Welcome to Week 8 of Motherhood by Design – the series where mothers who also run creative businesses share their inspirations and their experiences juggling the demands of raising children while growing a creative career.
"Now that daily making is simply a part of my life (I’ve started my second #yearofmaking), making stuff has become an expected part of our family life, too."
Kim Werker is an author, an editor, a teacher, a podcaster, and of course, a mother. She's an avid crocheter and soapmaker as well. Kim's latest book, Make it Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When it Ain't Pretty is a wonderful testament to her dedication to helping others overcome their creative hurdles. After I finished reading her book, I took her day-long workshop on Creative Live and loved every minute of it - if creative blocks are something you struggle with (and who among us doesn't?) this course is for you. Today Kim shares with us more about her path to motherhood and her multi-faceted creative career.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Kim - can you please describe your family?
My husband Greg, me, and our four-year-old son Owen.
What is your business?
I work full-time on a variety of pursuits, all of them in some way related to creativity and creative expression. I’m a freelance editor, working primarily with self-publishers on projects like ebooks and craft patterns; I facilitate workshops for my Mighty Ugly project, both in recreational and professional contexts, helping people confront their creative demons (through my workshop on CreativeLive, for example, for people who run their own creative business); I write books related to creativity, the latest of which is Make It Mighty Ugly; I host a podcast called Compulsory, on which I speak with people about the projects they simply can’t help but make; and I teach crochet classes at Craftsy.com.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
I was an avid reader as a child. When I wasn’t playing with friends, I was almost guaranteed to be reading. Or maybe playing computer games.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
Not really. I loved to make friendship bracelets at camp when I was a kid, but other than my obsession with that for a few years, I didn’t consider myself to be terribly crafty.
When you were a child, did you have ideas about your own future as a mother? Was motherhood something you’d always imagined for yourself, or is it an idea you grew into later in life?
I absolutely never thought about being a mother, just like I never had visions of my wedding, etc. I was a tomboy as a younger child, and as I grew up, I felt I had more important things to do than concern myself with boys. The vision I had for myself was that I’d accomplish grand things in my career – whatever that career would end up being – and would maybe think of starting to consider settling down and getting married when I was in my late thirties or so. I met my husband when we were twenty-three, though, and that just threw my whole plan for a loop. We got married when we were twenty-five. But it turned out that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up at that point, anyway, so any grand ideas I’d had about major career accomplishments were kind of hard to put my finger on. It turned out that I needed to spend most of my twenties bumbling around until I fell into a satisfying career. I was always a zero-or-one person when it came to thinking about children – I would have been utterly satisfied in my life if I didn’t have children, but I also was excited by the adventure of having one. My husband and I adopted Owen when he was six days old, at the very end of 2010.
In your early years of motherhood, did you have/make time for your creative pursuits, or was your creative work put aside for a while? If the latter, when did you pick it back up?
We had only one day’s notice when we adopted Owen, so I didn’t have a chance to plan to go on hiatus. (We’d gone through the process to be approved to adopt several months earlier, but all that meant was that our file was able to be shown to birth mothers. It wasn’t anything to plan on.) I was on contract doing some freelance editing for a major crafts publisher at the time, and luckily had about four months before my manuscripts were due to come in, so that reprieve was my maternity leave. By the time those four months were up, I was pretty bored, to be honest, and desperate to get back to work, and spent the next couple of years finding my groove again, making things in my spare time (mostly when Owen was asleep), and trying to get my freelance work back into shape after over a year of just treading water but not growing.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
What prompted you to start your creative business?
Looking back, it should have been obvious to me that I’d work in some way as a writer or editor when I grew up, but it wasn’t. I used to copy short stories from Highlights magazine into a notebook when I was six, so desperate I was to be a writer. But I didn’t put it together until after I’d gone to grad school in an unrelated field. I always felt out of place no matter what I did – I always wanted things to move faster, to be more malleable, to be more exciting than they were. I ended up working for myself in a creative business by accident, after I started a website about crochet one afternoon back in 2004. That led me to eventually writing six crochet books and working as the editor of Interweave Crochet magazine for a couple of years before I burnt out on crochet and needed to move on. Mighty Ugly came after that, and it’s still my focus now, even as I (happily) cobble together my livelihood from so many sources.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
Daycare has been the single most important contributor to the success of my business since I became a mother. I need a tremendous amount of space and quiet to be able to think straight, and I love and need my work. Owen is a very active, very social child. He started full-time daycare when he was two-and-a-half, and that’s when our whole family became a well-oiled machine. We’d done a pretty good job at keeping it together before then, but I sacrificed a lot of my business, and my creative satisfaction, when I was working only a couple of days a week and managing a part-time nanny while I worked at home. At daycare, Owen had all the stimulation he craved, and I had the time and space I needed at home to get my business back into shape. Then, at the beginning of 2014, when Owen had just turned three, I started a project called #yearofmaking, inspired by my friend Miriam Felton. In 2013, Miriam posted a photo online every day showing something she was making. It was so simple, and I loved following her progress. I decided I wanted to make sure I worked, at least a tiny bit, at making something every day too, so I decided I’d do a year of making in 2014. That my decision came when Owen had reached an age that finally enabled him to be less constantly supervised (he was a terribly accident-prone toddler!) was icing on the cake. I started knitting and crocheting during the day a lot more, and he and I started making a lot more stuff together, whether it was food or crafts or art. Now that daily making is simply a part of my life (I’ve started my second #yearofmaking), making stuff has become an expected part of our family life, too.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
When I became a parent, I learned a lot about what I need to thrive in my creative and professional lives. I’m what might be described as a chatty introvert. I’m gregarious and outgoing, but I need a tremendous amount of time to myself. This is the single greatest challenge for me as a parent, and it’s part of why daycare is such an important part of our family life. I’ve gotten far better at focusing and just getting stuff done since I became a parent. My work time is my work time, and I try my level best not to work when it’s not work time. That efficiency means I get a whole lot more done during the day for work, and I also have a whole lot more time to play creatively when I’m not working.
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
I’ve needed to get very, very good at managing my time and my creative needs. The time part hasn’t been problematic, but recognizing my creative needs, and giving myself permission to fulfill those needs, was challenging at first. Recognizing that I need a lot of quiet time and space, and giving myself permission to do things – like read a novel in the middle of the work day or ride the bus for a whole afternoon while Owen’s in daycare – was hard to do. But I feel no guilt about it at all. I’m a far more patient parent, and a better partner, when I've met those needs. I do better work, have clearer ideas, and get more done with my time.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
I love that Owen knows that both of his parents do work they love. He knows that we adore him, but he is not the centre of our universes. In fact, our universe has no real centre. He gets to see every day that we navigate our priorities in gently shifting ways. Sometimes we put work away entirely in order to do nothing but play. Sometimes I leave town to teach a class or attend a conference or go on a book tour. Owen is also growing up in a home where DIY is a central focus. Greg builds and fixes all sorts of things all the time. Owen sees me knitting, crocheting, painting or making soap. We involve him whenever he’s interested in being involved, but we also make sure he knows it’s okay if he has his own things he wants to be doing. Recently, we asked Owen what he wants to do for work when he grows up, and he replied without hesitation that he wants to be a writer, so he can work from home like mama. He fully understands that what I do is work, just like daddy, even though I do it at home.
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope he absorbs that there is no one right way to be a grown-up. Owen’s father goes to work at the university every day, usually wearing a sport coat. He comes home every evening with tales about his classes, students and colleagues. I work from home, often in leggings and a t-shirt. I tell tales of collaborations, clients, and the occasional exciting opportunity that will take me away from home for a while. I hope that Owen knows deep down that as he navigates the confusion of growing up, we’re here to support him, and to let him know it’s okay if he wants to do things differently than we do, or differently from his friends, or differently from his teachers. And it’s also okay for him to want to take a more conventional path.
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
For the latter, I’d say that the only way to have more hands-on creativity in life is to make more stuff. Make time for it. Get up a little earlier than your kids to make time, or give up a little bit of some other pursuit. Make stuff when your kids are around – it probably won’t bother them at all! For the former, if you’re feeling drained by the demands of motherhood, I hereby give you permission to ask for, or hire, help. Tell your partner you need a whole Saturday afternoon to paint in the garden – no one else allowed. Hire a babysitter. Drop your kids off at a drop-in gym and go draw or knit. It is not negligent to meet your own needs, and doing so does not take away from meeting the needs of your kids.
Thank you so much, Kim, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Kim in the following places:
Website: KimWerker.com Twitter: @kpwerker Facebook: Kim Werker Creative Live: Embrace the Ugly: How to Break Through What's Holding You Back in Business Craftsy: Crochet: Basics and Beyond