I've Been a Work at Home Mom for 2 Months

I've Been a Work at Home Mom for 2 Months

It's been nearly two months since I left my corporate job to stay at home with my boys and run the magazine from the comfort of my bedroom.  I don't know if it's because I only went back to work for two weeks following my maternity leave, or if that's just how life goes when you stay at home, but it feels like I've been gone from the corporate world a lot longer.

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The Start of My Next Chapter

The Start of My Next Chapter

Today is the close of one chapter and the beginning of another. 

Ever since I was old enough, I have worked full-time.  Throughout college I worked while going to school, with a new job ready for me as soon as I graduated.  The longest absence I’ve taken from the working world was for the maternity leave I had with both of my sons.

Well, today I’m leaving behind the corporate world as I step into a new chapter of my life.

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Finding an Entrepreneurial Tribe

On Friday I'm flying to San Diego to attend the Boss Mom Retreat - full of inspiring entrepreneurs who are, you guessed, it, moms.  I've never been to a conference before or attended any sort of meet up full of other entrepreneurs.  But this one felt different and having connected with many of the women who will be there already has made it feel like a safe space I can join.

When you're an entrepreneur, it's not just the business part that is really hard.  Relationships are really tough, too, because unless you've started your own business, you most likely won't understand what we're going through.  I can talk to my husband all day long about how hard it is and what it's like but at the end of the day, he still won't really get it.  I've seen time and again women talking about not having the support of their friends and family in their journey and it kills me.  I can't imagine not having the support of the people who love you most.

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Most people don't understand entrepreneurs and why we're so passionate about this one particular thing.  But, you see, it's not just a fun hobby for us.  No one would put themselves through the entrepreneurial journey unless they really wanted it.  The disappointing sales, the hours of unpaid work, the sleepless nights wondering if you said or did the right thing, the time missed with family.  It's hard.  And yet we do it.  Following these passions often doesn't feel like a choice to an entrepreneur.  It's just something that we can't imagine NOT doing.  

In the past when times have been hard with Holl & Lane, I've been asked "why don't you just quit?"  It seems so simple, that question.  Something feels impossible, so why not just give up on it.  But for me, it's simply not an option.  At this point in my life it feels like this magazine is what I was meant to do.  I'm meant to help people by sharing their stories.  And to think of stopping that, no matter how hard a day is, is agonizing.

There have been many days where I've broken down crying, thinking that I'm never going to get to where I want or need to be to make this magazine successful.  And each time my husband asks me "how would you feel tomorrow if you quit?"  My answer is always the same - miserable.  More miserable than whatever the particular hardship is that day.  Because at the end of the day, I've started something that I believe in with my whole soul.  I've found that thing that makes me feel alive and that has me looking forward to working on it.  Even the things I don't like about running a magazine are ten times more fun than any other job I've had.  This magazine is in my bones.  

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So when we, as entrepreneurs, find a tribe of other women (and men) who understand, we cling to them.  They become our second family, our counselors, and our friends.  Together we can have those moments where we scream "I JUST WANT TO QUIT", and for them to give us a reassuring nod of the head, knowing that we won't actually quit but that maybe we just need a step back and a listening ear.  Because, they've been there, too.  They get it.  They know.

To those of you who are out there doing it on your own - I get it.  I understand.  Find your tribe.  Join the meetups, or the Facebook groups.  Seek out those who will know what you're going through day in and day out.  The entrepreneurial journey will feel a little bit easier.

The Mexican Fisherman

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.  

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish.

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed.  "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats.  Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC, where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But how long will this take?"

To which the American replied, "Fifteen to twenty years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said that's the best part.  "When the time is right, you would announce and IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich; you would make millions."

"Millions?" asked the fisherman.  "Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine, and play guitar with your amigos!" - Author Unknown

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This story was featured in Erin Loechner's new book Chasing Slow and it is something that has stuck with me since i finished reading it.  As an American, I seem to be hard-wired to believe that we have to make millions of dollars, and I have to make it RIGHT NOW.  Recently I've been feeling like there is so much noise out there that it is beginning to drown out my own voice.

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I've never been the person that needed to be a millionaire or to become an overnight success.  But then suddenly I became an entrepreneur who needed to make money in order to continue on with my business and the noise took over.  I was reading all of the "Learn how to make 5 figures by lunchtime" blog posts and e-books.  I was taking courses that I thought would make Holl & Lane an overnight sensation.  And I was essentially driving myself nuts because I wasn't suddenly a millionaire - when I didn't even want to be one in the first place!  

It all came to a head at the end of the year when I felt broken and lost and unsure of how to move forward.  I was stuck in a pattern of feeling like nothing I was doing was good enough, like everything I had built to this point was a waste of time.  So I finally sat down and took stock of why I was feeling that way.  It was easy to figure out - it was the noise.

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With a renewed sense of focus for the year, I've been putting on my metaphorical earmuffs and tuning out the noise.  I'm listening closer and harder to the voice inside of myself.  I'm remembering that it's so much more important to me to be happy than it is to be rich.  I want to wake up and enjoy what I'm doing for a living.  I don't want to wake up and wonder how much I made overnight.

Money is a necessary evil to make a business thrive, but it doesn't have to steal joy.  So now when I hear the noise coming at me in a tidal wave, I think back to this story and the Mexican Fisherman and I ask "then what?"

The Fear That Keeps Me Silent

"How is the magazine going?"
"It's going well.  But tell me about you."

That's a normal interaction I have when someone asks me about Holl & Lane in person.  They ask me to tell them about it, I change the subject.  They ask me how it's going, I deflect back to them, with hives creeping up my neck.  I can talk about the magazine on the Internet all day, behind the safety of my screen.  But ask me in person, and I clam up.

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I have this fear of being embarrassed, called out, ridiculed for things that I'm passionate about.  I have this fear of public failure that I can't seem to get past.  So the less I talk, the less people will know when I eventually fail, right?

But that's a horrible way to run a business.  You can't grow a business without talking about it.  You can't expect your friends and family to get excited about something they don't know about.  But in my head, it's safer that way.  There are less expectations, less questions, less possibility for negativity.

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I'm not sure when or why or how this fear started.  My business coach recently asked me what I'm so afraid of, and asked me what the worst that could happen is in my mind.  It took me a minute to really think about it, but there are two things I'm terrified of.  First, someone saying, "The magazine is awful, why are you wasting your time on it?  What a stupid idea."  Second, it's the fear of talking and talking and talking about it only to have it fail and then to be embarrassed that something I am so passionate about didn't survive.

Her responses to both of these fears were simple:

1) If someone says that, they probably aren't really Team Sarah anyway and I don't need them in my life.

2) The magazine has already succeeded.  I'm nearly two years in and it's still going.  Even if it takes a different form down the road, it's still succeeded.  Even if I've helped one person, it's succeeded.  Even if I had only done one issue and then quit, it still succeeded because I put it out there.

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So this year, I have made it a personal mission to talk about it more.  To explain my passion and why I do what I do and what it means to me and why.  To let others see my excitement and get excited with me.  I want to stand up to this fear and know that what I'm doing is enough and that I'm enough.  And those that truly love me and support me will always be standing there with me.

 

Header image by Genesis Geiger for Holl & Lane Magazine

Focus

I'm not normally someone who chooses a word, sets resolutions and plans out huge goals for the new year.  Mostly because I tend to do that throughout the year.  But 2016 had me feeling lost in more ways than one so I figured that being a bit more intentional wouldn't be a horrible place to start.

This year, I want to focus.

I have ideas all the time.  I'm an idea machine, really.  And I'm incredibly impulsive.  Which means that when these new ideas pop into my head, I want to act on them immediately.  I don't often think them through, I don't make a solid plan to get them going, I just act.  And while that has sometimes served me well (such as with starting Holl & Lane), it's also lead to me feeling a bit scattered.  So this year, I sat down and created a marketing plan for H&L, and I set new boundaries for myself, and I made actual, realistic plans.

Focus is defined as "the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition".  

And the word for me takes on many meanings.  For H&L, it means that I want to focus on growing the magazine which is the heart behind it all.  I have big dreams and goals for the magazine, but until the magazine is at a place of profit I can't do them, so why not place my focus where it should be?  

For my personal life, it means being more intentional about focusing my energy and time.  I'll be reducing the number of nights that I work on H&L and instead spend time really focused on my husband and son.  I'll only do shipping for the magazine two nights a week so that I am not constantly feeling pressured to be GOING.  

And I'll also be focusing on where I'm at in life rather than where I want to be.  This is the trickiest of all for me.  I'm a forward-looker.  I always see that place in the distance I want to be and I get so laser focused on it, it's hard for me to see where I am RIGHT NOW.  Plus always looking forward has the problem of me always feeling like where I am isn't good enough and that simply isn't true.  This season in my life, when I stop to think about it, is one of the best I've been in.  I've created a business that is growing and that I'm passionate about, my son is at a super fun (and super frustrating) age, and my husband and I are learning how to be partners again rather than just parents.

Focus, for me, is about acceptance as much as anything.

And once I put my focus on those things that I really love and believe in (my family and my business), I truly believe they will grow and thrive in the ways that I desire.

So here's to a new focus, a new resolve, and a new acceptance of this stage of life.

The Internet Pull

Last night after dinner, Henry wanted to go downstairs with me while I started laundry.  So we went down, he started playing in the play area we set up for him, I went about doing laundry and cleaning up the area a bit.  After I was done, I headed to the other side of the basement to see what he was up to.  He was playing by himself, pulling out various toys, pushing cars across the floor, generally entertaining himself.

So I sat down in the rocking chair in his play area and watched for a couple minutes.  Almost immediately I started feeling this twitch, this urge to do something with my hands.  It's rare that I'm not multitasking - even if the other "task" is just playing on my phone, searching through emails and Facebook and Instagram to occupy myself.  I had the urge to go back upstairs and retrieve my phone just so that I'd have something to do while he played.

And that's when I started to feel ridiculous.  Why can't I just sit there and watch Henry play?  Why can't I just enjoy the time without feeling like I need to be doing something else?  What am I really missing out on by not having my phone in my hands at all times?

So instead I sat there and watched him play and play and play.  He looked up a few times to see what I was up to, and I was so glad in that moment to NOT be on my phone - something that he sees far too often when he looks up at his Dad and I.  I've been noticing it lately, that we're both on our phones (not for anything important, just to keep ourselves occupied) when he looks up.  It makes me sad for him.  It makes me sad for us.  Why don't we just put down our phones and watch him learn and play and imagine?  Why don't we just put down our phones and learn, play and imagine WITH him?

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I watched a movie over the weekend called "Men, Women and Children" all about social media and the impact it's having on our lives.  It was interesting to watch the ways that its taken over our lives with nearly everyone on their phones at all times.  Information and occupation just a few finger taps away.

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But what are we missing out on each time we pick up our phones instead of just stopping and enjoying peace and quiet?  Or just enjoying the company that we're with?  Or maybe getting outside and going for a walk, enjoying nature and sunshine?  

I know for me, I might have emails to answer, and issues to work on and social media accounts to run.  But do I have to do those right now?  The answer is no.  Me not picking up my phone for an hour or two will never result in life or death.  But it might result in my son thinking that I'd rather be on my phone than on the floor playing with him.  

I need an internet detox.  I need to retrain myself that my fingers don't have to be moving at all times.  I need to remember that it's okay to just be still and present and in the moment.  I need to get on the floor and play.

Exactly What I Needed

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We were sitting down for dinner having the kind of mindless conversation that are our normal dinnertime conversations.  We were laughing at something Henry was doing, or talking about the day we had had swimming, or mentioning that dieting is for the birds.  But we were just chatting.  Brandon asked me what my plan was for the night and I told him, without wanting to tell him, that I could really use some time to work - that I needed to wrap up the design of Issue 8 and that I just wasn't getting anywhere with it.  I didn't want to say those words because I feel like I'm always saying those words, "I need to work".

Being the husband of an entrepreneur cannot be an easy thing.  I'm as present as I can be, but I'm sure he knows my mind is always somewhere else on those other things that I need to be doing.  Those times at night when we're sitting there "watching TV" together but I'm really on my computer working.  Or when we're gone for a weekend and I'm in my own head thinking of all the things I need to do when I get home.  It can't be easy.  I only have so much of myself to give and I'm already running pretty thin.  I'm an employee, and I'm a mom, and I'm a business owner, and I'm trying to have some time for myself to exercise.  So where in that does my husband fit?  Where do I fit in that I'm a wife, too?

And yet, I never hear a complaint from him.  I never hear him groan when I say, "I need to do some work" and then he's in charge of keeping Henry entertained for awhile.  I don't see him roll his eyes when he comes home and I'm on the computer and Henry is reading to himself.  Even though I want to roll my eyes at myself.  But he doesn't, he never does.

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That night when he asked me what my plans were and I said, "I need to work", he simply told me okay, that he was going to clean up the kitchen and that I should just go downstairs and get started.  So I did.  I went downstairs and my desk light was turned on and shining a spotlight on a card that read "Sarah" on the front.  I smiled before I opened it.

On the inside he told me how proud of me he was and how it was amazing to watch me this last year fulfill this dream I've always had.  And I just sat there for a second dumbfounded and swelling with love at the same time.  All of those nights when I felt like I was failing at life because I was stretching myself between all of the different hats I was wearing - he didn't see it that way.  He saw me busting my ass at this business of mine.  He saw me as "talented and determined" when I saw myself as a failure.  And tears filled my eyes the more I thought of it because he truly believes in me and it's exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

So, with the renewed faith in what I'm doing, I put the card next to a few others that I've received pushing me to do more, and I opened up my laptop and got to work.  As the footsteps and the laughter and the playing happened over my head - something that would often reduce me to feeling like that's what I should be doing instead of this - I worked for an hour and a half on building this dream.  A dream that my husband wants to be successful for me as much as I do.

And now as I write this, I can feel those tears again because this husband of mine always manages to see the good in me, even when I have a hard time seeing it in myself.

Who Run The World? Girls!

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A few weeks back I was invited to shoot a segment for a new TV show in Pittsburgh.  Lindsey Smith, who has contributed to Holl & Lane in the past, is starting a new show called The Zest and she asked me, along with other female entrepreneurs in the city, to be a guest on the show.  To say that I was nervous is a serious understatement.  I had no idea what to wear.  I had no idea what to say.  I had no idea what to expect.  I had never been on TV before and the thought of it was terrifying to me.  Finding out that it wasn't live (it airs in July) helped quite a bit, but still I spent most of the morning completely freaked out.

Up until that point I hadn't really put myself in the category of female entrepreneur, or business owner.  I mean, subconsciously, I knew that I was, I knew that I was running a business, but I didn't consider myself in the same realm as other women running businesses.  And I think that all stems from the fact that I still have to go to a full-time, 40 hours a week job.  So even though I'm busting my ass every spare minute of the day on the magazine, I was still considering it almost a hobby.  It doesn't pay my living expenses, so it must not be a business, right?

Something about being in the room with other women who are running their own show, not to mention Lindsey who is just AMAZING, changed that around for me.  I left the segment with my head a little higher, feeling as if I really did belong in this world.  I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR.  I AM A BUSINESS OWNER.  I started my own business and almost a year later, it's actually thriving.  It's growing.  And I did that (with help from an amazing team of women).  I DID THAT.

When I got back in the car to drive home, Beyonce's "Run The World (Girls)" came on Spotify. It was perfect timing.  I cranked the radio up, put the windows down and sang it at the top of my lungs.  And then I did it again.  And after that I started to feel something else- pride.  I'm proud of where I am and what I've done.  I have joined the ranks of other women who are getting shit done and making things happen.  I had a dream, and I went for it- just like they did.  And even though 40 hours a week, I still have to answer to someone who isn't me, those other hours I am answering to myself.  I am deciding the future of a business.

When I got home that day I put this on my personal Facebook page:

"Today I filmed a segment for a TV show. And I didn't die! And I didn't throw up! And I mostly didn't sound like an idiot!

I also got to meet some other awesome female entrepreneurs and it made me so damn proud of myself to have joined this community. I run a business! I'm following my dreams! I'm doing it!"

It's Too Much

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I can feel it starting to creep in.  It's like the sun isn't shining anymore and it's always cloudy and gray.  My eyelids are constantly heavy and my brain has turned to mush.  Simple instructions leave me staring and wondering "what was that again?".

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I stare at my computer screen wondering which file I need to open.  What needs to be done right this minute?  Which emails have I still not responded to and what ones do I even have the answers to?  And then I look down and there's a sweet little blond boy playing on the floor saying to me "Mommy, sit!".  And I want to.  I want to sit down and play cars or trains.  I want to. But when I do the gray starts to overtake me again until I realize that if I don't take care of what I need to take care of, I might never enjoy the trains again.

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Next thing I know I'm at work and I'm panicking because there is so much to be done after work.  I can't focus on anything.  There are so many open tabs in my brain that I can't figure out where to even start.  I never feel quite present anymore.

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It's my own fault.  I do this to myself each time.  I take on too much, I try my hardest to prove that I am superwoman and I can in fact do it all.  Work 40 hours, be a wife, be a mother, and also work at least the same amount on the magazine each week?  Sure, I can do that.  And I'll do it with a smile on my face.  Just don't look too closely into my eyes.  I don't want you to see the gray behind them.  The exhaustion, the fight, the strain.

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The burnout is rolling in like a wave.  It's been there all along, just quieter.  But it's getting closer to the breaking point now.  It's starting to cap, to turn, to rush into land and break.  It's getting louder.

Swallowing My Pride

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I've never been good at asking for help.  I blame my mom for that.  Being a single mom, I always saw how strong she was (and stubborn).  It seemed that she could do it all on her own, so in turn, I've always felt the same way.  I've always been very independent and very reluctant to ask for help- or even admit when I need it.  When Brandon and I first started dating and I was living on my own for the first time in years, I often ate a can of green beans for dinner because I couldn't afford much more.  But when he would ask if I needed help, I'd always brush it off and say that I was fine.

As I've gotten older, I've always been under the impression that I SHOULD do it all on my own BECAUSE I'm older.  No one wants to be 30 years old and have to ask for help, right?  Well, I've learned that's stupid.  When I started Holl & Lane last year, I realized just after the first issue launched that I needed help in running the show.  A magazine is a BIG job and if I wanted it to be good, I needed the help.  So I have this team of women now (who work for FREE!) who are AMAZING.  I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of work that they do for me, and help me with, and just generally be sounding boards.  They have become so much more than my team members, they are my family.  H&L would not be where it is without them, I'm certain of it.

Yesterday I swallowed my pride in the biggest way when I started a Go Fund Me account for the magazine.  The past year has been financially draining for me and it got to the point where it was either ask for help, or shut down the magazine.  And we're doing SO MUCH good with the magazine.  We're truly helping people.  The emails and messages we get from people about how much a story has helped them make my day.  It felt like shutting down the magazine was just not an option.  I know we have the power to do even more, and I wanted to keep going.  So I set up a Go Fund Me account and told the story of H&L and what we want to do.  And that's when people started giving and helping me to realize that not only do people appreciate what we're doing, but they are excited about it too.  These people are all investors in the magazine.  They are who are going to help more people feel less alone.  They are the ones that are giving us a shot to see where this goes.  And I couldn't be more grateful.  They made me feel like it was okay to ask for help.

So I thought I'd put it here, too.  And if you're interested, feel free to donate as well.  And if you can't, feel free to share so others can know about H&L as well.  And just know, like I do now, that it's OKAY to ask for help.  Admit that you need it.  You'll be surprised how much people want to help you.