Mary Beth is someone who I don’t know in “real life” but 100% refer to as “my friend Mary Beth” when I mention her to someone. She is a soul sister thanks to the beautiful connectedness of the internet, and also happens to be an amazing mompreneur tackling writing, photography, and even an upcoming children’s clothing line, which I cannot wait to share about once it launches. Today she’s sharing how she makes it all work while balancing marriage and raising her four (yes, FOUR) beautiful kiddos.
First things first, tell us a little bit about your family and where you live.
I’m a 28-year-old wife and mom to four kids. We live in the suburbs of traffic-packed Atlanta, GA with a Super Target around the corner and a Starbucks around the other corner. Basically, I feel like we’ve made it. Despite our obviously suburban life, we feel strongly about broadening our children’s perspectives and so our kids attend a language immersion charter school and we hope to live overseas one day.
Which came first, the babies or the business?
Definitely the babies! I got married when I was 19 (basically a baby) and got pregnant on our honeymoon. Life was fast and furious for a solid few years with three kiddos under two but I started a blog to remember it all and that led to several writing and photography jobs. From there I found myself with a photojournalism business and a hunger for anything and everything entrepreneurial. I have my very own clothing line in the works for this year and I can’t wait to launch!
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
My dad was extremely entrepreneurial, always reading, and spent valuable time teaching me about the advantages of living in a capitalist country. He taught me a lot about quantifying the hours in my day and time is money. As a result, I never held a “regular teenager job” at the local fast food joint because calculating the cost of transportation, insurance for that transportation, and taxes, never made it worth it. Instead, I taught piano lessons at the ripe age of 13, got thrown into a chief assistant position at 17 for a senator running for office, and nannied for a family with four children through college. I didn’t know it at the time but these were invaluable experiences that taught me to feel comfortable in unknown territory and fake it till I made it.
Those core values emerged even in the mundane of diapers and dishwashers and as a new mom wanting to develop myself I thought I’d write just that. The blog was horrible at first, but I slowly learned the art of story-telling and painstakingly taught myself how to shoot manual on my DSLR (with a LOT of help from my husband). The entrepreneurial opportunities grew from that very wild and untamed ground.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Morning person all the way! You can get a lot done at 5am and NO one is on social media distracting you. :)
Coffee or tea? (Or are you a unicorn who does not need caffeine?!)
Coffee twice a day. Iced with a little skim milk, to be exact.
What does your morning routine look like? What time do you get up? What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I’m awake at around 5:45am because I can’t function without getting up before my kids. I start by checking social media and email while in bed to fully wake up. Sometimes I work or read for about 30 minutes before waking up my oldest for school at 6:30. I go make her lunch and get my coffee prepared and have a little quiet time reading before the second wave of kids wake up at around 7. From there we make breakfast, practice catechisms, and go through their chore list together. If it’s one of my three gym days, we leave for the gym and when we get back we start some schoolwork before lunch. It is honestly a whirlwind!
Balance—we can’t do this interview and not talk about it! Mostly because I’m desperate to know all of your secrets. How do you make it work?
Sheryl Sandberg wrote a fantastic chapter on “Having It All” in her book, Lean In. She talks a lot about the myth of “the balance” because we’re all just kidding ourselves and throwing guilt trips on everyone else who can’t seem to figure it out either. I basically underlined the whole thing. ;) My favorite part might be at the very end when she cites a Washington Post article by journalist Mary Curtis -…”The secret is there is no secret – just doing the best you can with what you’ve got.”
Isn’t that so good?!
On any given day I’m failing at something, so I’d rather give up now on the illusion and get on with my life. There are some practical things I’ve learned to put into practice to make the balance seem more attainable. The biggest thing? I keep my investment circle small. I pour a lot into my friendship with my husband, which means I text him pictures or videos of the kids throughout the day, plan ahead for babysitters twice a month so we can go out, and pick up his favorite chips and queso for our Netflix binges at night. I also take my kids on regular dates to Starbucks, the library, and Target for some one-on-one time with mommy. Then I have my 3 or 4 close girlfriends (one is my sister) that are like oxygen to my soul and we talk on the phone, meet for prayer every other Tuesday, and text each other throughout the week. I believe these core relationships fuel a healthy woman and empower her to go and follow her dreams. I’m lucky enough to have a tribe of people who remind me I’m unconditionally loved and that God gave me this life for a beautiful purpose. I’m telling you. You can conquer the world with people like that.
Childcare is a big factor—what’s been working for you? Nanny, daycare or the stay-at-home/work-at-home life? Or do your kids go to school now?
Ideally, I’d love to have a nanny but childcare is expensive in this area and so I set aside a solid couple of hours in the afternoon for “naptime/quiet time”. Only one of my kids is at school, so I still have three at home and it can get LOUD. We do not allow much screen time, so I’ve taught them to play quietly with legos or read while the baby naps. And on those days I reeeeeally need it they watch Wild Kratts or Octonauts.
How do you make room for personal time for yourself? When you do get down time, what do you do to relax, refresh and/or get inspired?
I picked out our gym based almost completely on childcare. I go 2 or 3 days a week – I get my hour workout in, then shower and fix my hair in peace so that I’m ready for the day when I pick my kids up. Another favorite trick is keeping books in the bathroom and when I get a few minutes throughout the day I go and lock myself inside for about 10 minutes and read food/style magazines or memoirs. Some people might judge but it’s the fuel that keeps me going during the day!
What one bit of advice would you give to a fellow mompreneur trying to make it all work?
“Done is better than perfect.”