The title for this series, “Creating from Inside Motherhood,” comes from Writer, Maker, and Mother Suzi Banks Baum. Years ago she committed to “finding her fullest self while mothering,” and came to see, celebrate and value her own contribution to the world as a mother, even as she lamented how our culture devalues that work by mostly ignoring it.
She lamented too how often mothers are “cagey about telling you just how it is for them,” often believing that one must step out of one’s role as mother to engage in creative exploration and expression. Suzi teaches many things, and one of those is that motherhood isn’t a role one steps in or out of but is a state of being and the very well-spring of creativity.
Creative inquiry is an inside job. We are often inspired by the beauty of nature, art, and craft, color and materials. But it is in taking time, taking stock, and valuing or own sensations, perceptions, experiences that reveals to each of us our own voice, our own purpose. When we recognize, reclaim, integrate our orphaned experiences, we re-establish broken inner connections in ways that restore us to wholeness.
Suzi’s work speaks to the power of this recognition. Holding space for people to tap into their creativity, to see that space as sacred, to experience it as their best resource, and to then form communities for the sharing of the gifts from that resource has become her life’s work.
Suzi comes from a professional background in theatre, where “real life” for her was on stage, while her day jobs and her own couturier business set her squarely among talented creatives – in the costume shop of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and with the creative team of the Muppets in its heyday. She found no script when she turned fully to staying home to be a mother: “If I was going to find my fullest self while mothering, I knew I had to make it up as I went along.” It is no accident that her own creative breakthrough began with a knitting circle, where she began to knit herself together in a new way, and in company.
Suzi has gone on to create a variety of classes, programs, and venues for women. She is the producer of Out of the Mouths of Babes for the annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, the editor and publisher of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, and her soon-to-launch updated and improved website SuziBanksBaum.com is a host for her own writing and for the writing of over 50 other creative women. There you will find a variety of live and online experiences that lead women deep into the creative process and ways to join her community-her Rampant Sisterhood.
I also suggest that you visit her online shop where you will find Suzi’s magical hand-made Bespoke Journals, the perfect space for Creative Inquiry.
An Interview with Suzi Banks Baum
Sara: You shared with me that you began to create art around your “mothering schedule.” What did that begin to open up inside you? And, over the course of nine years, how has this work impacted your family life?
Suzi: Setting time to create apart from my mothering opened up many things for me. Companionship, skill, and comfort were the keys. I started by joining a knitting circle, which I belonged to for 15 years. This was my first step of “making” in circle with other women. I did not see this as anything other than a lifeline to my sanity in those days. But, when my kids were much older and I was enrolled in three different classes, we were all startled to realize they did well without me for a few hours at a time, and I did better being away from them, lost in the pleasure of writing or collaging. My husband coined the family mantra, “if it’s good for Mom, it’s good for all of us.” I began to see myself more as an individual – not rocket science, but a big discovery for me.
Some demands have eased as the kids are older. My husband and I share much more of the work of running our household. And when we are all together, we have learned to discuss how we’d all like to spend our time, when we will do things together, who needs what when and how we can support each other to the best of our ability.
The main impact has been on me. I see, celebrate and value my contribution to the world as a mother. Not only because of my two great kids, but because of the person I have grown to be: I care about the well-being of women and families. I am dedicated to supporting others in finding their creative voices and contributing to the changes our culture needs in order to see women’s contribution to our society as meaningful and worth more than one special day a year when people give us corsages and candy. We are making the invisible visible.
Sara: You encourage the women you work to write “from inside motherhood.” What is the significance of that for you, and what makes it such a challenge?
Suzi: “Writing from inside motherhood” speaks to all the ways women feel isolated while caught in the busyness of raising a family. Giving voice to that isolation and creating community from that place means you stay tethered to your responsibilities and also give voice to the experience of being a woman who mothers. We don’t know that much about the variety of women’s experiences of mothering because our culture does not value that experience. Someone has to do it and mothers are the first in line. To express from that emotionally rich and physically exhausting place ripe with boredom and beauty is not at all glamorous. Welcome to my life-and to the lives of about 43.5 million other women in the U.S.
One approach I use to writing from the inside is “mapping motherhood,” and I find it imbues women with sense of value that turns their experience into a resource for writing and art making. Suddenly, the blur of years, the span of hours, the sets of seasons have some form and from that form spring stories and the insight we gain from writing and sharing our stories. This mapping is not limited to women with children.
All of our lives would benefit from the perspective this practice offers.
SuziBanksBaum.com launches December 22nd, on the Winter Solstice.
Read Part I of this series HERE.
However you observe this season, may it bring healing and awakening to you and your world.