Some scrambled thoughts on routines, creativity and gratitude

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This blog is Day Nine of my 30 days of motherhood blogging challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m sharing diary-style snippets of my life as a working mum to one cheeky toddler. Consider this part creative experiment, part self-therapy. Feel free to play along at home! You can read days one to eight here.

Back to the grind today. Tom and I both worked and Zoey went to daycare.

Zoey started stirring at 5.15 am, but thankfully stayed in bed until about 5.45 am. By that point, Tom was up, showered, dressed and cooking his breakfast. I was still in bed, cowering under the covers, my eyes stinging from tiredness. I got a decent sleep last night, but anything with a 5 on the clock is just too early!

Tom left at 6 am on the dot (he’s ever so punctual) so I forced myself out of bed. A few black teas later, I was awake and energised.

Normally, I walk Zoey to daycare, so getting myself ready in the morning involves minimal effort – think activewear and no make-up. But this morning I decided to shake up the routine. It’s getting too cold for our walk. I warm up quickly but Zoey bears the brunt of the cool wind.

Without the walk, we can leave half an hour later – just enough time for me to throw myself through the shower and make myself look semi-presentable. I still put Zoey in her pram in front of the telly during this process for peace of mind that she’s not climbing out the window while I’m getting ready.

This morning went pretty smoothly, although at one point I did have to climb into Zoey’s cot with her to physically trap her so I could tie up her fringe. Her hair hangs in her eyes without a hair tie, which I consider a bit of a hazard at daycare – I’d rather not have her running around with impaired vision. Refusing her hair tie is a new thing and one I’m gutted about, as it means we have to get her hair cut. I much prefer it when her hair is swept off her forehead and I can see her whole face! But you pick your battles… and trying to put a hair tie on a thrashing toddler is one I think I’ll lose.

Daycare mornings are always a bit rushed – we take it easy before 7 am, but then I kick into gear. Sometimes it feels like we don’t really ‘connect’ before I drop her off – I have visions of us sitting around and reading together all morning, bonding meaningfully before we’re apart for the day. Of course, it never works out that way – mostly because Zoey is close to banging the front door down by the time we leave. When she knows we’re going out, she wants to leave immediately!

As always, the drop-off went well – a quick cuddle goodbye and she’s off playing, while I linger awkwardly wanting just one more hug or kiss. No matter how I eager I am to get to work, I always feel a bit sad at daycare drop off. I love my work but I do miss her.

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On the drive home, I start thinking about our morning routine. Walking Zoey to daycare is a great way to fit in some exercise, but I know it’s not going to work during the cooler months.

I find I follow routines in bursts – usually of a few months – and then they start to become stale and I need to mix things up. Sometimes this makes me feel like a failure – like I don’t ‘stick’ to things for long enough. But mostly I think it’s about being responsive to change and moving with the seasons.

When I get home, I check my emails and see there’s a new one from a website I follow called Extraordinary Routines. How timely! I adore this website – it interviews famous creatives about their daily routines. The latest interview is with writer Austin Kleon and he shares a gem that perfectly fits my mood.

I think all routines are about aspiring rather than always executing.
— Austin Kleon

Yes! I’m a big believer in using routines to create positive habits and set powerful intentions for your day – to live in a proactive instead of reactive state. But if I’m not careful, I can let my adherence to that said routine influence my self-talk. The aspiration is just as important than the execution, if not more so.

Austin continues:

We’re so obsessed with life hacking and with becoming these productive, shining examples of ourselves, but so much of good creative work comes from being a person that has tensions in their life.
— Austin Kleon

Yes, yes, yes! Motherhood certainly creates tensions, especially when it comes to pursuing creative work. Like the one I described above – the tension between wanting to work and not wanting to say goodbye to Zoey at daycare. But Austin is so right – those tensions actually become creative inspiration and eventually turn into creative work, even if that’s not clear at the time.

This reminds me of another quote I stumbled across while reading The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood earlier this year.

I find balancing my creative and mothering sides so difficult. They are such a drain on my resources. On one hand, I find that writing lifts me up, motivates me to be a better mother. It is my own thing, something to be proud of. On the other hand, those energy consuming children are what inspires my writing, which closes the cycle. I can do this because and despite of them.
— Anonymous mother, quoted in The Rainbow Way

Obviously, it’s early days yet and my approach to mothering and creative work is going to go through several evolutions over the coming years, especially if/when we have another child.

For now, sites like Extraordinary Routines and books like The Rainbow Way help me to find an approach for each season – I find it so inspiring to read about how other creatives are showing up for their work despite the many, many distractions that life presents.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why I started this blogging challenge – to reveal a little of the ‘how’ behind the ‘what’, because that’s helped me so much in my own journey – getting a peek behind-the-scenes.

So often we’re bombarded by images of what people are doing, but with little to no explanation of how they are doing it. Of course, most of the time that’s none of my business. But sometimes I’m desperate to know the ins and outs, especially when I see mothers kicking ass in business or creative fields. I don’t want to know how because I want to judge or compare – I want to know how so I can pick up some tips and learn from their experiences. Or simply to understand that some people’s circumstances are extraordinary – and that’s okay, too.

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I think it’s so important that mums can be honest with each other about their daily realities. In the absence of a true village, we spend so much time viewing motherhood through screens – on Instagram or Facebook, in magazines, on the telly. Even when we show up to coffee groups, we often see other mothers at their best – they’re dressed and out of the house! Coffee group is a highlight of the day, a blissful hour of adult interaction, but then we all go home to mother (mostly) alone.

I’m already thinking about my next project after this challenge, which will hopefully be interviewing mothers about their everyday experiences. The good, the challenging, the wonderful and the mundane. Although nothing can replace that nourishing face-to-face time, I do think we can use writing to bridge that gap – providing we ditch the filter from time to time and give air to the challenges, not just the highlights.

Maybe we think that writing about the challenges will make them more challenging or that we’ll be giving them more attention than they deserve. But do you know the biggest thing I’ve learned from blogging about motherhood nine days straight now? It’s impossible to write about my day and not feel grateful for it – even if there were some really tough moments. This is HUGE. I’m almost certain it has something to do with the process of writing stuff down. I can’t wait to explore this further in a future blog post.

But for now, I think I’ve rambled enough for one day. Thanks for reading (if you made it this far!)

Until tomorrow,
Jess x