For February I wanted to focus on a question that has come up recently with the publication of the 10-Step Guide on How to Become a Paper Florist. The question is: how do you make flowers/run a business with a baby? I wanted to write something for all of the creative women who stay home with their babies, establishing themselves in the space between making and mothering.
When I first started making paper flowers, I was in my second trimester of my first pregnancy. Recently laid off (not the most convenient time to fall pregnant), the plan was to be a stay-at-home mom and thrive on a tight budget. I had no job prospects on the horizon (January is not a great time to search for K-12 jobs). Thankfully, my spouse and I came to an understanding: we could make this (life) work on one income, if we were careful.
Then I started making flowers. As soon as the first pictures of my finished work were posted, I had clients who wanted them. Paper flowers became a small source of income for me. My pregnancy progressed, my business began to bloom, and suddenly I found myself swimming in the deep end of mothering and making.
What follows is my advice on getting through the first months. Not just that, but I’ve asked two friends, Jessie of Crafted to Bloom and Stephanie of the Florasmith, to give their insights. Both of these paper florists deeply understand and empathize with the challenges of being a new creative and a new mom. The three of us have this in common: we all launched our businesses while pregnant and grew them as our babies grew. And all three of us were professionals: Jessie practiced family law, Stephanie was a visual merchandising manager for a national chain, and I developed science and social studies curriculum.
It’s a special combination to be a creative and a stay-at-home mother, especially a new creative and a new mother.
For all three of us, the arrival of our children signified a pause in our making efforts. In my case, the baby came, and with her arrival, the need to just be a new mom and nothing else for about two months. No cutting, glueing, or much thinking at all about paper flowers. It was a glorious, hormone-driven 60 days of new-baby-bliss.
It can be frazzling to have an infant schedule’s dominate every waking hour. How did we make it to the other side of this stage? I did it by making lists and prioritizing them. Here are seven ways to make it through, with comments from Jessie and Stephanie. Haven’t we all found ourselves here?
The baby nodded off after second morning feed five minutes ago. Wow, she’s been napping at this time for about a week now. I’m still in my morning clothes. Let’s be honest, I’ve been wearing the same clothes for two days. Beloved spouse is headed out the door, the dog needs a walk, there are dishes in the sink, and I know this is a decisive moment. Breakfast, shower, dishes, nap, or develop my passion for paper flowers into a business?
1. While the baby is feeding make a list of what to work on for your paper flower business. This is a time your baby is occupied and content. Prop the bottle or type one-handed with your phone into an app (I just use Notes). If you’ve read my 10-Step Guide on How to Become a Paper Florist, you will know what step to focus on and your list will reflect that. It may be as simple as “cut the petals for a dozen roses” or as complex as “go into website and fix SEO on images.” You’ll know what’s on your mind. The mind dump into a list is key. It frees up mental real estate! The bottle/breast will turn into the high chair feeding. This is a great time to make a list!
2. Also make a list of home tasks and self-care tasks you need to do. Let’s get real. Brush teeth, take shower, and do yoga can all be done in 25 minutes. Write them down so you can do them when there is a window. Loading dishes and laundry, moving laundry baskets to fold and sort areas, and making beds are all ten-minute tasks. Write them down so you can do them when there is a window. It is again, a mind dump into a list. Once you have two lists, business and home, you free yourself to focus on those lists instead of mentally reminding yourself of what needs to be done and then feeling hopelessly guilty when you are paralyzed by the mental load.
3. Identify short windows of time throughout your day to work on your lists. Here were my windows: naptime, time she was in her swing, time she was in her seat reclining while I worked, time when daddy was home and took over. For a while she loved her playpen and I seized the moment. Pro tip: When your baby is immobile you can get way more done than later when mobile. Trust me though, you will have lots of windows. It is totally ok to put your baby’s swing next to the shower while you shower, by the way. The key here is to identify the windows of time that present themselves and then grab your lists.
4. Before diving into a list, prioritize on each list you made. I use the ABC system. I put an A next to “must do today” items. I put a B next to “can do it tomorrow” items. C is for items to remember to do in the future. Maybe you bold the items you must do that day. Maybe you just circle one thing that must get done. Do what works for you, as long as you make and prioritize the lists. Check them off - it gives you a sense of completion and makes you want to do more!
5. When a window arrives, start with your top priorities and rotate between each list. Do a business item, and then a home/self-care item. This gives a semblance of work and life balance. It also means you might shave your legs or water your plants. Full disclosure: all my houseplants died the summer my baby was born. We didn’t prioritize them, but I did start a business and have a baby so I was okay with it.
6. If you haven’t slept, that is always the first thing to do if you have a window. Self-care is the most important task on your list so you can mother and make well. Sleeping is the most healing self-care we can do as new mothers. One study I read suggested new parents lose up to six months of sleep in the first two years of their child’s life. Not sleeping is no joke and, from personal experience, you must train yourself to catch the sleep that got away from you before diving into the rest.
7. Let some stuff go. I know, this is so hard. At time of this writing, my baby is 18 months old. Can you believe in just 18 months I have become inured to dishes in the sink? I also couldn’t care less about makeup and hair these days. Time is limited. When the kid needs me, I need to be there. When there is a window, I work on my lists.
As you can tell, the three of us figured out a lot of the same stuff when our babies were in their first few months. The 0-12 month period is a roller-coaster of new routines and systems for rapidly-growing babies with rapidly-changing needs. We love our roles as makers and mothers, and struggle with balancing both. We often feel there isn't enough time for everything, and prioritize our work. We spend a lot of time thinking so that when the moment arrives, we can execute.
You are not alone as a maker and a mother. We understand.
We have a lot more to share in our conversation, but want to know: What challenges are you facing as a mother and a maker? Let us know in the comments.
My next post in the series will be establishing family support to create a home-studio workflow. If you’re a mother and a maker and are interested in being interviewed, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org