In this post I talk about motherhood, friendship and creative business, three things of great importance to me, that I feel quite often, are at odds with each other.
There is not much in here about nappies and sleepless nights - though I am all about reducing a babies impact on the environment if you ever want to talk…
But I do have some thoughts about failing at coffee group, the impact of having children on your creativity and your ability to create and how I have not worked in a flow state all year.
I just want to say - as any commentary around motherhood can be weirdly controversial - that this is just some thoughts from my experience over the last year. If you don’t agree, that’s cool, you do you, but let’s keep any commentary positive xx
Motherhood. What a crazy journey. It is something you can try and explain but one will never truly understand what it is like until you are fully immersed in it. It is an all encompassing, 24 hour, 7 days a week job, that is awesome, hilarious, crazy, chaotic, relentless and exhausting all at the same time.
I don’t even know where the last year has gone, it seems like a bit of a whirlwind. It is true what they say - the days are long and the years are short! Arlo is just the coolest little dude, his personality has shone through from early on, he is curious, funny, happy, stubborn. He has the best smile and laugh.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though! Losing your sense of identity, battling with a totally new body shape, having very little time to yourself, having very little time to hang out with your other half...
Below are a few things that have helped me through this year:
Arlo was a great sleeper from around 2 months, and for probably the first 8 - 9 months, before he started moving, I felt like I had so much time on my hands. A couple of parent friends recommended podcasts as a way to fill the silence during the day. I had never listened to Podcasts before, but I was so hooked. It is the perfect medium for parents. I could be feeding Arlo lunch, or out walking, or tidying the house while listening to all sorts of interesting people from around the world talk about topics from mindful parenting to creative business to email marketing. Here are some links to some of my favourite podcasts.
Another unexpected thing about motherhood is that I have read more this year than I ever have. Kindles are another product perfect for parents. Many feeding sessions were spent on the couch holding Arlo and my Kindle, only needing one finger to turn the page. Genius.
The main motto I have repeated to myself this year is ‘this too shall pass’. Every stage is only temporary, the broken sleep, the long feeding sessions, growth spurts, teething. Even though sometimes you are deep in a phase and think you have broken your baby! The next week it will all be good again. Being flexible and having an enormous amount of gratitude for even having Arlo in my life has helped me through all the tough patches.
Oh and for any future mums to be: the best piece of advice I ever got was to have a shower every day, even if you just get back into your pjs and back into bed with bubs. I have never understood those memes about mums never showering, it is not sustainable if you can’t take 5 minutes to look after yourself. It will make even the hardest of nights seem a bit better.
And it really does take a village to raise a baby. So if you can surround yourself with a good support system it will help so much. My partner and my mum (aka. Granny K) in particular, have made this year what it was because of their help.
Friendship. This is an important topic for me, as I feel at times motherhood can be very lonely, and this is coming from someone who has worked for herself, as a sole trader, usually communicating via email, for 5+ years.
I was super keen to find my ‘mum tribe’, a group of mums to go on walks with, take our babies fun places. I had the impression that this is what coffee group would become and I was totally open to coffee group in the beginning. Other friends had always talked about it like it was the best thing. But antenatal classes felt like this weird social experiment where they put 12 couples in a room who are all due at the same time and expect you to all become friends. And antenatal in central Auckland is even stranger because you get people from the city centre all the way to Mangere Bridge so it’s not like you are even neighbours. I quickly discovered I had very little in common with most of this group of strangers from all around Auckland except for the fact our babies have birthdays around the same time. And I felt very much like I didn’t fit in. Am I the only mother who doesn’t like Kmart??
But I was very lucky in that I knew seven other women, in my wider friendship group, who had babies in the same year as Arlo. Four of them were baby number two as well. So I was surrounded by women who were in a similar stage to me, some who were mat leave buddies, who shared so much advice.
Some unexpected & wonderful friendships have grown and strengthened with some of these ‘friend mums’ (ladies who were already my friends before we had kids), which has meant fun play dates, because you know - adult chat is everything. My mum tribe I realised, is a few women and their bubs who I see on an individual basis, rather than as a group, and I am really happy with that.
But other friends with kids have completely dropped off the radar. And while I try not to take it personally, it makes me a little sad our kids don’t get to hang out. But I feel I must not be the friend they need right now, and remind myself that friendships are often there just for a season in your life. And maybe that is just part of the messy muddle you get when trying to balance motherhood, friendship and a business.
I have also been very thankful for my friends who don’t yet have children, for still wanting to hang out with me, even though it is often in a different, more child-friendly capacity. And also because I often haven’t had too much else to talk about besides Arlo or work for most of this year.
I have several creative friends/colleagues with small children and during this year, at the Typism conference and by sharing more online, I have connected with so many other creative mums. Being able to chat about the ups and downs of combining mum-life with running your own business and the impact motherhood has on your creativity has been really great for me.
Even if we are from different cities or countries we now share jokes and stories via social media. I feel like I have a virtual mum tribe! And I kind of wish we could all meet up in person as I think we would have the nicest time.
Creative Business. I think the change of pace from running your own business to being a mum can be quite unexpected. You are busy as a mum, but not stimulated. And it could be fair to say, at times I have just been really bored. And at times it’s been hard not to feel like all that hard work I put into my business is going to waste cleaning up baby food and doing laundry. The podcasts I mentioned earlier have been a godsend!
I think it is a bit of a dilemma for working mums that when they are with their baby they are often thinking about work, and when they are working they just want to be with their babe.
I started doing a bit of freelance work earlier than I thought I would. I had the opportunity to work on a great job with a great client who was super understanding and flexible. I also had been asked to speak at Typism in the Gold Coast in August so had a bit of work to do preparing my talk and slides.
So I started doing work because I wanted to creatively, I enjoyed being stimulated again, but also because we live in Auckland, the reality was that I needed to do a bit of work. I also needed to put in a bit of work behind the scenes of my business to keep it ticking over, and this year has been the ideal time to do the tasks that often get pushed to the side like updating my website, setting up my email automation, learning how Facebook advertising works…
When I first started doing a bit of work again I soon began questioning how you are meant to be a mum and also work, let alone run a business. Being a mum is hard, but being a mum & also wanting/needing to work is really hard. My amazing mum has looked after Arlo a couple of days a week and my partner has on the weekends. But at times I have felt like a ‘stay at home working mum’, working during Arlos nap times and into the evenings after a full day of mumlife.
It has been challenging learning to switch between the two roles. Jumping from lunch clean up (disaster zone) and laundry, to responding to emails and working on projects and then back again, can be really hard on a tired brain!
I have never ended up in a flow state this year. A flow state if you don’t know, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity (1). It is so important for creativity and it has been such an important way of working for me in the past. This year I have worked in fragmented bits of time. Often as soon as I would start to get on a roll then nap time would be over or I would be interrupted.
I saw a great post from artist Emily Jeffords recently that talked about how we cannot create when we are exhausted. That fresh ideas take intentional time and quietness. None of which is really available for many years when children are little. They take nearly every bit of your energy. My brain definitely did not work the same for a long time (possibly still doesn’t!). And I think by not creating you can lose your confidence in your abilities, which can then affect your ability to create.
I have watched friends/creative colleagues jump ahead in their careers, working on some awesome projects and it’s hard not to get a bit of FOMO. But then there are a couple of artists I look up to, who didn’t even start their careers until their 40s and I know this ‘season’ in the long run won’t make a difference, there will be plenty of time to catch up.
The above has been my reality of the mumlife/freelance life juggle. But the main thing to come out of this year is realising everyday how lucky I am to be able to choose my own hours, work around Arlos schedule and needs and not be working for someone else during their prescribed hours (which never really gelled with me anyway!). The juggle has just emphasised how lucky I am to be able to merge mum-life and creative-life together. As challenging as it all can be at times I wouldn’t change it for the world.
If you have read this far - thank you for your interest, and thank you for your ongoing support of my business, it means the world.