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…
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!