I am a mother to three kids under 5 (Juniper is 4 1/2, Eden is almost 3, and River is 8 months)
I am also a fiber artist trying to grow a small business.
Being a work at home mom (WAHM) has unique challenges. You are stuck somewhere in the middle of working mother and stay at home mom; always trying to find the right balance. I have been wanting to write a bit on this because I have been wanting to hear from other women on this. I once read that when there is material you want to explore and there is a void you should fill it. So I'm setting out to do that!
This post kicks off a new series I am starting on the blog. Periodically I will be interviewing other WAHMs in the fiber arts (designers, dyers, spinners, etc). I will be asking them about their unique experiences working at home while also raising their children. My goal is that we can all learn from, encourage, and inspire one another to keep on working hard at what we love while also being home with and nurturing our children!
So I’ll start things off by sharing a few thoughts on being a WAHM the past 3 years or so…
It Is HARD
People throw around the word balance so much that it has really become cliche. But the reality is that it is hard to balance your personal and career goals with being home and raising children all at the same time. Your kids have constant needs, and so does your business baby. I don't have all the answers. I think it is important to be honest about this and not try to project to the world that I am a super successful business mom who has this all figured out! I hope this is something we can all explore more together through this series.
A Good Support System is Important
Whether your partner is your biggest cheerleader, you depend on your mom, or your babysitter is your lifesaver, everyone needs help to make this work! Several moves away from family for my husband’s work has forced me to become creative with this. While my husband supports me 100%, his work is such that he is gone 70-90 hours a week, so he can't physically be there to help as much as we would both like. I can usually manage my business fairly well week to week but if I have a show coming up I have to plan for someone (usually one of our moms) to come to help with the kids. I've nursed my son while scanning credit cards on my phone and had him sleep on me in a carrier as I set up my booth, but the reality is toddlers can't sit with you all day while you are manning a booth alone at a fiber festival. Even if I could manage all the packing, unpacking, setting up displays, checking people out, etc with my kids there I could never fit their 3 carseats in my car with my stuff! I NEED help! This leads to my next point…
Planning and Organization is Key to Productivity
I plan out my general goals for the week and specific days for some tasks as well as “To Do” lists for every day. I am the queen of post-it notes, my brain is in a permanent state of pregnancy fog and I don't know if I would remember anything without my lists. I also plan out when to do my "thinking work" (computer work, blog writing, pattern editing, complex math parts of designing) for during nap time and for a couple hours out of the house when my husband has a weekend off. Without planning this out it is a constant struggle between feeling pressure to get things done and not being able to focus.
Learn to be Flexible
Some days nothing gets done work wise. Just accept it. Take one day a week or a few hours each day to give the kids undivided attention. I’ve learned I need to be willing to drop one task to pick it up later or work on a different project than preferred or planned because it works best with the kids that day. I usually have 10 different things going on at once spread over the house so no matter where my kids are and how much attention they need I can pick up something to work on. I'll be honest, as an artist this can be very frustrating! Sometimes I really just want to be able to focus on one thing for hours but it can be VERY hard to think and focus with a baby on your hip and 2 toddlers fighting over a toy thats why its important to…
Be Creative About How You Work
Sometimes I knit while the kids take a bath, spin outside while they ride their bikes, or bring my knitting to the park. It is also helpful to find ways for the kids to be involved (I think this becomes easier as they get older). My kids always want to be right where I am so sometimes I will set them up with their own art projects or fiber projects (playing with wool, carding with dog combs, playing with scraps of yarn) so that I can work while they are right there with me. Kids sleeping time is HUGE. I take advantage of naps and nursing sessions the best I can. I also learned pretty early on the importance of being willing to work early mornings/ late nights and on weekends!
You Can do Anything, But You Can’t do Everything
Somethings gotta give. I’m not a supermom. I'll repeat that, I'M NOT A SUPERMOM! Some nights I don’t cook a nice meal. Some days my kids watch TV even though there was a time when I swore they never would. The laundry piles up pretty much every week at my house. Sometimes I miss self imposed deadlines for a new design. But thats all okay because I know I can’t do it all! I’m not perfect and I don’t want to pull my hair out trying to be! I am usually surprised by how much I actually manage to accomplish any given week. If you are feeling discouraged try making a list of all you got done (big or little) to remind yourself how awesome you are!
Remember That This Phase Will Pass
For all the good and all the difficult that this phase of life holds, remember it will not always be this way! I admit I sometimes hate to hear this but try to not rush through your kids being little because they will soon be big and everything will be different. This is something that can be hard for me. Sometimes I long to do things I see other fiber artists doing; traveling for teaching gigs, going to fiber shows and craft fairs every few weeks, spending days at a time away from their kids on a retreat or in workshops. But the reality is I have 3 kids under 5 and a husband that works ridiculous hours every week, my kids don't sleep through the night, I don’t have a babysitter, the house is always a mess, and money is always tight. I have to remind myself that it won’t always be this way. One day my kids will be in school all day, my house will be more manageable to maintain, and I will have more time and resources to invest more in my business.
Its Important to Stay Motivated and Inspired
Working from home can be distracting even without kids. When kids are constantly interrupting and calling for your attention it can be hard to stay motivated to get work done. I find staying inspired creatively helps me to trudge through on a tough day. Some resources that I love for inspiration are Instagram, Pinterest, the book “The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood,” the Studio Mothers Blog, Podcasts like Woolful and the many others out there where you can hear from other working mothers and business in general. This is another area I hope we can share with and encourage each other in, which brings me to the final important thought...
Community, Community, Community
It is really important to have a community of support. Part of this is the support system I mentioned before but it goes beyond close friends and family. As a woman, mother, and creative entrepreneur, I need other women in the same boat to learn from, bounce ideas off of, and be inspired and encouraged by! That is why I am starting this series because I know I am not the only one out there who longs for this. We all have something to give and lots to learn from each other. We can all encourage and support one another as women (without competitiveness) while still growing our own independent businesses! In fact I think when we do this our own businesses will thrive even mores than if we try to go at it alone. We will all do things differently, we have different priorities, dreams, goals, and parenting styles and thats okay. I hope that this can be a supportive, judgement free zone so any negative, demeaning, or rude comments will be deleted from these posts.
This series is ALL about community involvement so please leave a comment below if there is someone specific out there in the fiber arts community who you would love to hear from on this topic! I have a few people in mind to reach out to but I would love your suggestions! Also let me know if there are specific questions you would like to have answered or subtopics you would like us to explore.
Thanks for your help, I look forward to going on this journey with you and learning from other amazing work at home moms!