Welcome to Week 2 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.
"Sit down with the people in your life and tell them you expect their help."
This week I'm excited to bring you Monica Lee of Smart Creative Women. In addition to being a very talented artist (her illustrations always manage to strike the perfect balance between sweetness and elegance), she offers classes on finding your own creative voice and shares the stories of other creative entrepreneurs through her website and podcasts. If you've never heard her podcast (or seen her video interview archives), you're in for a real treat! Just listening to her always brings a smile to my face because of her cheerful and supportive personality. And she does it all wearing cute shoes of course! I hope you're equally charmed.
Welcome to Fuller by Design, Monica - can you please describe your family?
I have a blended family. My husband and I got married when my son was 6 and my stepson was 8 - now they are teenagers at 16 and 18 years old! My life is full of boys!
What is your business?
I am an artist, designer and host of Smart Creative Women a podcast where I interview women in the "business" of creativity.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
Day dreaming, climbing trees (we lived in Hawaii for a while) and playing with Barbies! I was all about the outfit!
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
I did paint along side of my mother and had a big role in her sewing all my clothes. I was her assistant to start and then I got very very picky about my "fabrications," haha! Not sure if she was happy or sad but good fabric makes the outfit!
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 very much wanted to work at something where I had easy access to my children. I visited a friend whose mother did graphic art projects out of a little closet she turned into a studio and it struck me that was ideal. Even at a young age, I knew I wanted to be working from home.
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?
I was running my greeting card company when my son was born! For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to have a business up and running before I had my children. Maybe that was a good idea but I certainly DID NOT get maternity leave!!
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I started freelancing full time and started Smart Creative Women once my son was in school but even then, my days where almost cut in half. He goes to private school so there was no bus that dropped him off. I spent many hours in the carpool line.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
I was actually a flight attendant when my son was born and had started a creative business (greeting cards) so then when my son was born I had 3 jobs including him. That was not good and I was resentful that I had been forced back into flying for a salary. One big mistake I made with my first business was not to draw some kind of salary from it!
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
I do talk to my family very plainly about my creative work and the time I need to do it - since it is work. When Luke, my son, was little I would pick him up and let him know if I had 30-45 more minutes to work on something once we got home. Expectations help enormously.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
When I was freelance illustrating and Luke was very little I would work 30 minutes at a pop - it was completely different than I was used to. I simply did not have large stretches of time anymore. It has helped me become very efficient.
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
I think being surrounded by boys (now men) has made my work much more feminine!
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
Truthfully, even though I wanted to work from home when I was a young girl, I would have liked the option of seeking creative work in a office setting when I was a single mom - giving me benefits and a steady salary. My custody arrangement really tied my hands and I simply could not work 9 to 5 (it was a weird arrangement) so it forced me to be more of an entrepreneur than I realized!
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
I do know that my son believes that my work makes me happy and that it is satisfying. If I am complaining about the boss, I am complaining about myself!
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I really want my sons to be innovative and be somewhat of risk takers. I was a unionized employee for years (soul sucking) I know what it is like to be an employee and being an employer, while stressful at times, is better!
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
Automate!! Look for short cuts!! By that I mean buy the vegetables already cut up!! Get a maid as soon as you can-HEY! If you can afford dinners out, you can afford help around the house and the pay off is SO much better. Sit down with the people in your life and tell them you expect their help. I am an old chick - so I am telling you this is no time to be a martyr. If you love hands-on creating but want to make it a business you are going to have to learn how to automate SOMETHING so you can scale your business. Look for ways – they will appear! And get rid of the guilt if your kids change their own sheets and do laundry. Team work, people!
Thank you so much, Monica, for sharing with us today! You can find Monica and her beautiful work at the following places: