Lauren Wayne is professional writer, blogger, wife and parent of two little ones. You can find her online at Hobo Mama , Natural Parents Network, Lauren Wayne, or check out her book of poetry. I admire Lauren’s candid writing about motherhood while juggling all of the other challenges of life brings. With this interview we dive a little deeper into her day-to-day routine running a business from home as well as her take on natural parenting.
As a mother and successful family business owner – What does a typical day look like for you? Can you share how you balance your desire to spend time with your family while growing your business?
It can definitely be a challenge if you want to work from home and care for your kids, so we’ve had to think hard about our options and how we could make this lifestyle work. My husband, Sam, and I both knew we wanted to raise our kids yet continue working and pursuing our passions. Since having two kids — Mikko’s 6, and Alrik’s 2 — we’ve had to work out more intentionally who’s working when. Sam gets up really early for some pre-kids writing time. Then the rest of us roll out of bed for breakfast and waking up. (We’re not morning people, so that takes awhile!) Previously, we had a routine where I took the kids most afternoons and evenings while Sam worked in the family business (selling DVDs online), and then I did my own writing work late into the night while he put the kids to bed. Lately, we’ve been trying out a different schedule that allows for more socializing during daylight hours with other parents and at kid activities, which tend to be in the mornings. So now we alternate days, so we each have three “working” days a week and three “kids” days, plus one family day to do something fun all together.
We’re flexible enough that we can switch things around if a particular appointment or outing happens on a different day. Plus, Sam can use one or both kids with some of his business tasks. Mikko loves to earn pennies by putting labels on DVDs, and Alrik enjoys riding along to mail packages. I have had Mikko help me blogging, too, by doing crafts and projects with me to write about. I admit I sometimes have to throw some coins his way to get him to pose for the camera. I know a family business model isn’t for everyone, but we love that we can do what we like, make money, and enjoy each other’s company throughout the day. I used to be more hands-on with the DVD business, and I anticipate things continuing to shift as the kids grow and can participate more or even launch their own businesses!
When Sam and I have our “kids” days, we do a mix of unschooling activities. We have memberships at a few local, kid-friendly museums and attractions. We like to take public transportation downtown. The beach and two playgrounds are just a half-block away, so we can chill outdoors if the weather’s cooperative. The boys also tag along for errands, more or less cheerfully. Alrik, age 2, still takes long (thankfully) naps every day from about 1 to 5, so that takes up most of the afternoon. When we’re home, we enjoy doing workbooks and puzzle books; running around being silly; doing science projects, invention kits, crafts, and other projects (Mikko’s really excited about science and engineering); watching TV or DVDs; taking care of household tasks; and, of course, just free playing with toys. Mikko’s old enough now that he can amuse himself for awhile if the adult in charge needs to get something done, and Alrik’s pretty much always been able to play independently for periods.
When you’re self-employed or working from home, it’s easy to let work take over your life. I try to be intentional about stopping working and focusing on family during my off days and hours, and Sam does the same. Having specific work hours can help. I know some people who work only when their kids are asleep or otherwise taken care of; Sam and I do in fact do work around our kids, because we feel it’s appropriate to set an example of working parents. But we try not to let it take over our lives and family time.
What things do you always make time for that help you feel balanced and take care for yourself? What things do you wish you had more time to do?
Writing, which is also my job, is what makes me feel connected and grounded. I’m blessed in that it overlaps! But even though I enjoy it, I can start feeling fried by all the things I “have” to do as a blogger — the formatting, the networking, the email answering, and so on. I do find I need rest days where I do nothing meaningful. My “kids” days help with that, because I know my job that day is just to be the parent, and that takes the pressure off. That said, when I need to recharge from both positions, parent and writer (and, yes, this happens frequently enough), I find things I enjoy doing that just bring me pleasure and help me unwind: reading a mystery novel, watching a detective show on TV, doing logic or crossword puzzles, playing an online game, and so on. I also find that pursuing something relatively unessential but meaningful to me helps me still feel like a person underneath that mom facade, like taking ballet lessons or practicing my piano playing and singing. I also enjoy getting together, online and locally, with other parents who know what I’m feeling and going through. I know it can be hard for moms to find community, but it’s worth the search.
Do you have any tips for moms-to-be who feel intimidated by “natural parenting”. And what does “natural parenting” mean to you?
I’m sure natural parenting really can sound intimidating to the uninitiated! I know I was intimidated by crunchy types as I first dipped my toes in the water. Certainly there are some gatekeepers in the natural parenting world who think they own and enforce some sort of rulebook, but there are many more natural parents who are welcoming and accepting of wherever you are along your journey. I try to be one of those types and let criticisms from the other type roll off me.
My definition of natural parenting is attachment parenting combined with green living. However, that can be whatever it means for you. I fully encourage people to take the elements of natural parenting that resonate with them and leave the rest, and not feel like they have to live up to some crunchy ideal before they can seek out the community and inspiration of other natural parents. Pretty much none of us are that ideal, anyway, and most choices we’ve made have happened over time and with a lot of encouragement. For instance, I started using family cloth on a sort of dare — and found out I liked it! And I’m a long-time breastfeeder and family-bed sleeper, but I have plenty of friends who do neither for various reasons. My first son’s birth was in the hospital, and my second son’s was at home in the water and, accidentally, unassisted. Lately, my eating has become more in line with hippie ideals, but I resisted that for a long time. And then, on the other hand, I still guzzle diet soda and love TV, so … you know, we just are who we are, all individuals, making choices that fit our family.
How old was your first son when you went back to work and do you have any words of advice for helping this transition?
We were pretty poor when Mikko was born, so we had to start working again soon — at about two weeks, if I remember correctly. Fortunately, it was at-home work. Sam and I were doing all the DVD labeling, packaging, and mailing by ourselves at that time, and his sister came over a lot to help us those early months. It wasn’t particularly strenuous, but it was time-consuming, and Mikko was a high-needs baby who did not like being set down, ever. So usually one of us held him while the others worked, until we discovered by chance at a consignment shop that he loved a bouncy seat. That seat came home with us, and then one person foot-bounced him while we worked in between nursing breaks.
When Alrik was born, we resolved to take more time off, since family members were visiting all summer in any case. It turned out to be a poor decision financially, and we were hurting again that year. I say this not to be a downer, but to caution anyone considering self-employment that there’s always an element of risk involved, and it can be hard to juggle child raising and other daily tasks with making money.
I don’t know what it would be like to have to leave my kids and go off to work somewhere else for a full day when they’re newborns. I know I’d find it really tough, and my heart goes out to any parents having a hard time with that. If you’re going that route, I’d recommend seeking out advice from been-there-done-that mamas with regard to continuing nursing and pumping (if that’s your intention), reconnecting in non-work hours, and seeking out the best childcare fit. For mamas considering at-home work without a partner present to trade off working hours, I’d encourage looking into a mother’s helper or babysitter at least part time. Otherwise, take advantage of naps and nighttimes or early mornings — but try not to scrimp too much on your own sleep or self-care!
What was the biggest challenge you faced with breastfeeding?
The first big challenge was when Mikko was born and a nurse was convinced he was starving on my colostrum. She forced us into allowing him a bottle of formula, which set off a week of very difficult supplemental feeding through tubes and syringes and near-constant pumping. I was glad when he transitioned fully to the breast!
The next biggest challenges took me somewhat by surprise. I got pregnant with Alrik when Mikko was three. I’d sort of assumed he’d be weaned already, but … he wasn’t. He continued to dry nurse through the pregnancy — my milk dried up early on, and the pressure hurt a lot. For that reason, I greatly limited his nursing sessions in length and frequency. But when Alrik was born and the milk started flowing again — boy howdy, was Mikko excited! Then came my greatest breastfeeding challenge, which came as a total and unwelcome shock: nursing aversion. Ugh! It’s this creepy-crawly, nails-on-chalkboard sensation that just makes you want to jump out of your skin — or toss your nursling away from you. I once more instituted stricter and stricter limits with Mikko’s nursing until he weaned completely, just after turning five. I had no problem psychologically with the idea of nursing through pregnancy, tandem nursing, or nursing (way) beyond infancy, but I was not prepared for my body’s reaction to tandem nursing and had to honor my own discomfort and preserve Mikko’s and my good relationship by gently leading him to wean. He still waxes rhapsodic about nursing, even now at six, so it’s full of good memories for him.
You say that “hobo parenting isn’t perfect, but it’s real”. How have you learned to overcome the unexpected failures?
Ah, yes, I definitely have to deal with the failures of parenting, which can seem to come almost daily. I tell myself that I’m a human, that I’m still growing and learning, that I’m still overcoming my own hangups and ingrained lessons from childhood. I forgive, I apologize (I’m still learning this one), and I move on. Children are, fortunately, forgiving.
It’s time for your shameless plug! What does Hobo Mama have to offer that can’t be passed up?
At Hobo Mama, I try to write authentically and truthfully and really engage with my readers. I’m honest about mistakes, willing to experiment, and open to new adventures. I’m constantly learning, but I also have a lot of good advice and experience to pass along. I’m big into researching, so I love to teach. I also am likely the only natural parenting blog to offer side helpings of hobo lore. I’d love to connect with you on Hobo Mama and Natural Parents Network, my Facebook page, and on Twitter — I love getting to know my readers and so enjoy the conversations that go on online!
Thanks so much!