Just like lots of you, many Moda designers have young children, and figuring out a way to balance home life with work can be a challenge. We checked with four of Moda designers to learn how they keep in touch with both their family life and their creative sides. (You’ll note that in addition to handling their work-family balance in different ways, Moda moms have great senses of humor!)
Answering our questions are:
• Kaari Meng, the mother of one daughter and creator of the French General fabrics. Her newest, Chateau Rouge, is in stores this month.
• Aneela Hooey, the mother of two daughters and creator of the holiday line Cherry Christmas, which can be found in stores now.
• Vanessa Christenson, the mother of three boys and a girl and the designer of V & Co.’s Simply Color, due in stores next month.
• Julie Comstock, who previously designed under the name Cosmo Cricket with her husband Eric, has two sons and two daughters. Her newest line of fabric, Odds and Ends, designed under Julie Comstock, is in stores this month.
Here’s what they had to say.
Do you design or sew best when your children are around or do you need peace and quiet?
Vanessa says: Up til now I managed to do both because I always had at least one under my feet at all times, but now that I have all of them in school for six hours I find I miss them, but am able to get more done.
Aneela says: “I work best when my girls are in school but when they are around and the noise/interruptions get too much, I manage by giving them lots of ideas of quiet things to do. I also let them have access to my fabric scraps, floss, and embroidery patterns, which seems to keep them occupied.”
Kaari says: “ “I work when Sofia is in school—and then I work when she is doing homework…and then I work when she is in bed…or at least it sometimes feels like it!”
And with her characteristic sense of humor, Julie says: “I get much more work done when they are at school that’s for sure! With a couple rolls of duct tape, I think I could manage to sneak in some things when they’re around too.”
Although they may get more done while the kids aren’t home, These Moda moms have figured out ways to combine work with “kid-time.” Here’s how they do it:
Julie says: “Currently, my sewing machine is in my daughters’ bedroom. It is inconvenient to have to carry everything from my studio up to their room, but my girls love to lie on their beds and chit-chat while I sew. Sometimes my little seven year old will join us with Legos or a car mat in the center of the floor. They like to be all together like that and I like to hold up my project at each step to get their praise. “
Kaari says: I love having Sofia around, watching us navigate through our choice of work. She has developed a great sense of color and design that is all her own, and she is the final word before we ship our fabrics off to Moda—if it doesn’t pass her test, we pull it!
Aneela says: I can’t do writing tasks when my girls are around but there can be advantages when I am designing. I draw a lot of children in my work, so I can ask them to pose quickly for me to look as if they are sitting, walking, etc. They like the idea of being involved in the creation of fabric. Also, I always ask them for input—’Do you like this design?’ ‘What do you like about it?’ Even at a young age kids can be extremely helpful in pointing things out that I haven’t noticed.
We asked Moda moms if they have strict “office hours,” or whether they intermingle work and family time. Here’s what they said:
Vanessa: I work the minute they leave for school for at least four hours. Then I do grocery shopping, run errands, lunch with colleagues, or sometimes have a lunch date with my husband. Then I finish up work til the kids come home, and the minute they come through the door I am a full-time mom. Though they might not need me for homework or whatever, they know I’m there in case they do.
Kaari: I keep no strict boundaries at all! I try to make my life work and my work life. It seems to work better that way for me. I also like to take long periods of time off and not think about work at all, but that’s not always easy to do!
Julie says: I always try to get as much done before they get home from school as possible. As for a strict schedule, did I mention I live with four children? It seems to me that if you put something on a schedule someone will forget their homework, throw a fit, or end up at a doctor’s office. It’s like tempting fate.
Cooking and mealtime are always a challenge. How do theess Moda moms get food on the table?
Aneela says: I tend to stick to simple meals. I’m not a fan of junk food or take out and we hardly ever eat out. I like meals that are easy to prepare, with very little washing up. My family will tell you that I tend to burn and overcook food a lot, because I am always concentrating on seven things at once.
Kaari says: JZ (her husband) does all of the cooking, except for breakfast—that’s my meal.
Julie says: Every morning, I get up at 5:30 to make their school lunches and breakfast. Eric (her husband) does clean up this mess for me though. The kids often want to help me with dinner. Honestly, it’s the kind of help you can do without!
How do Moda moms recharge their batteries?
Kaari says: I try to spend a lot of time alone, to always renew myself and be inspired. I love museums, gardens, old homes, and really good wine. Going to France recharges my batteries in a jiffy!
Vanessa says: My favorite way to recharge is getting together with a friend for a pedicure and a nice Dr. Pepper. I only have to do that every once in awhile to spoil myself.
Julie says: I sneak an hour in the evening to read right before bed and sometimes I turn my shower down so that I can justify staying in there extra long. Other than that, Sundays are my only down time. Eric and I always go to breakfast and just enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes we talk and sometimes we just sit next to each other without saying a word.
Finally, this bit of balancing advice from Kaari:
Don’t try to do too much—one or two tasks a day usually works well. Get your kids involved with what you like to do, so they are learning more about you everyday, and you about them.
So, how about you? How do you find balance between work and home?