Lately, my head has been a whirlwind of activity and thought…. about this house, about work and income, and about motherhood; and today I want to share my own struggles and thoughts with you. As a modern day woman, we’re told we can have it all. We can go after that career we want, raise awesome kids, create a beautiful house and cook our family healthy meals, all while exercising and looking fabulous! Right?!? Social media seems to only encourage us to go for all of that, but what happens when we try and realize that it’s virtually impossible to do all of that unless you can afford a large team of people helping you every single day? We feel inadequate. Anxiety rises, leading to stress and tension in the house. We start to question our abilities. Self doubt wriggles its nagging little head into every inner monologue telling us that we just can’t do it. We aren’t as good as all of the women we see on instagram living the lives we think we desire for ourselves. From where you are sitting, you may think that I am one of those women who have it all going on, so today I am going to debunk that myth and have a real woman to woman talk with you. I want to share all of these thoughts and feelings with you because I want to empower you, not to be a modern woman who has it all, but to know that we all have our struggles. The real power comes in sharing and connection.
As I mentioned, thoughts about every aspect of my life have been spinning in my mind. Unfortunately, when my mind races like that, I tend to go into paralysis, or what I refer to as my “deer in headlights” move. You know the old adage, it’s fight or flight? Well, they forgot my tactic in that scenario…. freeze. Because this blog is mainly about my own home design and DIY, I want to start by addressing those thoughts that pertain to our house.
We signed papers on our house on January 4 of this year, and we had big plans to knock down walls and redo the kitchen entirely. The first contractor we met with didn’t seem like the right fit for us and told us she couldn’t do the work within our budget. While that was a fair enough statement, she made no efforts to come up with a plan B or offer any options. I knew from that behavior that she truly didn’t want a budget kitchen makeover in her fancy portfolio. We moved on and found a new contractor, and God bless him, I adore him. He has worked hard the last month getting all sorts of people in here… cabinetry and countertop and flooring companies as well as engineers. He is truly trying so hard to help us afford the kitchen we desire. We’re currently waiting on the countertop estimate and then will have our final number but I already know it’s going to be above our budget by a bit.
Because I know it will be over budget, I’ve started tossing all sorts of ideas around… Do we make the kitchen as beautiful as we dream, but leave the wall up and lose the island we so desire? Do we knock the wall down and do the rest later? Do we consider a home equity loan? I just don’t have the answer.
In our last house, we were able to save money by painting our cabinets, using butcher block countertops. That allowed us to knock down a wall and add an island. I loved that kitchen so much, but it truly only worked because we were able to reuse the existing cabinets. In this house, that is not possible, because we need a larger oven (not want, need for our family of 5); the cabinets are also painted poorly, so repainting would require stripping or sanding down which would be extremely labor intensive and frankly not worth the outcome. (It photographs much better than it truly is!)
I am trying to remind myself that we waited a bit before we redid that kitchen in that house and it would be OK to wait if needed here; but because I moved into this house thinking it would be done immediately, it’s proving to be a rather hard pill to swallow. Sawyer is constantly saying he can’t wait until we have an island again (he loved to sit there for breakfast), and I feel that I’ve let him down because we had promised the kids a new kitchen. We were all excited about what we planned to make it into, and if we wait a couple years, well by then Sawyer will have one foot out the door. (He heads to high school next year.) I am also afraid that if we choose the option to save and do it later, it won’t happen because things come up and before you know it your kitchen fund is spent. (We are not frivolous people, I mean necessary unforeseen things, such as the over 1k we had to shell out just for soccer gear for Sawyer’s new team).
I’ve made a lot of progress in our home so far, but this situation is leaving me with a mental roadblock. I can’t move past it to focus on other areas of the house, and I can’t see a way over it. Remember, I am not sharing this to complain at all because I know that these are utterly first world problems, and when I truly look at my home and life, I am very fortunate. I just wanted to keep it real and give you a genuine and relatable peek behind the curtain.
All of these financial obstacles with the kitchen have led me to reflect on how I can contribute to our household. Currently, we are a one income family of 5. While some may think that I make money on this blog, I am here to tell you that I do not. On occasion, I have a nice sponsored post, but for the most part this blog generates enough income to support my hosting fees, service fees, editing programs, and other general costs to keep it running. At the end of the day, there’s nothing left for me. I’ve spent the last couple of years thinking I could devote more time to it and start gaining more traction and more page views which would generate more income. However, finding the time has honestly been a challenge. Years ago, I truly could have made this blog into something, but I viewed it as much more of a hobby. I kick myself for not making smarter business decisions at that time; hindsight is 20/20. At that time, I was much more interested in my furniture refinishing business which led to my eventual starting and ownership of Sweet Clover. In retrospect, I should have seen both as businesses. Now years later, it’s impossible to catch up, and the market is so oversaturated that it’s extremely challenging to gain new followers and to stand out in a sea of pinterest worthy bloggers that we all paved the way for. After all, I was blogging before facebook business, before pinterest, before instagram. (I am a dinosaur!).
As I mentioned, I owned Sweet Clover, a vintage barn sale in Frederick, MD for a few years, and eventually sold it to try to have a baby as well as try to focus on my growing kids and on building the blog (which didn’t work!). I went back to Sweet Clover as a vendor and loved the creativity it involved. To be honest, just as with blogging, the vintage furniture business has become oversaturated as well. And again, I was there early in the game, found success, and as the market grew, found it harder to keep the business lucrative. It’s a hustle… shopping at yard sales and thrift shops, hauling pieces home, refinishing them, and finally hauling them into a shop space to style them perfectly in hopes of a sale that will in the end earn you some pocket change. When we moved to North Carolina, I decided I would not get a shop space because I knew the hustle it involved wouldn’t be worth the effort nor the sacrificed time with my family. (I am, however, considering consigning a couple of pieces a month at a shop, but I haven’t made any decisions yet).
Last year, I worked as a temporary part time manager of a J.Crew Factory store near our house, but that only worked because I was pregnant and had much more free time. I did not have a third baby so that I could send him to daycare while I worked; I wanted Wilder so that I could really enjoy his babyhood. Adding a job that takes me out of the home isn’t something I can or will consider until he’s in school. I couldn’t stand to miss out on any moments of his life. Look at that face… could you?
Where does all of this leave me as a contributor to rather than consumer of our bank account? I don’t have the answer. Trust me, if I figure it out, I will let you know. And if you have it figured out, you let me know. 😉 Side note, you may remember that I did try selling Beautycounter products and realized quickly that it just wasn’t for me… the products, yes, but the sales, no. I still use it daily and believe in cleaner greener living. (This is hands down my favorite product!)
While my brain is spinning trying to figure out ways I can contribute and thus make our kitchen a reality, I am doing the job that is and always has been most important to me: mother. Chris and I were married over 15 years ago, and we both agreed from the get go that we wanted one of us to stay home with our kids. He was in a better job position than I at the time that we started our family and the decision was made that I would be home. While it’s meant that our budget is tight, I do not regret that choice one bit. Sawyer and Emmy are 13 and 12 at the moment, and while they are great independent kids, this world has become a bit of a crazy place and I want to be there for them whenever they need me. I want to send them off to school in the morning, and I want to be the first face they see when they get home in the afternoon. They may not always want to talk to me, but it’s important that they know I am always here for them. Yesterday Emmy came home from school telling me that they learned that many kids struggle and some kids in their school are even on suicide watch. She’s 12. TWELVE?!?!? In school, they were taught what signs to look for in friends, and they also talked about how bullying can really push someone past that breaking point. As a mother, it’s absolutely frightening to me that our kids are in school doing shooter drills and learning how to watch for suicide in friends, but I applaud the schools for addressing these real issues. I am also relieved that Emmy came home and told me about it, opening up a conversation. I want that… I want my kids to know that no matter how scary and painful it may be, no topic is off limits for discussion if it is on their minds. In the news recently and on social media, I have seen stories of kids younger than my middle schoolers taking their own lives. While my kids show no signs, there has been mental illness in our family. It’s not something that I’ve shared here before because it’s not my story to tell, but suffice it to say that it’s a topic that is very much on my radar.
While motherhood is the role that occupies my time and energy for the most part, that doesn’t mean I am cruising along successfully. My kids have gotten in trouble at school, failed tests, not turned in homework because they didn’t feel like it, sworn in school…. Basically, they’re normal kids and they make mistakes, as do I. However, we are learning and growing. I am learning what tactics work with them when it comes to guiding them on the right path. I am far from mother of the year, but I love my kids fiercely and I parent the best way I know how. Most importantly, I am willing to acknowledge the mistakes that I make and am willing to learn and grow with my kids as needed. All I can do is the best I can do.
Sadly, what affects our kids as well as us and what I mentioned in my introduction is that so much of our stress and anxiety is brought upon by feelings of inadequacy and failure to live up to the standards that social media seems to present. There have been days where I have rocked out being a mom and pat myself on the back and say to myself, “Girl, you’ve got this!” Then there are days where the house is a wreck as I am frozen in my design paralysis, I am feeling the financial stress big time, Wilder skips a nap, and my big kids won’t stop fighting and I wonder what the heck I am even doing with my life anymore. Then I hop on instagram and see all of these women who seem to have it all and I think to myself, “Ugh! I will never have it together like them!” But the truth is, my friends, maybe they don’t either. (Maybe they do, and if so, kudos to them, but it’s OK not to have it all together.) Maybe the modern day woman isn’t one who has it all, but is one who isn’t ashamed of the broken and messy bits that also make up her life.
I thought it would be appropriate to close with this no-makeup, gray haired real life photo. Wilder isn’t wearing any makeup either in solidarity.