How to Grow a Business While Raising a Baby

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.

I am so incredibly fortunate to be able to make and mother at the same time. As a mother, I feel my life is so full of love and contentment. Tristan is my world. My heart is so full when I think about him. As an artist, I feel the need to be creative and to create beauty in my life that wasn’t there before. I love being with Tristan and I love making flowers. So I think, for the moment, I have the best of both worlds (subject to me being able to juggle both!)
— Jessie Chui, Crafted to Bloom
One of the best things about being a maker mom has been the enjoyment I’ve found in making things for my son - and his enjoyment in the things I make for him.  Aside from paper flowers, I found that my creative focus shifted a bit after my son was born.  I found myself making things that would make him happy and challenge him - at first it was a baby play gym, then a busy board with locks for him to puzzle out and buttons to push and wheels to turn, and then I made a  scooter out of a mailbox.  I used to make things for me, to make me happy, but now more often I make things to make my son happy, which, it turns out, makes me happy, too.  I love that I’m still creating, but I have an added challenge of problem-solving for a child.
— Stephanie Redlinger, the Florasmith

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.

Tristan was born about a month after I formally launched my paper flower business in September 2016. At the time, I was just starting out and practicing on my own and then posting them on IG or on my website. After he was born, I took a few weeks to gather myself and get on a newborn schedule.
— Jessie Chui, Crafted to Bloom
When our son, Harrison, was born, as most parents would tell you, normal day-to-day life sort of went out the window.  I took a little break from doing much of anything creative because it took awhile for me to find my footing as a new mom, but when I finally got back into creating in earnest, it was very frustrating for me - I felt that I never had enough time!
— Stephanie Redlinger, the Florasmith

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!

List-making has gone hand-in-hand with time management. In my professional life before Harry I used lists a lot to help me stay organized, and that has followed me into mom-life. It’s very easy for me to lose entire days as a full-time mom, so keeping lists, along with using my planner, has been indispensable in keeping myself focused and productive...most of the time.

When my son is awake it’s full-on mom time, but when he’s sleeping (either napping or after his bedtime) I have to make full use of my time, because it only comes in precious, small quantities (and about to get a lot smaller with another baby on the way!) So a lot of my flower-making has started to be done in my head and in my sketchbook. I’ve found that I do a lot of mental problem-solving and experimentation before I even touch any crepe paper, because I really can’t bring out the paper and scissors with my toddler around - he’d be all over it. But I can think about how to approach making and arranging my flowers with him there next to me. Sometimes this works to my advantage, and sometimes not (there are many times that my mental experiments go horribly wrong in the physical world), but it’s one way I’ve developed to work a little more creative time into my days. Plus, I just can’t help thinking about making flowers a lot - sometimes it feels like an obsession.

Another thing I’ve started doing is keeping prioritized lists of flowers, or arrangements of flowers I want to make so that when I do get time to sit down, I already have a plan and I can jump right in.
— Stephanie Redlinger, the Florasmith

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.

Before I had Tristan, I would make whatever flower I fancied, and often dove right in taking my sweet time. Now, I often feel a sense of urgency. I have to be super productive when I have “me” time because it’s so limited. So I spend an incredible amount of time planning, researching, and just thinking - thinking about my designs and the construction of my flowers. I thinking a lot before I even start making a flower for an arrangement because I don’t want to make flowers that I won’t end up using in my final product. Once I’m done the majority of the planning, it helps me line up all of the flowers I need to make. I determine which flower I am making that day or week, and I plan ahead for any dying or bleaching or paper prepping, or purchasing paper or materials (I like to dye and bleach when my son isn’t around to keep him away from the fumes). I do a lot of my laptop work at night after Tristan has gone to bed, so you’ll often get emails or comments or blog posts from me at night.
— Jessie Chui, Crafted to Bloom
I’ve started thinking about creative time in terms of naptime, where a “naptime” is a unit of measurement: “Can I get these flowers done in a naptime?” It has also become important for me to know how much time (or how many naptimes) it takes for me to make different flowers. So I’ve worked on both timing myself when practicing flowers, and finding efficiencies that don’t negatively affect the quality of my work. And I’ve found that I’ve had to start compartmentalizing the work so that it’s easy to pick up where I left of if/when I’m interrupted.
— Stephanie Redlinger, the Florasmith

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!

I plan my days by month, by week, and by day. When I have a project, I am always looking at my agenda to see what time slots are baby-free, or when my husband might be home to help me with Tristan. Then I work backwards from my deadline, fixing smaller deadlines. For example, I figure out when my planning must be done by, and when each flower should be done by. I build in flexibility where I can, as sometimes I underestimate the amount of time I need to make a new flower, or something comes up and I don’t have a baby-free time slot. I work through the night if I have to.
— Jessie Chui, Crafted to Bloom
I feel that I am much better at time management. Most of the time. Going from having a full-time management job before baby to then choosing to be a full-time mom after my baby was born was rough for me in terms of time management. Before baby I was able to accomplish a lot in one day. But one of the things I’ve had to come to terms with as a mom is that I am no longer able to check everything off my list. I can pick maybe a couple small, toddler-safe projects to do around the house while my son is awake, and one bigger project (usually flower-making) that I can do during his nap or after he goes to bed.
— Stephanie Redlinger, the Florasmith

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.

When I would finally get into the groove of just making, my son would wake up from his nap...or it would be late at night and I would need to go to sleep, myself. It still sometimes takes me a while to get into the zone when I’m creating, and the hour-and-a-half to three-hour blocks of time I get each day don’t hardly seem enough.
— Stephanie Redliner, the Florasmith

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.

I am a very messy maker. I always have been, and try as I might - and I do try - it’s very difficult for me to work otherwise. It drives my husband crazy. The mess I make was less of an issue when my workspace was in our spare bedroom and I could just shut the door, but with a new baby on the way we’re moving my desk out to a more visible area of the house. We’re about to test how hard I can try to keep a tidy work area, and how well my husband can turn a blind eye…
I also find the act of making and creating to be a very selfish endeavor - at least for me. In order to really get into my creative zone I need to be able to focus, which allows for very few distractions. Having a child is naturally a huge distraction - certainly not one that I would ever give up, but it has been tough for me to find the sweet spot between feeling satisfied with the creative time I get and feeling like I’m being a good mom to my son. And now I have another baby due soon, so I’m going to need to adjust again. I’m anticipating not having much time at all for the next year or so!
— Stephanie Redlinger, the Florasmith
My dual identities as a maker and as a mother are a daily internal struggle for me. There are days when I am literally counting down the hours until nap time so I can cut petals. But the very reason for my leave from my legal career was to focus on raising Tristan until he enters kindergarten. Tristan is supposed to be my full time job. Every time I touch a petal, it’s time that I am not spending with Tristan. So it’s incredibly difficult for me to feel like I’m being a good mother when I’m not 100% present. So often, Tristan is tugging at my pant leg when I’m trying to post or respond to a message. I get annoyed at him and he cries. Then I feel so guilty for feeling the way that I do and guilty for prioritizing my business over his need for mommy. As I write this, I question myself why I believe I have to prioritize one or the other, and why can’t I be content with being both, or doing both, at the same time.
— Jessie Chui, Crafted to Bloom

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 amity@florabeane.com