Welcome to Week 6 of Motherhood by Design – the series where mothers who also run creative businesses share their inspirations and their experiences juggling the demands of raising children while growing a creative career.
"I don't want my kids to be wishy washy, but I do want them to be flexible. I think they are learning that a "career" sometimes means you have to reinterpret yourself to suit the time and the situation."
Kristin Link is owner of the very popular site Sew, Mama, Sew!, a blog and sewing community founded in 2005. If it's related to sewing, it's part of Sew, Mama, Sew! From tutorials on garment sewing, quilting, embroidery, to the newest supplies and names and faces in the industry, you'll find it professionally written and beautifully presented. And if you haven't visited Sew, Mama, Sew during November for their month-long celebration of holiday making and gifting, mark your calendar to visit then - you don't want to miss it! Today Kristin shares with us some of her thoughts on running a successful online business and what that means to her and her girls.
Welcome to Fuller by Design, Kristin – can you please describe your family?
Me, my husband, Chris, and our two daughters--Paloma, 12 and Poppy, 6
My business is:
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
Gosh, it was so long ago! Haha. I liked puzzles--jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, math puzzles, Rubiks Cube, tanagrams... I read a whole lot of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys too, which are kind of like puzzles in story form.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
I made a lot of granny squares with my granny. My mom taught me how to sew when I was pretty young, but I don't remember doing a lot of handwork--I guess we went straight to the ancient Singer.
When you were a child, did you have ideas about your own future as a mother? Was motherhood something you’d always imagined for yourself, or is it an idea you grew into later in life?
I wasn't so sure about the idea of having kids until I was in graduate school. Sometime around 23 years old I started noticing babies everywhere, which I remember because I wrote about it for a class assignment. It was something about my biological clock suddenly coming to life.
In your early years of motherhood, did you have/make time for your creative pursuits, or was your creative work put aside for a while? If the latter, when did you pick it back up?
I hadn't sewn for probably ten years, then I took a pregnancy test and headed straight for the fabric store. It's like I had a dormant illness and all of the sudden the pregnancy hormones caused a flare-up. I started sewing, knitting and crocheting right away. Since then I craft in fits and starts. I'm not a daily crafter--more like a binger, then I put it away for awhile.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
After. I started making and selling baby clothes when my first child was about 18 months. After a few years I had enough designs, traffic, and retail accounts that I was able to sell the business and invest in Sew Mama Sew.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
Not really. Staying home with my baby wasn't really a plan, but when it came time to go back to work at 3 months I couldn't do it, so I quit my job. I think it was a combination of needing a challenge, wanting to make things, and hoping for a little income that made me do it.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
My kids have never been in daycare and we've never had a nanny or much help at all. Plus they're 6 years apart, so just when one started going to school "full time" and life/work should have been getting easier, I had a second. I know I'm lucky though--I've had lots of time with them and have zero regrets. Work has always had to come in second. Sometimes I think it doesn't seem like that to my family because they always want moremoremore, but I at least know in my heart when to it's ok to make the switch to prioritizing work over making their snacks look cuter or the house look tidier.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
I have to be able to do things in spurts. I tried doing some freelance technical writing in my first year of motherhood and it was horrible. I need long stretches of focused concentration to write well and mothering doesn't really jive with that.
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
I suppose that at least half of what I make is for the kids. And a good deal of our blog content is geared toward families.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
They spend all my money.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
Well, for better or worse, my kids both grew up by my side while I worked, so they had to learn to chill and entertain themselves. I work in the kitchen, so it is stocked full of art supplies, books and puzzles. They are both very creative and have great attention spans.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I don't want them to be wishy washy, but I do want them to be flexible. I think they are learning that a "career" sometimes means you have to reinterpret yourself to suit the time and the situation. They know I've been a writer, a teacher, a bartender (the one they are most likely to tell their friends about), a fabric shop owner, a baby clothes designer, and a blogger. I'll probably be other things too. So when they say they want to be a song-writer and a veterinarian, I'm like, "go for it."
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Oh gee. I'm not sure I want to go there! ha! Well, honestly, I just gave up on the idea of "free time" and "alone time" for a few years. I had to figure out a way to do what I wanted to do with a kid by my side. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn't.
Thank you so much, Kristin, for sharing with us today! You can find Kristin and her world of sewing at the following places: