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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My balance: Elizabeth Antonia of The Littlest

The beautiful Elizabeth Antonia writes the blog The Littlest, runs an online vintage children's shop, and works as a freelance art director. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two-year-old daughter. Here's how she attempts to juggle it all...

*****

Intro:
My day-to-day life as a sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time working mama has run the gamut over the last two years. I was contractually obligated to go back to my job as an art director for Lucky Brand when Elodie was 4 1/2 months old (heartbreaking) and knew that I would make a jump to freelance the first chance I could (during that time we had a nanny and I would work at home in the other room a couple days a week). When she was about a year old, I took eight months off to be with her (while still freelancing) -- I would work during her naps and at night, which was always a crapshoot with her sleep. At 20 months old, she started going 2-3 days a week to a wonderful little 'preschool' down the street from us.

1. What's your work schedule?
My schedule is always changing! Right now, my work schedule is more crowded that it has ever been since I'm finishing a big corporate project, running a little vintage store and also working on my first line of children's clothing.

No matter what, we start and end the day adhering to Elodie's routine. Toddlers thrive on predictable schedules, so every morning we have the same ritual: She wakes up, we read a book in bed and then get dressed, eat breakfast together and then usually sit in the garden or in her room and read another book or play a game. We then go as a family to the coffee shop and have a leisurely coffee, talk about what we are planning for the day and then my husband and I drop her off at her preschool.

By then it's usually around 10-10:30am, so I go straight into emails. I typically will work 6-10 hours a day and divide it into sections as much as possible. I have heard great things about the Pomodoro technique but typically I just set a timer for 45 minute intervals and will try to stay focused on the task until I hear the timer. If I know I have a really busy 40-hour week, then I will do my best to shift some of the hours to the night, so I can take Elodie for a morning activity such as a pony ride, playtime at the park or a music/developmental play class. I typically work two evenings a week and at least one weekend night (which is great because my husband works on the weekend). There simply aren't enough hours in the day so I usually do what I absolutely MUST and then go spend time with Elodie and Michael.

2. How do you handle childcare?
Because of my current big freelance project, Elodie is enrolled five days a week at the same little school she's been at part-time since twenty months. She's usually there about 5-6 hours a day. For my line of work (art direction), it's less stressful/cheaper overall to pay for five days and be able to have her go whenever I need the extra time instead of scrambling to find a sitter for $15/hour on the days I have a photo shoot or client meeting. We love it! I've become close with a couple of the other moms from the neighborhood, and and we always have picnics after school or playdates on the weekend. The teacher is a very nurturing, traditional woman who really respects the children, and I'm always asking her for advice! She's such an angel. Elodie will probably go back to three days once the summer is over.

3. Where do you work during the day?
I mostly work at home but sometimes go to my husband's office, or to a work session or photo shoot wherever my client is located. I have a little office in our breakfast nook which overlooks our garden. It's also right next to the water cooler and the espresso machine; I typically spend about 5 minutes a day talking to myself at those two locations.

4. What do you like best about your current set-up?
I love not having a commute in Los Angeles! It's wonderful being 5 minutes away from my husband and Elodie at any given time and having the flexibility to make my own hours. Michael travels a lot for work, and we love to go with him when we can -- I definitely make less money but I wouldn't trade the ability to be with Elodie for anything.

5. What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up?
I sometimes feel a little isolated working from home. I love being around other people and miss bouncing ideas off of a creative team. Also, we live in a little community called Mt. Washington, which is a car drive from coffee shops, restaurants, yoga studios, etc, so if I want to do any of that I have to get in the car. Also my dog drives me a little cuckoo -- he is always under foot or wanting to play.

6. What would you love to change down the road (or would change right now, if you had a magic wand?
I think the biggest problem with my current set-up is that I hate schedules! And I am always winging it. If i had a magic wand, I would have a life organizer come tell me what to do. Tell me how to create the hours I need in the day to accomplish what I want for my brand, but also to have enough time to enjoy life with my family.

7. What's your favorite part of your work?
I love learning and enjoy doing something different every day. Whether it's creating an inspiration board, looking for fabric for my children's line or helping a brand have a more cohesive presence, I love to wear all these different hats!

8. What's your favorite part of your home life?
When it's 5pm, the day is over for my husband. He leaves his computer at work and we really make a conscious effort to turn off all social media until Elodie goes to bed. (Okay, I'm a bit addicted to instagram!) We spend a lot of time before bed on walks, cooking dinner together or having dance parties. I love the buzz of home life -- there is always a bit of music because Michael and I thrive on that; I love when Elodie comes in and out of the kitchen/backyard/bedroom to play with us with the washing machine on in the background, or just sitting on the porch reading a book!

9. How does your husband contribute to managing the juggle/house/childcare?
We've made it a rule to get up with Elodie together (except when he's out of town or has worked late). He makes her breakfast and I get her ready for the day. He'll clean the kitchen after dinner, and I'll run the bath. Basically we have a set of tasks and the counterpart to that task. I think being open to talking about expectations helps make a happier home life.

10. How do you and your husband fit your marriage to the balance?
I am going to go ahead and say it, I think marriage is one of the easiest things to neglect once you have a child. It's so important to foster the connection you have with your spouse. My husband and I are around each other a lot, and I'm thankful that we have the ability to have date nights on a regular basis. I should probably 'schedule' more time together but I really love the spontaneity of meeting for coffee or lunch or staying up late to play backgammon or having a drink on the porch talking until the wee hours.

11. Do you have time for yourself?
I'm a much more pleasant person to be around (and more creative) when I do things for myself. The saying is true: 'If mama's happy, then everybody's happy!' Even though I know this, I have to force myself out of the house and away from the computer. It's so easy to put off exercise for one more item on the to-do list.

I love to read (biographies, the New Yorker and cookbooks are my favorites), do yoga or hike, or go out to dinner with friends -- basically things that clear the cobwebs out of my mind and are life giving!

12. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
Every day I find myself thinking, 'If not the mama, then who?' Women really are extraordinary in their ability to do so much as caregivers, partners, sisters, friends. I think we innately just want to please and to help each other. However, it's of vital importance that we are authentic to ourselves and simply do our best, whatever that is. It's so easy to compare ourselves to other moms out there (especially online) thinking that they have it all, do it all. We can look to each other for inspiration and connection but at the end of the day, how we translate this into real living with our family and friends is the most important thing.

13. Have you talked to other women about how to juggle everything? Do you think people talk openly about it?
I am not sure other people are open about it. I struggle with this. My impression (which could be wrong) is that everyone is so invested in making their own right choice that it is easier to put down another woman's choices. Stay-at-home mamas say that it's awful that a mother is letting another woman 'raise' her child. Some working mothers feel superior because they have their own lives and income. The decisions we make are a culmination of our life experiences and I don't know about you, but I'm still learning how to live and doing the best I can along the way. When Elodie was born, I didn't have any other choice but to work. Many mothers have to work. We are all mamas with unique perspectives on parenting with so much to teach each other. We should spend our time uplifting each other and not trying to prove that 'our way' is the right way. I honestly don't know what way is right. I want to be inspired and I want so much to constantly improve. While we are learning, we are alive! (This is a bit of a rant!)

14. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than for men?
I do think it the juggle is harder for women than for men. I can't speak for anyone else, but I think the day Elodie was born I was injected with a healthy does of guilt -- about not doing enough for her, not doing enough for myself, not calling my grandparents, not letting my husband know how special he is to me, not working hard enough. On and on. There are so many facets to life it really is hard to do it all!

I think men don't feel the need to be with their children the way women do. And maybe women just want to do everything? I sure do! I think it's great to have so much to be excited about so I'll take feeling a little pressured over feeling apathetic about life.
Thank you, Elizabeth!

52 comments:

Heba said...

I'm in love with "my balance" posts

http://girlynote.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

"Stay-at-home mamas say that it's awful that a mother is letting another woman 'raise' her child. Some working mothers feel superior because they have their own lives and income."

Soo, basically, two derisive jabs at working mothers? Or am I reading this wrong? Working mothers feel superior and stay at home mothers judge them for hiring a nanny?

Nikkie said...

Another very, very intense post. I am so glad, Joanna braught this up. This was really interesting, all of it, but I especially liked your answer n° 13. Thanks a lot for sharing, I consider this very inspiring.

Maria Paz said...

I'm totally in love with this post and all of "my balance" posts. Keep them coming!!

Melissa said...

Anonymous, I think you just misinterpreted it. She is saying that when mothers are making the decision how to raise kids (stay at home mom vs. working mom), because you hope to do what is "right," you tend be defensive when discussing the topic. So she was for example saying a hypothetical stay-at-home mom would say "it's awful that a mother is letting another woman 'raise' her child." And with the second line I think it’s just the idea that some working mothers like working. Maybe they love their job or are successful or earn a great salary. Maybe some even choose to work just because they don’t want to be home with their kids all day, which is totally their choice and more power to them! Basically it's just the point of no decision is the right decision and when you do something different from another mother it could be perceived as "wrong." But to each their own. If there was a "right" way to raise kids we'd all be doing it the same way.

gemma said...

anonymous, not at all!!! she was saying that stay-at-home moms feelthat working moms should be raising their own children, and working moms feel that stay-at-home moms should have their own lives. she isn't doing jabs at either one -- she is showing how either side might have preconcieved notions of the other -- but that really they are both wonderful and there are many shades of gray in between. she is trying to show how EVERY choice is fantastic and all types of mothers are wonderful.

you must be wonderful too though and i can see from your comment how emotionally-ridden all this motherhood stuff is ;-)

Teri B. said...

I don't have kids yet, but am loving reading all these balancing posts. Mamas like you make motherhood a little less intimidating for someone like me!

Teri
www.bockting.blogspot.com

Angela {Phit Chicks} said...

This Q&A interview format is genius Joanna!
More please.
Angela

Kacie @ A Collection of Passions said...

I loved this. Great thoughts, humor, honesty and thoughts.

Kacie
http://www.acollectionofpassions.blogspot.com/

Stephanie said...

Really beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Your honesty is so wonderful. I can see how you really try to see things from all perspectives and keep an open mind. I hope I am the same way when I become a mama. And I love you answer to #8. :)

p.s. I'm afraid I may become addicted to your Littlest shop!

K said...

Elizabeth, so glad to find your blog! I live just down the hill in HP. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful and inspiring. Working at home moms need to see how hard it is for everyone - and also appreciate the benefits. Thank-you!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I have to say that men have no idea what these women are accomplishing and how incredibly hard it is to have the buck stop with you on so many counts. Well done, ladies!

Reyna @fashionmist♥ said...

I love these posts! xx

In Corners of My Mind said...

Elizabeth touched on a hot point in this post whereby women are the harshest critics of other women...I believe her point was simply that we should be supporting one another in our personal and parental choices, not judging. Another great post!!! Loving it.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Definitely a hot point. I recently did a guest post on another "mommy blog", and one of the commentors immediately assumed (because there are a lot of images of us doing things as a family during the day) that I am a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I work more than fulltime. I work from a home studio, and since our daughter spent the first year of her life in an orphanage, we have chosen not to get her a nanny or put her in daycare. It's actually very difficult to keep her at home and still get in the hours I need to do the work for my clients. But the trade-off - the family time - is SO worth it! I feel lucky that I am my own boss. Still, I work seven days a week, and more than eight hours a day most days, because I feel so fortunate to have the work I do in this economic climate. We all make it work in whatever way we are able.

Dana said...

my favorite "my balance" yet!

Jen said...

Ah! I am absolutely loving these posts! And really feeling reassured, inspired and excited to become a mother one day and know that I, too, can make it work for me.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Also...I love the question about how do you and your balance the tasks of parenthood. Your system is familiar to me in a lot of ways, except that my husband and I trade mornings getting up with our daughter - every other morning, unless someone is sick. I think that creating that balance together and "having eachother's back" on a daily basis is one of the most affirming, touching, and wonderful things about marriage during parenthood. It adds another layer of depth and trust to the partnership.

Cathie said...

I'm new to your blog but this series is fantastic and so relevant for all moms. I think balance is a constant and evolving process for mothers. I love hearing how others do it and it's always reassuring to know that you're not the only one trying to figure out how to make it work!

Sustainingmama.blogspot.com

the lil bee said...

Elizabeth, #s 10 and 11 were amazing. The whole thing was, really, but those two points were so beautifully articulated and hit so close to home for me. If you were in NYC, I think we would be besties. Just saying;) xx

Tara Lee said...

I work from home too {and love it}. I love what you said about "loving the buzz of home life". I work a lot at night so that my girls & I can take each day as it comes.
Great post, thanks for sharing.

A Pretty Life said...

LOVE every one of these ... number ten- MY FAVE!
Have a PRETTY day!
Kristin

Issybetts said...

Thanks for the inspiring post. you sound like a great mum. I like your laid-back, child focused way of living your life. Life is all about living and being happy in the process not about trying to cram everything in to make more money and status. Keep it simple, keep it real X p.s love the shop .

plastic cards said...

I loved this. Great thoughts, humor, honesty and thoughts.

Elva said...

I love these posts, I'm not a mother yet, maybe one day Heaven willing. But these posts have given me a lot of food for thought. Thank You.

Marty J. Christopher said...

I'm loving these posts. I'm loving all these working women who are finding a great balance of being home with their kids and working! It's what I dream of. : O )

Allison Egan said...

Your My Balance series is so inspirational and just wonderful! thank you so much for interviewing all these fantastic women!
xo Allison

www.spicerandbank.blogspot.com

Diana Mieczan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana Mieczan said...

Elizabeth, this is such a wonderful and honest post. I totally agree with nr.11. It's so important to make time for yourself as those little times off make us feel better and happier in our own skin. This way we are much more pleasant to be around! The photos are beautiful as well. Happy Thursday morning to you and Joanna:)

Beth said...

Hi Joanna,
I've been loving these posts, but I can't help but wish you'd do a feature on moms who balance full-time office/hospital/etc-based jobs rather than those who mostly freelance and/or work from home. I'm absolutely not saying that one is "easier" than the other, but I do wish to see how moms who have to spend 8+ hours away from their kids/homes/husbands deal with the balance, feelings of mommy guilt, etc. Thanks, Joanna!

Mary said...

Beth you should read joanna's introduction post - she mentions the ladies are all in similar to her type situations... Joanna and Elizabeth, this is my favourite balance post so far. i really like your child focussed and laid back approach elizabeth. you inspire me!

Alexa said...

Joanna, I am LOVING this series!

I nannied all through college and often thought to myself that I would never want someone else to experience the things with my children that I experienced as a nanny. One child took his first steps and spoke his first words with me.

Now, though, I work in publishing in NYC, so I really value hearing how other women in cities make it work!

Rossana said...

Thank you, Joanna for allowing all these other moms to share their "balancing" experiences to your readers. It has been really helpful to see how other moms make this attempt. All perspectives have been fabulous. I especially love Elizabeth's (love her blog). It seems so honest and genuine. I especially like her point about how it is so easy to compare ourselves to other moms (especially online). I do not have a blog, but secretly wish that I had gotten on the bandwagon a few years ago (feel it may be a bit too late now w/ so many out there). I log on daily to all my favorites and it really does feel like so many of you have it all and do it all and do it all with such an aesthetic eye. Thanks again and more of these posts, please.

sumslay said...

These are great! I'm not a mom, and have no intention of ever being one, but seriously - being a woman is no joke! It's great that women communicate more now, and I hope we continue to do so rather than just putting on airs that we're all happy and leading the perfect life(and besides working moms vs. sahm, there's also the wanting children vs. not wanting children divide; to each their own, I say!). I've talked to one of my friends with kids about this, and she brought up how crazy it is that women went THOUSANDS of years before talking about postpardum and the crazy hormones.

Jesselyn said...

"The decisions we make are a culmination of our life experiences and I don't know about you, but I'm still learning how to live and doing the best I can along the way"

Best quote EVER.

The End.

Lashley said...

"I typically spend about 5 minutes a day talking to myself at those two locations."

I know I'm supposed to comment on the mushy stuff, but I can't resist props to a well-placed super-dry zinger.

Stephanie said...

Love this series! I couldn't agree more on this, "The decisions we make are a culmination of our life experiences and I don't know about you, but I'm still learning how to live and doing the best I can along the way". She got it right straight no argument there=)

Rebecca said...

I connected with so much of this post! thank you for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

I love you Elizabeth! <3 Paco! ;)

YEAH! said...

very nice.

Laura @ Hollywood Housewife said...

This is my favorite balance post yet! Loving this series.

The littlest said...

hello everyone, thank you for the sweet comments. and to clarify, i did use the two examples of a working mom and a SAHM as ends of the spectrum (and maybe they aren't even the ends of the spectrum - who knows?) and every situation that falls in between. we are all making sacrifices and doing the best we can with the same goal in mind - to love and provide for our children! sorry if this didn't come through!

Elise said...

This is such a great series, thank you! I am implementing the simple 45 minute timer technique. Sometimes you just need to force yourself to get things done! Thanks again for the great advice.

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