WAHM: Maria Muscarella
Well hello there! My name is Maria and I am a WAHM. I like that word. I feel like when I say it with emphasis, a few exclamation points, and maybe while making my eyes look a bit crazy, it conveys the effort behind it a little better...
“So, what do you do?”
“Me? Oh, I’m a WAHM!!!” Yep, that’s what it takes to do what I do... at least 3 exclamation points.
I am a homeschooling mother of a 12 year old daughter and 7 year old son. We spend most of our mornings in our pajamas learning a bit about the world and many afternoons running around to various sports activities, writing clubs, music lessons, etc. I also have a number of at home businesses under my belt. I owned an herbal products business when my first child was a baby, and I was a teacher, author, and clinician at an herbal clinic that I owned with another WAHM. Currently, I run two fiber arts based businesses: Ninja Chickens - my knitwear designs and hand spun yarns, and Fern Fiber - a naturally dyed yarn business that I run with the same mama with whom I owned the herbal clinic!
Being a homeschooling WAHM, I don’t have time during school hours to get work done. My kids are almost always with me. I’m not complaining at all. I chose this path. But it means that I have to get creative when it comes to finding time for myself, whether it be for work or relaxation. During our ‘school hours’ I try my hardest not to get on my computer or phone. It’s so easy to get sucked into work activities, especially when it’s work that I love. That doesn’t mean I won’t knit or spin while we are doing school, but I try hard to keep the kids as my main focus. So, my fiber business is usually put off until the evenings or weekends. I don’t have a strict schedule. I try to work things in here and there, making sure to keep time for family and friends, and for myself. For me, this means serious organizing! I’m a huge advocate of list writing and organizing my household, school, and business on paper. Journals and notebooks... I love them! There is a notepad and pen at my bedside table, next to my computer, at the kitchen counter, and in the car. I prepare a new master list for each day, sometimes numbering activities in order of priority so that I know what’s most important to get done. This works well for me because it helps keep my brain uncluttered, and if there is chaos in my mind then there is chaos in my actions. Even if the house is cluttered, which it often is, if I can keep my mind uncluttered we are generally in good shape. With all of the tasks I juggle, I need to see them all on paper and cross off what has been taken care of.
If a task doesn’t need my immediate attention then it gets scheduled in my planner... ‘Swatch for new shawl design this Saturday’... This doesn’t mean that my life has no spontaneity. I just make sure to keep time available when I can feel free to be spontaneous without the weight of work or responsibilities on my shoulders. It’s ‘organized spontaneity’. :-) When my life is organized I’m happier, and “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy!” Have you heard the saying? Now that I’m a WAHM, I completely believe this! I don’t think it’s selfish at all to say that if the person, whether it be mom, dad, grandparent, etc., who is the main organizer of the household isn’t happy, then it’s hard for the rest of the family members to feel happy. We supply nourishment so our families are fed and healthy, we make sure appointments are taken care of, get kids to meetings on time, pat backs and dry tears, we keep the household flowing. So, if we are feeling tired, anxious, overwhelmed... things just don’t flow.
What’s important for me to be able to run a home, school my kids, and have a successful business? I have to be nourished body, mind, and spirit . If I’m not nourished, I don’t want to do any of it. I don’t have the patience to deal with whining, I don’t have the energy to stay up late to pack up yarn, I don’t feel enough love for myself to share it with my husband. If my cup is half empty, how am I expected to share what I have, right? This means it’s important for me to eat well (yes, that does include dark chocolate!), to organize my thoughts and keep my mind uncluttered, to take time for friends, take alone time for me (that includes guilt-free massages!), ask others for help when it is needed (‘Yes, child, you must clean the litter box!’), and to know that it is OK to say ‘No’ when I don’t have enough in my cup to share.
I happily took on the many responsibilities that go along with the job titles of ‘homemaker’ and ‘mother’. But, let’s be real here. Being a parent is more than a full time job! I’m very thankful to have a husband who participates fully in being a father. If I need anything, all I have to do is ask, and often, I don’t even need to ask. But, when I gave birth to my first child, I took it on as my role to be the main caregiver and when my children wake me in the middle of the night because of a bad dream or a fever, I don’t say, “Sorry, I’m off the clock”. My office is open 24/7, and my job has no paid time off or sick leave. It is very hard to feel valued as a homemaker in a society that diminishes mothers and values men with high paying jobs. So, I once calculated how much I would be making if I were actually paid for the work I do at home. Personal chef, house keeper, teacher, home doctor, psychologist, farmer, secretary... I guess I was curious and needed to remind myself of my financial worth. It was somewhere in the realm of $175,000/ year, in case you are interested... and that was before adding in the business I run from home as well. READ: You are very important and need to take care of yourself so that you can do all that you do!
Now, having said all of this, I need to say one thing very loudly: I am not a Super Mom! No one is!! Please, please, please don’t compare yourself to me or any other mother out there and feel that you aren’t good enough. Trust me. I tried, and it doesn’t work. If you read my blog or look at my Instagram pictures and say to yourself, “How does she do it all?” Know, that I have looked at other moms and said the exact same thing! When you read about our wonderful family hiking adventure in the woods and think “My kids spend too much time in front of the computer. I need to be a better mom and get my kids out in the woods.” Just know that we may have skipped school that day, forgotten to eat lunch, and spent 5 hours watching movies that night. If you see a lovely picture of hand spun yarn on my Instagram feed and think, “I’m not doing enough for my business. I need to do better.” Know that I may have spun that yarn while my kids were doing math and I probably should have been paying better attention to them. My point is this, find what works for you. Be the best mom and entrepreneur that you can be, with what you have, where you are. You can’t take care of your business or your family if you don’t first take care of yourself.
Maria Muscarella is clinical Nurse-Herbalist turned homesteader and homeschooling mom of two crazy-awesome kids. She loves to knit, spin (yarn, not in the gym), design knitwear, read, garden, make medicine, and wear pajamas all day long. (Seriously... all day! It's a mad rush to get out of her flannels before the UPS guy comes to the door!) Her family lives on 25 acres in the woods of Western North Carolina. They keep themselves happy (and busy) in a little wedding cake shaped house that they built with their own hands. You can find her designs and products at www.ninjachickens.etsy.com and at www.fernfiber.com, and you can follow her on Instagram @ninja.chickens and @fernfiber and on Ravelry as Ninjachickens.
*Maria is generously offering 50% off her designs on Ravelry through the end of April! Use coupon code "WAHM!!!" when you check out. You can find her designs HERE
Is there a work at home mom in the fiber arts you would like to hear from? Leave a comment below and I will do my best to represent them on the series!