(the fabulous children's Geranium dress pattern is the last class I'm scheduled to teach at The Village Haberdashery on 25th June. image source: Made By Rae)
A few years back one of the topics I occasionally wrote about was self-employment, both specifically about mine which is in the field of sewing, and a bit more generally. A number of people that I've taught over the last four-ish years have found the idea of making money from your passion to be an interesting one, so I felt the reality of that was a topic worth discussing on this blog whilst I outlined how I made my income. I haven't written specifically about sewing-related self-employment for ages, mainly because my situation hasn't changed very much in the last two years. However, I'm currently staring down the barrel of my second maternity leave, so lots of thoughts, feelings and questions have come up for me that I'd like to air here.
For the last two and a half years, I've been the primary caregiver for our daughter Dolores. She has yet to attend nursery or any other form of childcare so it's a pretty full on task. I've also been bringing in a part-time income, the majority of this has been through teaching sewing and dressmaking classes at the weekends (when her dad can take care of her). I also make a small amount from blogging, sample making, blog sponsorship and sewing pattern sales, which I work on after Dolores has gone to bed and during her naps times. There's been times that all of these activities have left me really busy, and times when it's been less so and I've been able to do more sewing for myself and stuff. The most tiring aspect has been the travelling to and from classes, especially the ones that take place in London. On bad weekends, the journey can take up to four hours each way. When I haven't had a good nights sleep, and now that I'm pregnant again, it can really take it out of me for a couple of days after. So because of that, I'm really looking forward to my maternity leave to avoid the travelling part (although I know that there is a whole different world of tiredness just round the corner!). But on the other hand, I'm really lamenting having to step away from my working life.
(the beautiful and inspiring sewing space at MIY Workshop.
image source: MIY Workshop/Wendy Ward)
As far as I can figure out from my internal enquiries, there's a couple of reasons for this. Partly it's because I've managed to get myself some really great gigs, which has mainly been through working hard at what I do to get good at it. I genuinely LOVE the four companies I currently teach at (Tilly and the Buttons, The Village Haberdashery, MIY Workshop and Fabric Godmother), and getting to help people improve their sewing skills and confidence is a really lovely way to spend time, however tiring projecting a super-positive energy whilst being on your feet all day can be. Plus, getting great feedback from my students about how much they've enjoyed a class and how much more confident they now feel with sewing is so rewarding, and it just feels great to be good at something! There are MANY days that have been spent 'mumming' where I just don't feel like I'm doing a very good job. I'm not sure how my general self-esteem will be effected when I can't intersperse those days with the odd one spent teaching someone to successfully insert an invisible zip or get their head round bias binding. (By the way, you can see what remaining classes I'm scheduled to teach on my Sewing Classes page.) I spoke very frankly about motherhood and the ways in which sewing offers some relief and escape towards the end of this Seamwork magazine article, and some of what I talked about needing sewing for could also be said for my paid employment.
You may be thinking, 'But this is your second child, you've been through this before, right? Why are you freaking out?'. I guess there are two main differences this time round. Firstly, I have a much clearer idea of how absorbing and exhausting life with a tiny baby is; I know how little time will be left over for any kind of work or creative endeavour when you're the primary caregiver. I was very naive about that when I first entered motherhood. Secondly, on top of the whole tiny baby situation, this time I'll have a lively toddler to care for and entertain as well, which will surely leave me with even less time and energy to direct towards anything else I might like to pursue. Thinking I could still achieve quite a bit, on top of keeping a little baby alive and happy, lead me to come unstuck last time and definitely contributed to me experiencing post-natal depression. Therefore, I'm trying to be as realistic as possible about the stresses and strains coming my way over the next year or two.
(your last chance to let me help you to sew with jersey will be at the Fabric Godmother HQ in Hove on 17th July! image source: Fabric Godmother)
So I don't really know what the future holds for my self-employment after my maternity leave. I don't know exactly how different life will be with two tiny children rather than one, and I don't know exactly how Pat's employment will change over the next couple of years either. His situation will have a major effect on both my availability to work and how much my financial input will be needed. But I know that I will need to do some kind of work, however infrequent, for my sanity if nothing else once the mini-dude is old enough to eat solids and breast-feeding calms down.
What I guess I need to remember is that their infancy only lasts a relatively short time, although when you're in the trenches it feels like an age! They'll be at school in the blink of an eye, and I'll be wondering where this period went. At that point I will have more time to concentrate on creative ways to earn money. But I know I'm not the only woman to have felt a bit uneasy about an approaching maternity leave, and what that will mean for your sense of self. Likewise, being somewhat lost in motherhood, no matter how much you love your kids and how carefully they were planned, is not a unique experience either. If anyone else felt a bit weird about this stage of life, it'd be great to hear how you dealt with it.