The best thing I ever created was people.
When I created my people, two daughters two and a half years apart, I learned that they are the most complicated of all DIY projects. The highs don’t get higher, the lows don’t get lower, and the masterpieces don’t get any more beautiful.
I know, I know, parents can’t take all the credit. We have lots of help. But whether we want to share credit with God or science or a stork, once that little bundle is in our arms, we do a lot of creating.
If you’ve raised children, you’re a creator.
We are creators and problem solvers
We all are creative. That’s a fact. It just looks different for each of us. Some of us are arty or musical, or performative. Some of us make checklists, linear systems, and casseroles. Some of us are more expressive, out-of-the-box, and confident in our creativity. Some are quiet, timid, private idea noodlers.
But we ALL make things and solve problems. And this creativity gives us joy. It’s key to our flourishing and loving the best part of ourselves. We can see this in our kids, but sometimes we have difficulty seeing it in ourselves.
If you don’t FEEL creative at this stage in life, maybe it’s because all your creativity has been directed at creating a home for your offspring, opportunities for them, and Instagram material about them. As my daughters became independent, I felt my creative urges returning. I instinctively craved making something new. I craved making something new out of myself. And I wasn’t alone. My friends at the same stage felt a creative renaissance.
The process is the same whether we’re starting a soup recipe or a new life stage. It has four parts: imagine, think, decide and take action.
The 4 parts of creating a new life stage
Imagine a life where you are fulfilled by something and someone who doesn’t mess up your house and costs money 24/7.
It isn’t easy. But you can do it! What would you make if you had time to take a class or learn a new skill? Would you make music, throw pottery or start a book club? Recall ideas you have had while raising your children that you didn’t pursue.
You’re a different person now than when you had your first child. What tempts you today? Do you crave doing something alone or with others? Do you like the solitude of sewing or painting or the human energy of collaborations and creating events?
Imagine being so immersed in a joyful creation that you forget your kids haven’t returned your calls for a week. (I hear this is a possibility.)
To get your ideas flowing, here are things other parents started: a choral group, a hooked rug, a poem, a college reunion, a memoir, a composting co-op, a jewelry line, a Saturday clothing swap, a sculpture, a party, a soup recipe, a pop-up book club, a tea salon, a chain hug, a rolling pin collection, a fast casserole business, a think tank, a handstand contest, a yoga club, a dog grooming service, a garden club, a progressive dinner, a new dress, an urban youth center, a hairstyle, a cookbook, a YouTube tutorial, a comic book, a kindness movement, a donkey rescue, a women’s march, a room renovation, a workout studio, a GoFundMe campaign for a friend, a toaster cozy.
Once you have a delicious idea, think about how you would make room for your newly imagined creation — just the basics. Don’t scare yourself. Anything is possible if you start slow enough and small enough. (Remember, you didn’t pop out a fully grown 18-year-old.)
Here’s the trick: don’t overthink. When we think too much, we talk ourselves out of things. It’s how we’re wired.
Just consider the basic needs for your idea and look for any big deal breakers – for example, I wanted to start a tiny art gallery in Paris when my kids left, but my husband reminded me that we were married and he was not moving to Paris. So I changed my thinking and started making French-themed art and selling it online.
A friend wanted to start a book club to spend more time with interesting people. As she pondered it, she arrived at the idea of a flexibly scheduled pop-up book club. It would work in her life and allow fun for new acquaintances.
Decide to start your idea. Decide as if you’re on an island and send the boat away. You’re going to begin. You’re not deciding to move to Paris or quit your job; you’re just deciding to start. Deciding you’re going to move forward gives you a sense of power and control. It affirms that you can create one idea and a whole new satisfying life.
Finally, take action to anchor your decision. Open a file. Name your project. Outline your plan. Schedule a meeting. Sketch a sketch. Write the first page. Buy the supplies. Declare your decision to a friend or partner.
Action is an investment in your idea, and it changes everything. It gives you questions, answers, momentum, control, excitement, and a sense that your idea is now real.
Imagine, think, decide, and act. These four critical steps can be thrilling. And you can see how they all become easier when fewer people live with us and fewer schedules to consider. We can imagine bigger and more selfishly, think independently, decide confidently, and act with freedom.
I hope you get excited just thinking about it!
When our children take flight, our lives are every bit as pregnant with wonder as when we were carrying them or holding them for the first time. Only this time, we have more control, more choices, and fewer loads of laundry.
Finding our way back to ourselves is the key to creating the rest of our lives.
You can do it. You’ll find the next chapter of your story and the best way to be a role model for your children. Just start.
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