First off, I want to apologize for the long absence–we had a baby, and then the quarantine happened… need I say more? I haven’t written anything since before our son, Otto, was born back in January, and I haven’t posted any new content since December. Yikes. To say I have had my hands full and too many balls in the air is an understatement!
As most of you know, I am a self-employed graphic designer, and I started this blog as a passion project with my husband to document our travels and share some of our favorite recipes. While I love blogging, I have had to limit myself to only working on the blog on the weekends, since my work weeks are filled with client design work. Throw a new baby into the mix, and something had to give…. Figuring out a newborn baby and breastfeeding proved harder than I expected.
As I am writing this, we are in week six of quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and I feel like everyone else in our house has all the time in the world, yet I am spread as thin as butter on toast. We have based this blog around our real-life experiences, whether they be good or bad, so I wanted to be honest when I say that something had to give. Unfortunately, it was my passion project, The Bear and The Blonde.
The only reason I decided to sit down and write today is because I have been having a hard time falling back to sleep after Otto wakes me up for his 3am feeding. I have been lying in bed, wide awake, with blog ideas running through my head. I have been so tempted to just walk across the hall and start writing, but I know I need to sleep when the baby is sleeping, so I force myself to listen to sleep meditations until I pass out. Clearly this is a passion of mine that I cannot ignore for long.
Given the long absence, I wanted to take a moment to get everyone caught up on the Smalls!
We Had a Baby Bear! Otto!
Yes, on January 20th, 2020 at 6:32pm, we welcomed our first child, Otto Ray Small, to the family. We were blessed with a beautiful natural birth at the hospital and a happy, healthy baby. It was everything we imagined and more.
Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways and truly humbled me as a person. My old routine went out the window and my new routine is dictated by someone who can’t even say my name yet. But, it’s all good!
I always thought it would be hard waking up for late night feedings, but the truth is, I like it. It is great bonding time for me and the little guy. I still miss my old routine of getting up at 4am to watch my reality TV shows in peace before heading to the 5am class at the gym, but I have faith I will get back there soon. I have learned to be okay with the fact that I might not get everything done in a day, workouts might only happen a few days a week (if at all), the house might not be as clean as I would like it, and my meal choice might not be the best right now. But that’s all okay!
Being Self-Employed with a New Baby
Being self-employed is one thing, but being self-employed with an infant is a whole other ball game! I will be the first to admit I was humbled by my baby, and he quickly showed me what was really important. And guess what? It wasn’t my business. I have been self-employed for over five years and my design business, Stellen Design, is my baby–I thought nothing could get in the way of that. I had this romantic notion of me being able to be Superwoman, take about two weeks off (though not really off, because I would be checking in on projects with my assistant daily), and then ease back into work like nothing had changed.
That was definitely not the case! While I managed to get through it, it was a hard lesson learned, and I can honestly say that for our next child, I am going to plan ahead and actually close up shop for three months. I know I will still need to check in and sub out work to other designers to make sure my existing clients’ needs are met, but I will plan ahead and not take on new projects that will extend past my due date, and I will not take on new clients during that time.
I have a new appreciation and understanding for maternity leave. Being self-employed just means you need to set your own boundaries and standards and not feel guilty about it. After a few weeks of trying to be Superwoman, I made a bold move and lightened my load. I decided I would only work four days a week, after my mom got home from work in the afternoons so she could watch the baby. I have heard this before, but now I really understand it… you have your whole life to build a business, but your babies are only babies once. Don’t miss it!
My self-mandated maternity leave worked for a few weeks, but then the pandemic happened and I got hit with rush projects left and right. Luckily, my mom and Micah were (and still are) both out of work, so I was able to have some support. That brings me to my next topic…
The Quarantine Happened
Like I said before, we are currently on week six of being quarantined in our house. We being me, Micah, my mom, my dad, baby Otto, and three dogs. We had moved in with my parents to save money to buy a house, and we are still thanking god we didn’t buy back in November when we were looking. We decided to wait until after Otto was born (one big life change at a time), and thank god we did! Micah has not worked since early March. We would be seriously struggling to get by on one income with a mortgage and new baby. I am so thankful to be here, and I don’t want anything else I say to sound ungrateful. But again, I like to keep things real, and being stuck inside with so many different personalities can test anyone’s patience.
The hardest part for me has been being the only busy one in a house full of people with nothing major to do. I was trying to work a cut-back schedule and give myself a little bit of “maternity leave” to bond with my son, but when three of your biggest clients all need rush projects, you have to help. These times are weird and I want nothing more than to be able to help them out. I also couldn’t fathom turning down work when my husband’s whole industry (entertainment) is shut down.
I am so lucky my work is all digital and I am still able to work and that I was already used to working from home. What I wasn’t used to, though, is working from home while everyone else is also home! Hearing Micah playing with Otto in the next room has proved to be one of the hardest distractions to ignore. I have to force myself to not get out of the chair and go join them. My mom and I started making face masks for friends and family, and I can hear the sewing machine going and want to go help her out, but I know if it’s a weekday I have to be working.
On the other hand, my work has taken a bit of hit too. I have gotten sidelined by questions like “when was the last time you fed the baby?”, “where is his fuzzy blanket?”, or “what do you want to do for dinner?” While they are all innocent questions that, as a new mom, I want to give the answers to, those questions often pull me off task and totally derail my train of thought. I have finished projects and forgotten to send the files to the client or to update their invoices. It’s a bit of a mess. I can honestly say, projects are taking me a lot longer to finish these days.
The other day, Micah went out for a bike ride and my parents took Otto for a walk. After they left, the house was quiet and then it hit me–I was alone! It was the first time since before Otto was born that I had been alone in the house. No other human energy was around and it felt magnificent! I never realized how much I appreciated and needed my alone time. I didn’t know if I should try to get a workout in, meditate, or just watch an episode of Real Housewives. The freedom felt so good!
I know under normal circumstances, even as a new mom, I would still get some “me” time. Micah or my mom would be wanting to take Otto out with them to see friends and family. My mother-in-law would be wanting to babysit, and I too would have places to go by myself. But, unfortunately, that is not the case, and until this stay-at-home order is lifted, I will have to navigate finding some “me” time in between time for my husband, my baby, my parents, and my clients.
Here is another article on Managing COVID-19 with a baby!
To conclude, I know the entire world is going through the same struggles we are. We are not unique in this situation. But I wanted to shed a little bit of light on why we have been MIA since December! I am hoping to still get some content out–it will most likely be at a slower pace than before Otto, and I doubt we will have any good travel content for a while, but I am hopeful!
Stay healthy, my friends!
PS. I wrote this back in the beginning of May and finally found time in mid June to post! At least I can say now the world is opening back up slowly but surely!
Currently reminiscing on our trip to Europe! Fingers crossed we can go again soon!