Ask Mojo: “Help! What should I do with myself when my children go to school?!”

“When I asked my friends if they’d come with me to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham two years ago they all seemed to be unusually busy… Eventually, the offer of lunch, free transport and a child-free day persuaded one of them to join me. This trip turned out to be a turning point for me, reigniting a past love of textiles.

At school I could have spent all my time in the art department but when I excitedly declared I was going to art school I was harshly knocked back with an ‘over my dead body’ from my well-intentioned mother. Instead I chose the sensible option of midwifery over art. It was doubtlessly a safer career choice and throughout my ten year career – and especially since having my own children – I knew I was lucky to have been part of the incredible, life-changing birth process so many times. I was good at my job and I hope I touched many couples’ lives by being a conscientious midwife but that was all it was: a job. I could have listened to myself more: my favourite part of midwifery was always the bit that involved a needle and thread at the end… At the festival of quilts I felt more inspired and enthused by the possibilities of fabric and stitch than I had been for years.

During the first six months in my first job as a midwife I met a lovely doctor who later became my husband. We knew we wanted to have children and I have always wanted to be a stay at home mum. My husband was always supportive of this and I realise I’m lucky to be given that choice. So when my first son was born it didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice to give up my job.

Being a stay at home has been no walk in the park though and I definitely do not live in a Stepford-style home of domestic bliss.  There have been many desperate moments; falling asleep on the kitchen floor in a pile of washing, dragging a 2 year old from his lying position in the middle of the road whist carrying his newborn brother 2 weeks after a caesarian section, dealing with my youngest during his year-long habit of holding his breath so long he turned blue and passed out – to name a few.

But now the younger of my two sons starts school in September. Having been at home with the boys for nearly 7 years I expected to feel some kind of joy at the prospect of 6 child-free hours a day. Instead I feel sad and lost. I am heartbroken at the prospect of this time being over. Mothering small children was what I looked forward to, what I thought life was all about. I failed to think about the fact that this time flies by so quickly.

In the last 2 weeks I have not only cried because my baby is starting school, but because one day they will leave home, will probably get married and quite rightly will love another woman more than their mummy! I have even worked out that assuming our lovely family dog runs his natural life course, he is quite likely to die around the time my oldest son will leave home for university. I recognize this is unhealthy behaviour!!

Before I slip into a depression and eat my own body-weight in chocolate I know I need to embrace this new phase of my life and reinvent myself. I love to make beautiful and unique things. I have always dreamt of making a living selling the things I make and when September comes I will have the time to put my creative energies to good use.

Recently I’ve found time to learn new creative skills and experiment with ideas. Amongst other things I’ve made patchwork quilts, pieces of art from my children’s baby clothes, personalised art for friends and family and decoupaged enough household objects that my husband has started to object!

After years of seemingly pointless tidying and cleaning it feels amazing to create something from start to finish and have people enjoy and appreciate it. Hours can feel like minutes when I have a good sewing project on the go.  I haven’t yet forgotten to collect a child because I’m so engrossed in a piece of machine quilting but feel it’s only a matter of time!

My plan has always been to sew and make as a hobby but I do need to make some money to pay for the beautiful fabrics I love. There is also a saturation point for the number of quilts one family can bear. So far they’ve been delighted with their gifts but are fast running out of space – and there really is no place for a quilt in your downstairs loo!

So I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am to continue in my quest for fulfillment through creativity I may need to start making some money from it. It’s time to get my creative mojo back! But what should my next step be?”

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Deborah Porton is a classic multi-tasking Mojomum. She is a life coach two days a week and spends three days as a project manager for a mobile apps company. She picks up her two girls from school 4 days a week, helps run the PTA and squeezes in a spot of amateur dramatics. Deborah comes from a corporate background, having spent 15 years at a telecommunications giant in Marketing, IT and Customer Services. She has always been a great advocate of flexible and part time working and is passionate about helping people fulfill their potential and live a life they love.

Hi Lucy

You’ve had quite an emotional two weeks haven’t you? You’ve spent these last 7 years with your boys as the centre of your world.  They have been your top priority, your reason for being, and your pride and joy.  Now suddenly you have had a glimpse of a world where they don’t occupy all your time and it’s scary!

There are all sorts of feelings mixed up here.  There is a feeling of mourning for the baby stage when your role was absolutely certain and all encompassing.  You feel deserted; they are going off and leaving you and one day the dog won’t be there either!  And there you are, sitting in the kitchen, wondering how to fill the hours until they come home.  What a picture!

Sometimes you just have to embrace the emotions and let them swallow you up for a while, let them run their course.  You should know it’s ok to do that and it sounds like you feel better having done it.  This is a big deal. You made these beautiful children, and set them on their path.  Look how amazing they are! This is your greatest work!  Stand up and accept your Oscar/ Nobel Prize / Gold Medal (take your pick).  You deserve it.

Here’s a lovely question to ponder as you do the school run – What do you want to be for your boys as they enter this next stage of their lives?

So now what about you? 

The great thing about all this emotional turmoil is that it has made you question what your purpose is in life, apart from motherhood.  You’ve already made a big decision: your old career is not for you.  You’ve had the time to consider what you liked, or didn’t, and best of all you have had the opportunity to compare it with something you are passionate about!

 If you’ve reached this stage, teetering on the edge of an exciting life change, you probably have your mojo back already.

As a life coach my goal is to help my clients live their most fulfilling lives.  You are already starting to forge that path by acknowledging what you are passionate about and what lights you up, and you are taking the decision not to settle for less.

Reading your letter I know you want to:-

  • Create beautiful things
  • Get lost in your work
  • Be proud of the finished results
  • Enjoy the appreciation your work receives
  • Be productive while your children are at school

Fantasise

So taking that as a starting point, can you describe your ideal life? If money and time were no object, what would you do?  Get really specific and fantasize as much as you want.  The purpose of this is to let go of any preconditions or barriers and get to grips with what is important to you.  It will help you recognise your values and your goals.

So, for instance, in your ideal life:

  • Are you working from home, or somewhere else?
  • Do you work with others or alone?
  • Do you spend all day creating things, or are you out and about?
  • Who are your customers? Do you have a relationship with them, or are they invisible shoppers?
  • What is the impact your work has on others?
  • Where do your kids and husband fit in?

Get as imaginative as you like!

Then, document it: draw it, make a collage, make lists. Get it down in a hard copy in whichever way works for you, so you can connect to it whenever you need to.

When you imagine yourself in that ideal life how do you feel?

Making Plans

Now you’ve worked out your ideal life it’s time to make plans towards it – but there’s one more thing.

Do you want to make money?

How important is making money?  Your work comes from the heart and I’m pretty sure you would do it free of charge given enough materials and enough things to decorate! But be honest with yourself and decide whether you want some extra cash in your pocket – the sort of income you had before children – or a whole lot more?

It’s Time to start Planning

As a life coach I ask open questions, I’ll help you plan, and I’ll help you work out where to find the answers.  But I am not here to tell you how to run your business.   Knowing you are starting from scratch with no business background, here’s what I recommend you start with:

  1. Ideal life task: Identify 3-5 things that are essential in the new life you want to create.  You might also identify 3-5 things you definitely don’t want.
  2. Brainstorm: A great tool I use as a coach is to get different perspectives on your brand to generate more ideas. For example what would your products look like and how would your brand be marketed by Cath Kidston, John Lewis, Glastonbury Festival, Asda or Oxfam?  Have some fun and be playful – the possibilities are endless!
  3. Research: Choose your favourite 3 ideas from the brainstorm and make a list of what you need to know for these 3 ideas:
    1. What is your product? What is it worth? What is special or different about it?
    2. Who are your competitors? What have they done right or wrong? What can you learn from them?
    3. Who are your customers? Why do they need your product? Are they happy to pay for it?  Where can you find them?
    4. How do you set up a business? Who can advise you on the financial side?  What are the pitfalls? Who can you speak to who has been through this themselves?
    5. What time and resources do you need to get started? Where can you get them?
    6. Do you need to find someone to help you answer these questions? Who is it?
  4. Make a to-do list: Now it feels scary as there’s so much you don’t know, and maybe you were wrong about some things.  But that’s ok, because this is research, and you have nothing to lose.  Think of yourself as a detective, collecting evidence.  Make yourself a to-do list; a time table or allocate tasks to your family planner.  You may have to go back to the brainstorm a few times and start again.  At some point you will have enough information to make a decision.  You might want to set a date for that decision!
  5. Business Plan: By that I mean you have done enough research to feel confident about where you want to start.  You might want to document this bit; all the answers to your research questions, what you learned, the best advice you got, and what your next set of actions are.
  6. What does success look like?  Now you know what you are going to do, set yourself some manageable goals – for this week, for this month.  What should your business look like in 6 months? In 1 year? In 5 years?
  7. Now it’s up to you: What do you need to get from here to launch day?

Tips

These are things that worked for me:

  • Get support – a friend, a coach or a buddy.  Someone who asks you what you want to achieve this week, and then checks that you did it!  It must be someone who will listen without judging you or telling you what to do.
  • Get a network – with people at a similar business stage to you, and also people who are ahead of you and have great advice
  • Find a bad cop – if you can take it, find someone to ask you the hard questions. Where’s the business plan? How can you justify that expenditure? How do you know there is a market for what you do? (Your partner might be good at asking those questions!)
  • Get the hang of social media – find out how it can help your business -ignore it at your peril!
  • Find free stuff online – webinars, teleconferences, discussion groups

Some things I know

  • Don’t lose sight of your ideal life – it will keep you focused and its essence is within your grasp
  • People love to help – don’t be afraid to ask
  • Everyone around you will tell you what to do and give you advice because they care about you and want you to succeed.  Listen to all of it, but find a way to choose which path feels right for you.
  • The world wants the beautiful things you create – don’t deny it
  • You will make mistakes – celebrate them! You’ll only make them once (probably :-))

I think it’s fair to say if you’ve reached this stage, teetering on the edge of an exciting life change, you probably have your mojo back already.  So get stuck in and see what you can do – the world (your small part of it at least!) is waiting!

 

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