Mommy in a Designer’s World

If, like me, you’ve ever woken up and realized your hair hasn’t been washed in four days, you might be a working mom. If you choose your outfit for the day based on which clothes won’t show baby food and slobber, you could be a mom. If you find yourself at work with a fever and a nose like a faucet because you’re afraid to use sick days for yourself, you’re definitely a working mom. And if you’re a designer mom, things get even crazier.

It’s not every mom that struggles with form vs. function when buying baby toys; who has to design her kid’s Valentine’s cards for school because there is no way she’s using those $2 ones from Wal-mart; or who can’t help but art direct her baby’s one-year photo shoot.

We designer moms have a mismatched mix of blog subscriptions, alternating between Smashing Magazine and I Heart Nap Time, while our Pinterest boards can include everything from infographic design inspiration to a tutorial on sewing a pillowcase dress. And that’s only a glimpse of all the different things are going on in our heads.

Balancing the dual identities of mommy and employee is always a challenge, and being a mother in the world of design brings its own unique trials.

As a mother of two and full-time Art Director, I regularly battle the ups and downs of being a mom in a designer’s world. Although it can be overwhelming at times, it can also be highly rewarding. Obviously, everyone handles the balance in their own way, so I’ve added some advice from other creative moms in my office to the mix.

My favorite mantra is, “Life is short. Keep it real. Make it sweet.” It’s something I saw on the wall in a bakery and fell in love with, and it reminds me that I never have to settle. I love being a mom and I love being a designer, so I intend to do both. Here are some of the ways my fellow creatives and I have found to maintain the balance.

Communication is Key

There really is an overwhelming perception of the design profession as not very “family friendly,” and that you are looked down on if you leave work at 5 p.m. on the dot every day because you have to pick up your kid.

I’m sure some people feel this way, but I am lucky to work at a firm that is not only supportive of employees, but also encourages them to spend time with their families.

If your environment is not so encouraging, confront your boss about issues you have. I think every mom—and dad—would be surprised to see how supportive their industry can be.

Savage President Bethany Haley says, “I find that I am my own worst enemy at times, feeling that I am at the mercy of everyone else’s schedule. I end up telling myself that ‘I have to’ be at a meeting, or ‘I have to’ stay late, or ‘I have to’ miss this because of that. I think we all do that to some degree. Then I wake up with the realization that I have made my own sacrifice without even asking for some flexibility.”

Depend on Others

Some weeks I feel like Super Mom, other weeks I feel like a zombie. It’s during the latter when I really take advantage of those around me. I ask my husband to pick the kids up from daycare, and if other designers have lighter workloads, I ask for their help.

You can’t handle everything yourself, and you shouldn’t have to. As Savage Business Development Susan Simon says, “Know your boundaries.”

Bethany shares, “You’ve heard the quote, ‘It takes a village’? I take that to heart. I rely a lot on my husband and the grandparents, and I pay a lot for childcare. In any dual income family, whether you are in the design industry or not, you have to find people you trust to rely on.”

Plan Ahead

Everyone that I work with at Savage knows that I have to leave work on time in order to pick up my children. They also know that if they give me enough notice or if I am swamped, I will make plans so that I can work late. Planning is a crucial part of being a working mom.

Susan shares insight into planning as a single mom: “As parents, we know that we have a ton of planning that needs to be done to make each day successful. From our morning routine to the last light out, if we plan, we can achieve balance.”

Work at Work, Mom at Home

Designers are lucky. It’s easier for us to get lost in our work than most professions. However, it’s also easy to think about your children all day long if you want to! Focus on work when you’re at work so you can focus on your family when you’re with them. If I find myself getting distracted, I put on my headphones, tune out everyone around me, and bust out some beautiful designs.

Just like I am all business at work, I am all Mom at home. Some people are able to beautifully mesh work and home, but not me. Although it may not always be possible, turn work off when you leave so that you can focus on creating memories for yourself and your children.

The other Savage moms share my beliefs about balancing work and home. Savage Project Manager Misty Loocke says, “I try not to bring work home. If I stay late every now and then, that is fine, but I don’t want to be distracted by work when I’m spending the hour and a half a night I get with my daughter.

“Sometimes I just think: You know what, life is short and my daughter won’t be this way for long, so I need to calm down and focus on her.”

Jackie Dryden, Savage Creative Strategist, gives similar advice: “When your child is sick, be a mom. When there is a school event, be a mom. The work will get done. And it will be done better and more efficiently when you are not worried about your children.”

Trust and Take Care of Yourself

Design was my first love, and I refuse to lose that. I make it a point to spend time every week to do something creative, alone! Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but we all need time to ourselves to focus on things that make us happy.

Take time to recharge and remember what you love about design and being creative. Design a poster, paint, sew—whatever it is that reminds you you’re doing what you love.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about taking some time for yourself, or for anything you do to take care of your family. You have to trust that you are making choices that work best for you.

Being a parent is a demanding, rewarding job. It requires a lot from us, but parenting and work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At the end of the day, I can feel proud about doing both because I am teaching my children, especially my daughter, that they can do whatever they want. I can work hard and be good at my job, and I can be a wonderful mother, too.

Life is short. Keep it real. Make it sweet.

By Ashley Rundall
Published March 19, 2013
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