Welcome to Week 18 of Motherhood by Design – the series where mothers who also run creative businesses share their inspirations and their experiences juggling the demands of raising children while growing a creative career.
"If I am exhausted or stressed, I cannot create. Honestly, I cry sometimes when I can’t get into my studio due to the demands of motherhood. But, that doesn’t mean I will ever give up or stop trying to follow my dreams."
Carrie Schmitt's mantra is "give thanks for unknown blessings already on the way." She is a mother first and foremost, but also an artist, an author, and a teacher who found her true calling when faced with a debilitating illness. Though her path to a creative career was not easy, she's embraced the the beauty (and the tears) it has brought into her life.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Carrie - can you please describe your family?
My husband, Bob, and I have a blended family of five children, Emma (18), Skylar (17), Sophie (16), Blane (11) and Nora (6).
What is your business?
I am a fulltime artist who sells original art, prints, greeting cards, painted yoga mats and more. I also license my art with several companies, including Dianoche Designs, Hallmark, teNeues Publishing and Woodmansterne. My first art book, Painted Blossoms: Creating Expressive Flower Art with Mixed Media, will be released in June with North Light Books and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
My childhood was quite idyllic thanks to my loving and devoted parents. I spent my days playing imaginary games outside, swimming, and playing sports. My parents weaved creativity into everything we did, even while waiting for food at restaurants or riding in the car. My mother loved to make every day special, especially holidays, and was always decorating our home to fit the season.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
Both my parents are creative, and we did many creative projects on a daily basis in our house. My father took an artistic approach to landscaping, gardening and interior design, while my mother did everything with an artistic flair. She always came up with the most creative ideas for school projects and birthday parties. Watching them both live artistically really inspired me. It was a lifestyle and way to approach everything in life. They both also have some of the strongest work ethics I have ever seen and applied that to everything they did as well.
When you were a child, did you have ideas about your own future as a mother? Was motherhood something you’d always imagined for yourself, or is it an idea you grew into later in life?
I always wanted to be a mother. My brother and sister were 8 and 9 years younger than I, and I felt like they were my babies. I loved them in a very maternal way and used to say to my mom, “How were we ever happy before Danny and Erin were born?” They were such a joy to watch grow up. I had so much fun playing with them and teaching them how to play sports and learn things.
In your early years of motherhood, did you have/make time for your creative pursuits, or was your creative work put aside for a while? If the latter, when did you pick it back up?
I was focused on my children when they were little and found ways to incorporate creativity into our lives. We wrote and performed plays with friends, did crafts, and had creative birthday celebrations.
I think without a strong support system or financial means to hire help, having time to create can be a huge challenge and frustration. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t pick up a paintbrush for the entire first year. It’s not something I can just do—it really requires self-care. If I am exhausted or stressed, I cannot create. Honestly, I cry sometimes when I can’t get into my studio due to the demands of motherhood. But, that doesn’t mean I will ever give up or stop trying to follow my dreams.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I started my creative business after becoming a mother in a non-traditional way, which I share below.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
I developed a life-threatening allergy to heat in 2009 and was stuck indoors for several months during the hot summer in the Midwest. I could also barely move my body without reacting to my own body heat. This was quite devastating.
On the flip side, this also meant I couldn’t do any housework, carpooling, laundry or any of the less than glamorous mom tasks that fill up our days. My husband and kids went about their lives, and I was often left home alone with more free time than I had ever had since having children, So, I decided to start painting as a therapeutic way to deal with the emotional challenges from my condition. Despite hating being allergic to heat due to its daily limitations, I’m grateful that the universe opened up this remarkable opportunity for me to find my passion and gave me the time to nurture it.
Looking back, I now recognize all the signs from the past that were telling me that art was my passion. Now it seems so obvious! But, I didn’t think being an artist was a possibility so I stifled my passion. I didn’t believe in myself enough at the time to follow my heart’s desires.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
The truth in my experience? There is no balance! There is a current in my life that I surrender to on a daily basis! I try to go with the flow—resistance only leads to stress and unhappiness. Some days I paint a lot. Other days I don’t even touch a paintbrush. I surrender to my priorities, which are my children and their needs while finding time to create as an act of self-love (which is equally important).
I check in with myself often about what my needs are and my children’s and work our schedules out as best I can. As long as I am doing the best I can and using my time wisely, what more can anyone expect? That being said, motherhood is more than a full-time job. It is an all encompassing, neverending ocean that knows no limits. It can be frustrating and a struggle to find time to get everything done.
Having support to care for the house and children would be AMAZING. This is not my situation—if I could afford it I would hire some help. I wish I had family nearby, but I do not. I just do the best I can knowing that in a blink of an eye my children will be grown, and I can’t get this time back. I’m embracing this messy, busy, overwhelming life because this is what I want - my kids and my art and all the challenges and beauty that comes with it.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
My children inspire me on a daily basis in many tangible ways. They are my guides. They remind me to be brave and be open to new things. They remind me to be free and silly and goofy in my art and life.
My 6 year old, Nora, often helps me start my paintings. Watching her paint is amazing. She paints so freely with no judgment. She is just enjoying the moment without caring what it looks like. She also thinks everything she creates is awesome. I try to imitate her free brushstrokes and confident attitude.
As far as time management, I have short bursts of time to get my work done. I work strange hours—early in the morning, late nights and weekends. This makes me quite productive, and I am able to get a lot done in a little amount of time!
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
Motherhood hasn’t really affected my products except that I think my floral paintings are dreamy in girl’s rooms and is something that can grow with them into their adult spaces. I haven’t adapted my products because of motherhood though.
While painting, my children do remind me that there is beauty in surrendering, letting go and being wild and free when I create (which is how they do!) so I try to capture this energy that we sometimes can lose as adults. I am constantly calling upon the wild within and want more of this energy in my art.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
My children remind me to stay playful and in the moment. I admire how brave they are in their daily lives—trying new things, dreaming big and being brave. They are great role models for me and keep me in touch with that pure, untamed, creative well that lives within all of us.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
My children see me living my dream and all the struggles, rewards, risk taking and hard work that it takes to do this.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope they pursue their passions and always work toward their goals. I hope they see how our lives are about connecting with others, spreading positivity and enjoying each step of the journey.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Get help any way you can, believe you deserve time for yourself and that everyone benefits when you practice self-love and self-care, simplify your life as much as possible, and embrace the beauty in the chaos!
When I began practicing yoga, I realized the importance and need in our lives to really simplify. We began as a family weeding out what we don’t need or only like a little to make more time for what we truly love. This can mean making small changes (waking up a little bit earlier to practice yoga daily, cutting back on some after school activities) to major ones (homeschooling, selling our home and large yard that we feel is taking too much of our time to care for). We want to focus our energy, attention and finances on what we are passionate about and makes us feel most alive.
Finally, I try daily to operate from a place of deep gratitude no matter what the day brings. I know someday I will have more time and then I will miss being engulfed in these beautiful children’s lives so I’m savoring every minute—all the mess, stress, beauty, and staying focused on gratitude. After working in a children’s hospital and watching those warrior children fight for their lives while their parents stood guard over them and loved them in the deepest way possible, I never take my family for granted or my time with them.
Thank you so much, Carrie, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Carrie in the following places: