It’s peaceful in the house. I’ve just put my sweet baby boy into his crib for his two-hour afternoon nap. I briefly tidy up our play area and kitchen, throw a quick load of laundry into the machine, and then sit down at my desk, ready to dive into my ultra-organized to-do list with the vigor of a 25-year-old gunning for a supervisor position.
Sounds nice, but that’s literally never, not once, ever, happened in my real life. My sweet baby boy was colicky and didn’t nap. (No short naps, no long naps, no occasional naps – just no naps. Like ever.) I was tired, there was too much laundry to comprehend, and my to-do list was so daunting I had no idea where to start. My vision for life as a work-at-home mom after leaving an award-winning ad agency was so far beyond reality it’s comical.
Time quickly became my enemy. What started as an exhilarating feeling of THE FREEDOM! I CAN DO IT ALL! quickly devolved into OMG I’M SO TIRED! WHAT AM I DOING? The dream of a child quietly sitting in the Exersaucer while I successfully navigated a conference call just wasn’t going to happen for me. I needed separation and boundaries between kid-time and work-time to be even moderately productive.
While I was able to sum that all up in the single paragraph above, it took me way too long in real-time to admit I was a working mom now and needed help with childcare. Maybe the realization was hard because I was working from home and not an office. Or maybe because it was all new. In any case, it has made all the difference. I’ve committed to having specific chunks of time carved out each week to devote solely to work. No interruptions, no secondary activities, just solo time devoted to my business. I’m reminded why this has to be the case every time I try to blur the lines between life and work—which usually just results in a bunch of cranky people who didn’t really do anything they wanted or needed to do. I can’t be “on” for both my boys and my work at the same time, so I no longer try.
Time, it turns out, isn’t my enemy at all. Sure, there’s never enough of it. But as an entrepreneur, and especially as a solopreneur, I get to use that time any way I see fit. I just had to get smart about how.
Now, one way I spend my time is getting really clear about what’s important to me. I want to do what I love, what I find meaningful, and what taps into my strongest skills. We all do, but in a world already short on time, it takes plenty more to sort through what matters most, how to achieve it, and how to plan your world around it. In the same way that I helped plan the year ahead for my clients in my former job, I’ve learned to do that for myself in this one.
That’s not to say I have it all figured out. Not even close. Each new season of life— the birth of a second boy, a move from San Francisco to Minneapolis, changes in school—brings new opportunities and challenges, especially when it comes to my time. But it also brings new opportunities to assess and refine what I’m doing to make it work for myself and my family. I’ve brought others into my process—a small group of entrepreneurs who can help me get my head on straight, prioritize, set goals, and decide where to lean in. Although no one is working in the studio with me, it doesn’t mean I have to go it alone.
In my journey as a mom and business owner I have feared, in no particular order: Missing out, falling behind, being beat to the punch, being considered an imposter, disappointing clients and customers, disappointing my family, running out of ideas, making the wrong choices, saying “no” to the wrong thing, saying “yes” to the wrong thing, spoiling my kids, not spending enough time with my kids, being a bad mom, failing at everything I’m doing, giving up, wasting my talents, losing my skills, and being a slacker.
Maybe that’s just me and irrational fears are my personal reality, but I’ve talked to enough entrepreneurial moms to know I’m not alone in most of these feelings. It’s true, I will not be able to attend every fun event in town, be a consistent room-parent at school, or respond to every email within a few minutes, but I’m learning to be okay with that. And if the creep of FOMO sets in, I just remember how grateful I am that every day I get to choose how I use my time and my talents.
I heard this analogy about being fully-engaged as a parent while running a business and it struck me as entirely accurate: We are like plate spinners. Plate spinners get one plate spinning at a time, adding more as they go then coming back to the first plates to refresh their spins. You add too many, and they all come crashing down. I would only add to the analogy that it’s okay if they all come crashing down from time to time, as long as those are the plates you wanted to be spinning in the first place.
Senn & Sons
Kim Senn is an illustrator, designer, and entrepreneur with an extensive background in global branding and advertising, working at Cutwater in San Francisco and Fallon in New York and London. Her creative studio Senn & Sons focuses on designing colorful artwork, stationery, gifts, and home goods for creative families everywhere. She also uses her unique professional experience to help advocate for people experiencing homelessness, serving as a board member for Simpson Housing Services. Kim lives in Edina with her husband, two young sons, and a new puppy, who keep her occupied all 24 hours of the day.