If I had to guess, I'd say I've probably followed Jenny Gordy for about 12 years. When I first discovered her, she was designing women's clothes. I loved her style and I also related to her because she seemed to move often, as I did (hello being in your 20's). She always seemed like a real human person, not a "blogger" or "designer" - does that make sense? To be clear, that's meant as a compliment ;) In any case, when I reached out to her about the series, she said it was something she thought about a lot and felt it was "important to connect with other moms in a real way that makes us feel not so alone in our messiness and frustration." I loved how much gratitude she expresses and am impressed by how much she gets done!
Q: Introduce yourself, your family, the work (aside from mothering) you currently do, and how that work has evolved as your child has grown.
Hi, I'm Jenny Gordy, and I live with my husband Joe and our 3 1/2 year old daughter Iris in Portland, OR. My work is designing knitting and sewing patterns for my company Wiksten. I've worked for myself for the past ten years and love the flexibility of it. My work ebbs and flows, meaning sometimes I'm really busy with work and sometimes not as much, depending on what I've scheduled for myself or what opportunities are coming in.
During the first couple of years with Iris I was able to slow down and not put out any new work but still get paid for continuing to sell the patterns I'd designed previously. Iris has been my muse from the beginning, and when she came along I shifted away from women's styles and started focusing more on children's clothing. There were so many things I wanted to make for Iris that I couldn't find patterns for, so I created my own. I get so bored if I don't stretch myself and try new things, so that has been a great learning experience and one that's helped keep me interested in my career. Now that Iris is getting older I've started working on some women's designs again too and taking on more freelance work. My freelance work involves designing projects for yarn companies, books, magazines, and websites.
Q. Do you wish you could do more or less creative work? How do you manage those conflicted feelings?
Right now my company is just me, and unfortunately running things means not having time to do as much design as I'd like. I experience conflicting feelings of frustration and gratitude at the same time. There's no such thing as a perfect job where you get to do everything you want 100% of the time, and I remind myself to have some perspective. Every day I feel so grateful that I get to do the work that I do. As hard as I work, I still can't believe that I get paid to do this! Whenever I feel discontent, I try to be proactive and brainstorm ways that I can change things for the better. For instance, right now seems like a good time to hire an employee to help out so that I can have both more design time and more free time.
Q. Did choosing not to work a traditional full time job affect any financial or career goals for you?
Iris was home with me for the first 4 months after which we started her in part time daycare. Having a baby forced me to let go of my career a little bit, and my income certainly dropped from not publishing many new patterns during that time. We got by just fine but didn't have any spending money. I'm very passionate about work and in fact tend toward workaholism, so taking a step back and letting other things into my life was very healthy and helped me grow as a person. After about a year and a half of that I started getting excited about work again, and we transitioned Iris to full-time daycare.
While we pay for the full-time childcare, sometimes we use all of those hours and sometimes we don't. Most of the time I try to keep Iris home from school at least once a week to do fun stuff, and if I have work to finish I'll just do it after she goes to bed. At times when I'm doing freelance work in addition to work for Wiksten, I need all of those childcare hours. Doing freelance can be stressful because I have to work within someone else's timeline, and I find it's never enough time. Not only do I end up staying up late and exhausting myself, but I feel guilty for not spending as much time with Iris. My exhaustion and stress seem to cause acting out on both of our parts. I've recently decided to stop complicating my life and just say no to freelance opportunities. I'm not sure how that's going to affect my career, but I already know it will be positive for my relationships with my family.
Q. What kind of a “village” or help do you have around you?
We have Iris in a wonderful preschool that she loves, and her favorite teacher babysits sometimes for date night. The fact that we live far from our families and have only lived in Portland for a year makes it somewhat difficult. However I've made some mom friends here, and while the friendships are still new they're very dear. I have a few friends that swap babysitting with me and a group of moms I can hang with. Joe works long, unpredictable hours, so spending time with my mom friends and our kids makes me feel less alone in this parenting business.
Q. Do you feel as though your work and home life lines are blurred? How do you handle that challenge?
Totally! My work space is very close to the house, in our backyard in a converted garage, which is both a convenience and a distraction. My daughter loves fashion design and always wants to come out to my studio to explore and tinker with my craft supplies. Since she seems to relish being involved in my work, I've given her a role in it by having her try on garments for fit and model for photos. I'm not going to lie-- I love it. I think experiencing me being empowered by my work is a good example for her, and it makes me happy to see her inspired and participating. However you should know it's not all roses. One time she actually stomped on a dress I designed because she hated it so much! At the time it was a little traumatic, but now I think it's hilarious.
I do worry that it would be healthier to have more separation, but I'm not so great keeping things separate. I love both my family and my work, and it's all sort of intertwined. I think you can see that in my Instagram feed, which is something that bothers me. I want to protect my family's privacy, and I sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Another thing that bothers me is that sometimes I have a hard time leaving work behind and being present with my family, but I'm working on it.
Q. What’s a typical day like and when do you actually get your work done?
Joe brings me coffee in bed (bless him), after which I snooze a bit and then drink my coffee cold while scrolling through Instagram. Iris wakes up and drags me out of bed so we can get dressed/eat breakfast/play. I try to use that precious but brief morning time to connect with her and just be silly together. I drive her to preschool, and when I get home I make the bed and do the morning dishes, unless I'm really inspired by work and put it off.
This is when I work, answering emails, packing/shipping orders, doing social media, writing blog posts, writing instructions, taking photos, drafting patterns, sewing, illustrating patterns, and designing. Some days I run errands or have meetings as well. To stay sane I go to yoga and therapy once a week during my work hours, which is such a luxury.
If Joe is picking Iris up I usually try to cook a Blue Apron meal (because I don't have a whole lot of time for grocery shopping or meal planning), but if I'm picking her up I'll order takeout. When everyone's home, we eat and then goof around-- picking blueberries in the yard or dancing to records. Joe and I try to divide up nighttime duties and Iris's bedtime routine evenly, and we take turns. One night he'll do the dishes, while I do Iris's bath, then the next night we'll switch, etc.
After Iris is in bed for the night (not that she always stays put, ugh), Joe goes running while I make Iris's lunch and take a shower. The sad thing is how little adult time we have alone together at the end of all the things that need doing. I wish we had more! After 30 minutes to an hour of hanging out we collapse into bed. Sometimes I work late. We each make it a priority to get out of the house separately one night a week to hang out with friends.
Q. What do you do when creative ideas hit you and you’re in the middle of mothering?
That doesn't usually happen because I need quiet to have ideas! On the rare occasion that I do, I'll talk to Iris about it because she's usually interested and has lots of opinions.
Q. Do you have any words of encouragement for other moms trying to do all the things?
I like that the question says "encouragement" and not advice, because I definitely don't have it all figured out. I'm often a mess. I think anyone who does ALL of the things WILL be a little bit of a mess. Balancing a bunch of things is never going to feel peaceful and easy, and I try to remember not to expect it to. Because we're used to seeing images of beauty and perfection on social media, we're tricked into thinking that everyone else is doing it better than we are. That's just not true. We're all in the same boat. We all have something we don't photograph, whether it be a messy room, ugly carpet, marriage problems, depression, etc. We're all a little bit of a mess underneath, and to me that's normal and okay. I would encourage myself and others to strive to keep priorities front and center and say no when needed, but to stop beating ourselves up over not doing everything perfectly.