Sunday 21 January 2018

Sewing When There's No Time To Sew

(Nothing is safe... Frankie works out how to get to the sewing machine)

That's a ridiculous title for a blog post, of course. I haven't worked out a way to stretch or exist outside the regular parameters of time. However, despite being a SAHM to two young children and a part time sewing teacher, at the moment I'm managing to find a surprising amount of time to sew. I talked about the 'why' in my Ease Into Motherhood post last July, and today I want to write a little bit about 'how'.

A big mistake...

When Dolores (who is now four) was a tiny baby, I went through a horrible, but thankfully brief, period of thinking that I should spend any time that she was asleep doing things that were related to her care. Once I'd got her down for a nap, I'd take care of my own basic needs and then I'd get started on the laundry, washing up, etc. until she woke up. I guess I felt that that was what a Good Mum was meant to do. I planned to have my 'me time' (to sew, read blogs and write my own) in the evening once she was down for the night. But in reality, I was always too tired and would end up watching TV feeling frustrated. Let me tell you that this formula is the road to depression and resentment. It took me a while, but I finally learnt that being a martyr to your child is not being a Good Mum; it doesn't best serve yourself or your family.

Finding my sewing groove

I was lucky that as an older baby and little toddler, Dolores use to have sizeable and consistent naps, so I was able to get quite a bit of sewing done during those couple of years. When she dropped napping altogether, sewing had to be relegated back to an evening-only activity. But it was such a deliciously solitary thing to do after each full-on day of toddler-wrangling, that my depth of desire to sew, if only for half an hour each evening, helped me overcome the tiredness that might have stopped me doing any at all. 

Second time around

When I was pregnant with Frankie, I had a word with myself to make sure I wouldn't fall into the martyr-mum role again. I knew that caring for a newborn and a 3yo at the same time was going to be a whole new level of challenging, and that carving out tiny pockets of time to sew was going to be essential if I was going to get through it without my mental health laying in tatters by the time we reached Frankie's first birthday. To avoid the aforementioned frustration and resentment, I kept my aims really low. Like, 10 minutes a day low, for the first few months. And soon I found that I could complete one step of a project (like sticking a PDF together, or inserting the sleeves) per day. Time spent sitting underneath a feeding or snoozing baby, particularly when the big one was at nursery, gave me lots of time to think about each step, so when I did get the micro-opportunity to escape to my sewing corner, I could get stuck in straight away and be pretty productive.

(And the next day I turn my back for a minute and he's now actually ON the sewing table. 
Playing with pins)


The problem was, as he left the newborn stage, Frankie failed to fall into the lovely and reliable nap routine that Dolores had. His naps have been inconsistent and often quite short. So what to do? I found that if I spent however long his nap would be only sewing, then I'd find I had a massive amount of chores to do after he woke up with him all cranky because I wasn't giving him the attention he craved. But if I spent his scant naps only washing up and tidying, then enter our old friends frustration and resentment.

So I've found what works best for me is to flit between roles and tasks. For example: Frankie goes down for a nap, then I put the laundry on, then I do a bit of sewing, then I start the washing up, then I do a bit of sewing, then I finish the washing up, then I do a bit of sewing, then I tidy up a bit, then I do a bit of sewing, and so on until he wakes up. That might sound insane and exhausting, but it's genuinely the only way I've found I can make the most of however long he's going to stay asleep.

Plus, on the rare occasions that they are both happily engaged in something that doesn't involve me, you might catch me rethreading my overlocker or pinning the side seams...

CBeebies saved my life

Confession time: if Dolores isn't in nursery, I let her watch TV whilst Frankie takes his nap. Whatever your thoughts are on TV, I prefer her to not watch too much. But I've overcome my guilt of allowing her to see 1-2 hours a day because she's full-on, active and engaged the whole rest of the day.

Low expectations

Of course, this is only working for me because I have long since let go of being used to the great swathes of sewing time that I used to have before kids. I feel that the newborn phase of parenthood, where somedays getting to wash your hair can be an unobtainable luxury, does the job of making you feel grateful for the odd 10 minutes sewing time when you can grab it. And when 10 minutes of sewing expands in to an hour or two, that can feel like days!

But it is definitely worth reminding myself/ourselves that this early, super-dependant stage of childhood is very short lived. Can you believe I've just filled in Dolores's schools application?! Longer spells of sewing time will be with me again, I just hope I'll stay this productive!

What about you? Have you found any seemingly-bizarre ways to fit sewing in around a busy life (with or without kids)? Are you one of urban legends, for example, that set your alarm early to get some sewing done before work or the rest of your family wakes up?! Any tips you can share on what works for you?


MrsC (Maryanne) said...

I have no tips to add as I've not parented and tried to sew. Although there was a time when my youngest step daughter was under three where she insisted on sitting under the sewing table operating the presser foot for me, and I had to shout Stop! Start! Maybe you could rain up Frankie?

vintagerockchick said...

I think being able to leave your sewing machine out is a big advantage. Also, if I do have a chunk of time I cut out several projects at once and then put them in separate project bags for when I am able to start sewing. I always consider a project is half done when it's cut out (but maybe that's just me!
As for feeling guilty about the kids watching TV - I think you'll find that the people who say you shouldn't let them watch television, probably don't have any kids!

Miriana said...

My son (aged 4) takes the pins out of the fabric while I sew. Most stuff is done in small bursts - I didn’t see before I had kids so I’ve know experience if things not taking ages

Anonymous said...

I definitely continue to suffer from moments of martyr-mum and need to regularly remind myself to take care of as much of the household chores as I can when my little guy is awake. (He actually loves "helping" with laundry.) Thanks for this little reminder of the importance to find ways to carve out a few minutes to yourself each day.

My kiddo, now 12 months, went through a few months of 30 minute catnaps after the newborn phase before he FINALLY learned how to take longer naps. My saving grace during that time came when he was ready for a jolly jumper that hung in the doorframe. Before the jolly jumper came into our lives I'd have to spend one whole nap showering and getting myself ready for the day (I've never been one to actually enjoy the process of grooming, it's always just been something else I have to do everyday). Once we got the jumper, I could use that catnap for a time out for myself and when he woke up, I'd hang him in the bathroom doorway while I showered then move him to the bedroom as I finished getting myself ready. He'd bounce away and I'd sing him songs and he LOVED it!

I miss my weekends that I was able to devote wholly to sewing, but I've refocused my energies on simpler projects and TNT patterns so I can spend my time sewing instead of pattern piecing or struggling with instructions. I've also started getting more into embroidery these days, so I can do something creative and zone out in front of the tv at the same time :)

Becky said...

I have a 9 month old and a 2 1/2 year old, neither of whom nap consistently and only rarely at the same time. Like maybe once every 2 months or so. I usually have to resort to trying to cram in 15 minutes every few nights after they're both in bed. One odd thing that has helped me is that my mom also sews, and since she watches the boys while I work part-time doing music lessons, she's usually fine with me sneaking to her sewing room for a bit while she keeps an eye on them. I do all of my cutting out there now, since I can't safely walk away from the pins and scissors if I get interrupted at home, and have one project that I work on sewing exclusively at her house and one for home. It's been working out pretty well for me, even though I've generally preferred working on one project at a time in my pre-kid life.

Kristina said...

I have a 2, 4 and 6 year old, the eldest 2 are in school now so I’m often able to sew during the 2 yo’s nap, during the week. But on Saturday my partner is often willing to run interference in the afternoon after naps, getting everyone a snack, encouraging everyone outside so that I can have a longer chunk of time to sew. That’s been a huge help! Also I have a sewing corner in my back room and although it’s accessible to them, they’ve always learned it’s Mama’s desk and off limits! They know to steer clear or they’ll get a stern word as there are plenty of dangerous pointy things about. That training has allowed me to keep my stuff out and make use of small pockets of time here and there. Love your posts on motherhood and sewing 😘

CosmicCaro said...

Thank you for putting a name on that bad strategy : the martyr role mom! I always wait for them to go to bed to have me-time, but I am usually too tired and end up browsing the web... Or on weekend I do all my chores, don't feel like I have enough time to play with the kids nor have me-time and end-up very sad and tired Sunday night, seeing that I have to start it all over again the next week... But you gave me a new perspective to find a solution! Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thank you for a super timely post. My baby is 7 weeks old today and I have a 19mth old. Despite daddy being home for 5 weeks I've only managed to sew one super simple skirt for my nieces 3rd birthday.

I keep prioritizing all the washing/cleaning/meal prep thinking I'll sew tonight. By 10pm when I'm finally done the brain and eyes are too tired. Think I need tho implement a sew in the daytime naps even just 10mins and save the laundry for tired eyes.

Knitwitsowls said...

Confession time
I once phoned my mother in law to have my one year old because I had a 'migraine'
I didn't have a migraine , I just needed a me day before I had a complete breakdown!
I sewed all day

Anonymous said...

Hi Zoe,
I have nothing to add about the discussion about fitting sewing in around children, but I wanted to share how refreshing I found your photos of your sewing space. I envy those photos of immaculately accessorised sewing zones, but yours looks like you actually do sewing, and shows evidence of other elements in your life - looks just like mine!

anne82 said...

I love your 'martyr mum', it's a rabbit hole I still stand in every now and then. But there is some learning after 3 kids (nearly 5yo, 2,5yo and 9 months). I try to sew 30 minutes after we put them in bed. During the day the youngst 2 sleep after eachother, but both like to play 15 to 30 min in my sewing/ laundry attic. There's other toys overthere and the 2yo is allowed to help me fold the laundry aka build a tent.
In the weekend my husband loves to get the groceries with 1 or 2 kids and my eldest can play by herself very well, witch gives me an hour or sometimes 2. My husband insists that I'm not doing any household activities in that time, because that keeps me a nicer partner/mother, and he also has/needs his own moments (like a mate weekend every year).

I'm also completely with Hazie on your sewing space!

Anonymous said...

I've given up on my sewing room as a place to work, and it's just storage now. The sewing machine lives downstairs and comes out in the evening once the big two are in bed. The little one does not sleep. Ever. So she sits next to me, watches some relaxing nursery rhymes on Netflix and I try to stop her eating pins. I chunk my sewing now, so one night I will cut out, one night I will sew together, and one night I will finish. I also set myself a finish time, to avoid the despair of 1am and it's still not hemmed.

SteelySeamstress said...

I definitely find that me-time is actually essential for sanity. I so identify with the "martyr-mum" thing, when too much time is spent on housework. Not really sure that "this early, super-dependant stage of childhood is very short lived" having spent many hours helping with homework this weekend, I don't think I'm back with an incredible amount of free time even though my son is 12 years old!

Jo said...

Ah Zoe, When my girls were your age I stopped sewing for a while and that is when I learnt to crochet because I could shove it under the sofa. I also have bad memories of getting my finger stuck under a sewing machine when I was curious 5. I also remember trying to make a new years dress as a new mum and one of them crawling over the foot while I had my hands near the machine and that was the day I packed it away for 4 years. You are doing very well. Jo x

Chrisagriff2 said...

I’m a teacher, no kids, but by 7pm, I’m dead mentally. I leave myself *easy* bits to do. Pin collar piece. Baste. I’ve also taken up knitting and embroidery as good ways to do something for me without needing as much brain. I’ve taken to using baggies and sticky notes for “what is next” because otherwise, I forget!
I can’t imagine adding kids to my day, too!
You are all quite impressive!!

Inder-ific said...

It gets easier, my kids, now ages 5 and 8, happily play together for hours while I sew on weekends, with only a few demands of me. It is GLORIOUS to have older children who really enjoy each other and I definitely believe that a little benign neglect and boredom never hurt a child.

Kathryn said...

Hi Zoe. I found myself nodding along as I read this post, I identify with so many aspects of it! We had quite a long stage of regular two hour naps on the days I wasn’t working so I spent them sewing. When nap time stopped I had to rethink & like you now do a stage at a time. If I have the energy I’ll quite often sew from 8-9pm but find quilts much easier to work on than garments which tend to be done one stage at a time. And yes, I’ll sometimes just quickly fill a bobbin or change the thread in my machine if I’m walking past, just so I’m ready for that next 15/30mins of sewing!

Sarah said...

Just wanted to share my support for you on the TV thing - I have three young and very active children and we watch 1-2 hours per day too - I use it so I can have a shower by myself, cook dinner without them tearing round near the hot stove and I also watch it with them when I need a break from "managing their interactions". They are so active the rest of the time I've given up on feeling guilty too!

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