I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m adjusting to life with our new baby. Today, our very own Emily from one of my most favorite shops – Clementine – and the author of our Brick + Mortar column is sharing some thoughts on growing a business while raising a child! This post in particular makes me love Emily about a billion times more than I already do – thanks Emily! –Nole
Hoo-rays and congratulations to Nole on the birth of baby Alice! Making a baby is no joke and we should probably start sending birth-day cards to moms. (Might I suggest “Happy Birth Day, from my uterus to yours!”) I love joining you all here in the Brick & Mortar column and I’m excited to share the behind-the-scenes jungle gym that is my life as a small-business-owning mom. –Emily of Clementine
- Surprise! I found out I was pregnant a month after opening Clementine; and so began my life rearing the Irish twins of boutique & baby. Three years in, I only have time to skim articles about work/life balance. I appreciate the intent. I have studied, worked, and advocated for women to be able to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. I also know that the simple question of “Can women have it all?” can lead to simply feeling defeated. I’m more interested in conversations about the struggles we’re actually facing as parents, makers, and small business owners: Am I making enough to justify daycare? How do I plan for a baby while running a small business? How do I support my friends who are struggling to conceive? How can I become a more loving step-mom? How do I strengthen my marriage while raising a business and a baby? Will this work sustain me? These conversations (and not the answers, which are often fleeting, if found) helped me grow, happily, into my thirties and feel confident that the choices I make for my business and my family are mine, even if they are difficult to make.
- A Day In The Life: My Imagined vs. Actual Day. My every-day mom struggle is a common one: How do I keep it together and feel successful when my imagined day is often so different from my actual one? Online, a lot of us look like super-woman. I’m not. I can take a good photo, and mask exhaustion with humor, but every time someone asks how I “do it all?” my answer is simple: I don’t. It’s sharing the honest struggles that helps me feel human and face the day. And oh what a whirlwind 24 hours can be!
Imagined Morning: Julian sleeps through the night and totally wears underwear all the time and actual clothing for most of the day. He eats a good breakfast and gets to pre-school on time. I do a lot of yoga and leave the house in an outfit free of yogurt/snot/something unidentifiable.
Actual Morning: I slept, sort of. Some people have eaten; other people have shoved cheerios into the couch and put on one sock. Julian is only wearing underwear, refuses to put anything else on and is halfway down the block on a scooter. No one has showered. We get to pre-school only 10 minutes late (success.) I give Julian kisses and talk about fire trucks. I hug him, tell him to have a totally fantastic day. Sometimes he still cries, it is still excruciating. Sometimes he runs off with friends, that is bittersweet too. Either way, I try to leave quickly (quick exits are the key to success).
Imagined Day At Work: I am super productive, I get caught up on orders, inquiries, and bills. All new shipments get priced and displayed in the shop. I eat an actual lunch. I make good use of my time. My desk looks good. I answer the phone when it rings. (Just kidding, I hate answering the phone.)
Actual work day: Before going to work, I manage to carve out 30 minutes to take a walk and listen to a new podcast (bliss is walking in one direction, by myself, with the space to think). I shower! I get dressed. I jet. On my 5 minute drive, I make a mental list of 12-24 things that must get done today. I open Clementine’s doors at 10:35 (only 5 minutes late!) I love the smell and sight of Clementine. The windows, the light. I feel genuinely lucky and forget at least 12 things on my to-do list. I unlock the door to my coffee shop neighbor and order. I write down everything I need to do today. (Just kidding, I like lists < answering the phone.) Instead, I drink my coffee and “work on social media marketing” for an hour. Good thing I’m the boss.
The mail arrives. MAIL! Gorgeous letters and packages. God I love you all. I drop whatever I’m doing to unwrap, delight and instagram new inspirations. Back to work, I try to reply to product submissions (thank you, especially for the sweet notes). This means reviewing your catalog and making a yes, maybe, no determination of how your product would fit at Clementine. It’s not always easy, I try to send a reply email immediately. I don’t always (please follow up!). I flip to the other 15 tabs open on my computer (bills, orders, inspiration, content writing, consulting). I’m interrupted every 5 to 30 minutes by customers. Some days I plow through, others times I dive into conversations with friends and customers about life, parenting, design, paint, color, marriage, that we must grab coffee (we both mean wine). I love these conversations. I will drop anything for them. I will also drop every thing for a milkshake or anything from Middlebury Chocolates. Is it 3 yet? Close enough.
Megan comes in, she gets actual work done. I love her. I love trusting someone to help me. I have time to place my orders, shipments get priced, updated online and out on the floor. I wrap and write notes for Clementine’s online orders. Sometimes this means making quick emergency orders with vendors because something a customer ordered is out of stock (you know the feeling?) By 4pm I’m on a great roll, I’m totally in the zone and bam, it’s 5 o’clock. My desk is a total mess, but I have to bust out of the shop and down the hill to my car. I am only 3 minutes late for Julian pick up. He chatters and gives me a hug and the world stops. I love this moment more than anything in the world. Anything ever. Sometimes I get out early and when I do, we go on tiny adventures. I try to have no agenda and let him lead.
Imagined evening: My family eats an actual dinner, we talk, we snuggle, we fall asleep happily before 10.
Actual life: People eat stuff, some of it is green and healthy (it’s Vermont, y’all, I may be busy, but our chicken nuggets are organic and I sneak in kale whenever possible.) It’s a wild nightly tangle of Julian, my husband and Julian’s big brothers. There is laughing and chasing and eating and did someone say ice cream? We have fights and whining. We have belly laughs. Some teeth are brushed. We read the same book again, because: toddlers. We talk about our day. Most people fall asleep. I finish all of the work I didn’t finish during the day. I place most of my orders between 10pm-12am. Bills I thought I already scheduled actually get paid. I have ideas. I plan for tomorrow. I hear the Colbert Report end. Time for sleep. Good night friends.
- Balance: Being a mom and a small-business owner is a mildly ridiculous exercise in productivity. Everyday is a new game of ping-pong: a symphony of joy, a cacophony of frustration. I won’t say I don’t believe in balance, but as a mom who loves her work, there is an unshakable tension between the two. I’m not Type A or overly organized. I get incredibly frustrated with that because it breeds a messy desk and some internal anxiety, but I happily abandon perfection to focus on making Clementine a space where community builds and people are intoxicated with design and craft just by walking in the door.
I try to go easy on myself when I don’t get it all done. I try to focus on friendships and experiences that fill my life (and my family’s) with as much laughter, creativity and kindness as we can stuff in. I believe that we can and should share the pretty instagram photos with a dash of the scared, ugly, unsure feelings. We can be ourselves and moms. We can recognize that people we love are struggling to become moms. We can send more cards. We can have more laughs. We can be kinder. We can fail and start over. We can climb mountains to be creative. We can fill this life with more love.
First & last photo by Jessica Anderson, delicious chocolate photo by Middlebury Chocolates all others by Emily.