I have yet to really find out how to strike a balance between being a mom and running a business. It is HARD. The lines get further blurred since I work at home. When I am doing one thing, I am most often always worried I am neglecting something else. Am I devoting enough time to Ella? To my business? To my husband? To my home? To MYSELF?! The last thing on my mind has been devoting time to my blog, to be quite honest. (Which is why there has been a long absence in my posts!) However I felt the random need tonight to just release some of these thoughts.
Since my last post in September, business has really boomed. I never really imagined that things would take off so quickly! I signed up for several craft fairs last fall and winter. Craft fairs were fun but preparations took way more time than I imagined. I had great success at the Chestnut Hill Craft Show, and some unsuccessful trysts at local Hanukkah bazaars. I took advantage of running a "Black Friday" sale in my Etsy shop. I got 23 orders in 3 days over that weekend whereas I had been averaging about 20 orders a MONTH. The orders kept rolling in throughout Christmas, as I offered holiday items this year. In the week leading up until the Christmas Order ship date cutoff, I was getting about 2 hours of sleep a night. I pulled my first all-nighter since college. I find it extremely ironic that my lack of sleep since Ella was born has NOTHING to do with her! She has been an amazing sleeper from the start and has been sleeping through the night since 3 weeks old. I think through the Christmas rush, I was running on adrenaline. I was on a high that so many people wanted my artwork!
Though I still love getting orders, I think the high has worn off a bit, especially due to burnout. I thought that being a "work at home mom" would be the ultimate ideal! I had visions of working happily in my studio while Ella played next to me each day. Doing something I really loved. I had visions of a flexible schedule and not having to punch in the clock. I had visions of having to answer to no one. I had read in some business books that most people really romanticize being their own boss, and I certainly fell victim to this! While being your own boss IS pretty cool, it is NOT easy. My schedule is WAY less flexible than ever. I have to wake up by 8 to ensure I have enough time to get things done, and I am often up working late hours after everyone falls asleep, sometimes until 2am. I rarely have a weekend when I dont work. (I also tutor on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and Saturday mornings- so my weekends are certainly pretty shot!) I am the art department, the shipping department, the packaging department, the customer service department, the marketing department.... ETC. You get my drift! I am NOT sitting around painting all day. I still can't believe how long is takes me to nicely package up an item! What I would give to have someone else take care of packaging and deal with the dreaded post office.
The orders were still coming in at a rapid pace after Christmas, and I kept taking everything on, not really knowing what my limit was. I reached my limit in early February. Scott and I had planned a little getaway to Mexico for 4 days. His grandfather sadly passed away shortly before we went away. Before this experience, I never really appreciated the fact that when you work for a company or a school, that most of the time, when you take time off for bereavement or vacation, the whole company or school doesnt collapse because you are gone. Other coworkers can help cover your workload or a substitute teacher comes into your classroom. You can go back to work and pick up where you left off.
The harsh realization that I am in this alone really hit when I lost several days of work time due to Scott's grandfather's death and vacation. No one was there to cover for me or help me out. Business didn't keep on running. Everything stopped. I got REALLY behind. And I had time sensitive orders that needed to be shipped out in time for baby showers, new mommies who were anxious to set up their nurseries, new baby gifts, birthdays, etc. I just about killed myself before we went away, and by the time we got to Mexico, I felt as if I could barely relax. I was on edge constantly checking my site and making sure orders has arrived on time and customers were happy. I have run across some unhappy customers in my 500+ orders, but luckily they have been few and far between. And I have been able to resolve most issues amicably. It is really hard not to take things personally when you have an unhappy customer. Every single piece I create is handmade and though it sounds cheesy, it is kind of an extension of myself. I dont know if EVERYONE can appreciate the love, sweat and tears that goes into handpainted work. However, almost everyone I have worked with has been amazing! I had so much fun planning and decorating for Ella so I can certainly relate to those mommies-to-be!
After just about killing myself to get things done in time for Christmas, and suffering a major setback in February, I knew something had to give. After seeking some advice from other Etsyians, I decided to raise some of my prices to slow down sales, extend my wait time (which I hated doing) and even closed my shop for a few days to catch up on orders. I finally got to the point where I felt like I could breathe a bit. This came just in time for the nice weather to come around. I didnt quite mind holing myself up during the winter, but with the nice weather came my desire to finally get fresh air and fully enjoy time for myself and Ella. She LOVES being outside and taking walks in her strollers, and kicks and squeals in delight while we are out.
And speaking of my little Ella, she is just the best. I am so so so grateful to be home with her despite this insane and crazy schedule. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I look at her and feel a sense of peace. I dont know if I will ever strike a balance between mom, wife and artist. I know that things still need to change. I am learning, and I am trying my hardest................. thats really all I can do right now.