Podcast: “Parenting is a creative act”

This week Sarah and I welcomed Leanne Sowul to the podcast (that link on her name takes you to her home page; please sign up for her newsletter while you’re there!). Sowul is a music teacher who lives in the Hudson Valley. She also runs a part-time flute studio, and writes novels, in addition to raising two young children with her husband (who is also a music teacher!)

(In case all those links were confusing, here is the Libsyn podcast site again — where you can listen.)

As we talked about how Sowul uses her time, we found that she has consciously done a few things to make her life easier. For instance, her youngest child goes to daycare (and her older child does before-school care) at a daycare right up the street from her. They can walk there! They also live near extended family, which makes finding childcare when she’s doing her side hustles easier.

But what I loved most about this interview was Sowul’s amazingly positive outlook on so many things. As she notes later in the podcast, some of this stems from her own health issues as a young person. She did not know if she would ever grow up to be a musician, and a writer, and a mother, and she has gotten to do all of that. But that this happy result inspires gratitude rather than “why the hell did this happen to me?” speaks to her mental fortitude.

Another bit of evidence: I would find teaching fourth grade band or orchestra hell on earth. Sowul focuses on the quick progress her students make from sounding like screeching cats to sounding slightly less like screeching cats. She wakes up at 5 a.m. to write, but if it gets interrupted by the baby, she focuses on what she can do, rather than what she can’t. As for having the energy to deal with her own small children after dealing with other people’s small children all day: “Parenting is a creative act.” And creativity can be energizing.

Obviously conceiving children is itself a creative act, in the sense of creating something that was not there before. But it is interesting to think in what other ways parenting can be a creative act. At its best, you can help other people become better versions of themselves, just as a marriage or a friendship can help people become better versions of themselves. It’s like tending an existing garden. Not, I might note, like painting (or even designing a garden). I fundamentally believe that children are their own people, just as friends or spouses are. The road to unhappiness is paved with expectations that just because you were a star swimmer (musician, poet, physicist) your child should be too. But helping a child discover her interests, and how to set goals and work hard toward them can definitely be creative.

Do you think of parenting as a creative act?

In other news: Please visit Leanne’s Facebook page here. And on Twitter and Instagram her handle is @sowulwords

In other other news: Best of Both Worlds has CROSSED 100K DOWNLOADS! Thank you so much to everyone who has listened to it! The trend is up too. Each episode is getting a bigger spike on the day it is released than the previous week. We are very excited and thankful. If you haven’t listened yet, will you please do so? Just try a few minutes on your commute or while doing errands. If you’re listening and you like it, would you please rate and/or review us on iTunes? And subscribe so you don’t miss an episode? And — our favorite — tell a friend?

In other other other news: Speaking of parenting (as we were in this post), the Vogue cover with Serena Williams and little Olympia Ohanian was definitely the cutest Vogue cover ever. I will admit that I am following baby Olympia on Instagram. And her Instagram is awesome.

23 thoughts on “Podcast: “Parenting is a creative act”

  1. We’re walking to school again because it’s not raining and no one is sick, so I’ve been able to catch up on your podcast! I just listened to the one about Morning Routines this morning, and wanted to thank you for answering my question about school activities 🙂

  2. Once again – LOVE your guest! I love the mix so far of professions (& side hustles!), interests and geographical locations. I always learn something from the different perspectives each of them have in regards to balancing “it” all, whatever their “it” may be!

  3. I so enjoyed this episode. Leanne is very inspiring, off to explore her site.

    Your podcast has quickly become one of my favorites. I recommend it to every mom I know. Keep up the great work!

  4. Question for you Laura- how do you balance the desire to hang with you husband vs get to sleep early- especially when your little guy was waking up earlier? My kids also go to bed very late so I have the same struggle of wanting to be asleep shortly after they are…so I can hope for uninterrupted sleep before the baby wakes up. My routine is to stay up V late hanging out with my husband 1-2x/week, then spending the rest of the week exhausted as there is no time to catch up. This is particularly bad when I have to work in the hospital on the weekend.

    1. I have this struggle, too–especially as my older kids want to stay up later and then I still need to get up early. I’m interested to hear Laura’s advice on that!

    2. @Virginia – I wish there was a great answer to this one. On weekdays, we’re pretty strict about having all kids in rooms with lights out by 10. And they’re in their rooms (well, supposed to be) after 9 p.m., reading or playing quietly. So theoretically, we could hang out after 9 and then go to sleep at 10 with the kids. But this does not happen. We’re still dealing with kids popping up until 10. One option is to stay up together until 11 or so, then if the little guy wakes up at 5, trade off on the hour. One party gets 5-6 a.m., the other gets 6-7. So both parties get 7 hours of sleep, if one’s sleep is more interrupted. Same deal on weekends. We also try to find couple time that’s not at night. Sometimes you can get all the kids distracted with a movie. We can eat dinner together on the weekends after the little guy goes to bed while the bigger kids are up playing together or doing video games. Since my husband travels a lot, I also prioritize sleep on the nights he’s not home. If I’m in bed at 10:15 (after the 10 p.m. kid lights out) and I get to sleep until 5:45/6 the next day (not unheard of at this point) then I’m fine to have another night with less sleep, so I can stay up late with my husband. And if he’s there, he can take the early wake-up, so I might actually get a fair quantity of sleep!

  5. This episode was a breath of fresh air for me! I’m currently in the middle of a week of solo parenting as my husband is out of town and I’ve been dreading so much of it, but thinking about parenting as a creative outlet really struck a chord for me. I get so bogged down in sticking to routines, getting to school and work on time, that I know I sound like a drill sergeant to my kid. I’m trying to be fun and creative in my interactions with him this week, because I know it’s stressful for him to be without his dad , too. Hopefully I can continue the good streak!

    1. Answering my own question thanks to Leanne – I asked on her blog, which btw is really interesting like the podcast. Thanks Leanne!

      1. Laura Marlings, Semper Femina
      2. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger in the Alps
      3. The Overcoats, Young

  6. This reminds me of Alison Gopnik’s lovely book The Gardener and the Carpenter. I found it really refreshing. The author wrote really beautifully about children – not as problems to be solved but people to be nurtured.

  7. Hi all,

    First, thanks Laura and Sarah for the great podcast! Best of Bith Worlds was my “gateway podcast” and still the only one I keep up with every week.

    Second, as someone who is a former high school math and physics teacher at a new school with a demanding IB curriculum, I want to throw in the perspective that while Laura’s job sounds pretty family friendly, I don’t think all teaching jobs are. I burned out at mine, working 50-60 hour weeks and basically never managing a full day of rest without some work in it during the school year. The summer vacation was nice, but the rest of the time, planning, grading, and giving students extra help took up tons of time beyond the offficial school hours.

    I’ve traded that job in for a corporate job that has about 2/3 the weekly hours, double the pay, and allows for much much better work life balance. While I miss the summer vacations a bit, I still get a decent amount of holidays and vacation. In many ways I have more day-to-day flexibility, not being tied to a school schedule and having to plan for a sub whenever I’m out. And I still get excited to have weekends without any work.

    So… not all teaching jobs are especially family friendly.

    1. Sorry, Leanne’s teaching job, not Laura’s. (This is what I get for typing comments on my phone in the middle of picking up my daughter from ballet.)

      1. @Emily- I had asked about whether Leanne considered her job family friendly partly to raise this perspective. Many people assume that teachers work only school hours, and so they’re working when the kids are working and it’s all good! But many people contractually have to be there prior to the school opening (and after dismissal) meaning you still need before/after care. And teachers who really care about doing a good job wind up putting in FAR more hours than they are generally contracted for. A high school teacher who sees 80 kids a day and assigns them all a mere 3 page paper will be reading through 240 pages, and there goes the weekend. So yes, I’m not surprised at all that your corporate job features fewer hours and better pay!

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