When Tonya and I created the idea for Get Real, I think hearing about how she fits work & creative work into her day was one of the topics I was most interested to read about. Sitting down to write my own story here, my mind was a complete blank at first. How do I fit work and creative work into our family life? The answer has changed so much over the years, and we’re in the middle of a change right now, so the answer doesn’t feel very solid. Maybe that is the answer, actually – that my work is ever-changing and evolving, but that I usually try to find space for it in my life.
My husband and I started our bakery (Wheatberry) the year before our daughter was born, so it was my first baby. We started baking out of our rental home kitchen for farmer’s markets, then took on wholesale accounts with cafes and restaurants, and by the time I was hugely pregnant we desperately needed to move into a commercial space. We signed a lease that spring, and started building the kitchen.
Our daughter was born at the beginning of June, and after a few weeks at home, she and I rejoined Ben in the construction work, working to get the cafe open as soon as we could, while continuing our wholesale accounts. After the endless inspections, permits, and meetings were through, after hiring and speed-training more kitchen staff and counter staff, we were as ready as we would ever be to open.
What can I say about those first days? Madness, bliss, chaos, insanity, warmth, euphoria, rapture, exhaustion.
Ben, our newborn daughter, and I came in with the early morning bakers, helped try to manage the wholesale baking and also a line of customers who stretched out the door. We would pause to eat dinner in town, come back to make sure everything was properly finished for the day, drive home, and fall into bed. I woke in the morning, set my throbbing feet down on the floor, and wanted to cry from the pain of them, but it was time to go. I wore our daughter in a baby carrier, and while she slept and nursed, I worked. Ben worked double, trying to do his job as well as the jobs I had always done, which we naively thought I would still be able to do with a baby. We were learning a tremendous amount about how to manage our staff, and learning how to be parents, too. Our family vision has always been to keep our children with us – working and learning together, and we count ourselves very lucky that we have managed to do that.
As I said, the daily details of working together as a family change from year to year, season to season. When our daughter was a baby, she was super attached to me, and I worked while she was in the Ergo, and when she was awake, we walked around town and played at the library. Eventually, one of our bakery crew was able to take her out sometimes so I could work without a toddler attached to me – what a relief! As she grew older, we also let her start playing with the flour and spices, making her own creations. She and I also spent more time at home. Being at work with your child, having them throw temper tantrums in front of customers is not my idea of fun, and there were certain ages where the cafe was very overwhelming for her (and for me). My husband and I cherish those times where the whole family comes in and the children play peacefully while we work – but those are rare, beautiful and lucky moments.
Usually we trade off caring for the children while the other parent works. Once my daughter was about 18 months old, she would stay home once or twice a week for a “Daddy day” and I would go to work, race around like a madwoman trying to fit several day’s worth of work into a half day, and then head home. As she got older, I was able to go in for a full day, and sometimes she would go out with a babysitter so that Ben and I could work together, which was wonderful for us. We have not had great luck with babysitters, honestly, so that doesn’t happen often.
Currently, my daughter is about to turn 6, and my son is 16 months old. This morning they’re both home with my husband for the very first time, so that’s pretty exciting. They have gone out with him to the playground or the library while I’ve worked, and the baby has gone out with a sitter for two or three hours while I work. I decided that this year, for my Gift of a Year, I was going to Write the Book. Ben and I have been planning to write about our journey opening our bakery, making real food for customers, and recipes and other goodies, for years now. I realized that this was the year – while I can still write during the baby’s naptime. So in January my daughter started attending a Waldorf kindergarten (more about that in the school post), and I use the time while she’s in school and the little man is sleeping to work on the book, and also to do other Wheatberry & Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA work. (The book is called Love Real Food, by the way, just to get you excited ).
As for creative work, I’m very lucky that my day job is creative. A lot of my work at Wheatberry is management – working with staff, training, hiring, overseeing, typing procedures, doing paperwork, etc. But some of it is wonderful fun – making new recipes, taking photos, designing the appearance of our space. Writing has always been my main creative outlet, and after my daughter was born, I discovered blogging as a new way to do that. I really enjoy this space, and especially all of the connections it’s allowed me to create that I never would have otherwise. I only post once or twice a week, though, because I usually work on it after the kids go to bed, and most nights I choose to spend that time with my husband. Sometimes I get up early to write, especially if I’m feeling really fired up about sharing something.
I carry my knitting with me everywhere I go, and I really love working with fiber. I usually have one “easy” project going that doesn’t require much counting or thinking, just knitting round and round, so I can knit while I watch the kids play at the library or the playground. And I have one more challenging, fun project going that requires me to pay attention, and creates something especially beautiful. I sometimes knit when my husband and I talk together at night. I love to sew, but I don’t do it very much because I can’t carry my sewing machine to the park! It’s something I’m hoping to make some more space in my life for, though, especially as the baby gets more independent and learns to play more by himself. I’m currently working on a quilt for our bed, and I really do love it.
I find that for myself, making time for creative work, and work work, is really important. For years I felt very conflicted about this – was I a stay at home mother or a working mother? Didn’t I need to choose? I think I have finally made peace with this question, and the answer is that I’m both. I’m a mother who loves the business she created with her soul mate, and a mother who loves to be home sometimes, hanging laundry outside and painting watercolors. I get very cranky, frankly, when I do too much of either of these, and I find that the balance benefits our whole family. Creative work, like knitting, sewing, and writing are sometimes hard to make priorities, but I find that expressing that creative energy gives me more energy for everything else, so I am paying more attention to nurturing this area of my life. When the baby goes down for his nap, I try very hard to ignore all the tempting miscellanous to-dos on my list, and go straight to writing. Hard, but I feel great when I do it!
Can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say! Be sure to check out these awesome mama’s posts: