Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family life?
I’m mom to six children, ranging in age from 23 to 3. My oldest daughter is married, and she and her husband have two children who are 6 and 2. That makes me Mama and GiGi. (I’m too young to be a Grandma!) My 20-year-old son lives all the way on the other side of the country from us in California, where he’s busy working and going to college. My two teens and my six-year-old are homeschooled, and my three-year-old keeps us all busy just making sure that he’s staying out of trouble!
We moved from Texas last fall, back home to the east coast of Florida. We love Florida and are so happy to be settling back in here. (I’ll admit, though, that I’m feeling a little bit melancholy as fall moves in up north, and I reflect on the fact that there’s no winter coming here! I do get to use less fabric to sew clothes for my kids here, though, since we can wear shorts and short-sleeves year round.)
What’s the name of your blog/website? What is the significance of the name and how long have you been blogging?
Heehee! My blog is called Fishsticks Designs, but not because I love fishsticks! Long ago when the internet first started — that makes me sound really old — I went hunting for the perfect email address. No one wants to be Bonnie57823, right? I happened to glance out the window and see the family of Christian fish that were swimming across the bumper of our family van, two big fish and four little ones. I quickly jotted down “fish6mom”, and that became my online identity. Interestingly enough, I’ve never run across another fish6mom, ever. When I first launched my business I belonged to a close-knit community of sewing moms who had jokingly dubbed me the “Fishsticks Mom” because of how much fish-6 sounds like fishsticks, and the name just felt like a perfect fit! It’s a fun name that reminds many people of childhood, a unique name that is very easy to remember, and it’s a name that reminds me of the importance of keeping my faith in Christ central to my business, just as I do in all other parts of my life.
I’ve been blogging for almost five years. My blog posts started out with a definite focus on family and ministry (my husband works in IT support for Christian missions) and became more focused on sewing and crafting as my business grew.
I grew up in a creative family, and I’ve always loved being surrounded by handmade things. Being creative myself was a natural extension of those things. There’s something wonderful about dressing your children and decorating your home with beautiful things that you made with your own hands . . . things that were created not just with an end result in mind but with love and a little piece of you.
Working inside or outside of the home (or running a blog or website on a part to full time basis) can be especially tough because of the difficult choices we have to make with how to divide our time between work and family. Have you ever felt guilty about the choices you’ve made, and what advice would you give to someone struggling with those same types of feelings?
Absolutely! My work schedule gets crazy when I’m preparing for a big show like Quilt Market. There are weeks at a time that I’m working from the time I get up at 6:30 in the morning until I collapse in bed late at night. My husband, of course, is my biggest help during those times. He takes on the majority of the childcare in the evenings and weekends, and he helps out by cooking dinners several nights a week. (I also make really good use of my crockpot during those super busy times!) My teens take most of their homeschool classes with a local co-op, and they’re old enough to do the majority of their work on their own. Everyone has a list of chores to do . . . and I only have to remind them occasionally. Even with all that, though, sometimes, I just have to step away from work and do something fun!
I am very thankful that when I am super busy, it’s only for a limited amount of time. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel really helps keep me focused.
If someone out there is struggling with dividing time between a home-business and family, I would highly recommend sitting down with your spouse and your older children and discussing your goals for your business. Getting everyone on the same page and getting everyone involved really encourages cooperation. It doesn’t hurt either to give them something concrete to look forward to. Right now, we’re saving my business profits to have a privacy fence installed around our huge back yard. (It’s expensive to fence an acre!) Once we have the fence, we’re looking forward to getting a big wooden playground and CHICKENS!
If you’ve transitioned from hobbyist to business woman, what made you take the leap? What has been your greatest challenge? What has been your greatest reward?
When my business first started, my husband was serving in full-time ministry on support, and we were on a really tight budget. I started sewing to sell so that I would have a few extra dollars in my Paypal account to take the kids out for ice cream or to the movies every so often. Because I had trouble finding patterns that worked well, I started designing my own. Before long, I had sewists asking about my patterns, and I loved the idea of designing patterns to sell. I designed and released my first pattern and really have never looked back . . . although, I have definitely learned a whole lot along the way!
I think my greatest challenge is staying focused. I definitely have a tendency to be easily distracted. (Squirrel!) It really helps me to set deadlines and to share those deadlines to keep me accountable.
The greatest reward I’ve found is the incredible relationships that I’ve built through my business. There are far too many for me to mention them individually, but I am incredibly blessed with so many friendships that I would never had found otherwise!
For most moms, multitasking is synonymous with motherhood. What’s been your biggest personal challenge with juggling so many things? Have you found a way to stay balanced? If so, what are some of your strategies?
Without the help of my husband and my older children, there’s no way that I could accomplish the things that I do. I mentioned before that it helps to set goals with your family — your spouse and your children. Having the cooperation of the whole family makes it so much easier to juggle business and home responsibilities.
Because I often need to work at all hours, I’ve set up my sewing studio in such a way that my little ones can play or color or just hang out with me while I work. I think that’s the best advice that I can offer to moms who are looking for a way to create with little ones. Find a way that they can be with you while you work. Sometimes, that might mean that you have an even bigger mess to clean up when you’re done, but you’ll have a finished craft project, and you’ll be making memories, too. (Even my big kids enjoy hanging out in my studio and chatting with me while I’m sewing!)
What’s the best mom advice you’ve ever received?
Stop and take pictures! When my now fifteen-year-old daughter, Samantha, was about 2-years-old, I had another mom drop by for coffee during naptime one day. Samantha woke up early, and I sent her out to play in the playroom which connected to the dining room where we were chatting. She very quietly opened the craft cabinet and pulled out all five of the full bottles of tempera paint, and while my friend and I visited away, she emptied each and every one onto the craft table and finger-painted the room with them. As soon as I realized what she’d done, I went into a cleaning panic! I’m so thankful that my friend said, “Stop! Go get your camera and take pictures right now! This seems like a huge mess today, but in a few years, you’ll love looking back and these pictures and laughing.” What a great lesson! It’s something that I try to remember now. Don’t rush through those days when it just looks like there’s a huge mess to clean up. Stop and take pictures, and know that someday you’ll look back and laugh, and even miss those days!
I truly believe that what I believe is what makes me who I am. The most important thing for me in my life, in my career and with my children is that I reflect Jesus in everything that I do. I can’t imagine anything else that would make me feel more successful.
How has being a mom changed your life perspective?
I just turned 43, and I’ve been a mom since I was 19 . . . almost my whole adult life! It’s hard to remember what things were like before. I think having children means knowing that the person that you are, the things that you believe, your morals and values will live beyond you. It’s both a huge responsibility and a tremendous blessing.
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A Question for You:
How has being a mom affected your life perspective?