It’s been awhile since I talked your ear off, so guess what? You’re in for a bit of blahdeeblahdeeblah today! Yay!!
I am embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve written and then deleted this post. It’s hard to write about your life without sounding really cheesy, and mostly I would think to myself, “why write about life and blogging and balance when it’s been written about SO many times before?” Then I realized, duh, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t care about what I have to say in some small way, so why not give it a try? I want to talk a little first about how blogging turned into sort of a job for me, and then how on earth I fit everything Blog-related into my Real Life without going insane. An interesting topic, no? And I think, really important, because I want to be the best wife to Mr Rae and mama to these little munchkins that I can possibly be.
This blog began humbly, like most other blogs, with no huge aspirations but more as a hobby to keep myself from stabbing my eye out with a pencil after hour upon hour watching baby Elliot drool and try to roll over. I really truly wish it hadn’t been the case, but after being a full-time high school science teacher, the extremely slow pace of motherhood bored me to tears and made me feel a bit depressed and aimless. I needed a project. And friends. Besides the baby. So I started blogging about my sewing projects. Sound familiar? I feel like this is a story that so many of us share!
Once I started posting things on my blog on a regular basis, more people began visiting and commenting (the blog was then hosted at madebyrae.blogspot.com) and it felt very exciting. I posted a free marker-drawn baby dress pattern and things really picked up. I started selling a few digital patterns, first on Etsy, and then through instant download directly from my blog. I contributed to One Yard Wonders. I ran my first Spring Top Sewalong. By this time Elliot was nearly two and I was pregnant with Clementine. The blog began demanding more of me but it was fairly manageable during naps and after Elliot went to bed, maybe the occcasional put-the-kid-in-front-of-Charlie-and-Lola to finish things up. It wasn’t until after Clementine was born and began napping at different times than Elliot that I began to feel a bit frustrated by my inability to keep up with the work of blogging. It wasn’t just writing blog posts, it was answering emails, trouble-shooting pattern download issues, and participating in blogger events, and on, and on…
It was at this point that Mr Rae and I realized that if I was going to continue blogging and designing patterns (I wish there was ONE word for what exactly I do), that we would have to put Elliot into preschool and get a babysitter for Clementine. That was a really hard decision. E was barely three and C wasn’t even crawling yet, and I felt immense guilt over wanting to have them out of the house for a bit each week, but I really loved doing this blog/pattern thing. Plus the money I was making from pattern sales wasn’t really all that much, so it was a bit of a leap of faith to decide that if I could spend a little uninterrupted time without the kids a couple mornings a week, maybe I could make enough income selling more patterns to justify it. That turned out to be true, and it’s worked out that way ever since. I love that I can “work” a few days a week but still be at home with my kids too. I really really love sewing, designing, blogging, and I feel like the problem-solving-science-teacher part of my brain is happy with all of the logistics involved producing sewing patterns. It’s really wonderful.
When it comes to actually scheduling the Blog into my Real Life, time-wise, I’ve tried a few of approaches. First, there was what I like to call the “Multitasking Approach.” This was when the babies were both small (under 2 1/2) and it mainly consisted of “working” (blogging, emailing, designing patterns, sewing) whenever the kids were asleep or playing. So after bedtime and during naps. Sometimes during a TV show. The problem is, a nap never ends when you want it to. There’s always one more thing to do, another email to write, and soon enough you have toddlers tugging on your pant leg and screaming whenever they see the laptop open. I really started to hate how much Elliot expected TV to be a regular part of his day.
(OK, so we let them have “screen time” every day (tablet apps, games), but very little TV, which I’m more comfortable with)
When we decided the kids would have a babysitter/daycare/preschool, it was like breathing a sigh of relief. No more trying to multitask. Now I really try to stick to the “Divide-and-Separate Approach,” in other words, trying as much as possible to separate the time I spend “working” from the time I spend with my kids and Mr Rae. I’ve tried to do this as much as possible, by having the kids with a babysitter or in daycare/preschool for at least 2-3 days a week for the last couple of years so that I can really focus on sewing or blogging or whatever, and that has worked pretty well for me. In reality, kids get sick, babysitters cancel, school is closed for holidays, so it’s not always a perfect system. But that’s life. I find that if I at least know that I have another block of work time coming up soon, I don’t get as frustrated if I have to set aside a creative project to play Ring-Around-The-Rosie or Chutes and Ladders (gah! that game drives me bezonk!).
Another key part to the “Divide-and-Separate” approach for me has been a strict “When-the-kids-are-in-the-room-the-laptop-is-closed” rule for myself. It’s just too easy to ignore them when that screen is open. I try to only ever be on my computer or sew when they are out of the house or after they are asleep at night. Just shutting it off is really good for me.
Finally, I just want to say a little bit about saying NO. One of the things I really hate is having to email someone to turn them down when they ask me to participate in a project. But I do it, alot. In fact, I feel like it’s almost every day. But I have another rule for myself that I call “Say Yes to ONE” that means that I only ever allow myself to take on one outside project a month. So if there’s a book tour going around, or a costume series, or someone wants me to contribute to a publication, I usually say no. And yes, it sucks. I worry that people think I don’t want to be a part of it. There is SO much fun stuff to participate in. But I find (big surprise) that the more things I say yes too, the more flustered, disorganized, and overwhelmed I feel, and that can be paralyzing to me when it comes to working efficiently on the things I want to do and enjoying the time I do spend with the kids and Mr Rae.
I’ve also realized that it’s totally worth it to pay other people to do a bunch of my work for me so that I can spend less time working. My sister Elli does a ton of work on my digital sewing pattern layouts and digitizes the pattern pieces, my cousin Jessica has been running the Printed Washi Pattern Project (shipping Friday to a shop near you!!) for me for the past couple months and assisting in other ways, and Lauren and Karen have helped me out with various projects in various ways, just to name a few people who pitch in around here. And yes, that means I spend bunches of dollars paying people every month but it’s so worth it for me not to have to try and do everything myself.
I really hope this post hasn’t given anyone the impression that I’m only blogging to make money or that I want to “make it big” because the truth is, the blog itself makes very little money, definitely not enough to pay myself in any reasonable way for all of the time I have spent here over the past five years, growing and tending it. But selling my sewing patterns HAS turned into a business and I try to accept the reality of that and hope that I can still keep the blog real even if things get commercially every once in awhile (*cough* shameless Washi Dress promotion *cough*).
I don’t want a big business or the stress that goes with it. I love the semi-small thing I have worked out now, and I really love the community of people that I have been able to get to know through this blog and ultimately my goal is to be able to keep sewing and blogging about things that I love. The sewing patterns are a natural way to make money doing what I love, and I’m really thankful that I can make enough selling sewing patterns to support my family (Mr Rae’s been working on getting a start-up off the ground for the last couple of years, so yup, right now, it’s pretty much just me, income-wise). That is immensely gratifying from a professional standpoint and I only have you, dear readers and friends to thank for all of your unrelenting encouragement and support. Anyway, blahdeeblahdeeblah CHEESY! BWAAAAH. See I barfed all over it to make it better.
Signing off now,
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