Five must-read books for creative moms

By Robin Lanehurst

Many moms might believe they should—or might feel pressure to—give up their creative pursuits, because the combination of caregiving tasks and paid work responsibilities leaves little extra time. There are many books out there with parenting advice, many others with creativity tips, but the two topics seem rarely to meet in a way that feels relevant and relatable. So when you need a boost of motivation to keep creating, turn to one of the books on this list.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron  

Julia Cameron’s opus on sustaining a creative practice is a must-read for anyone in the arts—whether you’re dabbling in your free time or working as a professional. She offers a well-organized structure set up to explore. Her program is twelve weeks: just long enough that it will force you to stretch and sustain your creative muscles more than usual, but not so long that, once the program has begun, you’ll feel like there’s no end in sight. Something about this configuration gave me permission to ask for the time I needed from my wife—“Look, I’m doing this 12-week creativity course, so I need time every morning to complete the activities—can you get the kiddo and yourself ready for work?” As a person who considers herself spiritual but not religious, Cameron’s framework of creativity as being connected to a higher power never felt exclusionary.  

Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World, by Eve Rodsky

You probably recognize this author’s name from her first book, one very popular among moms seeking a more equal division of labor in their homes, Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution For When You Have Too Much To Do (And More Life to Live). A concept Rodsky introduces in Fair Play is the “Unicorn Space,” time in your (and your partner’s) days that you need dedicate to getting in touch with something bigger than yourself and digging deeper into your joy. There’s so much we tend to give up as moms—old visions of ourselves, time-consuming hobbies, free space to play— and finding your unicorn space is meant to counter that. My unicorn space has been writing and reading, something I’ve always enjoyed and felt passionate about ever since I was a kid. Rodsky walks through exercises to help drill down your unicorn space, and scripts to help you and your partner talk through this discovery together. Just as importantly, she includes space and time to reflect on why we don’t see this free, creative space as just as valuable as housework, paid work, or caregiving tasks.  

The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem, by Julie Phillips 

Speaking of Unicorn Space, Julie Phillips’ The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem profiles a group of artists and writers who all found their own way to balance their work and their familial lives. Phillips does an amazing job reserving judgment; she shares each artist’s stories and individual choices neutrally, simply presenting possibilities. There’s something about looking back at the lives of these amazing, creative, talented women that both helped me see myself in their stories and gave me permission to continue forging my own path as a mom and as an artist.  

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert  

Although Big Magic isn’t written specifically for an audience of mothers, Elizabeth Gilbert’s collection of wisdom for creatives really resonated with me. Motherhood often means making pressurized choices rooted in fear—being judged, not being good enough, keeping your child safe—and this fear so easily bleeds over into our creative lives. Gilbert offers an alternative—one of taking risks joyfully, creating without an end goal, and opening your mind to the beautiful ideas floating around in the ether, plucking out whatever comes at the right time. Although this is a fairly quick read, you’re going to want to linger—it’s the perfect book to read a few pages at a time for a burst of rejuvenation at the beginning or end of a day of parenting.  

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May 

When I became a mom, I really struggled to slow my daily pace to match my son’s needs. I think that many creative moms face the same challenge—a desire to push against the current season, to move forward, to get back to your creative life and activities the same way you did before becoming a mom. Katherine May’s Wintering is a beautiful meditation on slowing down, on allowing our lives and our bodies to experience seasons of rest, quiet, and retreat just like the natural world. This book will inspire you to embrace the season of motherhood you are in and live fully in the moment, knowing that your time to create will ebb and flow, but your creativity will always be a part of you.

Robin Lanehurst is a former public school teacher and counselor, whose pandemic pivot was leaving full-time work to stay home with her NICU grad—and trying to maintain her creative life along the way. She is currently at work on an epistolary memoir written to her late mother about the first year of her son’s life. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok.

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