mothers of invention: jessa
[for a chance to win “the billboard bag,” check out saturday’s post… now on to today’s main event!]
first name: Jessa
current city: Denver, CO
living situation: I share a teeny student apartment with my husband, Eric, and our sweet sons, Eli (two and a half) and Amos (seven months).
occupation: Website & Newsletter Designer and more recently, a barely-professional crafter
how do you structure your time and space? Many of our days end up structured like this: We have a kid-centered activity in the morning, be it a play date, a trip to the Children’s Museum or the park, et cetera. Then we lunch and Eli naps around one. Amos’ nap schedule is loose, but we try for substantial naps in the morning and afternoon. Eli will often sleep until five (FIVE!) p.m. Then we have an evening of play and dinner before the boys hit the hay around seven. Many nights I’m on my own to do dinner and bedtimes. After seven, I take the time to relax, work, craft, and commune with the hubby.
I keep perpetual to-do lists going of house stuff, job stuff, and craft stuff, and I tend to these lists in fits and starts throughout the day. If things line up well enough that the boys snooze simultaneously, I rush to my sewing machine and craft feverishly until smoke rises from us both.
On Wednesday and Friday mornings, Eli has preschool from 9:00 – 2:30. I dedicate these days to whatever feels most pressing to me at the time. Sometimes I work. Sometimes I craft. Sometimes I clean. Sometimes I visit with friends. But I am always reminded on these days how much easier it is to just have one child in my charge.
I work from home, so figuring out when to do what can be tricky. I have some set deadlines that provide a little structure, and then I go to my to-do lists and try to knock out one item each day. I pick the to-do to be done by using one of two factors:
- Which one is most pressing?
- Which one can be done fastest and with least effort?
using the metaphor of seasons to describe the phases of women’s lives,
-what are the particular challenges and highlights of your current season? Highlights are many. The days are lovely with baby snuggles and toddler humor. Often, I feel so lucky that this is my job – to goof off with my boys. I love that I have time to be crafty and that I have perfect subjects for my crafting ventures. Since in past seasons I felt a sense of mastery in my job as a potter, I’m happy that I can feel that same sense of skill and accomplishment as a mama and through my creative dabblings.
It’s also a highlight that I’m finding time and ways to care for myself. Eric is so willing and happy to give me time away when he can. So I get to go to movies or out with friends pretty frequently. I also recently planned a gals’ long weekend called “LadyFest” so that my best lady friends and I could be refreshed and revitalized by each other. LadyFest will be an annual event!
Time management is a challenge in this season since our lives are not very structured. Also, hauling two kids, their gear, and the things we’ve acquired on our errands up to our third floor walk-up is quite a feat. Finally, since much of my time is spent doing fun stuff, I often get in a rut of telling myself that I “should” be doing more. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I have a great title to the book I’m going to write about this problem:
Get a Grip: Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself!
I try to remind myself that just being me, and being a mama, is enough. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.
-What season(s) preceded this one? The season previous to motherhood was the season of Decker-Smith Pottery. I was a potter with a surprisingly successful wholesale business, and I provided pottery to galleries across the U.S. It was a season of purpose, pride, a lot of work, some self-doubt, and a beloved craft.
I loved being a potter and I miss it tremendously. It is a major part of my identity that is on hold at the moment. But I really am glad it is. For my first pregnancy I worked like a dog. I worked 14 hour days regularly, hunching behind my wheel or standing all day glazing. I fired kilns for 16 hours. I even unloaded a kiln while I was in labor, before I went to the hospital. After Eli was born I never allowed myself to rest because there were always pots to make. For the first year of his life, somehow, I did all this work with him in tow. Looking back, it was exhausting and foolish, and the costs were not worth the benefits. Now that my second son is an infant, I am thankful to be free of the constant pressure of running my own business. I can slow down, let myself relax, enjoy my boys, and happily devote time to just being their mama.
-What season(s) might your future hold? The season on the horizon involves selling my crafty wares. I just opened my Etsy shop, Happily Home Sewn, to peddle the items I make. I think this will be a more manageable way to work as a crafter then running Decker-Smith Pottery was because I will be able to make what I want, offer it on my etsy shop, and see what happens. I won’t have huge gallery orders and deadlines hanging over me all the time.
I don’t anticipate this season bringing many additional challenges. It will require a season of research and development to learn how to make a successful etsy shop. But, as far as putting more on my plate – well, I’m already perpetually crafting, so I think this will feel like a manageable shift.
I anticipate the seasons will shift again in a few years when Eric completes his PhD. I look forward to this season because we will have him around more and we will have more time for family. I think he will feel much more relaxed and less stressed. There may also be job changes and a move in this season.
favorite family activities: playdates with our buddies, eating out together, taking the boys to the movies, family trips (especially to the beach), walking around campus where we live (Our favorite spots are the fish pond and very cool trees for climbing, playing under, and collecting buckeyes.), crafting with the boys, gymnastics class, sporting events
favorite solo activities: MOVIES. I’m a movie addict. They don’t even have to be quality flicks. I’m in; Hanging with girlfriends; Being crafty.
sources of inspiration: funky shops (especially fabric and craft shops), taking sewing classes, crafty books, mama/crafty blogs, and my boys! Also, my mom (Yaya) is the queen of making something fun from nothing. One of Eli’s favorite spots on campus is the “Yaya Tree” where she kept him entertained for hours one day. She taught him about walking sticks and moss furniture and pine needle buildings. I want to be like that.
best MakeShift moment: My entire attempt to continue being a potter after Eli was born was a makeshift moment. In my home studio a Johnny Jumper hung from the ceiling in front of my wheel. At the co-op where I glazed and fired (where Eli and I spent 16 hour days working) I set up a mini nursery for him complete with areas to play, eat, and sleep. I wore him on my body in a variety of slings and packs. We just made it work.
I have to makeshift a lot in our tiny apartment so we don’t get cabin fever. We walk somewhere nearly every day and have found many nearby places to keep us entertained. We use the campus like our own big back yard and have regular adventures there.
It has recently occurred to me that my white board is a great example of a Make-shifting. I got it just after Amos was born because my postpartum brain is scattered and quick. So I used it to write down stuff before it left my brain. The makeshift moment that happens there is never pre-meditated. My white board has become the ultimate happy distraction. I discovered this power when my son was having a post-nap-still-groggy-inconsolable freakout. I was carrying him around the house nearing my wits’ end, when I walked past the white board and started drawing vehicles. I narrated while I drew and he was mesmerized and calmed. Now we draw something on there for every holiday, friend visit, special day, or heck, Tuesday.
Also, one day Eli got into the big bag o’ birdseed in the kitchen. So I dragged it out on the porch and let him fill the bird feeder. It took the mess out of my kitchen and onto the porch. It kept him happily occupied for a ridiculously long time. It gave us an opportunity to talk about what a nice thing it is to help animals and how happy it was going to make the birds and he even likes to sweep the seed off the porch when he’s done! Now, our budding St. Francis does this about twice the week, including, coincidentally, right now as I answer this questionnaire!
find jessa on the web at
- Family Blog: www.ericandjessa.blogspot.com
- Pottery Business Website: www.deckersmithpottery.com
- New Crafty Blog: http://happilyhomesewn.blogspot.com/
- Etsy Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HappilyHomeSewn
[the photo of jessa pottery was taken by tim barnwell.]