Welcome to Week 46 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.
"A “job” doesn’t mean you have to put in 40 hours at a desk. You can pursue your passion. You can find where your deepest joy meets the world's greatest need."
While teaching high school social studies for 17 years, Sarah Rudell Beach taught mindfulness to students, teachers, and school administrators before taking a leave of absence to pursue teaching mindfulness full time. She writes about mindfulness, mindful teaching, and mindful parenting for the Huffington Post and she believes that teaching compassionate attention and self-care to students, teachers, parents and families can change the world.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Sarah – can you please describe your family?
My family consists of me, my husband, and my two children (my daughter is 9 and my son is 6).
What is your business?
My business is Brilliant Mindfulness, LLC. I teach mindfulness to teachers, students, parents, and families.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
I LOVED reading – I read every Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary book out there, as well as every Nancy Drew mystery! I also did competitive gymnastics through high school.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
Honestly, I have never described myself as a crafty or creative person! Which is funny, because looking back I can see lots of seeds of creativity as a child. For example, I loved to write. I wrote tons of books – I even wrote about 50+ typed pages of a novel when I was 15 (it was a terribly sappy teen romance!) I think I never labeled myself as “creative” because handwork and crafting were certainly not something I excelled at! I dreaded art classes.
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?
As a young child, I enjoyed playing house and pretending to be a mother, but once I was a teen and then certainly into my early adult years, I thought I would never become a mother! I always told myself I had so many ambitions and so many things I wanted to accomplish, and I thought children would “get in the way.” I was a bit taken aback by my strong desire for children when I hit my thirties. Motherhood is definitely something I “grew into” later in my life! And though it sounds sappy, I truly cannot imagine life being any different now. So much of the work I do now is based around helping mothers…. perhaps in part because the transition to motherhood was somewhat challenging for me.
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 really didn’t start writing again until my children were about 3 and 6. From the age of 23, until just a few months ago, I taught high school social studies full time, which didn’t leave a lot of time for other creative pursuits! But as I adjusted to motherhood, and as teaching became a bit easier the longer I did it, I had more time for my writing. And what I often wrote about was motherhood, about the challenges of parenting and about my struggles with postpartum depression. I wanted to let other parents know they were not alone, and I wanted to make it okay to talk about the less-than-perfect aspects of motherhood.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I just started my business a few months ago, and I started writing, as I stated above, when my children were little.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
I never in a million years would have envisioned myself as a business owner! For the longest time, I thought I would teach European history right up until the moment of my retirement! But practicing mindfulness and meditation were so life-changing for me, so powerful in helping me become the mother I wanted to be, I knew I had to share it with others.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
Well, since this business is so new to me, I actually feel it’s a lot easier to balance things now than when I was teaching full time. I love that I am home in the morning to take my kids to the bus stop, and that I am home when they get back from school. I took “long” maternity leaves (by US standards – 7 and 10 months) when my children were born, but I was working full time when they were still nursing and crawling…. It was exhausting! I ultimately found that I couldn’t write, teach, mother, and sleep – something had to give! I took the leap by taking a leave of absence from teaching. I now have 3-5 years to explore this new business. I’m only a few months in, but I am LOVING the freedom in my schedule. I teach online courses, and do on-site trainings with teachers, but I get to control my hours. I’ve been able to volunteer in my children’s classrooms and chaperone fieldtrips, which I hadn’t been able to do before.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
So much about motherhood informs the work I do. Jon Kabat-Zinn says that children are “live-in” Zen masters! They bring us completely into the present moment. They challenge our serenity and our worldview and our sanity in ways we never could imagine! They help us see the world in entirely new ways.
As I mentioned, I came to the practice of mindfulness after struggling with postpartum depression. Becoming a mother after several years of independence and professional success was very difficult for me. I felt out of control and incompetent in ways I had never known before. And I know now that LOTS of mothers feel this way. I want to help mothers know that they are not alone.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
My son loves practicing mindfulness with me. He likes to help me create videos of mindful breathing practices to share with kids, and grownups!
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children? Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I have definitely become more ‘reserved’ in what I write and say about my children. Now that my daughter is 9, I am more concerned about what I write about her that is discoverable online. Many times when I take her picture, she tells me, “You better not post that!” I need to respect her desire for privacy, which can make it a bit more challenging to write honestly about motherhood.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I want them to learn that there are so many options out there in terms of “work.” A “job” doesn’t mean you have to put in 40 hours at a desk. You can pursue your passion. You can find where your deepest joy meets the world's greatest need. You can make a living… and a life… doing exactly that!
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
I think so many of us shy away from things that are “creative” because we all have probably had times when we were shamed for creating ‘art’ that didn’t measure up to some standard. But making time for creativity and intuitive practices is a powerful self-care practice. It doesn’t have to be painting – it could be making jewelry. It could be coloring in one of the adult coloring books that are so popular right now. There’s a whole sub-culture online of women who decorate their planners as scrapbooks for a creative outlet – you can be creative in terms of how you express your creativity! But it can be incredibly powerful and nurturing for mothers to have an activity that is just for them, and has no goal beyond just doing it.
Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Sarah in the following places: