When we know what success means to us, we find ways to create the balance!
I was invited to this community to discuss balancing family life and a full-time career while starting a business. This was honestly hard for me to write about because I don’t want to give off the impression that I somehow have it all “figured out”. I don’t.
What I do have, I am thankful for. And I’ve figured out that what works for me right now, today, might not work tomorrow, because life is full of unexpected changes and surprises. But today is good.
With that out of the way, I’ll let you know exactly what I have going on.
I am a professional engineer and have a great career in the oil and gas industry. I am a mother of 2 boys – ages 1 and 4. With my husband, we’ve started two Etsy shops where we design and make (primarily) musical toys that inspire outdoor play, creativity, and exploration. Most of our toys are made from wood, aluminum, and 3D printed plastic (called PLA, a biodegradable material). My husband, Luke, is also a professional engineer and works full time.
It might seem like between the careers, kids, and everyday life that there is no time left for an Etsy shop, designing, making, or 3D printing. But this is how we find the time
The little Moments Add up
First, we don’t own a TV. That means if we want to watch something we get our computers out and it is a deliberate choice. You might not think this is a big deal, but let’s be honest, how many times did you just stop working on a project because something random was on TV and poof; an hour of your time was gone. This really helps us on two fronts. The first I already mentioned in that there is no passive time lost because we got distracted by something on TV. Secondly, it improves the quality of the time we spend with our kids. They aren’t watching TV either; instead, we are building or playing together.
Gaining an hour or so each night by avoiding TV is not insignificant. If you’re like us, the work really begins once you get home. By the time lunches are made, dinner is finished, dishes are done, and the kids are bathed and in bed, we really only have an hour (or two at most) of “free” time. This is the time we use to build, create, and fulfill orders. By the way, we aren’t completely anti-television or TV shows. There are plenty of evenings we still choose to relax and watch an episode of something – but not owning a TV forces that to be an active choice as opposed to an unconscious default way to spend our “free” time.
Batch process what you can
The next thing that really works for us is that I cook once per week Sundays. I make all of our lunches, dinners, and baby food. I have this down to a science and so do many other people. Just Google “make-ahead meal”. They have entire cookbooks devoted to the subject. My favorite one happens to be Rachel Ray’s “Week in a Day”. This frees up our weeknights, so we aren’t waiting for me to make dinner. It’s already done as well as lunches. We just reheat our dinners and get lunches packed for the next day.
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Do what you must. And outsource some.
Next piece of advice: stop trying to do it all yourself! I also have an indulgence: I get my groceries delivered. That’s my one thing. Some people swear by having a housekeeper or cleaning person, but for most of us, that’s financially impractical. But we use a service called Instacart to get our groceries delivered, and that saves me a ton of time on the weekends! By the time the groceries arrive, I’ve done all my other chores, and can get started cooking right away.
Granted, services like that are not free, but they are reasonably priced (There’s a lot of options out there. some stores will do the shopping for you and you can just pick your groceries up for free). We’ve found it’s well worth the money to save at least two hours each weekend (by the time you drive to the store, get the groceries, drive back home, etc.). Plus, I spend more on impulse purchases than the delivery fees anyway.
Get the family involved.
That’s a few of the ways we find the time to get it all done. Just an hour here or there, a couple of nights per week, and mostly on weekends. We tradeoff who is on “kid duty” when we are particularly busy with orders, but for the most part, they are right there with us taking part in the fun. Owen is big enough to help and really likes to measure. While Michael is our little crawling “rumba” with either Luke or I chasing after him.
As for being an engineer, well that gives me a profound sense of pride and independence. Being a licensed engineer is something you yourself accomplish, no matter the downturns in industries or turmoil in companies, that is your credential no one can take away from you. Being an engineer, I’ve learned I don’t know everything but I do know how to figure it out.
And that’s the great thing about being a maker, the makers’ movement, and starting an Etsy shop. Everyone is an engineer! Everyone is an architect! Everyone is a designer! We’re all in the garage, creating new things, and doing it as a family. That’s true, in my opinion, the best way to “get it all done”. By getting your hands dirty and creating as a family.
A day in my life
With that I thought it might be useful to outline how all of this looks on a daily basis:
- I wake up 5:30am and Luke is up by 4:45 to work out.
- The kids are up by 6 and we are out the door by 7am. Luke leaves by 6 am and is at work by 6:30 am;
- Drop off kid one at 7am kid two at 7:15 (I can’t wait till the little one is old enough to be in the same school with big brother!);
- At work between 7:30 – 8:00 am ready to roll;
- Fortunately, I work a slightly reduced schedule right now (36 hours per week), and leave at 4pm;
- Pick up kid one at 4:15, kid two by 4:30, and home by 5 pm;
- Reheat and make a side dish with dinner at 5:30 pm;
- Quality time with little brother before off to bath at 6:30 pm;
- Both boys bathe together and baby goes to bed at 6:30 -7:00 pm;
- Big brother quality time from 6:30 – 7:30-ish. Owen often joins us in the garage and works at his workbench while we take on our projects. He goes to bed around 8:00 pm. Fortunately both boys are young, have early bedtimes, and generally sleep through the night;
- After the boys are in bed we typically write a blog post, get a print started, or make a music station. It depends on the night and the mood. During the week at least one night is devoted to each of these tasks, but we only have from about 8pm-10pm then off to bed.
- Repeat Monday – Friday
- On weekends, we all roll our sleeves up, get in the garage, and get to playing as a family!
I’m able to get an hour on Sunday evenings for a weekly dance workout, while Luke spends time with Michael. Owen comes with me, because the great thing is the dance teacher is his best friend’s mom. Sometimes both boys join in the dance class, other times they play on playground next to us. Either way it works.
That’s my life. I love it. I’m thankful for it, and I know it works for me. Right now.
As a Senior Project Engineer in the oil and gas industry, her engineering experience covers a broad range from project management to construction and operations at NASA. She received her B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and Master’s from NCSU both in Civil Engineering. She is a licensed Professional Engineer and is an avid supporter of STEM education.
In her time off, Sasha enjoys building, crafting, exploring parks, cooking and traveling with her family. She is a caring wife and proud mother of two boys.