I wanted to share a heart-to-heart post today about my experience (so far!) with motherhood...While I usually prefer to keep my personal life separate from work, I feel compelled to talk about this subject matter because it pertains to so many of us working creatives!
It has been 6 months since my husband and I welcomed our little guy into the world...and it's also been that long (plus a few extra weeks of being super pregnant!) since I've been working full-time at the studio. That time away felt so long, but at the same time, so short (For those of you who are parents, you can relate to how contradictory, yet true, this is)! I treasured those first few months with him and they were indescribably special. I've always felt that it was important (it was a large part of why I wanted to work for myself) that I have a flexible schedule when it came time to start a family. It's also something that I want to push for as a benefit to my employees, but that's a whole different subject for another day! Anyway, it's a perk of running your own show and an opportunity that not a lot of people have with their jobs. Therefore, I made sure I took as much time as I needed (without compromising my business) to be with him and I didn't regret a single minute of it. Increasingly towards the end of those months, however, I was itching to get back to my other baby - my business - and be creative again.
I want to preface here that I'm only writing about my experience into motherhood. There are so many ways to navigate these early years as a parent, and I respect all of our different methods for how we get there...But for me, that path didn't include staying home with my child full-time. I admit, I did contemplate that option though. It seems so ideal to be able to be there for every milestone, not miss a beat, and save on childcare costs (huge bonus!). However, I also know the type of person that I am. I knew eventually, I will need to feed my creative juices again and get back to this other livelihood of mine. Painting has always been my way of expressing my thoughts to the world, and I have even more to say now!
After 4 months of baby bliss, I started slowly coming back to work, adding a day or 2 at a time. I have to add here, that this pace would not have been possible if I did not have a full-time employee who kept everything running at the studio! Anyway, during the 2 months of transitioning back to a full-time schedule, I definitely struggled on many fronts, but I'm also glad to have gone through it. For one, because I wanted to take my time coming back, it was a constant guilt trip of how much time I am at work and how much time I was spending with him. If there was a guidebook on how to best split parenting time, I wish I would have read it! Should I have spent more time at work to generate more income? Or should I have stayed home one extra day each week, because this time is so fleeting? For another, I had some very tough questions to ask myself after this huge life change. Did I still want to grow in the same way as before? Shouldn't I keep this business super small to maximize flexibility for my family? Will I be relevant still, after such a long time away? Each day, as I drove into work, I questioned myself on these points and felt the true uncertainty of not knowing where all of this was going. But each day, as I sat down at my desk to begin the day, all of those fears would dissipate because I realized that I still wanted all of the same goals as before when I see the kind of work we are making, and being relevant has nothing to do with time. As long as I continue creating quality, meaningful work, people will notice. Maybe adding "motherhood" to my list of titles has been a test to see how much I really love what I do. There is no way anything can compete with how much I love my child, but this business comes in very closely behind. I know it's going to be harder than before to do both, but I also know it's a must for me.
I have also set aside some time during this transition to re-examine the backbones of my business. I talk about this a lot during interviews or speaking events - how important it is to build a solid "foundation" on how you run your business, from the very beginning - and now is the time for us, while we ramp back up to full speed again with clientele projects and product releases! Are there ways to streamline our production process? How can our packaging be more clear, more pronounced? And the most humbling of all questions - how can we strengthen our marketing to be more visible, intentional and creative? You see, I've been incredibly fortunate in the last 4 years to not have had to put much time into marketing and still have a steady stream of projects coming in. I don't take it for granted for a second, though. It had to do with a lot of hard work and diversifying the marketplaces/clientele work so that they can market for us. But now that I'm coming back to a business that has not been running at full speed for the last 6 months, it's once again necessary to go out and market on our own. Coming face-to-face with these issues that were once swept under the rug has been scary. I think this is because it has forced me to see the vulnerability of my success and how it doesn't just continue on its own and needs to be maintained.
Now that I'm back full-time, getting my hands into being creative again has rejuvenated my drive to continue exploring new ideas! I come to work each day more focused than before, because my time is even more valuable now. I don't spend a lot of time being distracted anymore, although sometimes I yearn for that luxury! Anyway, I'm also learning to be more diligent about prioritizing my projects and to delegate even more tasks. In some ways, I'm starting over again. Becoming a mom has really changed me, so it seems only natural that the way I approach my business would be different too! I've never been away from painting for this long before, and now my brain is buzzing with so many new ideas! I think my interests in the type of work that I create will be different too (One idea that I've been thinking about a lot lately is children's books!). I'm looking forward to seeing what this year will have in store for us...I know now that this is really where I want to be, and it makes me a better parent to have a purpose outside of being his mom. I get to come home each day knowing that I spent my day doing what I love.
I hope to continue talking about this subject along the way. I know there's much more for me to learn in how to balance all of these responsibilities. If any of you guys have any advice or comments on how to be a working momma, please do share!
Have a great weekend, everyone!