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To Be Creative and A Mother

How does being a mother affect a creative woman, especially someone engaged in a career in the arts?

Caren McCaleb in Lost In Living“The motherhood thing – I think of it like a marathon, except a marathon is over in a day. It’s an endurance test and it’s something you absolutely can’t stop for a second.

“Part of what makes it really cool and interesting is almost anything [besides motherhood] you commit to, you can take a breather.”

Caren McCaleb “is an award winning documentary editor and filmmaker. Her work has shown on PBS, A&E, and at numerous film festivals including Sundance, AFIFest, and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films.” [From her site:]

The image is from a new documentary Lost in Living – “the story of four extraordinary women who share their personal triumphs and struggles as mothers and as artists and who uniquely define for themselves what it means to be a woman in our modern world.” [From statement by Director Mary Trunk.]

“Behind the domestic curtain of motherhood, where the creative impulse can flourish or languish, are four women determined to make a go of it. Filmed over seven years, Lost In Living, confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes.

“The complex realities of family life unfold in this documentary film about the messy intersection of motherhood and artistic expression.”

From Lost in Living site [where you can buy the DVD of this and other films]

Also see their Facebook page.

Here is a trailer:

Psychologist and writer Susan K. Perry interviewed the director, and comments in her article that the movie “delves powerfully into the conflicting emotions and life choices of parents, especially mothers, who are also writers or artists” and that she was deeply moved when she watched it.

Dr. Perry asked, “What was your initial inspiration for this film?”

Mary Trunk“I moved to Los Angeles when my daughter was one and a half. I was in the process of completing my first documentary film, so I was struggling with caring for my daughter and editing in small bits while she slept and napped. My husband was working out of town Monday through Friday. And frankly I am not exactly the maternal type. I couldn’t help but wonder how other mothers were handling this situation.

“I joined mommy and me groups, found a nursery school and tried to connect with other mothers. That certainly fed the need for some kind of adult interaction. But I did not meet anyone who was trying to make art while also raising a child. That’s when I thought I should just put it out there as a project/film and see if I can find people.”

Read more in Can Moms Make Art? by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.

Over the years, I have collected a number of comments by women artists on being a mother.

Here are some quotes by writer Cortney Davis:

Cortney Davis“Like many women who were writers and something else, I think about how I might have been a better mother if I wasn’t a writer. It’s tough, working fulltime and going to school at the same time. Looking back, I see myself as a very preoccupied mother. I was still trying to find my own way in life during a time when my kids were doing the same.

“Would I have been a better mother if I hadn’t felt this drive to be something else? I don’t know that it was a choice. I don’t think I could stop being a writer. I do it in spite of myself. If I wasn’t a nurse, I would still be a writer, and if I wasn’t a mother, I would still be a writer. Yet both those roles influenced my writing profoundly.

“Being a poet helped. I wrote at night after they were in bed, and wrote on the run. I would carry a poem around and work on it when I could. My children were often in my poems, which focused on interactions between family and life. It’s funny: writing is considered a hobby for women, relegated to their spare time, whereas for men, it’s a career. For me, writing is my avocation.”

From interview: Mothers Who Write: Cortney Davis by Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D.

Photo from

Books by Cortney Davis

Continued in Part 2 of this post.


To Be Creative and A Mother

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). To Be Creative and A Mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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