Since becoming a mom, I have paid a lot more attention to the finer points of how other moms handle their lives. Working moms, stay at home moms, part time working moms, work from home moms. Everyone seems to have such a solid system in place that helps them get through each day successfully. I realized that I know quite a few REALLY inspiring, entrepreneur moms. I decided to get some information out of them so they could also inspire all of YOU!
So, first up in my mom-spiration series … SARAH GUFFEY!
Sarah is a PR & Marketing freelancing, copywriting, self-employed, social media loving mom of one (Rowan) with another on the way (Babytron). She is constantly in the midst of renovating some area of her home, trying to get her life as organized as possible, and taking her 15 month old son on adventures (whether they be to Target or to a new children’s museum). You can see her being all professional on LinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahguffey. In her spare time she also contributes to Stable Mable on Chicago Now and runs PSkisskiss.
- Why did you want to go into business for yourself?
After I had my son in 2014 I had been looking for my professional “next act” so to say after feeling like I couldn’t do it all anymore. I wanted to be able to better balance my life as a mom and wife with my working life. I’d always been a workaholic sitting at my computer for ten or eleven hours a day straight and for years had a two plus hour a day commute. I just didn’t see that working for me anymore. I wanted to be able to do work I enjoyed while also being able to end my work day at 2pm if necessary/possible to go with my kid to Rhyme & Rhythm class.
- What is the hardest thing about being a mom entrepreneur?
Fighting off guilt! I love what I do for a living and the people I work with, which always made me feel kind of guilty in the first few months. “Shouldn’t I ONLY love my baby and being a mom??” No. I am a human person and had to learn that I’m allowed to really dig being a mom while also really digging my job. My husband currently works second shift—meaning he’s gone from the early afternoon until late at night—so in the beginning I had to get used to being able to pause my work to give the baby a bath and put him to bed. I’ve always been the type that begins and finishes a project in one sitting whenever possible so I’ve had to re-train my brain that it’s okay to start writing a press release, take a break for dinner, and then finish it. I also struggle with guilt if I’m answering emails or texting a client when I’m supposed to be having time with my kiddo but sometimes there’s no avoiding it. I try to remember that it’s okay to spend five minutes answering an urgent email while we’re at the park or setting him up with a puzzle and a snack in his high chair so I can spend a bit of time on a work project. It’s also okay to ask someone to babysit for an afternoon so I can focus solely on work. I’m a mom and a professional so I have to strike a balance, hopefully sans guilt.
- What are the best things about being a mom entrepreneur?
I’ve gotten to work with colleagues both old and new who inspire me in ways creative, professional, and personal while soaking up all the small moments with my son since his infancy. I love that I can help plan a national campaign for a fashion client, bake breakfast muffins, do laundry, write a marketing plan for a local business client, organize media placements during lunch, and have a dance party with my tiny human all in one day (and usually by 4pm!). Sometimes I have to make sleep sacrifices like if I know I have a ton going on I get my butt out of bed at 4am and start my work day working well into the 11pm hour. On the flip side if it’s a light day and I’m done working at 10am I can pack up the car and head out for a spontaneous day at the zoo. I’ve also found that Rowan is content to do fun activities while I work beside him which helps us explore all the cool sensory activity pins on Pinterest and gives him some supervised independent time playing with cloud dough or coloring or building a Duplo tower.
I honestly think that being a mom entrepreneur and working at home has helped me become so much more organized, too. I feel like I have much more balance when I take a minute at night to make to do lists for the next day—one for work and one for things that need to be one at home like laundry or cleaning out the fridge. My husband is home in the morning and able to hang with Rowan until 1pm. If I have a to do list ready I’m usually able to wake up early and power through my list before he leaves—getting in a whole work day before the early afternoon makes you feel crazy productive!
- What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? What is the first thing you think about when you wake up?
I wish this answer was that I wake up bright eyed and sing a song while tiny birds help me get dressed for yoga class but the answer is that I usually think, “I want more sleep” as I avoid hitting snooze at 5am or as Rowan babbles my ear off and tries to manually peel my eyes open. I start thinking about my to-do list for the day while we brush our teeth and I boot up my computer as I start making breakfast for everyone. We’re able to eat at the table together while I start work for the day.
- What do you to find time for yourself?
Rowan is usually asleep by 9pm while my husband is still at work and if I’m not super busy with my own work I take that time to relax a bit either with a book or a TV show or just perusing Pinterest (I’m sure once I have a tiny newborn in the house in May things will be MUCH different though!). There are some days where I just don’t have time for myself because of family, work, and household responsibilities but whenever the opportunity presents itself I definitely try to take advantage. If work or household chores pop up during my usual “me” time I do try to make it fun by pouring myself a drink (these days it’s sparkling water with fruit) and turning on Real Housewives of some city for background noise and getting down to business either typing or scrubbing.
- What is your favorite part of every day?
Our post-dinner, pre-bedtime hour. At 6pm every night we turn the TV off for the day, shut my laptop for a bit if possible, and clean up whatever giant baby mess was made in the afternoon (think lots of Legos and tiny pieces of plastic or felt food from his kitchen set). We have about an hour of mom-and-baby time playing with blocks or doing puzzles before bath time and Rowan’s bedtime. It’s harder to have this time during hectic weeks but I really have come to look forward to it and be grateful for it on days that allow for it. It’s a nice, quiet time to connect without electronics or lots of distractions and listen to my baby laugh and talk and see him learn. If he’s been a cranky beast all day? Then I change my answer and the best time of the day is after he’s asleep in his crib (we all have those days, right??).
- Do you have any “rules” about when you stop working or any boundaries about making specific family time where you don’t think about work? Explain.
I think in the PR/Communications industry it’s hard to ever fully “turn off” but I try. If we’re having a family day at the aquarium and an email that isn’t urgent comes through I try to answer right away that I will get to the project ASAP but not stress out or worry that I should rush home right away to work on it since the deadline isn’t immediate. I’ve been insanely lucky to work with clients and colleagues who are of the same mentality and super organized so I usually have a bit of time before deadlines.
I like to take care of work as it comes up whenever I’m home and it’s possible. So if the baby just went down for a nap and I’m about to start cleaning the kitchen but I get an email asking me to work on a small project, I like to take care of it then and there. I like my clients and colleagues to know that they are a priority too. So I wouldn’t say I have hours where I’m absolutely not working or responding to work emails. I just try to maintain a balance and plan accordingly for both work-focused time and family-focused time.
- What words of advice do you have to working moms or moms who are thinking about going to work for themselves?
DO IT. I mean, plan for it and then do it. Before I made the jump back into freelancing I made a monthly budget plan (using my slowest possible month where I make the least amount of money as a base to ensure that we could cover bills even if there was a work drought). I started networking and lining up opportunities. I think it’s harder if you just decide to up and quit your current situation without a solid plan so think it out a bit, figure out if this could really work for you, and then DO IT.
Also, once you do make the leap remember that it takes a minute to get settled and there will always be crazy weeks. Some weeks I feel like Superwoman because my house is clean, baby is asleep on time every night, and my work goals are all exceeded. Other weeks my floors are gross, laundry is piled up, and my baby is still babbling to me wide awake 10pm all while I’m trying to organize a last-minute media interview. Give yourself a break (I wish I’d learned that sooner!).
- Who is YOUR inspiration/role model? Celebrity, family member, etc.
I’m inspired by every dang body! My parents always did what they had to do to pay bills like work multiple jobs or moonlight but they also made time to drive me to Girl Scouts or coach my brother’s hockey team. Now that I’m a parent I see how big of a sacrifice that really was to work two jobs, come home, make dinner, and then shuffle off to someone’s practice or activity. I’m also inspired by colleagues who are in business for themselves and believe in building other people up to do great work—I really think I’m a magnet for strong women who are doing it for themselves because 80% of the people I work with fit that description (I do work with really cool men too and they are wonderful and inspiring so I can’t leave them out). I’m also inspired by friends who have babes and work outside the house or are full-time moms—everyone has their own balancing act and now that I’m a parent myself I just want to give everyone all the high fives.
Also, Instagram. All the handmade shop owning mommas on Instagram. I follow all these baby clothes or candle or quilt making moms who have kids and a creative outlet and are making it happen and again, my hand raises for a virtual high five. Some of them have full time jobs, multiple kids, AND run creative businesses!
- Time for favorites! Favorite beverage? Favorite indulgence? Favorite date night spot? Favorite place to take your kiddo?
Pre or post-pregnancy answer on the beverages? White wine or black coffee, both of which I’m looking forward to this summer. Pregnancy answer? Ice cold grapefruit La Croix (it’s a sickness in our house! Some people have a beer fridge, we have a sparkling water fridge).
My favorite indulgence is definitely DESSERT. My big bump and I are somewhat obsessed with lemon sorbet topped with a ton of fresh diced strawberries or good chocolate cake. I also indulge in reality TV. I will watch reruns of Snooki & J-Woww to unwind and I am absolutely not ashamed.
For date nights, my husband and I are really lucky that my parents watch Rowan once a week so we can have a weekly date night. We’ve been together ten years and our favorite thing has always been a trip to the movies—even if it’s a horrible movie it’s my favorite thing to do. We’re also trying to do new things like paint nites or checking out new restaurants…and sometimes date night is just cleaning up the basement while ordering take out.
I try to take my kiddo everywhere! My favorite places to take him are kids museums or open tot gym at our local park district (he is always the loudest kid in the gym laughing and shrieking and playing with all the things). I also love meeting up with friends or family and going to lunch or just walking around the mall if it’s cold or the park if it’s nice out. I’ve also taken him to more “grown-up” places like book signings (he met Nick Offerman from Parks & Rec last year!) and I love weaving him into my life as a grown up in that way.
- How does your husband help you out?
My husband, Rhyno, has always been my number one supporter especially when it comes to freelancing and being my own boss. He was the one who told me I should try it and really supported the heck out of my when I decided to quit my full time job to better balance my life. He’s also been especially great about getting up with our teething toddler in the middle of the night since I’ve been pregnant with Babytron so I can sleep a bit more. And since he’s home in the morning he also takes over the parenting ship until he has to leave for work so I can sit at my desk and fully focus my attention on work. That helps tremendously and I’m usually able to knock out my entire to-do list by 1pm. He also has a nice butt. I know that’s not what you asked but it is aesthetically pleasing and that always helps.