On Writing and Mothering

This guest post is by the talented and lovely Brittany Knott. Read more of her beautiful writing on her blog Knee Deep in Lovely.

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Nothing motivated me to finish the first draft of my book more than my due date.

Because, really, I could have kept dragging it out. I didn’t have a publisher giving me deadlines or demands (or a paycheck, darn it).

But I knew. I had people warn me that when I had kids my margin for things like writing novels would be non-existent. I knew mom life would be different and I couldn’t loiter over a macchiato in a coffee shop.

So I anticipated August 2nd with so much longing to be a mother and so much apprehension about not being able to write when it had taken me thirty years to shed some of my mounds of uncertainty and finally do it consistently.

They were right, you know. It wasn’t the same after she was born. I did put things on hold. In those early days, I could have done more. She slept a lot. But it was inconsistent and I felt I needed long stretches of time. Also, everything about being a mother consumed me whole. For better, for worse.

My sweet doorman would ask almost every day, “How’s the book coming?” And I would duck my messy head and blush and say, “No progress.”

Meanwhile, motherhood began to give me so many things to write about on my blog. I was being broken apart in a way I never saw coming, and it was beautiful. It is beautiful.

If God can use motherhood to refine me, He can absolutely use it to make me a better writer.

He can show me my surroundings, my relationships, my world through a new set of brown eyes. Having someone to care for can’t keep me from writing, but not observing, not breaking apart and not stirring certainly will.

Of course, on a practical level, it is a bit more complicated than before. She is one now and I can’t write when she’s awake.  I can’t wake up before she does and write because she wakes up too early.

She takes two glorious naps a day. I’m trying to force myself to do “chores” while she’s awake (even though she tries to eat the Swiffer and climb inside the dishwasher), so that I don’t feel the pressure to do those while she’s sleeping.

Sometimes I catch myself prepping breakfast food or whatever and I have to stop and say, “This can be done when she’s awake.” And then I’m brought back to the things that cannot be done while she is awake. (Unfortunately that includes watching Undercover Boss). This morning during her nap, I sat out on the terrace and wrote a blog post so I wouldn’t be tempted to fold the laundry (read: pin 100 pictures of clothes I will never own on Pinterest. Real life.)

I will never be the poster child for productivity. In life or in writing. Motivation is hard especially because I don’t actually earn money writing. I know the years ahead (God willing) include more child-rearing, more chaos and less alone time. I’m praying for the grace to still have writing be a part of my life, bending and twisting along with us.

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Brittany Knott lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. Her book, Viv: The Story of a Stray is in the crazy process of getting published. She hopes to use any profits to help fund an adoption.

 

A Day in the Life of a Busy Graphic Design Mom

This week’s Stay-At-Home-Something Story comes from my old friend Angie Pope. Angie and I attended bible college together way back in the day. She is a super-talented designer and the mom of two gorgeous kids. Angie shares some great tips on how to balance life/work load at home. 


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I founded my business, LaLuna Designs in 2012. After graduating from the Art Institute, I realized design jobs were hard to fin, but I did still have the pesky chore of repaying my student loans. That same year, I also got pregnant and I knew I wanted to stay home full-time with my son.

I was fiddling around with designing my own baby shower invitations, and figured, why not do this for other people? And so LLD was born. It started out with just a few orders trickling in every week, and then once I was able to really dedicate more time to adding to my design inventory and getting my work ‘seen’, it turned into a full-time job.

My business has given me the opportunity to do what I love and make an income for my family, all while having a fairly flexible work schedule. When I say flexible, I mean, scramble to get a few emails in and a teensy bit of design work managed while the kids tear the house apart!

My daughter was born this past September, and adding a second child to the mix has provided challenging, to say the least! The ‘to-do’ list is never (ever, ever) complete.

Every time I read a blog post or  article on ‘working moms’ and ‘stay-at-home moms,’ I never really know where I fit it, because I kind of do both.

My business has been steady enough that I have work tasks every day that I absolutely HAVE to get done. Client deadlines, emails, website maintenance, bookkeeping, etc., and then as any stay-at-home mom knows, days are rarely predictable with young kiddos at home, but I’ll talk about what a typical day is for us. It’s always changing, and my ‘ideal’ day really doesn’t happen very often, but when you’ve got kids, you learn that you just have to go with the flow and BE FLEXIBLE!

A Typical Day 

Here’s our situation: My son is nearly 4 and he did a bit of daycare for a while, but he’s currently home full-time. My daughter is 9 months old (at home full-time as well,) My husband works a full-time job, with often times crazy, 12 hour shifts, and his days off change every week. We don’t live anywhere near family, so having grandparents, aunts, etc., watch the kids isn’t an option right now.

My typical ‘work from home’ day goes something like this:
I like to have some type of structure / routine, for all of our sanity— so we eat breakfast at the table together most days (Just the kids and myself, hubby is usually working).

After breakfast, we head to the gym. I get 2 free hours of childcare a day, per child, so the gym is my saving grace! Now, please don’t get the impression that I’m all into fitness or something. Did you read the part about the childcare? 2 blissful, kid-free hours are often the only motivation I have to drag myself into the gym!

I try to get in an hour workout, aka, ride the stationary bike or elliptical while I watch Netflix, and then I shower at the gym. This has been a lifesaver, as my daughter is extremely clingy, and on days I miss the gym, it’s hard to even be able to put her down long enough to get out of PJs. Truly, my time at the gym is good for my morale and really starts my day off ‘right’. I do feel better once I’ve gotten some exercise, and any SAHM will tell ya the wonders a shower and some makeup will do for your mood!

I try to get my daughter down for a morning nap after the gym. If I’m *super duper lucky* she’ll sleep for about an hour. My son is fairly good at independent play, so he’ll either play solo or watch some iPad for a bit while I try to start answering some emails, and getting any other pressing business taken care of. If my gal doesn’t nap.. as often she doesn’t, I just try my best to spend 30 min to an hour getting done what I need to get done. Many times, I hold her in my lap while I work on my computer. It’s not the easiest, but it gets the job done!

At least a couple of days a week, I try to get the kids out of the house to do something. Story time at the library, the splash pad or beach, just something for an hour or two. Helps keep us all from going insane.

Next comes lunch. If we’re out, I’ll grab drive-thru. Otherwise, I try to sit down with the kids and eat lunch with them— sometimes I bring my laptop to the table and get some work done if I’m really behind. In the afternoons, my son goes into his room for rest time even if he doesn’t nap, he has to play quietly and calmly for at least an hour. Again, if I’m super lucky, my daughter will nap at the same time, and I can get another hour or so of work in.

My husband’s work schedule is a bit odd— sometimes, he’ll have weekdays off, and when he does, he will take the kiddos out of the house for me for a few hours. When that happens, it’s AMAZING, because I can get so much done. I can scramble and get the bulk of my work done for a few days in a row, so that I don’t have to stress and don’t feel stretched so thin.

Evenings are insane and always seem a bit chaotic, with dinner, baths, etc. so any other work I need to get done, I’ve usually got to do after the kiddos are in bed. My daughter goes to bed at 6:30 and my son around 8, so for that hour and a half, I do some housework, clean up from dinner, spend some time with him, and sometimes get a couple of work orders / emails crammed in.

After he’s down, I spend typically about an hour on work— more if I need to. It’s important to me to have some ‘me’ time at the end of the night, so ideally I like to have at least an hour to read or watch a TV show— something to relax.

Weekends, I’m OFF work. It’s my goal not to even open my computer or my email on my phone. We all need a break! We live in such a work-minded culture, I think it’s very important to show my kids that taking a break and having down time are necessary. I like to take at least 2 days completely off from work.

Here are some of my biggest tip to other work-from-home mammas:

1.Have a routine, but be flexible!

It’s all about balance, a happy medium, if you will; kids need structure, and I’ve learned from experience that we all have a better day if we know what to expect. However, unexpected things do happen— kids get sick, friends need favors, the dog pukes on your rug, etc., and you’ve just got to roll with the punches.

2.Have small, realistic goals.

I always have a long ‘to-do’ list. Always. Things are constantly getting put on the back burner… but when I’m overwhelmed, I think of one thing I can accomplish for the day. One attainable goal. Maybe it’s returning an email I’ve been putting off. Maybe it’s finally making that Doctor’s appointment. Maybe it’s putting away the laundry from last week. Getting one thing checked off the list always makes me feel better!

3. TAKE A BREAK!

Don’t work your life away. I am a firm believer that taking a break from the busy-ness of life is just as important…err scratch that, MORE important, than the work itself. If you don’t take a break, you will quickly and easily feel overwhelmed, overworked, and potentially even begin to resent the work that you do.


angieI’m Angie, owner of LaLuna Designs, LLC, an online creative stationery boutique. I specialize in event invitations, largely for showers and birthdays, but I have fun doing stationery items of all sorts.  I’m originally from Colorado, but I married into the military, so I’ve journeyed from CO to Hawaii, to North Carolina, and now reside in sunny Florida. I’m a total beach bum, and one of my absolute favorite things to do is paddle board.

My Life as a Work-At-Home Mommy

This guest post is from my friend Bethany, mom of 2 adorable kids and fellow blogger. Check out her blog to see the latest and greatest kitchen gear, recipes, kitchen tips and more! 

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6:15am, I open my eyes. Both sets of those big blue eyes are right in front of me. My daughter wants to know where we are going today. We are going to a dollar movie this morning, but before we go that blog post needs another read-through before publishing. Breakfast needs cooking, teeth need brushing and my son needs help getting dressed.

But I don’t need to look good, right?

It’s a huge blessing to be able to take the kids to a weekday movie, (or whatever we have planned on any given day) and still get to work on earning money from home.

In the past I have earned money by working outside the home. Dropping the kids off at a daycare or mother’s day out, fitting in as many massage clients as I can in those few short hours. Working all day Saturday while my husband and kids go to weekend get-togethers without me.

This work at home thing gives more freedom, but it’s new for all of us.

Balance, discipline, and focus. Have I mastered these traits? Hardly! I still end up on time-sucking social media and have gone a weekend without even looking at my site.

Do I sit and watch a show with my husband some nights instead of writing about the next small appliance? Absolutely! This is definitely a learning process and the above traits are something I need work on. God is helping me, and I want my children to see in me the drive to work, to learn, to focus on what interests them and make that their career. That drive can be invaluable!

So, when I have worked till 1:00am to finish a post I will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as I fall asleep. I will have a grateful heart when I wake to see those big eyes bright and ready for a new day. I will enjoy the time working next to my husband in the study after the kids have gone to bed while he gets ready for his next test. Even though we are busy, we can be busy together.

This is a new way of life for all of us. It is a great new life, giving way to more freedom and flexibility and hopefully, in time, a decent second income. Cheers to doing something that I enjoy from anywhere, getting out of debt, a REAL vacation, or a new (to us) car someday!

To all the other work at home moms, power on and love on those sweet babies as much as possible!

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I am a Fort Worth, TX  work-at-home mom of two fun-loving and very busy kiddos. I am a wife to a loving, driven man that works full time while in school for his masters. I love kitchen gadgets, appliances, and great food and love sharing about them in my blog, The Kitchen Host.  In another life I practiced massage and still do for a few lucky clients!  -Bethany Chance

Confessions of an Artist-Mom

I am excited to introduce my friend Amanda Brinkley who is an incredible artist and the mother of a spunky, adorable toddler. Amanda is one of the reasons I started this blog, as we’ve talked a lot about the challenges of creating while raising a kid. 

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Somewhere in me, there is this familiar daydream…

A beautiful image of sun speckling the grass through the leafy boughs of fall trees. Light bouncing off a wide front porch sheltering big windows that are thrown open to the world outside. Next to it a figure in white kneeling in a garden full of sparkling, organic produce. Children run by chasing chickens against the idyllic backdrop of a studio, framed by mountainous views.

It’s a daydream of the perfect life in my perfect house with my perfect art and my perfect, healthy kids.

But the reality is, this amazing daydream is scattered in a thousand pieces on the messy floor I haven’t swept in a week.

Why? Because I never wear white and because I live in reality. The reality of a work-from-home Mom.

All moms work. Those of us either insane enough or lucky enough to hold down another job on top of that, know that the challenges can be overwhelming and the frustration as potent as the joy.

In case you wondered work-from-home Mom actually translates to: crazy-lady-in-her pajamas-at-noon-who-started-working-at 6am-to-get-an-hour-of-quiet-work done-which-turned into a pipe dream when her-toddler-woke-up-at-6:05-anyway-(HOW DO THEY DO THAT)-all-because-she’d-like-her-8-hour workday-not-to-turn-into-12-and-if-she’s-really-lucky-a-shower-might-actually-happen!

The truth is my day usually involves too much coffee, too much pizza, not enough veggies, too many cartoons, too much yelling, and an unhealthy amount of brain space spent questioning if I am ruining my child.

All the while an internal battle wages over who should get to ignore her: me or a day-care worker.

I replay all the articles I’ve read talking about how important early development is and wondering if I’m failing at it. All this while I wonder if I’m really that busy. Or am I just not trying hard enough?

There are days I would give anything to just be a Mom.

I’d settle for being an artist too.

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Most of the time, “art” for me now means using a magic eraser on the wall because my child spent a year watching me paint a mural and doesn’t get why our walls are different. Or arranging blocks in colorful patterns when what I  really want to do is sketch, in a world where actually carving out 10 minutes to pick up a pencil is the Everest of victories.

I remind myself “You’re doing my best,” and, “You’re lucky to work from home,” but the honest part of me has to tell you this:

Sometimes I feel like it isn’t worth it and I wonder if it’s the right thing to do.

The guilt might just be in my head or maybe it’s my Pinterest board glaring at me with visions of all the things I don’t have time to do, but either way, I have to ask myself, why do I do this?

I know that sounds like complaining and self-doubt, please understand it’s not. Because I love that I can do what I do.

I love that God gave me the opportunity to have this time and in spite of the challenges, I am constantly discovering new value in the lessons it has taught me.

I do it because we have bills to pay.

I do it for the funny stories, like the time she smeared poop all over her crib because Mom was meeting a deadline.

I do it for the drawings Madeleine makes when she’s “working.”

I do it for the hours spent with a toddler standing on the back of my chair alternately hugging me and making my hair “pretty.”

I do it because there is real joy in painting with your child, covered from head to toe in red paint, totally enthralled with what she can do.

I do it for the slow days when we make it to the park, the flexibility that means I can drop everything for 5 minutes of dancing through the house.

I do it because I am better than someone else, even when I’m glued to a computer.

Ultimately I do it because imperfection keeps us moving forward and because in my heart I will do anything just to get to be here, every day, with this gorgeous little person that God gave me to care for. 

I am comforted with the thought God knew what He was doing when He set me here. And he asks me to try harder, grow bigger, work longer and prioritize better.

And somewhere down the line, maybe tomorrow, maybe 10 years from now I will actually figure out how to have a balanced day.

I will be able to grasp the rhythm under it all and play a better tune.

In the meantime what is there to do but embrace the chaos and pick up a paint brush.

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amandmadAmanda Brinkley is a talented graphic designer artist, wife and mother. She grew up in Alaska and her family made the big move back to Texas, her birth state, two years ago.

Contact Amanda at: amandabrinkleyart@gmail.com

 

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

I am happy to introduce to you the first guest post by my dear friend Kati Felix. Kati and I were roommates once upon a time and we’ve had many adventures, writing sessions, and deep chats over tea together. Kati has an amazing heart and I am so happy she is sharing it on TSAHS

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When you’re young, it seems that the whole world is full of adventure and promise. If you’re a writer or an artist, you seek to capture that wonder and possess it for yourself. Perhaps as an escape from the darkness in the world, or just for the ability to experience and share something beautiful every day. You’re a person who creates because that’s what makes your soul sing.

But what do you do when the singing stops and you’re left with silence?

I am a dreamer. Since I was a child I had a vision for my life that I held as the ideal.

When I was four, I wanted to be a paleontologist and discover Jurassic Park for myself. When I was ten, I wanted to be Indiana Jones and travel the world. I wanted to read every novel and story ever written. When I was twelve, I discovered writing. I wanted to create and live the same adventure novels I devoured like they were food and water and my very breath.

Then I grew up a little and wanted to be a missionary. For a girl who grew up in a charismatic church culture, this was the ultimate adventure. Serve God and have adventures? I could be a writer and a missionary! What an awesome idea!

My whole life seemed to be planned out perfectly. Though there were many vague details, I generally knew what I wanted to do. I never struggled with trying to figure out what path I should take in life.

Three years ago, my husband and I went bankrupt while in ministry in England, and had to move to a different country to start all over again. I also suffered a miscarriage. We weren’t planning to have kids for many years, so it was a double shock to us. This was the beginning of my worldview crashing around my ears. Right after the miscarriage and bankruptcy, I had to leave my husband for months to go back to the States to sort out my visa. Soon after I got back to my husband, we got pregnant.  

Since I was a young teenager, I have struggled with cycles of situational depression and anxiety. After a year that felt like I was taking hits right and left, followed by an emergency C-Section and postpartum depression, I fell into a dark hole further and deeper than I thought possible. I lost the desire to create, to live, to even get out of bed most days.

My husband and I live in a country where we don’t speak the language, and can’t afford to put our son in a daycare. So I am a full-time stay-at-home-mom. I never expected this to be my life.

How do you find the way to make your soul sing when nothing makes sense?

I would be lying if I said I loved being a mother that first year and a bit. This sounds harsh, but I never believed a writer should conceal their true feelings. I can’t hold that rule for others and not myself. There were so many days when all I wanted to do was leave my son with someone else just so I could sleep or be alone. I felt better with time, though there are still challenging days. I am learning to find the joy in every day.

If every day is a gift, then every moment is meant for discovering the joy of living.

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If you’re struggling with depression, with exhaustion, with lack of inspiration, or just plain old lack of motivation, listen. I hear you. I know what it feels like. I know the guilt can eat you alive. I know there are days when all you want to do is crawl back in bed and sleep the day away. I don’t have any easy answers. I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time.

But isn’t that the grandest adventure of them all?

What if the best adventures are not the ones you imagined as a child, but are the ones you live every day?

I encourage you to find a routine that works for you. It takes monumental amounts of courage, but take it one day at a time, one moment of joy at a time. If all you want to do is write one word that inspires you, do it! Who cares if it’s not a whole sentence or a whole page or a whole novel? Give yourself the grace to live. Create your own adventure. Allow your soul to sing again. When you find a way to let a few notes out, over time they build to a symphony.

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My journey as a writer began in Northern California, developed in the Far West of Texas, and matured in England and the mountains of Switzerland. I am currently a stay-at-home mom of an energetic little boy. I have always been a reader, but my desire to write the stories I loved so much began as a young teenager.  You can find me at http://katifelix.com/