Moms are superheroes. I know super moms. I’m in awe of them. I mean that, 100%. They dedicate a huge portion of their lives to a cause bigger than themselves, bettering the world by teaching their children important lessons, and by raising their children to be polite, grateful, educated, good human beings. I know my mom spent my formative years trying to teach me—through both example and instruction—everything I’d need to know to succeed on my own. (Unfortunately, I didn’t always listen to her…but that’s another story).
It’s easy to recount the practical lessons my mom taught me: from how to tie my shoes, to how to cook spaghetti, to how to make my bed. But the truth is, the most important lessons mothers teach go way beyond any kind of domestic, technical, or workplace skill.
In fact, as I’ve learned more about creativity, and its ability to help us live happier, more meaningful lives, I’ve realized that a lot of the truths that benefit creatives the most are actually lessons that mothers have been teaching all along.
(You hear that, Mom? You were right! Happy Mother’s Day.)
The 4 lessons creative people can learn from their moms
While there are many meaningful lessons creative people can learn from their moms, I’ve chosen to focus on 4 of them that have really hit me hard lately. No matter what “mother” means in your life right now, these are lessons that all creatives can benefit from in one way or another.
Mothers display incredible perseverance even before their kids are in their arms. Whether they endure 9 months of pregnancy and hours of labor, or years of waiting until they complete the adoption process, mothers push through. They hold out. They keep going. Whether they “feel up to it” on any given day is practically irrelevant. They’re doing this for their kids—the kids they don’t even have yet, but already love.
When the kids arrive, the perseverance continues. Sleepless nights, endless feedings, constantly cleaning, mountains of laundry, careers, community responsibilities. The world doesn’t slow down because another baby was brought into the world; mothers just somehow learn to keep pace and persevere. They work when they’re sick, when they’re tired, when they’re hungry, and when they’re overwhelmed.
And it’s not just the outside world mothers have to endure: it’s their own minds. It’s not uncommon for mothers to feel like they’re failing their kids, or like they aren’t doing enough. Most people recognize that mothers face a lot of pressure to be active, involved parents (even more so than fathers). And yet, mothers push even through this, still caring for their kids even through feelings of inadequacy or discouragement.
Creatives could really learn a lot from moms when it comes to perseverance. Creative work can be taxing and draining. It requires focus—sometimes more focus than your surroundings allow. Sticking with a creative project can sometimes seem like it’s not worth it, even though it probably is.
Like mothers, creatives also tend to be hard on themselves. Many creatives are also perfectionists, and they struggle to feel like their work has real value or meaning if it’s not absolutely flawless. The problem with that is that nothing (and no one) is perfect. That’s a depressing thought if you’re clinging to perfectionism. In fact, it might be enough to make you want to throw in the towel prematurely.
Take it from mothers: you can do more than you think you can. Even if you feel like your creativity has dried up, you’ll never be as good as the other guy, or you’ve messed up in countless ways, you can still keep going. Even if you’re having a terrible day and nothing’s going right and you really just feel like going back to bed…you can choose to persevere.
Moms do it every day. You can do it, too.
Find inspiration everywhere
If there’s one thing almost all seasoned mothers will tell you, it’s that time flies by with your kids. Sure, individual days can feel like they last forever (“Is it bedtime yet?”) but ultimately, the years pass by pretty quickly. Soon, the babies are little kids, the little kids are teenagers, and the teenagers are grown and gone.
With this passing of time often comes nostalgia for the little things. Ask any mom what she misses most about the previous stage of parenthood. Her answer might surprise you.
“I miss that newborn smell.”
“I miss her begging me for a bedtime story.”
“He used to be so excited to see me when he got home from school.”
“I miss them waking me up to tell me they made it home before curfew.”
It’s hard to appreciate these things fully while you’re in the thick of them, but ultimately, they are the things that bring joy to parenthood.
Creatives can benefit from trying to find the things that bring joy to their creative process. They can realize that inspiration is everywhere, if you know where (and how) to look for it. Any mother will tell you that little moments are precious, and that you should embrace them and enjoy them as much as you can. Find your inspiration there, in those moments.
Take time to slow down and to appreciate the world around you. Escape the chaos and tune into what makes you feel connected to the world and to the people in it. Stop taking advantage of the little things that could inspire, motivate, and uplift you. Instead, choose to see them, and use them to fuel your creativity and your happiness.
Remember who you are
It’s something my mother would yell at me as I ran out the door to go out with my friends as a teenager. I rolled my eyes at it then (I rolled my eyes a lot as a teenager), but now, I think “remember who you are” is a sentiment I need more than ever, especially in my work as a creative.
I think that, to a certain extent, mothers know their children on a different level than anyone else ever could. Mothers see their children at their most vulnerable moments. And somehow, mothers have a tendency to see the good in their children, even if others can’t.
Remembering who you are is a lesson taught by mothers that has a couple profound implications for creatives. First, in creative work, authenticity is key. Trying to force something will almost always give you a subpar result. It’s important to keep your work centered and purposeful. Create things that matter to you. Create things that mean something to you. Be true to yourself and your beliefs as you create. As you do this, not only will your creations be more powerful (because they’re more authentic), but you will also find greater happiness in creating.
Second, for creatives, a sense of identity can do wonders when it comes to self-awareness and self-confidence. Knowing who you are will help you create what matters to you, and will help you use your creative talents to help you grow and develop as a person.
Of all the lessons creatives (or anyone else) can learn from their moms, how to love is the most important.
Mothers work long hours with no pay. They endure physical and emotional hardship, pushing themselves to limits they didn’t know they had. They put up with complaints, tantrums, messes, and picky eaters. And yet, they keep going.
In the traditional workplace, the conditions mothers work under would be unacceptable. Most people wouldn’t dream of staying at the current job if they weren’t getting paid for it. And yet, there’s an important lesson to be learned from mothers here: the best motivator is not money, power, or glory; it’s love.
Love is really the only possible explanation for why mothers do what they do. And, whether it makes sense or not, it works. Somehow, love keeps mothers going, even on those days when they would otherwise give up.
Love is the best motivator for anyone, but this is a particularly poignant lesson for creatives. It’s important to create from a place of love. Other motivations, like fear or ambition, leave you feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.
Create what you love, and do it from a place of love. Learn to love the process, with all your mistakes, triumphs, and losses. Realize that when you love what you’re doing, you’ll find more joy and fulfillment in the journey and in the result.
Most of us have been learning from our moms since day 1, but as we grow up and move forward, a lot of those lessons take on new, powerful meanings. Creatives, take these lessons you can learn from your mom to heart. Use them to help you discover your potential. Use them to help you create something meaningful, and ultimately, to “create happy” in your life. And don’t forget to thank your mom when you’re done.
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