A year ago my husband and I made the decision to pull our two boys out of childcare. This meant I was giving up my three work days in exchange for…well, no work days really.
There were multiple reasons for this decision. Our youngest son suffers from severe food and environmental allergies and nursery wasn’t proving to be the best place for him. He was missing days due to illness (a consequence of being run down from constant allergic reactions) or needing to be picked up early and he was not sleeping well due to a side effect of his allergy medication. I was so terribly sleep deprived that I would often come home from dropping him off and fall asleep at my computer. I would then work all night to make up the missed hours and meet all my deadlines, and then be up with my son until 3 am. On the days the kids were home with me I was still exhausted and failing to be the parent I wanted to be. The whole situation was just not working.
The other deciding factor was money. Despite all the work hours I was putting in, I wasn’t managing to make enough to cover the full nursery bill. We crunched the numbers and realised we would be a lot better off without them in nursery even though it meant me taking a massive cut in hours and pay. “We’re better off without me working?” I thought. “How have I failed so badly with my business?” It didn’t occur to me that maybe I set my hourly rate too low nor did it occur to me that it probably would not be possible for anyone to run a profitable business with the amount of sleep I was getting.
I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to tell anyone we were pulling the kids out of nursery. I didn’t want to tell my family and I certainly didn’t want to tell anyone in my online world. I couldn’t stand for my peers to find out for fear that my credibility as a designer and tech editor would come into question. I had made being able to pay for nursery the sole marker of my success or failure as a business. I was still selling patterns, I was still tech editing and I was still running my tech editing course. But because I couldn’t keep the kids in childcare, in my mind, I had failed.
The truth is, pulling the kids out of nursery ended up being the very best possible decision for my family. With my youngest being in my care full time we were able to determine and eliminate the last two allergens still in his diet. This made a massive difference — the biggest being that we no longer needed to use his allergy medication on a regular basis and he started sleeping through the night for the first time in 2 years. I got to spend time with my oldest son before he started primary school this past September. Being home with them full-time wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. I’m not going to lie and say I loved every minute of it. I love working and running my business. I don’t find being a stay-at-home-mom enough to feel fulfilled and accomplished. I need mental challenges beyond 'where did the kids hide the keys this time?'. But it certainly didn’t feel like failure. It just felt like I had prioritised being a mum first and a business woman second because that’s what my family required at that time.
In 2014, I published 9 new designs and added a further 8 patterns to my shop that were previously available only in magazines or my book. My tech editing course continued to sell out each time I ran it. I completely redid the layout on all my patterns. I redesigned my website. I got accepted to and vended at my first event. I was accepted to vend a second event and took on the role of tech editor for a US magazine which I’m super excited about it. I had my best year yet in terms of pattern sales. I did all this while being home with two kids all the time (with help from family of course, superwoman I am not). I was NOT a failure in 2014.
This was also the year I joined the Starship with Tara Swiger. One of the things we do at the beginning of the year is pick a north star for our business. This is a word (or words) that will guide us for the next year. I’ve decided that for 2015 my word will be FEARLESS. I will not be afraid to talk about the ups and downs of running a business. I will stop being afraid that my writing isn’t witty enough or grammatically perfect enough and so I will write more blog posts. I will stop being afraid that my designs aren’t good enough or clever enough to publish and I will publish more than 9 designs this year (the goal is 12 — one a month). I will stop being afraid that if I create tutorials like I want to, I will reveal myself as a charlatan who actually doesn’t know anything about knitting at all. I will not be afraid to take risks even though sometimes they will pay off and sometimes they might not. I have big plans for the next year and can't wait to share them all with you.
I went into 2014 ashamed and downtrodden but I am ending 2014 proud and fearless.
P.S. Let's not talk about how long it's taken me to hit publish on this post. It's all about baby steps, right?