To celebrate the launch of my new ebook, How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too I’ll be sharing the stories of women who are living proof that you can pursue your passions while investing fully in your family. Join me all week to hear what these inspirational women have to say about how they make it work!
Ali Edwards and her husband, Chris, who is a state senator, live in Eugene, Oregon with their two kids, Simon (9) and Anna (2). Ali is a designer, blogger and author, sharing her love for scrapbooking with a diverse audience through her blog at AliEdwards.com as well as through idea books and beautiful scrapbooking products and stamps.
You’re passionate about capturing moments in time and memories through words and photos, and about inspiring other people to do the same…when and how did you discover that passion?
I first discovered that I had a real passion for combining words and photos as a way to tell the stories of our lives when my son Simon was about 10 months old (late 2002). I was looking for a baby book and ended up beginning the process of creating my own. Through that adventure I learned about “modern” scrapbooking (photos combined with journaling and ephemera and patterned paper, etc) and was immediately taken with the entire process.
That said, I’ve always been a visual person (have always loved magazines – most especially the combination of type and images) even though I pursued a degree only focused on words in college. I have a BA in American Studies (an interdisciplinary degree combining history, literature, and political science). After graduating and living a bit (and finding out how entirely un-inspired I was with the direction of my lfie) I ended up going back to school and getting a degree in graphic design.
It was after “finding” scrapbooking that I began to learn more about, and subsequently become involved in, the industry side of it – magazines, books, product design, teaching classes, etc.
Have you struggled with juggling your family and the pursuit of your passion? Have you ever wondered if you should give up your career for your family? How did you come to peace with embracing both roles in your life?
It’s definitely been a journey and at times I would absolutely say it was a struggle (other times it’s been euphoric). I never imagined I’d be a “working” parent in the first place – especially in the sense of generating income. I imagined myself as a stay-at-home-mom with a handful of kids.
One of the things I’ve learned (and am continually reminded) is that the journey and the work and the schedule are always evolving – especially in our home where both my husband and I have careers we are passionate about with non-traditional schedules.
Sometimes I daydream about Chris starting to make enough money to support us so that I could have a “break”, but even then those daydreams don’t include me not doing something related to memory keeping. I love it so much. I love working. I need to do it for me – for my own personal mental health.
The way I look at it, my kids are seeing me doing work that I love, work that I’m passionate about, work that fulfills me. My job is also flexible – I work from home, make my own hours, am able to attend field trips, etc. There’s so much good that goes into the freedoms that I have in working for myself – it would be hard to change that part now.
I embrace both my role as a Mom and my role as a creative working person because both are truly important parts of who I am. I can’t imagine my life without either piece. That’s not to say it’s not challenging – because it really can be – but for the most part I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In the beginning, as I was first figuring out that I had found something I really loved and it was becoming a career, it was really challenging to establish boundaries. Boundaries most especially related to the amount of hours and emotional commitment that was going in to the work I was doing (and continue to do now).
One of the things that has most helped established boundaries for me these days is trying to stick to a more “normal” work day schedule. After my second child was born two years ago I knew that I wanted/needed now to keep working. We hired a nanny that comes to our home and that has been a really wonderful blessing in so many areas. Having her here at specific hours helps me stick to a pretty specific schedule. Once she’s getting ready to leave I begin to transition to making dinner and evening routines with my family.
Some nights I come back into my office, but for the most part I leave the work day there. I like to do other things – exercise, play, read, etc. in the evenings.
Does your husband’s support play a role in your success? Has he made sacrifices and compromises along the way to enable you to build your business?
Yes. Supporting each other has been a major theme in our relationship. We have both made sacrifices and compromises along the way – and I envision that we will continue to do this throughout our lives.
My husband was in a career before he got into politics (he’s currently a State Senator). He worked while I went back to school for my graphic design degree before our son was born. That opportunity was really instrumental in me beginning to live a more creative life.
Along the way there was a certain point where he was simply done with his first career – it was depleting him emotionally, physically, etc. He needed out. We were lucky in that I’d already begun to establish myself in my career and was making enough money for him to simply walk-away.
I was so happy to have him find something he’s equally passionate about for his career. Being on two different job-satisfaction levels was very, very challenging.
Now we face different sorts of issues that go along with both having careers that we really love – scheduling, etc. We are lucky to have really outstanding childcare.
Have you ever had to take a step back and reevaluate your schedule and the amount of time you were spending on your business? Can you give an example of changes you’ve had to make to bring things back into balance?
Definitely. I’m one of those people that is often “taking the temperature” of how things are going for me, for my kids, for Chris. I’m a fan of smooth and calm and work towards that in many of the choices I make – planning ahead, etc.
For me, what I do now is a full time job. I try to keep my working hours consistent and during the week and have the evenings and weekends set aside for family time. Of course sometimes things get tweeked but my goal is to keep my work confined to weekdays.
Chris and I just recently started a weekly date night. We hedged on it for way too long before finally setting it up. My biggest thing was feeling like I didn’t want the kids to have more childcare. I got over it. Now every Thursday we have time set aside in the evening for just the two of us to go to dinner, a movie – whatever. I changed up the schedule and have the babysitter coming later in the day and now we just go. Just going is what we need to do.
What advice would you give to someone who is just embarking on the journey of discovering their passion or starting a home-based business while caring for their home and family?
1. Know that things grow and change and evolve and where you are right now is likely not the same place you’ll be in 6 months.
2. Commit yourself to your job with specific time set aside where you are just working. Clear the house if possible. Employ a friend or do a childcare trade with another Mom who also might be trying to build a business while being a Mom too.
3. Create time for just you and your spouse and stick with it.
4. Turn off the internet. It’s so easy to get lost in surfing and social media and being inspired. Make sure you are actually using the time you have to make stuff – the stuff that you will sell to establish and build your business.
What are your non-negotiables or things that you’re not willing to sacrifice for your business or career?
I’m not willing to sacrifice my marriage or the safety of my kids. Both my husband and I are in “public” careers and there is always a fine line between sharing to inspire others and putting our kids at risk