Monday, November 28, 2011

To Work Or Not To Work?

Ladies, let’s pretend we are sitting one on one over a warm cup of tea right now. It is time for a heart to heart as I need a big dish of good advice, some personal experiences and the like.

Several times a year since I started my clothing line I have thought about stopping. Every time – up until now – it has been more of a fleeting thought in a moment of stress and after a day or a week, the desire to stop working fades. This time, it is different. I feel like I have reached the point of being truly overwhelmed, and I feel like I am missing out on being a mother by choosing to dedicate so much time to my business. I absolutely will not hire full-time help to take care of my children (yet if I keep having babies at this rate and end up with 5 or 6, that might be a different story ;), as that is not a choice I have any desire to make right now, yet I cannot hire someone to run my business for me at this point. My involvement will always be very, very high and labor and time intensive. So, why do I feel like I am drowning? Read on.

The overseas production process is a nightmare, deadlines are never met on time, delays ensue and delivery guarantees are broken. The process of weaving fabric is sheer chaos, dealing with monsoons and all sorts of other tropical climate natural disasters that create circumstances out of my control that, again, cause delays. I never thought I’d get so into the Weather Channel. Religious holidays are an extremely regular occurrence in Indonesia, leading to full weeks on end off of work, not just a day here and there as it typical Western practice.

On top of that, there is the sheer volume of marketing that has to be done to actually get retailers to pay attention to you. Give you a first glance. Emails, phone calls, markets, newsletters, follow up emails, phone calls and newsletters. Constant research. Constant contact. It’s always push push push. Then creating the look book, website, arranging the photo shoots for all of that in the first place, participating in the shoots. Soon there will be the entire website aspect I have to deal with. Taking and processing orders, shipping, returns, customer service, packing boxes, emails to respond to, not to mention this poor blog that so desperately needs my attention and sweet readers that reach out to me that I simply do not have the time to email back, which just breaks my heart. There are a million things and it is never ending, and all of this, I am pretty much doing on my own. I have been beyond fortunate to have a few very kind hearted people help me over the past two years and generously contribute their time and energy, yet 99% of the time, I am running things by myself. Just me.

Then couple all of that with the fact that my line is a small collection created by a young girl, a mother with no official training in fashion design but rather just degrees in business, trying to manage the company out of her house while raising two children, young children, with number three on the way to soon bring the numbers to three babies under three years old… I am not sure how much longer I can last. We are always told that if we want it all, we can have it all, yet I am not sure I do want it all anymore. Doing it all is, well, hard.

{This is where you start thinking of the great advice you're going to give me here in a bit…}

It has always been a dream of mine to be a successful clothing designer, among other things. I do feel to some extent I have already achieved a bit of that success, going from 7 stores in year one to 22 stores in year two, but I cannot dedicate the time or energy to the business that I typically would if I did not have children at this point in my life. As a result of pulling myself in what feels like thousands of different directions for my business, I sacrifice time I could give to so many other areas of my life, namely my family and myself.

I posted something like this last year and got several responses. Most actually said to keep working. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. That I would regret it and soon “just” be a mom with no career or identity of my own to speak of. I do understand that and fully appreciate that angle. I am not saying I disagree, BUT, I also have to consider that this dream of mine was a dream I had before I got married. Before I had babies. When I needed to fill my life with something…but now, something else has filled my life. Something more amazing and wonderful than anything any job could ever give me.

Often I resent the work I have to do because the truth of the matter is, I do not have as much time as I would like for my husband, for my children, for myself, for my other interests like painting, drawing, running, photography, just flat out spending time with my sweet girlfriends that I so very rarely get to see. I honestly cannot tell you the last time I sat down to just watch tv. Just read a magazine. Just go on a walk. Looking at for 4 minutes every morning is my “me” time. Every spare moment of my life is FULL trying to mark things off of my to do list. And I am exhausted.

The big snag for me is this though: I hate quitting. I just do not do that. I push myself ridiculously hard in every area of my life. I exercise until my heart is beating out of my chest and sweat is burning my eyes. I woke up in 5th grade at 4am to go study with my grandfather before school so I could make an A+ on my history test…and I graduated senior year with a 4.2 GPA from a very academically rigorous school thank you very much ;) But you see what I mean? I am PROUD that that is a personality trait of mine - that I do something until the best I can do is achieved - yet I have not done that with my line yet. I know it has tons of potential. I know I can keep growing it. I have not reached the level I will be satisfied with as far as business goes. I don’t want to just stop. It’s not in me. I don’t know HOW. But I feel like I have to…something’s gotta give.

I am trying to figure out some sort of balance, a word that has no good definition as I have come to realize. Do I just do clothing and stop trying to expand into other lines? Or do I just focus on purses, as I am very passionate about the songket fabric and the process and craftsmanship of it? Or does balance for me actually mean that I do indeed stop working right now, so that I can focus on what I feel are more important parts of my life? Will I feel like my Masters is going to waste? Perhaps I can use it to super-educate my children and sweet Squish will just know who Pavlov is by the time he’s 4. Will I miss my work once it’s gone? If I put it on the back burner now and want to pick it up in the future, will it be too late, and will I lose the desire to work full stop? Is this line of work even the best path for me? Should I quit worrying about myself so much and make what I personally feel is the best decision for my children? Is the grass always greener on the other side? I don’t know. I just don’t know what to do.

Has anyone struggled with this before? What did you ultimately decide? Did you regret stopping your work, or shutting down your business? Did you feel like you entered a world where it was truly no longer about you, and you did not have your own life or experiences? If so, was that ok? If you did not stop working and had the option to, do you wish you had?