One of the biggest challenges in maintaining self-care, is becoming a parent. Your heart forever lives on the outside of your body the day you begin caring for a child. It challenges everything you ever did or thought up until that point in your life, and suddenly forces you to put someone else before yourself. You are forever changed, and this can become quite a struggle in the wellness of not only your body, but your mind and heart, as well.

And then, to make life more complicated, when you are also a parent with a passion you want to pursue, it becomes even harder to focus on your own wellness. You desperately search for any shred of individuality and identity in the midst of daily life pulling you in 100 different directions, demanding every ounce of your attention and then some.

This is me. Not only am I a mother, I am also an artist. These are two roles that require so much strength and energy that sometimes I find it hard to focus on one without feeling like I’m not giving enough to the other. Something that has helped me push through my hardest days, was turning to some of my favorite artists to ask them how they balance these two important roles, because art and family are both crucial parts of my life.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”  -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

As a mom, I have felt stretched thin, and thus uninspired with my work more often than not. So two years ago, I decided to attend an art retreat workshop with photographer and encaustic artist Leah Macdonald in Joshua Tree (and later that year, another one with her in Victoria, British Columbia).

When you feel overtired and overworked within your life, sometimes the best thing you can do is escape for a bit. And I’m so glad I did exactly that, because Leah revived something in me that I didn’t even know I had lost. Something that I have been desperately trying to hold onto since I left that desert: a passion for artistic expression as a way to survive this journey called life. And I’ll never forget what she told me that applied to parenting, making art, and just being a human: “At some point you have to break the rules and live your life.” Message received.

Not only am I a mother, I am also an artist. These are two roles that require so much strength and energy that sometimes I find it hard to focus on one without feeling like I’m not giving enough to the other.

Fast forward to last year when I had the opportunity to listen to photographer Sally Mann speak on her book tour for Hold Still. When I got to ask her a question during the Q&A portion about balancing family and art, she said something that really resonated with me: “Let them accommodate you.” And she is so right. As a parent, it’s easy to constantly find yourself accommodating everyone else. But it’s important to remember that you are a person, too, and sometimes you have to encourage your family to accommodate you for the sake of your own sanity and wellness.

Finally, I have had the pleasure of getting to know a brilliant artist locally, who is also a wonderful mother. Alia El-Bermani has been a beacon of light for me as I grasp for balance within motherhood and my career. In an older blog post she wrote when her children were much younger, she said, “I really believe there is nothing in life that should limit your art, and your art shouldn’t limit your life… with hard work, dedication and a clear heart open to both, your life will be full for having both.” And, “Your life experiences… will inform your work.”

Having conversations with the people you look up to can help you feel less alone in your life journey. Chances are, someone else has already experienced what you are going through and can offer some words of wisdom to help you navigate rocky terrain. If there is one thing I learned from the artist moms I look up to and had heartfelt discussions with, it’s that taking care of yourself first and fostering your own creativity, and accepting the necessary help to do those things, can be the key to living healthier (in both mind and body) and being more present for the ones you love.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” -Brené Brown

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Lea Ciceraro is a photographer, writer, wife of an artist, mama to three amazing kiddos, Childhood Apraxia of Speech advocate, parent of two rescue dogs, music loving, vintage adoring, local farmers' market supporting, film photography addicted, wanderluster, lover of life. She takes leaps of faith when she feels a burning passion for a dream that just won't quit, and tries to always live without regret. Life is too short to not do what makes you happy or strive to be the best version of yourself. Check out her website and find her photography on Instagram and Facebook.

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