Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thoughts on Being a Stay at Home Mom

Today, I feel like a stay at home mom. 

My almost 1 1/2 year old slept in (after waking once in the night). I made us pancakes for breakfast. We played outside. While he napped in the afternoon, I baked banana chocolate chip muffins. Ironically, I don't have a vehicle this week, so I feel even more "stranded" at home. But, I assure you, this is not a typical day for us. Some days are easy and some days are really hard. 

I read an article which captured it well. After working full-time for a decade, in my chosen profession, and then making the transition to staying home to care for my son full-time, I can say wholeheartedly that it is wonderful and it is amazing hard work. I can't tell you how thankful I am to be able to witness all of Marshall's firsts. I don't have to rush him out the door every morning to go to work (at a job that I truly enjoyed). I'm the one who changes his diapers all day long, feeds him endless snacks throughout the day, and takes him to the park. We can even stop for ice cream in the middle of the afternoon (usually more for me than for him). He's watching me and I'm teaching him every single day, all day. It's amazing, it really is. 

It's also more work than anyone can prepare you for. Before having a child, my husband and I had a pretty laid back lifestyle. We both worked 9-5 jobs, but we ate dinner together, relaxed and watched TV, took day trips and vacations, SLEPT IN, enjoyed hobbies, shopping, doing projects around the house. At the time, I knew I had a lot of "free" time, I just didn't realize that it would be completely eaten up and so much harder to come by, after having a baby.

I'd say that time has been the biggest adjustment for me. The lack of time to do regular tasks, like take a shower, go to the store, read, sit down and eat a meal in peace, see friends. My entire day revolves around my sweet babes schedule and his nap time. Oftentimes I feel like I'm racing against the clock. Trying to get as much done as possible in my limited "free" time. I've been realizing, the more time passes, that I continually need to die to myself and that the "old me" is not who she was anymore. Not entirely gone, but definitely different. I'm not living for myself, I'm living for someone else. A sweet, funny, sometimes screaming, busy, growing, determined, has a mind of his own, little boy. It's hard to give up "me time" and say "no" to people and activities I wish I could partake in. It's hard for me not to get dressed up and wear makeup and actually do my hair. I miss being able to sit at my favorite spot, sipping a latte while eating a scone. In silence. Alone. 

And the exhaustion. I don't know if it's because I'm raising a boy, but he wears me out! We go from one activity to the next, trying to keep him busy, entertained, and happy. All. Day. Long. The other day, we went to the splash park, went for a bike ride, played outside, then in the evening went for a stroller walk before bed. It's go, go, go! My days are full, from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed at night. Don't forget meal times and snacks for days. By the time I collapse on the couch and ponder what I want to do with my couple hours before bed, I'm too tired to do anything. 

But, I keep reminding myself, that each day, he's never going to be this little again. Every single day is a gift. One that we get to share together. We can laugh and have fun and explore. It's not going to last. I'm already in disbelief that he's almost 1 1/2. He's not a baby anymore. He is definitely an active toddler and is growing by the minute. 

And I'm so thankful that I get to share every minute with him. Being a mom, and being a stay at home mom, is truly a gift, in so many ways. 

Even on the tough days.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Freelance Fresh Night Out Takeaways

Earlier this month, I attended my first Freelance Fresh Night Out, put on by the RAF (Rochester Advertising Federation). The event featured a panel of freelance and agency creatives, sharing tips and advice that any working professional could put into practice. And I got a cool, free t-shirt!

I always find it inspiring and encouraging to be in a room full of fellow artists, talking shop, and sharing ways to improve (and what not to do). Especially since I've been making my way solely as a freelance graphic designer and art director, since leaving my full time job over a year ago. 

I'll jot down a few of my key takeaways: 

Brand yourself (well) and be aware of your personal brand. Especially your online presence. Be mindful of how you use social medial (positive and negative). People are watching. 

Make sure people know what you do. Not everyone may be aware of what you have to offer. Make it known.

"Bug people," in the nicest way possible. Get your name out there. Remind them that you're available for hire. Ask them if they could use your services. Keep your name on their list of people to call. 

Be buttoned up. Do good work. Be organized. Be professional. Don't leave loose ends. Don't make an employer have to hold your hand throughout a project. Follow directions.

Be confident. Know your stuff and be confident in the skills and talents that are uniquely yours.

Focus on your strengths and do them well. Don't pretend you can do something that you can't or aren't an expert at. 

Reach out to other artists/creatives/professionals in your field. Spur one another on. Ask for help or advice. Share insights. 

Stay relevant. Keep your portfolio up to date. Know the latest trends and technology.