My friend Laura Brown asked me to tell you my experience about being a creative and freelance mum, and it was not easy, since the way I live is not a method, I just live by my instinct! But who knows Laura, knows she loves the challenge, so here is my life experience! French version HERE
Entrepreneurship and parenthood … that’s a big topic, a subject I know well. Before having children, I was a Parisian, I worked as a production manager in a motion studio, everything was simple, I loved my work and having crazy schedules suited me perfectly. The job was fulfilling and rewarding.
In 2012, we began to think about having children with my husband, and a self-evident thing came to us. How to be parents, in Paris, with the working hours that we had? How to be fulfilled as parents and professionally How to enjoy quality time at all levels?
When we ask ourselves these kinds of questions, it’s usually not for nothing!
Once the seed sown in our minds, it was screwed, everything had to change … and forever!
At the end of 2012, we started a personal journey that would bring us far from Paris, and the life we knew.
Jia paradise in Le Limousin
I was told one day: “Take care what you want, it could happen” Effectively, I wished for a different life, respecting my desires, my family in the making and what ‘surrounds … and it happened.
These are frightening decisions that would impose themselves on me, far from my comfort zone.
Of course, if you had told me 6 years ago, that today I would live in the Limousin, in the countryside, to take care of my three children out of school, to work independently, alone in my little workshop, to take care of my vegetable garden, to eat organic, local and if possible homemade, that I will try to reach a certain level of homesteading …. I would have laughed in your face … and not a little!
Yet it is the life that I lead today, and what happiness!
All to start with a trip. A trip of indefinite duration, decided on a whim and a desire to go elsewhere. A trip that starts at two, and continues at five.
The journey opens horizons (and the uterus also apparently!)
Here is the non-exhaustive list of what this adventure has brought us:
imperishable images and memories,
self-confidence and others,
three wonderful children,
the desire for a life and a better world,
the willingness to commit to our level,
the re-connection with nature and with those we love,
the awareness that health is our only wealth
and love, love in tones, for oneself, for others, for life !!
You say to yourself, it’s very pretty all that, it tells us about travel, love and bisounours … and entrepreneurship in all that … precisely, I come!
Everything is related see you … first news !!!
Well yes, dear reader … you want to be happy professionally? Hang on, I’ll surprise you.
My secret of family and professional happiness is BALANCE!
Balance in your life in general! To be good in your job, you have to love what you do, it’s obvious, but you also have to like the rest.
The place where we live, the people who share our life.
If what you want is to be productive in your work, you must also be productive in other areas of your life. And for that, you have to know yourself, to be aware of your needs, your desires and your limits!
Since I’m here for that, I’ll talk about what I do to achieve my goals and how I do it.
As you can understand, I have three children, at a very young age.
Since what’s simple is not funny, we are homeschoolers.
And speaking of home, we also buy a farmhouse to (auto) renovate.
As this is not enough (you’ve understood, always more!) We also have a vegetable garden, for the pleasure of our eyes, and our plates (health goes through the plate!)
And of course, I work !! In fact, I never stop working, neither when traveling nor on maternity leave.
There, I suspect that I had to lose some of the readers! What a clichée this old Parisian, who eats organic and homeschooling ! I am a cliché assumed, thank you for me.
I often feel incomprehension, when I explain all this … Do you do all that? But why? You complicate your life!
Yes and no.
I’m not going to lie to you, work freelance, educate three full-time kids, self-renovate your home, and do the job of having a house that does not look like a dump is not easy every day. But it’s so cool! The challenge is worth it !!
To begin, work. (work in the common sense of the term, because the work of mom, it is not “still” recognized as such).
I work freelance as a graphic designer; I’m part of the Phoenix team; I develop a personal project of educational material for children; and I give computer classes to people near my home voluntarily.
Of course, like everyone else, I miss the time and I will like two or three hours more per day, but with a good organization everything is possible!
When do I work? It’s simple, a time for everything! I work one day a week full, where I do not take care of anything else, (my husband takes care of the children)
I work during the naps of my children, and I work when they are in bed.
I have a place in my house that is not connected to the house and has a door that locks! (indispensable, as far as I’m concerned)
This time is enough for me, because the rest of the time and dedicated to my family and at home, the working time is dedicated to that, and it is sacred! It’s a limited and precious time so I do not waste it.
Upstream, I organize myself (the to do is my friend!) I quantify in time each task and I am trying to finish everything. Of course, I sometimes spend long hours working late at night, but no more than all entrepreneurs … and most importantly, I enjoy it!
The “family” time. We made the choice to give our children the possibility of home schooling. We have nothing against school, but we have discovered (during our travels) the vast possibilities for education.
And homeschooling is what best suits my family. Our rhythms are respected (learning and life) and the love of learning is present in all of us! (and yes, we too as parents, we learn every day!)
Our school at home (because it’s like couscous there are as many recipes as there are families) is not exactly “school” to transpose at home. I do not see the point, the teachers do this very well.
We are attempting a freer, more lively approach to learning. We could call it a school of life I imagine, with lots of books, meetings, experiences and exchanges!
Why the countryside!? But why am I going to bury myself in the country? Well, “to bury me” is the word.
I am a pure city dweller, I grew up in the suburbs, then I moved to Paris at 18 years old. As much to tell you that nature, for me, before, was as mysterious as zone 51.
But here, I told you, everything is linked, after 5 years traveling, after living near the mountains, the sea, in a treehouse high up, it was out of the question for us to return in Paris! From nature please !!!
So there was a desire for greenery of course, but not only. A healthier, calmer life, more in line with our values, that’s what we hoped for.
Of course the countryside is perfect. Organic, local and quality products, at unbeatable prices. The possibility of having a garden, to take advantage of it to feed and heal thanks to medicinal plants, (I feel that I’m losing you there …)
And large spaces, to breathe, run, sing, climb trees, see our children flourish.
Physical and mental health
How to feel good? This question has a thousand answers specific to each one.
For me, feeling good comes from being in tune with my values. For that, I need to work, to produce, to create. My hands are unable to do anything. It’s a perpetual movement that keeps me alive.
I also need to know my family happy and fulfilled, it goes through a quality time, when one of my sons get up with a desire for pancakes, I know that I have time to prepare with him, and that desire or need has been filled.
My well-being also goes through the feeling of being useful. I need to do, but not for nothing, so I get involved, voluntarily, and at the associative level. I would like to tell you the story of the mango. You do not know her, I’m sure!
One day, in Australia, my friend Klaus, a German Zen monk, asked me this simple question, which, however, radically changed the course of my life:
If you go to the supermarket buy bananas but there are more, what do you do?
I still city and hyperactive a few months ago, I replied with all my composure
I’m going to another store of course!
Klaus, who was not yet a monk at that time, but who was not lacking in wisdom and benevolence, looked at me with his mischievous look that I know him so well now
Finally, Jia, what’s the point of running this way after bananas? Imagine that you go to this supermarket and that there are no bananas, but that by looking for something that would satisfy your desire, you come across beautiful mangoes and buy them. Imagine now, that these mangoes in question are the most incredible that you never have to eat, that their tastes will remain to you as an imperishable memory. Do you believe that the universe will have given you this gift? That of not finding bananas?
At that moment, I do not understand, I remember having answered, that if I really wanted bananas I would have to find and that I would be willing to go for miles (it seems I’m stubborn! Of course, with all his kindness and friendship, he laughed at my stubbornness.
What Klaus did not know that day was that he had planted a seed in my mind, and that two weeks later I got up one morning with the clear and limpid idea that mango was the best option, and that in any case, hunting bananas was a healthy attitude. That to be satisfied with what one has, has nothing wrong, that to want more, is not bad either, but that sometimes it is necessary to show resilience. Who knows what the universe (or God or what you please) could bring you!
Why this story? Because if I find life so simple, it’s simply because I do not complicate it!
I have problems like everyone else, lots of things are wrong in my life, nothing is perfect.
But I do not care! (ballec ‘as my sweet friend Cathy would say)
No matter what’s wrong, I focus on what’s going on. And most importantly, I remain open to all eventualities. Life gives us so many opportunities when we are ready to keep our eyes wide open!
Professionally also I work like this. I work, I keep my goals in mind. But I’m still open, the doors are not that close (despite the lock!) It’s a good thing to wait for opportunities, must still recognize them when they show!
When we are too focused on his desires, his needs, his problems and their solutions, we do not realize, that there, in front of us is, the evidence, what we have been waiting for a long time!
So if I can give you some advice, take a step back, rest, slow down, and you’ll see, everything will be easier! And everything will go much faster! And yes, entrepreneurship and quantum physics have one thing in common … the paradox. Slow down to go faster!
So this is a first tool that I use in my daily life as a mom and entrepreneur, SLOW, slow working, slow life, slow cooking, all these terms that we hear more and more, and that terrifies some!
No the idea is not to stop working, or to put away the computer at 18h.
We, entrepreneurs, know that it’s impossible. My vision of Slow Working is more like a dynamic, where we really agree a break time of quality, which allows us unlimited efficiency thereafter.
Another magical and pragmatic tool that I integrated in our daily life (attention, crazy crazy thing!). THE CALENDAR … tadam … I warned you, an innovation out of the ordinary!
Jokes aside, I could not even imagine a day without the family calendar.
And this, at all levels. The appointments and the deadline pro, the appointments for the children, the activities, the school at home, the works, the kitchen garden, the races, the visits, the trips … everything is there. If you do not have one, and you survive, let me know.
This calendar allows me of course to remember the important appointments, but not only. It allows me to have a short, medium and long-term overview of my projects, the distribution of working time and family time.
It allows the whole family to organize so that everyone can do what they hear.
Finally, the most important tool in my opinion, when you want to have a good family / work balance, is the pace. The pace of work of course but also the family and personal rhythm.
To put it simply, I do not hurry.
The rhythm of my children is important, and since it is very malleable, I hold on this one. So I manage to organize around their awakenings, naps, meals … This allows me to work serenely at the opportune moments …
How many mothers send an email by peeling vegetables, end a phone conversation by changing a diaper? Of course, sometimes we have no choice, and I know his situations well, our children take up most of our time? Nevertheless I try at best, compartmentalize and not to multi tasking permanently!
When I prepare a meal (or I watch my husband do it, we are in 2019 guys!) My phone is set aside, I do not find my emails in full jigsaw with my children, and conversely when I work, they are mostly busy with something else and do not require my attention.
Thanks to this respect of the rhythm of each one, we can spend rich and qualitative family moments, I am thus productive and concentrated when I work!
The pace is also, in my opinion, the most relevant tool for young entrepreneur parents. When my first son was born, as much to tell you that as for all, it was chaos. When to sleep, when to work, when to eat?
When we were two, everything was simple, everyone was independent, it was enough to do what was to be done. When a child arrives, this little automatic world breaks out. You have to think of everything, and things happen anarchically and permanently.
Not to mention that you have to manage your own problems (oh yes, nine months with a tenant … must recover!)
What allowed us not to go crazy is the pace. Take the time to understand the pace, needs, and functioning of being small, and organize around. It takes a little time, but thanks to that, I was able to continue working and taking care of my children, so it was worth it!
As for the postponement to work after a child, I think that what is essential is to regain confidence in its potential: 9 months of pregnancy, childbirth, hormonal roller coasters, diapers, baby bottles , the lack of discussions with humans over 3 months … all this is not easy to combine with an independent job.
I would say that it is necessary to have confidence in YOUR POTENTIAL.
What we did before we had a child, our experiences and skills did not go away like magic. You have to get back to it calmly, and can be with a different approach. After all, we are often a different woman after such an experience.
When we love what we do, believe in its potential and give ourselves the means, combining work and family is possible.
It will never be the easy way, but the game is worth it!