The Juggle Struggle

Joy wrote this post about juggling last week – a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. Sophie turned 15 months old last Friday. The milestones seem to be coming faster and faster (talking! getting ready to walk!), but I don’t have that many photos of Sophie from the last few months to record all the changes. There are a couple of reasons. First, this kid is on the move! She rarely sits still for more than 5 seconds, and if she sees me pointing a camera in her direction she’ll immediately crawl over and try to grab it from me. But the main reason is that Sophie started daycare in mid-September, just after her first birthday.



After being Sophie’s sole daytime caregiver for the entire first year of her life, I was really looking forward to having my days back. Before daycare, I spent my entire day with Sophie, trying to squeeze emails or mini photo sessions into naps or quiet time, but often not truly starting to work until after 7 or 8 p.m. I had to completely forget about trying to get any house-related projects done during the week, leaving lots of not-yet-unpacked boxes from our move in March. It was a rough schedule, and our stress levels were at an all-time high. So when a space opened up at my husband’s work (after being on the wait list for eight months!), we welcomed the chance with open arms.



But with full time childcare came daycare illnesses. Sophie has been sick continuously for the last three months. We’ve had more colds than I can count, two fevers, three ear infections, and endless congestion. Which means several trips back and forth to the pediatrician, and lots of days home until Sophie was well enough to go back to daycare, just to get sick again. It has been an exhausting, endless loop, detracting from the increased productivity that daycare was supposed to allow in the first place.

But mostly? Mostly I just miss my days with Sophie. Even with the exhaustion and late nights, I miss my sweet girl. She’s getting so big so fast, and I know that this second year will fly by even faster than the first. But I know that I can’t do both. I can’t spend my days with Sophie and develop all the new content and features that I want for OSBP. Photo shoots, DIY projects, even just reviewing and responding to submissions takes a lot of time, and that doesn’t even include the mundane tasks of organizing my office and filing paperwork. There are days that I only get to spend a couple of hours with Sophie between picking her up from daycare and when she goes to sleep. I miss Sophie most of all on those days. I love my job, I want to grow my business, and I need to help provide for my family, but I also want to be present while my daughter is small.



So, like Joy, this leads to a lot of guilt and stress, in many of the same ways. But I also find myself questioning my priorities, and the way I allocate my time. I tell myself everything would be easier “if only” – if only we could afford a nanny instead of daycare, if only I could afford a staff to help shoulder the workload, etc. – but that’s just wishful thinking. I don’t have any real answers or solutions.



Sorry for the semi-downer of a post, but this has been on my mind so much lately that I needed to write it down. It’s a daily struggle, and I do hope that it will eventually get easier. But in the meantime, my sweet girl is home from daycare with yet another fever and ear infection. And while it means I won’t get anything else done today, I’m looking forward to taking care of her.

Since I don’t have many recent photos of Sophie, these photos were all taken by the talented CJ of Charlie Juliet Photography during our last trip to NYC in August, when Sophie was around 11 months old. 

  1. I feel as though life is a constant struggle in finding the balance between doing the things we have to do and the things we want to do. Sophie is growing up so quickly (love the photo with her sunglasses) and it’s been a joy watching her do it on your blog and instagram. I hope she feels better soon and is building an iron-clad immune system. In the meantime, happy holidays!

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and love all the work you do! I don’t think I’ve ever commented before, but I thought I’d chime in today. You are right, the whole parenting/working thing is just that—a juggle AND a struggle! I don’t think there is any perfect equation. I read a quote two years ago that changed my life, “You can do anything, just not everything.”
    For me, the solution has been to pull in the reigns on my work life. I still keep my feet wet in the creative world, and overall, I’ve just been REALLY picky about what work I take on. Childhood does go by SO fast! Since I’ve made changes, I’ve had no regrets. Listen to your mama heart. Do what works best for your family NOW, and then you can re-evaluate in a few months. Then again, and again. What worked for me 2 years ago is very different picture than what works currently. And, I know in another year, life will look differently again. What happened to predictability? Sigh. What do you do?!
    Good luck figuring out what works best for you! I know I don’t speak for all your readers, but if you decide to scale back, we’ll still be here, cheering you on!

    • Hi Melissa! Thank you for commenting – especially on a post like this. And thank you so much for the words of support. It’s so wonderful to know that I have readers like you out there!

  3. I too read Joy’s post and it was brutally honest. I too “try” to balance a freelance career, a shop and blog that is not related to my career, 2 wonderful kids age 2 and 5 and a pretty patient and supporting husband. I have found that the struggles and guilt were much more dominating in the first 2-3 years of being a mom for me-that guilty feeling was so intoxicating. I was a pretty cranky trying to get it right. There is no right I think. Everyone has to figure out their plan of action for that particular time it seems. What has worked for me in the past couple of years, was literally letting go and letting the children dictate what needs to be done with them first and everything else kind of revolves around that now. I have done much less blogging and shop maintenance for sure, and cut back on freelance, but I no longer feel that I am in survival mode. I hate survival mode. I was quite a zombie. The day would fly by and with all of the stress that I had in my head about what I did not get done, I forgot easily the things that did get done and the day was over in a minute it seemed. I feel good now –liberated. It is the plan that works for now and I may have to revise things as life goes on. Hang in there and I hope you find that cozy place we like to call “balance”. Hope Sophie feels better. I remember those day care sick days with mine–oh boy! It will all be better before you know it.

    • Thank you Linette! You’re so spot on that there is no “right” answer – what works for someone else doesn’t necessarily work for me or anyone else, so I know I’m just spinning my wheels if I try to figure out what someone else is doing to make them seem like they have everything together.

      I’ve also heard that things get easier after the first 2-3 years, which is comforting. But we’re hoping to expand our family at some point, so it’s also kind of terrifying to think that we’ll be in this struggle for years to come. Hopefully we’ll figure some things out before a second kiddo comes along!

  4. Thanks so much for your blog today. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the juggle and struggle of motherhood and business/work. I pray you find the balance you need and that little Sophie stays healthy.

    • Thank you! And no, while our individual circumstances vary, we’re definitely not alone in this struggle. It doesn’t make the struggle itself any easier, but hopefully we can rely on each other for support through the journey.

  5. Thanks for this post, Nole! I love the personal insight. I’m due in May with my first, and already having anxiety over having a baby and a growing small business. In theory it seems awesome to have your own gig and “make” your own hours, but often that ends up meaning working all the time. I have a hard enough time finding room for myself and really do worry that it’ll be an adjustment to make room for a baby. Not a downer post at all — it’s comforting to hear that you have the same struggles and considerations all the time, too. Just want to say, it seems like you’re doing a great job – and I’m sure Sophie will always learn from her hard working visionary mom! -jen

    • Aw, congrats Jen! I’m so happy for you! Babies are a HUGE adjustment for anyone, and your life will change in ways you can’t even imagine. But it’s so worth it, even with the stress and heartache of balancing work and family. Plus, you have a wonderful business partner to help you through the transition! A good support network is key. While we have amazing (mostly childless) friends, our families all live elsewhere and we don’t do so well in that department. I hope to see you and the future little one at NSS 2015!

  6. Hugs! I have a daughter who is two months older than Sophie and can completely relate. I don’t think you have to be huge to be successful. Success means different things to different people, to me – at this point in life – it means that I am able to bring in some type of income while being able to stay home with her while she’s little. I’m not the most successful, I rarely find the time to market myself like I should, and work way too many late nights but somehow it’s okay. 🙂

    • Hi Chelsey! I’m glad you’ve found a balance that works for you. I agree that success means different things to different people, and I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I felt that success means a huge blog. I’ve always valued quality over quantity when it comes to my business. But I also have to be realistic that my family relies on my income, and is counting on me to be able to grow that income in a meaningful way. For me, at least right now, success means feeling a certain level of comfort in our circumstances. We’re still working on that goal.

      • I wouldn’t say I’ve found a balance – a lot of things are left neglected, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be in a place where everything feels like I’ve got it under control – it’s more of a personal acceptance that I don’t have to be perfect, or big or making loads of money to be ‘successful’ – which is the definition I’ve (sadly) held of success for a very long time. Plus everytime I think I have things under control my toddler senses this and changes things up 🙂 Best of luck with finding what works for your family!

  7. Girl, I’m right there with you! We went with a mother’s morning out program at 1 year…so Glory Maeve is gone for 2 mornings every week. It has helped with the transition but some days I could use just a few more hours! And then other days I miss her terribly! Ohh parenthood.. 🙂

    • It’s such a tough balance! I’m glad to have some hours to myself, but it’s so hard to miss her on the days I don’t see her very much. I spend so much time thinking about her when she’s not with me!

      Your mother’s morning out program sounds so great! I wish we had options like those here in DC. Everything here is full time – nannies, private daycares, or government-run daycares (which is what we’re doing). We could choose to send Sophie to daycare part time, which we sometimes do, but we pay for full time even if we don’t use it the full time amount. I really wish we had a better and more diverse range of options, especially for work at home moms.

  8. It is so good to hear everything I’ve been thinking and feeling over the past couple of years being “vocalised” by someone else.

    I started growing my business whilst having children. I Had three full term pregnancies within three/four years and have a four year old and a two year old. I’m trying to balance life, children and getting “out there” with work (I’ve been a designer for ten years now but only since the kids showed up started to move in to greetings and “off the shelf” paper products to better fit with being a Mama) as well as designing new ranges and doing all the business stuff that comes along with it.

    Most days I feel conflicted one way or another and like I’m either cheating on myself and work (my wants and life) or the children. Some days I manage everything and those days are AWESOME, others my kids get upset that I’m working or because I work from home I get embroiled in whats going on and get no work done and my days feel like a great big flop from start to finish. We don’t live near family either and so have no support network in that respect and daycare just hasn’t been an option. I’ve come to love the tranquility in my house at 1am and sometimes terrified by its odd noises at 3am and happy that even tho we run like a divorced family some times (the Mr has the kids on the weekend) I know my kids will have grown up with time really getting to know their Dadda and having quality time with just him.

    My biggest learning has been that the children are small once and that time is a limited offer, never getting it back kind of one. I’m happy to not have foreign holidays and scrimp along a bit in order to be there for first steps/words and all of that and enjoy the small ones whilst they are small. I’ve now found myself on a journey of life rather than a separate work/children battle. I’ll work hard a lot over winter and the not so good days and come the summer or a beautiful day really enjoy being my own boss and that I can say “yeah we’re going to the beach” because I have no one else to answer to.

    After that day at the beach, I’ll settle down with a glass of wine at my computer to work whilst the children are asleep and bask in the joy of having it all, slowly and one baby step at a time. Who cares if I hit 40 before I’ve really “made it” while Anna Bond/Rifle and Quill and Fox and all of the other uber talented ladies and gents are there NOW (I do some days, its easy to fall in to a comparison trap with individuals who have been driven to do what they are doing AND don’t have kids or time constraints like I do). It’s my journey and I’m going to enjoy every last bit of it, no matter how long it takes.

    While I love the content popping up from you daily, have you thought about still doing what you love but taking the time pressure out? Move over to e-magazine perhaps? Monthly or bi-monthly with a blog that acts as a show and tell to putting it together and including snippets of the things that are slowly creeping in to your blog world that you are clearly passionate about (small people)? You can find a way to be present for all of it, “IT” just might not look like you thought it did.

    • Thanks Nicole! I totally know what you mean about the quiet tranquility of a sleeping house at 1 a.m. It’s when I get my best work done, even with daycare! I also hear you about feeling like you sometimes keep a schedule of a separated couple – my husband and I try to do as much as we can together, but sometimes divide and conquer is all we can do.

      Thank you for the suggestion of looking into a different format that would allow me to scale back a bit! An e-magazine isn’t really an option for me for a variety of reasons, but I’ve been trying to find other ways of giving myself a bit of breathing space while maintaining momentum – like some of the new contributors you’ve seen popping up on OSBP. The challenge is that there are SO MANY THINGS that I really really want to do, but just don’t have the time or energy to hustle to make them happen. I could do a whole separate post about business/financial pressures, but that’s probably a bit TMI. It’s definitely part of the juggle struggle, though.

      You’re so right that we can’t compare our situation or success to others – although I do definitely find myself giving the side eye my young, single and/or childless internet colleagues sometimes. They must have so much more time and energy than I do! But the comparisons are all useless, since they have their circumstances and challenges, and I have mine. It is what it is. I love your thoughts about enjoying the journey and focusing on the positive aspects of being your own boss. There is a lot to be thankful for, even when it’s hard.

  9. It’s so refreshing to read a blog post like this. These struggles are real and reminds me, as a reader of your blog and Joy’s, that life still happens and EVERYONE goes thru it. You are an inspiration and your Sophie is absolutely adorable. I have a 3-1/2 month old daughter and I just returned to my 9-5. It is so difficult to try and keep your side projects going while wanting only to spend time with your little one.

    Thanks for being so honest and open with your readers. From what I see, there is so much love in Sophie’s life. 🙂

  10. i think it is only honest to write like that and sharing the juggle-struggle-sacrifice with your readers. i at least am bored by all those all-is-so-perfect-and-sunny blog posts and it helps my bad conscience as a working mum to see that there are more women out there feeling the same.

  11. These pics are stunning! I don’t want to offer any advice other than to say to listen to your heart. Once we mothers really truly listen to our hearts, the answers to our dilemmas and big time life problems, come more freely. My children are older: 16, 15 and 11. The time has gone so very quickly. And the struggle and juggle between a career (or job) vs. being a stay at home mom, still exist for me. For our family a big realization was that if I was able to be dedicated to our kids, it would allow my husband the ability to grow his career and business. And fortunately this has worked out very well for our family.

    I found you thru a comment on Brooklyn Limestone and was immediately attracted to the name “oh so beautiful paper”. A few years back I created a line of stationery and also sold paper goods.

    Best of luck in finding the answer that works for your family! hugs, cathy

    • Hi Cathy,

      Welcome to Oh So Beautiful Paper! And thank you for your kind thoughts and wishes for my family. We’re actually in the exact opposite situation as your family. My husband works for the government, and in the current situation of shutdowns, sequesters, and budget cuts, I’m the only one with the opportunity to really grow in my career and business. We’re both trying to listen to our hearts and make the best decisions we can for our future. Hopefully we’ll figure it out!

  12. Nole! I’ve been MIA everywhere for exactly this same reason. You featured little Liam’s announcement here a little while back and even that was sent out ridiculously late. My oldest will be 4 this April and we had gotten into a groove. I was able to work and felt like things were getting better. That’s probably why he’s almost four and Liam will be 6 months tomorrow. We were terrified of upsetting everything again. Most days, I feel like “jack of all trades, master of none”. I get a little bit of everything started, never get anything all the way done. I also get tired of saying, yeah I’ll get to that. Every time I turn around one of them needs something and I want to be there for them but like you, we need what I can bring in. Day care has not been an option we have been willing to consider, we made that decision before they were born. We both grew up with our mothers at home and that’s how we wanted it for them but it’s been a difficult decision I can say. I would definitely welcome some free time to get ANYTHING done!
    Still, as time goes on, you start finding a groove. I’ve realized that expectations are really what kill us. I think if we learned to lower those and were happier with what we were able to accomplish in a day we’d be happier overall. I noticed that I can usually only get one other “task” done during the day while taking care of the boys. So I have to choose what task that’ll be each day. A little printing one day, some laundry the next, a fancier dinner the next. These tasks get done in tiny pockets of time where I am able to do anything. Once they’re asleep, I start my work, around 9pm and I try to go as far as I can without passing out. Sometimes I even stay up until Liam wakes up the first time. It’s a very crazy time, but my husband and I always say, one day when they’re young men watching TV on the couch we’re going to say “remember when…” and that always brings me to tears and reminds me that it is worth it to go a little crazy now.
    Lots of luck Nole, I know it’s hard but it is so good to read a post like this and see all the other brave women who struggle with the same things. It’s really encouraging!

    • Kimberly! You’re so very right about expectations – I tend to have ridiculously high expectations for myself, which of course just leads to nothing but frustration and more stress. It’s hard for me to chill out, because then I just feel like I’m falling behind, but I’m trying. And I’m 100% with you on really only being able to get one “other” thing done during the days that I have Sophie, so I try to choose carefully.

      It’s so funny, because we planned to do daycare or a nanny share from the very beginning. But when it came time to make the transition, I ended up having a much harder time with everything than I thought I would. I’m obviously still questioning our arrangements. I think the part that’s getting to me the most is watching Sophie get so big so fast and knowing that these early years are so very very fleeting.

      Thank you so much for the encouragement – it really does help!

  13. Hi Nole, this was such a great post and I can’t thank you enough for sharing. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant since January and being a business owner a lot of the things you discussed have already been big topics in our home. I worry about how I will manage it all because like you I need to help provide for my family and more importantly I LOVE what I do so I can’t imagine giving it up.

    We had two miscarriages this year (1 in March and 1 in August) so we decided to give my body a rest for a bit and start trying again in January. Even with all we have already been through and all the scary changes I know a baby will bring I know I will feel like you once our sweet baby is here.

    So I guess the juggling struggle is difficult but so very worth it, right? 🙂

    xo, Shayla

    • Hi Shayla,

      I’m so very sorry for your losses – I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. I’m sending lots of positive thoughts for you in the new year! Keep me posted, okay?

      And yes, it’s all worth it – a thousand percent worth it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sophie is the best thing that ever happened to me, and even with the struggle, stress, and heartache she makes our lives better in a million ways. The first few weeks and months are really hard as you adjust to having a tiny little human that you have to KEEP ALIVE, but once they start sleeping longer stretches and smiling you’ll feel like you’ve turned a corner. The early months also help with the transition, because they sleep most of those early newborn days (even if that sleep comes in short stretches). So you learn how to be crazy productive in a short period of time, you also learn how to function better on less sleep, and you learn how to triage pretty much everything going on in your life. It’s not easy – parenting is absolutely the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, but it’s so very worth it.

  14. Hi Nole-

    I haven’t read the other comments, but wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in feeling that way. I’m a SAHM (working on relaunching my website) and although I spend 24/7 w both on my children (4.5 & 1.5) I STILL feel guilty that I can’t ‘do it all’. Your passion, your business are part of what makes you, YOU. For some reason we think that once we become mothers, we’ll be totally fulfilled! Well, I’ve yet to meet a mom who feels that way. Being a mom is now ‘part’ of your identity, but you didn’t leave every other aspect I. The delivery room. I think we as moms need to figure out how to balance only as much as we can handle and then let go of what just isn’t going to fit (for now). I have no idea “how” and I’ve been at this mothering gig for almost 5 years. When I figure it out, I’ll let’cha know 😉

  15. Thanks for the honest post – as a working mum I struggle too even though my boys are older now, its still a challenge in juggling it all…hope its a little comfort to know we are not alone and its all part of the ‘motherhood’ journey. Your little girl is gorgeous!

  16. Nole, Thank you so much for this honest post! It means a lot to me as a business owner juggling to make it all work, and the recent talks with my husband of starting a family open up a whole new world that sounds really scary and intimidating – although obviously joy-filled and rewarding!! I think you are doing a fantastic job balancing it all. I hope little Sophie is feeling better!

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