Welcome to Week 25 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 found that my creative work helped me be a better mom. I didn’t feel like my sole purpose in life was dishes and diapers. I worked on things I could finish and that made me more content in the things that were never-ending."
Seeing Marian Parsons' work in person is always a highlight for me when visiting The Old Lucketts Store in Lucketts, Virginia. Marian's style is elegant and clean, yet vintage and homey and even better, she freely shares her style advice on her Miss Mustard seed website. Marian's line of paint, Mustard Seed Milk Paint, is all natural, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly, not to mention a joy to use (and it comes in such luscious colors and with a full line of supporting products, making it very beginner-friendly). Marian also is a regular contributor to HGTV, gives workshops, and is author of the book "Inspired You: Breathing New Life Into Your Heart and Home," not to mention the mother of two young boys. She is busy but wouldn't have it any other way!
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Marian - can you please describe your family?
Marian and Jeff Parsons and our two sons (6 & 8)
What is your business?
Mustard Seed Interiors LLC
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
Roller skating, jump rope (I was on a jump rope team), riding horses during the summer, musical theater (I took a lot of dance classes and was in community plays) and rearranging the furniture in my doll house.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
Yes. I grew up overseas on military bases, so there were a lot of activities available to us. My mom put me in several art and craft classes including watercolor, tin-punching, sculpting, cross-stitching, etc. From an early age, I really liked being creative and productive with my time.
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?
Of course, as a kid, I swore I would let my kids do whatever they wanted! And, of course, now I’m saying a lot of things to my kids that my mother said to me. That’s just the way it goes! I never really thought about myself as a mother seriously, though, until several years into my marriage. I was never a big “baby person,” so the idea of caring for an infant was intimidating to me.
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 stole 10-15 minutes here and there to rearrange accessories on the kitchen counters or to make something small, but I did have to set it aside for a while. I picked it back up about the time I started my business. My boys were 4 months and 25 months and I desperately needed a creative outlet! I became a night owl, doing most of my work after everyone else was in bed. I also squeezed every second out of naptime.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
We really needed some additional income and we felt that starting my own business was better than me trying to get a job outside of the home. We were committed to me being home with the boys. As a child, I always saw myself as being a Broadway actress, so the idea of being a creative entrepreneur never even crossed my mind.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
I found that my creative work helped me be a better mom. I didn’t feel like my sole purpose in life was dishes and diapers. I worked on things I could finish and that made me more content in the things that were never-ending. I think it’s been good for my boys to see how much that little business has grown. As with all moms, I struggle with balance sometimes. There are seasons when I’m working way too much and I need to pull back and set limits.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
My hours are not traditional 9-5. I work while they are at school and usually stop when they get home to help with homework and spend time with them. I’ll also cook dinner, we’ll read together or go on a family walk. Once they are in bed, I finish up my work for the day (usually computer work like e-mail, writing blog posts, photo editing, video editing, etc.)
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
I think I look at things in a more practical way. I don’t want to create or sell things that I couldn't actually use in my home. When I didn’t have kids I didn’t appreciate that aspect of home décor.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
They automatically help me set limits. If I didn’t have kids, I would probably work all day, every day! My boys need my time and that fact helps me remember the things that are really important. They give me perspective.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
I think it’s been really good for them to see how hard I work. Sometimes when I’m busy and I can’t play, I explain to them that, even though I don’t go to an office, I’m still working and this is supporting our family. I think I’ve showed them that you can have an idea, pursue it and be successful at it.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope they learn the value of hard work as well as the joys and trials of being your own boss.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
I would suggest stealing away some time for those creative projects. Like I said, it’s so important for us “creative-types” to have something to show for our day beyond dishes and diapers. It’s okay to take that time, whether it’s during a nap, when the house is quiet at night or even when your kids are playing happily and you can work on something for 10 minutes. You won’t be able to get as much done as you did in your pre-mom years, but it’s just a season. The kids will become more independent and you’ll have more time.
Thank you so much, Marian, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Marian in the following places: