Balance.

I’ve been back from my four-day girls weekend since Sunday night and have barely had a chance to breathe, I’ve been so busy with TomKat orders! Monday was my unpacking/parents oogling over Linnea day, so I dedicated yesterday to catching up on the plethora of customizing and e-mailing I had to take care of so I could get caught up. I was in front of the computer from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and only got about halfway through- it was nuts! Then today I did the same thing. Don’t get me wrong- I am NOT complaining. Not in the least- I am so blessed to be doing what I’m doing, and to be working with Kim and our sweet customers is a better gig than I could have imagined. And it’s seriously like a comedy show around here tonight, with all the e-mails Kim and I have going back and forth. I’m falling off my chair laughing right now. I love that this is my job. I actually get PAID to do this.

My challenge lies in the balancing act that is required to be a WAHM, or a Work-At-Home Mom, or a Whacked-out ADHD Hell-raising Mamacita, if I may Dooce-ify my title a bit- only that’s the clean version. I have this child who is, yes, a little angel, but does require that my work flow be inturrupted continuously throughout the day in order to meet her needs, or rather, to simply not ignore her in order to do the things I need to get done. It breaks my heart to not interact with her as much as possible, but sometimes, it’s just HARD. Cody makes fun of me because he says I throw productivity fits, usually at the most ridiculous hours, but once I get going, man, everyone had better clear the way because I am getting things DONE! And yeah… it’s true. For goodness’ sake, it’s 12:30 and I’m sitting here blogging. But sometimes I feel like if I don’t do things late at night, they don’t get done. Then I wake up to my happy, clearly-a-morning-person baby girl cooing excitedly through the monitor, never any later than 7:00 a.m. Hmmm… Something’s gotta give. But what?

My husband wrote a great post the other day about being fully present. Even though finding balance may be a struggle, it is so important not to gloss over the precious moments we may miss in our pursuit of being the perfect mom and professional. We can’t live in the “someday” at the expense of enjoying our children growing up. Because I gotta tell ya, not only do I love my work, but I am having a blast watching my little girl discover her feet for the first time; listening to her incoherent and sweet opinions on EVERYTHING; holding her close while she figures out just who that little baby in the mirror is; making her almost giggle when I blow raspberries on her belly. I don’t want to miss a thing.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11903790&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

All that to say, I thought this would be a lot less challenging than it is. It’s not that my life is so hard… it’s just that at this point, as a new mom, I’m struggling to find a balance. And I know that there are plenty of mamas out there who can relate, and I hope we can all connect to support and encourage each other while we navigate the road toward raising amazing kids and realizing our dreams of becoming smart and savvy business owners!

I want to know the secrets, or maybe the realities, of the WAHMs who
seem to have this uncanny ability to juggle the demands of motherhood
with work… when they’re blended into one throughout your day. Does it
get easier or harder as your kids get older? What are the challenges
you face as your family grows? What tricks or advice can you share with other WAHMs who may just be starting out? Or, if you’re a new mom and new business owner, like I am, what specifically has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced? And, most importantly, how do we balance it all?

Ready… GO!

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Why I am SO EXCITED: The TomKat Studio.

As you may know, when I found out I was expecting Linnea, I set out on a mission to start a home-based business as a Virtual Assistant and developed No Strings Virtual Solutions. As is the case with most business ventures, it took some time to develop and get off the ground, and before I knew it, Linnea was nearly here and my world was taken over by all things baby. That's the beauty of owning your own biz- you can prioritize your life appropriately and focus on what's most important! I had a couple of project-based clients that I helped with the launch of their Web sites and blogs, but I put anything beyond that on hold as I prepared to become a mom. 

The TomKat Studio

My hubby went back to work on Wednesday, and I was finally settling into somewhat of a rhythm with the little one to where I would be able to start building my business and taking on clients again. That's when I saw a post on Twitter from the TomKat Studio (whose blog I've been following since I saw her on the cover of our local magazine, Go Gilbert! back in May) saying that she was seeking a virtual assistant for her paper and party business. Kim has THE CUTEST blog I've ever seen and it's clear that her business has taken off in recent months, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I even had friends who saw the post and sent it to me knowing I would love it. Imagine my excitement when she e-mailed me to let me know that I was her top choice! I mean, LOOK at her adorable creations!

The TomKat Studio

There are so many reasons I am so thrilled to work with her, besides the fact that she is one of the sweetest people I've ever talked to. She is immensely talented, creative and is genuinely living out her passion, and I love that kind of energy! Back when I started No Strings, my husband asked me what kind of clients I wanted to serve. I told him that I could work with almost anyone, but in a perfect world I would love to work with creative entrepreneurs- just like Kim! Her Web site was one I frequented when I needed inspiration and it also got me excited that I was having a little girl- bring on the pretty parties please! And lastly, that issue of Go Gilbert! is the only one I kept around the house because it was that article that inspired me to venture out on my own. It was only a few days after I read it that I found out I was expecting- and you can bet it gave me the confidence I needed that I could handle being an entrepreneur AND a good mom too!

The TomKat Studio

So who would have thunk that a couple of months after our little one was born that I would be working with the very person who inspired me to start my own business? It will never cease to amaze me the way that God orchestrates things in our lives. We NEVER know just how good His plan can be until we find ourselves in the midst of it! And I am sure there is so much more amazingness to come! For now, I am looking forward to helping this successful, creative business owner and fellow mom build her company and realize its full potential. Cheers to Kim and the TomKat Studio!

The TomKat Studio

Overwhelmed, but it’s OK- I have pickles!

Goodness, I've been terrible at keeping up with this thing. For some reason, last week was incredibly tough- I have been scheduled to come into work an hour earlier than usual because our busy season is starting, and while it means more money in the bank, it cuts into my productive time that I spend working on my business. Add to that the fact that I am finally starting to feel pregnant- lower back aches, pinched sciatic nerve, and a full-blown belly that gets in the way of everything- and I come home from a measly five hour shift feeling quite exhausted. It's a double-edged sword, and I don't mean to complain. I'm thankful to have a job working with good people, but I can't help but be nervous that the clock is ticking LIKE MAD and I can't give 100% to getting No Strings up and running as quickly as possible, and that's the one thing that I will be doing to earn income once Elska (that's her nickname!) arrives. Working outside the home is not part of our plan. And it's getting harder and harder to be on my feet all day the more pregnant I become, but we need my paycheck.

More than that, I need clients! Send 'em my way, people. I can't wait to help small businesses get ahead in this tough economy.

I'm happy to say that I have generated some interest, and I'm doing some work for a friend that will help me nail down certain processes complete with constructive criticism. I am so excited to actually start working with paying clients and building a name for myself, so for now I'm working on marketing and networking- a full-time job all on its own. I have a lot of support and great ideas from friends and family that I'm sure will help me along the way.

But enough about No Strings. This is a mom blog, after all!

I am five days away from the start of my third trimester, and I cannot tell you how shocked I am at how quickly time has flown. We have been in consistent adjustment, covering all the bases including fear, elation, joy, amazement, and just feeling plain overwhelmed by all we have ahead of us. At the very end of September, there was a morning when I had the epiphany that, HOLD ON A SECOND, let me do some math, (October 10 through November 10) + (November 10 through December 10) + (December 10 through January 10) = THREE MONTHS UNTIL OUR DAUGHTER IS BORN. I then woke up Cody (it was before 6:00 a.m.), shared my startling revelation, and launched into full-blown panic mode complete with the urgent desire to jump out of bed and immediately start organizing EVERYTHING in our house, starting with the nursery-to-be. I suddenly realized that I have done very little to prepare for this huge change, and who on earth expects that she will just "wing it" when handed a newborn who is completely dependent on her? Yikes. Definitely have my work cut out for me.

In a nutshell, it's been hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed these days. I suppose last week was particularly hard because I was consistently robbed of precious time I needed by all these things that were totally out of my control- time I must devote to not only preparing for baby, but starting a business too. I don't like feeling like I'm spinning in a tornado, grasping on to anything I could that I would be able to cross off my to-do list. I'm sure that this isn't necessarily going to get better once I have a newborn in the house. Therefore, I can't help but wonder if I'm being groomed for this next stage of life by the presence of the unexpected. How I handle it now will prepare me for the juggling act I have ahead of me. I'm not gonna let it get me down!

For now, here are a couple of updated pictures:

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Hugs for Elska! 27 weeks!

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Yes, I am eating out of a jar of pickles. Yes, I know how cliche that is. They were my Amma's famous bread and butter pickles, made from Cody's grandma's cucumbers from her garden. Simply heavenly! You'd eat 'em by the jar too.

Belly update: My belly makes funny shapes, like triangles and squares, when Elska stretches out and punches her dad in the hand when he antagonizes her. Haha. I actually love that she responds to him- he's just going to an amazing dad. She's really quite active- especially right before bed and right before I wake up. She isn't big enough now (about 2 pounds and 15 inches long) for her movements to keep me up or wake me out of my slumber, so for now I'm just enjoying the sensation of feeling her moving around in there. That will be the biggest thing I will miss about being pregnant- it's just amazing to me. I also figured out that this rhythmic "tapping" sensation I get every once in a while must be her hiccuping- it's SO cute! I've felt it many times before but never made the connection, because it's a different type of movement than her usual kicks and somersaults. But I love it. I love her. She's just the sweetest thing ever.

To sell or not to sell…

…That is today's question. As I search for ways to generate an income from home, one of the most prevalent things that comes up is direct sales, a.k.a. network marketing. If you are not familiar with the title, think Mary Kay and Pampered Chef. Whether these bring up good or bad connotations in your mind, I'd like to know your opinion on this type of income source, especially for a stay-at-home mom. I dabbled briefly in a direct sales company called Petlane last year, and found it hard to branch out. It's a great company, and they sell fantastic pet products, but for me it honestly was hard to get past the cost of shipping when pet owners can go to their favorite pet supply store or boutique and get similar products for less AND not have to pay shipping. In this economy, how can you convince people that it's worth it? 

I will be the first to admit that I skimped on the effort required to make it lucrative because I let myself get discouraged too easily by things like this. One thing about direct sales is that if you believe in your products enough, you can convince anyone that it is worth it. Sales is nothing more than shared enthusiasm, no? But how do you keep up that enthusiasm past the initial contact with a client or potential team member?

In one of my random searches I came across a relatively new network marketing company that sells some of the cutest jewelry I've seen in a long time. They have a celebrity following and founders who are stay-at-home moms. I'm not necessarily planning on jumping on that bandwagon, but in my mind, in this economy, items like this may be easier to sell than something that fulfills an everyday need; the buyer isn't diverted because of extra costs like shipping, she is interested because it's unique and stylish and makes her feel beautiful. The ones who are even looking at the products are ready to splurge; those who cannot afford it simply won't look. I think most people these days are familiar enough with the home sales party concept to know what they're in for should they decide to partake in the festivities.

So, thoughts? Opinions? Advice? I would love to know how to sustain an income on this type of model. Most people I know, including myself, were part of the huge percentage of direct sellers who never got anywhere with it. I would never bash the concept. I have just learned that it is harder than most of the companies make it look to earn an income that outweighs the cost of maintaining the business over time.

The “New Normal.”

I'm seeing a lot of this "New Normal" business on the news shows on network TV lately. People living in tents, in motels, kids without shoes, etc. etc. "With the economy the way it is…" I'm really beginning to get tired of that statement. Yes, the economy sucks, and I am not one to deny its effects on many in our country, I promise. I've said it myself a time or two. But sometimes I think it's nothing more than a GIANT COP-OUT for anything that happens to a person these days. There comes a point when you have to take personal responsibility for the things that are or aren't happening to you. 

I've been a complainy, whiny mess lately. My hormones are off the charts and I don't handle feeling sick like a champ unlike some people. I try, but quite honestly, I fail. I am thankful for friends and family who let me vent, and understand, and have compassion, and am annoyed with the ones who do not. I am annoyed that my paychecks have been cut by more than half; in fact, I'm just annoyed with how that whole situation was handled, period. I am annoyed by things that are affecting us that are out of our hands.

I cannot, however, be annoyed by the things that I can control. And we can always control where the money that we do have goes. 

We live in a nation of absolute excess. My husband's income alone places us in the top 3.5% of earners in the world using that number. It feels so… ridiculous. That is an eye-opener, for sure. We both seek to be giving people, and giving should be a sacrificial and joyful thing. Nobody wants to receive something out of reluctance or obligation. It's scary to give when you aren't sure your own needs will be met. But it is what anyone with the title "Christian" is called to do, and God is faithful to provide when you show you trust Him to do so. 

My friend Amy posted a fantastic blog on this subject. I read it right after I woke up and it was such a timely read in the midst of all the stress and uncertainty we are living in now. Not because I believe in distribution of wealth (I'm not sure she necessarily does either, as she clarifies later in the comments); I believe that people who earn whatever they earn deserve to keep it and do with their income what they see fit. I also think giving and charity should be a huge part of what people do with their earnings, but it should not be forced on them. (OK, I'll spare you. I'm off my soapbox.) I enjoyed her post because it pointed out that we have to be responsible to the choices we made to get us to where we are now, and what can we ACTUALLY complain about? I can't complain about not being to pay for things if I'm out buying a new shirt at Anthropologie because I "deserve it" or even something as small as a $2.00 bag of Starbursts because I was craving them, as I did tonight, because every penny adds up these days. Never before has the reality of being really, and I mean REALLY, frugal hit me so squarely in the face. I realized that up until now, we were trying to be frugal, but we still allowed ourselves luxuries from time to time. Unless money starts magically appearing in our bank account, we simply cannot afford those luxuries anymore. 

And in a strange way, while still fearing it, I'm actually looking forward to it. 

There are things I've been missing out on in life. Laziness and fear have gotten the best of me. I don't feel like doing much RIGHT now, but once I start feeling better I don't want to miss out on life anymore. It's strange because I feel that in some way, by being forced to forego the little things we usually enjoy, like eating out, seeing a movie every now and then, or buying the latest book that gets our attention, we will find other, more meaningful ways to enjoy life. I can see how God would be teaching us and stretching us more than we ever thought possible during this time. I know that there will be times that I HATE going without; honestly, I always have. I would be lying if I said I didn't get pangs of envy when I serve some of these girls my age who come in with their friends and their giant diamond rings and cute outfits and fancy purses and Lexus key rings and order their salads and lattes without a care in the world. I've always had expensive taste- just ask my dad, or my husband 🙂 But going WITH those things makes a person lose perspective on the things that are really important. 

And I want more out of my life. And more for our new little life. I'll just be trusting God's provision along the way, more than ever before. 

Rough day.

Actually, it's been a rough couple of days. No energy, extreme nausea, wobbly legs. I remember when I ran track and cross country in high school and then college and having workouts and races that left my legs so shaky it was hard to so much as hold myself up. I have never remembered that feeling with such clarity as I do now- I feel like that ALL THE TIME. But instead of feeling that way because I just ran 10 laps around the track at a successively fast pace, I feel that way because I'm… laying around on the couch, doing nothing. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever tried to explain. "Yes, I sit around on my butt ALL DAY LONG. And MAN does it wear me out!"

What?

For the past couple of weeks, I seem to have settled into a pattern of feeling generally well during the day and pretty gnarly at night. This is OK because I work during the day and there is nothing worse than being around food that you normally love but now that you're prego makes you want to blow chunks, and dealing with the already-overwhelming smell of the 5-pound block of bleu cheese that the sweet salad lady, just doing her job, is cutting into manageable crumbles, all while trying not to either dry heave or pass out on customers as you take their order at the register- with a smile. 

Yesterday and today were definitely out of the "norm" that I have been experiencing lately. My Sunday started off well enough- woke up, went to church, went to a class, and that's when the fun started. Nauseous, uncomfortable, hungry for a croissant sandwich. We went to Paradise Bakery and I ordered the roast beef and havarti on a croissant, which I was completely unaware contained horseradish, which is definitely one of those things I have a VERY hard time eating these days. Ate it anyway and proceeded to relive the taste sensation for the remainder of the day and night with the release of even the tiniest burp. This was quickly followed up by such intense fatigue that I crashed on the couch and fell asleep- immediately. My poor husband. I had signed us up to babysit Cruz again that day, and guess who did ALL the work? He is such a trooper. And will be such an amazing dad. I have never been more in love with him than I am now.

Anyway, today sucked too.

It's amazing how bringing a life into the world is one of the hardest and one of the best things that a person can ever do in life. With every day that goes by that I feel AWFUL, I breathe a sigh of relief because it means that my baby is taking what it needs from me to grow and be healthy and strong. It's hard, and sure, I wish I felt great all the time like some women do, but if I felt great all the time I would probably wonder if my baby is really in there, growing up a storm. I feel better the worse I feel because of what it means.

It's funny how pregnancy changes your outlook on life. Cody and I both said the other day that no matter how surprised, unprepared, freaked out, uncertain, panicked, or desperate we have felt through this process of facing this new responsibility, it never even crossed our minds to want the baby to stop growing and not make it. It's not that we ever would have wanted that- don't get me wrong. We're still scared, and excited. It's just that our perspective has shifted to want the best for this new person that has been placed in our lives no matter the effect it has on us.

It's made us grow up.