘kidding’ around left to do!
    play on mommies!

  5. Awesome article! I have a 4 year old and 2 year old (both very curious boys with boundless energy) and this has been a constant struggle for me. I was so scared to let them watercolor because I was afraid my entire dining room would look like a tye dye shirt! But, when I finally let them do it, they were incredibly calm!!! I was so surprised. And, they created some of the most amazing paintings. It inspired me to pick up painting again and exploring other creative outlets. It is SO TRUE. Our children are like gasoline for our creative fires! Pour it on!

  6. I totally agree! My kids are 8 and 11 now, but when they were much smaller, we did projects together all the time. It is so exciting and energizing creating with them.

  7. I started my blog and realised I needed to be creative (again) on a daily basis when my baby was about 9 months old and my older son was just turning 3. I returned to work part time 3 months later and have been trying to juggle it all in the 14 months since!

    I’m sad I didn’t start right off the bat because it’s something that’s good for me and I need ‘mommy time’ and those parts of me that got pushed aside. If you’re a new mom debating embarking on anything that is a passion for you, stop thinking and just do it. When you want something badly enough you will find a way to make it work. Even if that means you craft late into the wee hours and function slightly sleep deprived . . . oh wait that’s just how I do it 😉

  8. Ahh.. I can totally relate to this! My kids are 5, 4, 2, and 6 mos. People ask me all the time, “how do you find the time?” If it is something you LOVE you will!! Is every day perfectly balanced? -No. There are definetely days that everything doesn’t get done. But I know I am much more cheerful and happy when I’m able to both of what I love (running my business and being full time Mom)

    So every day is not perfect but I honestly can’t imagine any other way.
    It’s the best feeling in the world to go to bed REALLY tired but REALLY happy! :)

    -actually I can imagine one other way.. hubby staying home full time to help with the kids (Tara you inspire me!!)

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