I’m pleased to bring you another edition of Mom Bliss, where I interview inspiring moms who are testaments to a life they truly love. This edition, my guest is Ashley Pahl. A fellow Blogging Your Way course mate, Ashley is a handmade stationery designer, blogger, and mother of two girls. She is the woman behind Ashley Pahl Paper Goods and founding editor and She Makes a Home blog.
1. So, what have you been up to lately?
It’s summertime, so I am trying to take things easy and prepare for autumn. I am stocking my shop for the up-coming holiday season, planning my autumn blog schedule, and I’m also in the process of developing two books!
2. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your life as a mother.
I am a 28 year old self-taught stationery designer. I am married with two daughters, and we live in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. I stay home with my girls while I work on my paper goods and my blog, She Makes a Home. As I am making our first family house a home, it has been quite a learning experience.
3. Please tell us the story behind your journey as a mom and work-at-home entrepreneur. What were some of the most important learning moments of your journey?
I do think of myself as a mother first, even though I’ve been working at home since before my babies were born. My first daughter was born in 2008, one year after I started my paper goods shop online. My husband and I moved our little family to Chicago, Illinois shortly after. During our three years in the Chicago area, my business was growing, but so was our family; my second daughter was born in 2009.
We began to miss our family, so we moved back to Michigan in 2011 and bought our first home. While my stationery business and blog have been busier than ever, the “at-home” part of being a WAHM is busier, too.
The biggest lesson I have learned over the last 5 years is to never take for granted that I get to stay home with my children, and to enjoy them every day. After both of my girls were born, I should have taken a maternity leave from my business, but I was so anxious to get back to work – it felt like I was missing out if I wasn’t open for business. Newborn babies sleep a lot and it felt like I had plenty of time to work while they slept; however, that time was so sacred and precious. I wish I had been able to separate work from life.
It’s taken me almost five years to come to my senses about how valuable this time with my children is. My daughter starts school full-time in one year. Until then, I am trying to scale back my work a bit to better enjoy the days we have at home together.
4. We love to know how moms like you manage their busy days! Tell us: What is a typical day is like for you as a mom-business owner?
A typical day for me starts when the girls wake up. I am not a morning person, and I am very lucky to have a husband who gets the girls up and makes their breakfast before he leaves for work. Once he is on his way, I am in-charge. The girls usually play together while I get my breakfast ready, and I check emails and messages while I eat.We get some exercise in the morning on a daily walk, and then the girls will do an art project – coloring, painting, Play-Doh, etc. This is a good time for me to get some housework done, like laundry or sweeping.
After housework I’ll play a game with them or read books. Before we know it, it’s lunch time and we play outside on nice days.
Nap time is next, and this is an important break in the day. I do product photography, answer more emails, or work on blog posts. After nap, the girls love to play together again, and I usually start cleaning up the kitchen and start making dinner.
I get most of my work done after the kids are in bed. I generally stay up until 1:00 AM, so that gives me 5-6 hours to work. I thrive on routine, and I often plan my days far out in advance. Without a routine, I would be very overwhelmed and disorganized.
5. In a few words (or even a sentence), define what you believe is “mom bliss.”
“Mom bliss” is keeping my children happy while simultaneously completing a to-do list. Nothing makes me happier than feeling productive and seeing my children smile.
6. What advice would you give to a new mom entrepreneur, based on your own experiences?
Set boundaries, and create a routine. Decide on a work schedule, and stick to it. It can be very hard to separate work from home/family life when it all happens at the same place. If you know when you are working – and when you are not – it becomes much easier to enjoy the present moment.
Connect with Ashley
Her blog, She Makes a Home
I just came from a blogging-entrepreneurship class earlier today, and realized a lot of things about myself as an online writer. I wrote this entry a couple of weeks ago, but I somehow couldn’t finish it. After today’s class, this post has finally been put into perspective, and I feel like I can now publish it. — Martine, July 13, 2012.
Has this happened to you: You know, when someone asks you what you do for a living, and you tell them “I’m a blogger,” or “I’m a work-at-home mom,” and they give you “the look.” This “look” looks something like this:
I’ve gotten that look many times: the widening of the eyes and raised brows that almost touch the edge of one’s scalp, beaming an expression that’s a cross between feigned politeness and slight disbelief. Many times, I’ve dreaded “the look,” mainly because I was tired of explaining to people what it is that I do “for a living.” During those times, I wasn’t ready to explain what I did all day, from home, on my laptop. Because making a living as a blogger — for many people — still warrants an explanation.
What is it exactly that do I do for a living, you ask?
I am a freelance writer. As a writer, I often write about being a work at home mom, here on my blog. Because of the writing I do on this blog, I have also managed to:
- write blog articles for other websites and blogs;
- Tweet and I Facebook on my own social media accounts, as well as those of my clients, for a huge chunk of the day;
- get hired by companies and small businesses to do variety of marketing copy;
- edit and conceptualize digital and print publications,
… among other things. I’ve gotten freelance writing work because of my blog. Somehow, some people liked what they read on my blog and decided to ask me, “Well, now, why don’t you also write for my company?” And I have been doing so.
I consider this my credo this past year. I love how every thing here is imperative: “Keep on” “Do” “Be.” These words are motivational magic to a mom like me. As someone who seems to land herself in a mountain of multi-tasking on a daily basis, I find myself ready to take on a whole day’s work, chores and family duties when I hear magic words like “Things will work out.”
I call them “imperatively happy reminders.”
God has been good to me. This coming November will mark my 18th month as a work at home mom. It’s been the best year and half so far of my life, and I’m not saying that to be cheesy. I really have had a great time albeit a very tiring year and a half. It’s all been worth it because I’ve been able to share all this time with my family while keeping a job that I enjoy. And even if I do have busy days, bad mommy days, days when schedules just get thrown out the window and days when I opt to call for take-out because I couldn’t be bothered fixing dinner… I can satisfyingly say that my life is good.
This week has been a busy one for me. I took on a new social media client, started marketing projects for three U.S. clients, and tomorrow I have a planning session with a new Web design client (for a brand I absolutely love, actually!). One thing I’m grateful for this year is that I’m steadily building up a client base of mom-owned websites, brands and businesses. This excites me because I really want to offer these moms the best service I can. I’ve evolved from being a content writer to being a magazine editor, a small business website consultant, and very recently, a social media content director.
When I take a step back and ponder on my work, I shake my head and smile: I never would have thought I’d be able to run this writing business, having never had any experience working on my own before. I never thought I’d be the boss of me, but now I am. I’m still new at it, and I still have loads to learn. But all things considered, it feels great.
Best of all, my family is healthy and we are currently happy in our state of “enough.” We had a pretty rough mid-year when Vito got hospitalized; still, we made it through, by God’s grace, I am sure of it! And for sure, my husband and I are thinking about a lot of important things, like a potential new business, bettering our investments, finally paying off our car. We’re also psyching ourselves up financially for next June, when Vito is ready to go to nursery. Sometimes, it’s tempting to just think of how much all this will cost; but I arrest my worries, lift up a prayer, and remind myself: “Don’t be discouraged; things will work out.”
Well, there you have it: The late-night musings of yours truly, your average work-at-home mom! Tomorrow (and for the next three glorious days), you’ll not find me online or on Twitter; I’ll be soaking up some sun and experiencing the surf up north with the entire family. So toodles, for now! Have a happy Halloween/long weekend, sweeties!
And now, for some shameless plugging: I’ll be guesting at Theta Mom today (Oct 28). It goes live at 7AM (EST), so that’s tonight for us Manila peeps. I’m blogging about, what else, working from home… but with a different tangent. Hope you’ll stop by the TMC and give me some love there!
From time to time, I do a digital life declutter. It’s a brilliant idea, and I highly recommend it! It’s got so many benefits, the foremost being a less clogged up, more purposeful approach towards email, mobile phone use and social networking. This week, I have made the following “life decluttering” moves. I started each with a reason, then thought of the benefits I would reap after I had decluttered that part of my digital life (motivation). I also explain how I decluttered things.
Here’s how it all went down:
1. Cleaned up my old laptop and migrated to a new one.
Reason: I finally bought a new Macbook and have bid goodbye to my old laptop of three years.
Motivation: I’m finally back on a Mac–yeah! For the past seven years, I’ve been a PC user; I hadn’t used a Mac since ending my stint as an editorial assistant at a publishing house. Naturally, my new baby inspires me: It’s virtually empty and full of potential, and I wanted to keep it as organized as my former laptop was.
The declutter process:
- I went through all my files and backups from the last three years, which were all in the hard disk of my former laptop. Mostly documents and Word files, as my work relies heavily on word processing.
- I discarded the files I knew would no longer be relevant.
- I archived those I wanted to keep (and categorized them according to year: 2009, 2010, 2011, with folders marked “work” “personal” “blogging” “pictures,” etc within these)
Pay-off: I can start organizing systems on my new Mac more efficiently because I began on a new slate.
2. Cleaned up my phone book on my mobile phone.
Reason: I felt like I just had too many contacts cluttering up the phone book, some of whom I hadn’t seen or been in touch with in years.
Motivation: By cleaning up my phone book, I could simplify and organize my Contacts list and categorize each contact according to relevance. I’d also have more room in my phone memory and SIM.
The declutter process: (more…)
The following is a guest post by Amy Young.
When you’re working from home like me, it can be difficult to stay focused. There always seems to be something more pressing to accomplish or a household chore that just can’t wait. Working from home can definitely blur the boundary between your work and your personal life, and if you aren’t careful, you may not have much family or personal time left.
Here I have compiled a list of a few tips I find useful while I’m writing from home. Trust me: they all work!
1. Start your day right.
Make a good breakfast (we all know it’s the most important meal of the day!) and spend some time just relaxing while you wake up. Take time to daydream and put yourself in a happy state of mind instead of an “I don’t want to work” state of mind.
Personally, I like to think about what I have to look forward to, whether it’s a fun weekend trip or a manicure appointment. This helps to put me in a happy state of mind and also takes me away from the stress that work sometimes causes.
2. Don’t work in your pajamas.
Take a shower and get dressed. It will help you wake up and get ready to start your day. I use a minty body wash that helps open my pores and leaves me feeling refreshed!
3. Stick to a schedule.
When you have regularly scheduled hours to work, it will help you be more efficient during that time. In an office atmosphere, there is a clear end to the day, but it can be harder for those who work from home to end their day.
Personally, I allow myself enough time to accomplish what I need to get done in a day, but I don’t schedule myself too many hours and burn myself out. Some people only need five hours for their workday while others may need nine. Make your best judgment.
4. Define a space in your home where your work will be done and nothing else.
When you enter your work space, (more…)