Real Simple Mama

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Not Now, Mama’s Gotta Color

Ok so the title is not accurate. Of course I would never abandon my babies in a pool of their own filth so I could go scribble. But there’s gotta be some truth to this whole grownup coloring craze. I tried it and I’m hooked.

It’s probably also useful for you to know that I have anxiety – not about anything in particular. I just occasionally get panic attacks or just feel overwhelmed. It affects me physically and can be exhausting, although it’s not so severe that I’ve bothered to get medicated or anything. I got some adult coloring books and colored pencils, and without any expectations, started coloring.

color mandala - title

I flipped through a book for a moment, amused at first. Each page had a different image, from animals to mandalas to abstracts. Very quickly my amusement turned to awe: holy crap, I thought, these are hand drawn. It was true; these excruciatingly detailed outlines were all done by hand. Someone was crazy disciplined, and patient. (I, on the other hand, have even known to get frustrated with stick figures).

A flower-like mandala caught my eye – just something about it made me happy. Ok this one it is. But now how to color it? My mind begged to go crazy elaborately planning the color scheme. But you know what? I didn’t let it. And I’m glad.

Mama's colors
Should I go with an orange or a green? Just pick one. Nothing bad will come of either choice. Let go, and choose. RIGHT NOW GO. I just made a decision without overthinking it! Meh, the color wasn’t exactly what I had wanted. But I committed.

All thoughts leave my mind as my pencil tip moves back and forth. It’s like riding a horse, pulling up on the reins to slow down my mark, and then letting go when I have wide open spaces. I don’t have to concentrate, this is easy. And if I screw up who cares? My chances of being a world famous pencil artist faded long ago.  Third grade I think.

In this moment, it’s just me. Kids are asleep, hubby is watching tv. No one is watching me or expecting me to get them anything. I can make a mistake. Who cares? This is just for fun. I suddenly and painfully realize that I never do things like this for myself anymore. In my “free time” I get ahead on chores, or I write, or I use shampoo AND conditioner. But I never get to do anything unproductive, frivolous. This is completely selfish. And awesome.

It takes me almost a week to finish my first mandala, a little bit at a time. While I look forward to my coloring time as a mental unplug, I don’t get to do it every night. And that’s ok. It makes the time I do get that much more precious and valued. And in that moment I have complete control, even though it is over something so finite and insignificant. And more importantly, any anxiety I had goes away.

So yes, I just wrote an article about coloring. But really it’s not BS. This has been the most refreshing thing I’ve done for myself lately. And I have something beautiful (and imperfect) to show for it. We should all have our own little indulgences. That’s what makes life interesting, isn’t it?

Here is what I’ve got at home – affiliate links below:



  1. i like this idea…when our kids are occupied i usually take those brief moments to do internet-y things, but this sounds way more therapeutic

    • The Mama

      April 6, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Yes it seemed very silly to me when I first heard about it last fall, and I do not get to do it very often – maybe once a week or so – but it is so nice to do something relaxing, mindless, and beautiful!

  2. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while now. What a great idea! Before my great-grandmother passed away this is what she did to pass her time and relax.

    Your picture came out beautiful 🙂

    • The Mama

      March 22, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      Thank you! I see so many imperfections in it but that’s part of the beauty 🙂 I really hope you try it too!

  3. I absolutely love adult colouring.
    I thought it was a total hipster thing or something. Then I got some for Christmas (ironically one was actually a hipster colouring book… )
    I kind of laughed. Then one night I sat and coloured for like 30 mins. In those thirty mins I didn’t think of all the things my anxiety causes me to think, I literally just coloured. It was kind of glorious.

    Those are some gorgeous books, and I love the picture you coloured.

    • The Mama

      March 22, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      Oh this is so great to hear! That is awesome that you and I have had very similar experiences – at first I was wondering if people would think I was crazy!
      Are you planning to do anything with your finished creations, like framing them or giving them as gifts? I cannot decide if I want to them just for me, or if I want to do something more.

      • Honestly, I haven’t given what I would do with them much thought! I may just keep them in plastic in a binder, unless my children claim them. LOL.

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