Creative writing mentor Adanna Onuekwusi explains why she thinks this practice can be a powerful wellbeing tool for mums.
Love and Fear
Joy and Misery
Pride and Guilt
Growth and Loss
Fulfilment and Boredom
Intense Attachment and Suffocating Entrapment
In virtually all aspects of life, we see a degree of ambiguity and accept that within any relationship, job or situation, there may be both the wondrous highs and gut wrenching lows. In motherhood, however, it often seems that we’re only supposed to discuss the gratitude and gummy smiles. We fear that admitting the other stuff, the messy stuff, risks judgment and horror and questions about our ability to cope.
Motherhood is brimming over with paradox. A vast range of apparently contradictory emotions; the mundane routine needed with infants, combined with the ever-changing nature of babies going through fussy phases, teething and milestones; the fact that you feel isolated yet you are very rarely alone as you tend to the needs of your tiny companion. Much of this can be explained by considering the magnitude of the transition we make as women. However, many of us enter motherhood without being prepared for any of this, so the mess and the contradiction can feed a sense of guilt and confusion that weighs heavy on our hearts and minds.
What does this mean for us as mothers, then, particularly in those early days – or years – as we navigate this new territory, armed with little but our best intentions? How can we not feel guilty, lost, and frustrated in the midst of such change and confusion? And what impact does it have on our wellbeing to flit between emotions that we’ve been taught are opposing, particularly when there is often little discussion or support around this unless we are at crisis point?
This is what I found myself tackling six years ago after having my first child. I had always wanted to be a mum and was completely besotted with my daughter. On paper, my life was ideal: a fulfilling career, a happy marriage, financial stability, wonderful friends. And the child I had dreamed of having: healthy, happy and captivating in every way. So why did I feel so incredibly lost? How could I even begin to unpick these contradictory feelings in the blur of the day-to-day demands of being a mum? Things didn’t feel severe enough to warrant seeking medical support, and I now know that much of what I felt was matrescence, the psychological transition into motherhood. But, like many other women, I still needed something and the solution was somewhat surprising.
Writing: Freedom between the lines
Creative writing may seem an odd, perhaps even indulgent, suggestion in a situation where the last thing you feel or have an interest in is creativity. But navigating these intense, paradoxical experiences of motherhood may require an equally paradoxical approach. Creative writing has been an absolute lifeline for me since becoming a mum.
It allows me the space to unravel the confusion of my exhausted mind, unspooling it all out onto paper to gain insights and clarity and the ability to express myself more confidently. Everything from journaling, to poems, to simple lists, have had such a profound impact on my wellbeing, confidence and sense of identity. Musings on motherhood and reflections on all the other aspects of my life that make me, me. Writing honestly about the tough stuff and the reasons to celebrate. Writing in character. Writing even if it doesn’t make sense. Nothing is off limits and I find such freedom and joy in connecting parts of myself that can feel disparate, simply by putting pen to paper.
I now run Invicta Writers, combining my professional experience in teaching and school leadership with what I’ve learned about prioritising my wellbeing as a mum. My creative writing courses provide women with the much needed time, space and tools to explore, express and be enriched by the power of embracing all aspects of themselves, in their own words and on their own terms.
3 reasons to write for maternal wellbeing
Far from being fluffy, writing for wellbeing is a serious area of scientific study, with research indicating that benefits include improving anxiety, stress and depression; boosting the immune system; helping you get better sleep, as well as increasing I.Q.
A break from your body
Pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period result in so much focus on our bodies, and it can feel exhausting and limiting to feel perpetually defined by your physicality. Writing is a chance to engage your thoughts and emotions – about motherhood or anything else that you choose – giving yourself a chance to redefine how you want to be seen, by yourself and others.
Easy, accessible and quick
Anyone can do it: writing simply requires a pen, paper and an open mind. It doesn’t need to be a creative masterpiece or a lengthy, intense process. Just 5-10 minutes of honest engagement with your thoughts can have a powerfully cathartic and uplifting impact. If a blank piece of paper seems daunting, maybe you could start by using a few simple prompts:
Which qualities do I most value in myself in general?
Which qualities do I most value in myself as a mother?
What do the differences/similarities in these responses tell me about the impact motherhood has had on me? How do I feel about this?