How do I juggle being a pregnant, working mom and sew most of my clothes (or, on feminism and sewing)

Long post ahead! I’ve been asked a few times recently “how do you do it all?” (I think, referring to being a pregnant mother with a full-time job who makes most of her clothes.) I’ve thought about it a lot and have decided that it is important to talk about.
I want to start by addressing the idea that it is insulting to women to ask that question, “how do you manage to fulfill your duties as an employee and a mother but also being a person with interests and hobbies?” when that isn’t a question we would ever think to ask a man. I think that depending on who asks that question can it can be really condescending or very empowering.
The ladies of Love to Sew often ask this question of business women who also have children and I know that it comes from a place of genuine curiosity for themselves and on behalf of their listeners. I really, really enjoy hearing the answers to these questions.
I think it’s really important to talk about this as women. I think we need to normalize all the ways we fit in what we think needs to be fit in. I think we need to have conversations about the help that we get. I think we need to remember not to feel guilty about prioritizing ourselves and our hobbies.
So, how do I do it? The easy answer is mostly privilege and some intentional life hacks. These are the ways that I manage to be a good wife, mother, employee and person while still finding time to make a lot of my clothes and sleep a consistent 8 hours a night:
  1. Privilege. I was fortunate enough to come from a good home and was able to go to university to become a teacher. I have a well-paying, secure job with benefits and I have the mind-space and financial security to dedicate a lot of my time to a hobby. I am a white, heterosexual, able bodied, cis-gendered woman who came from a middle-class family. My life has been pretty easy.
  2. I pay someone to take care of my child during the day. We were lucky enough to find a wonderful woman in our neighbourhood to take care of our daughter so I can work during the day. It also works out that when I have time off (ie. March Break) daycare is still open and I can send my kiddo to her care provider, giving me a full-day to run errands, cook, or more importantly, sew.
  3. I pay someone to clean my house. I pay $80 CDN for someone to come clean my two bedroom apartment for about three hours every other week. This was probably the longest but best decision I ever made. While it saves me three hours every two weeks in cleaning time, it has, more importantly, saved me way more time and head-space in never having to worry about my kitchen floor being dirty. I honestly don’t even notice any more. It has taken so much off my mental load.
  4. I married a supportive, feminist husband and we talk regularly about emotional labour. This is one that probably saved me more than anything else on this list. When I started reading about emotional labour, I realized all the ways I was sabotaging myself by unwittingly taking on the “manager” role of our family (and this was before having kids!). We have discussed all of the tasks pertaining to keeping house and taking care of our daughter and divvied them up according to our strengths and interests. There are certain things I never have to think about because they’re just his job. For example, he takes care of all birthday and Christmas cards, booking transportation for travel, making sure we have cash for the cleaner, remembering to put coffee on the grocery list, getting the groceries, booking things like bike tune-ups, getting our daughter ready for day care (and taking her there) and many more things I can’t think of because I don’t have to and that is the point. I worry about meal planning and making the grocery list, booking doctor and dentist appointments for our daughter, making dinner and lunches (because I prefer that to cleanup!), doing daycare pickup, gifts for people like our child care provider and cleaner, I read and summarize articles and books about childcare for my husband when we’re looking for information on sleep or carsickness. Things like laundry and weekend food prep are usually divided fairly equally on a case-by-case basis, but it is always a discussion and I am never delegating.
  5. We give each other breaks. Both of us are introverts and we live in a really small apartment, so we’ve always been in the habit of giving each other “quiet, alone time” in the apartment every once in a while. This now includes Hubby taking our daughter out for some kind of outing while I have a couple of hours to sew.
  6. My kid sleeps like a champ. She naps for about two hours in the afternoon and is typically in bed before 7 p.m. so I hustle to get chores done while she is awake so that when she sleeps, I sew.
  7. I have become an essentialist. Before it got buzzy (and before I bought the book) I shifted the way I functioned at work to spend less time but be more effective. I manage to be a pretty okay teacher but typically leave just after the kids do. More time for my family (and sewing!)!
  8. I have a sewing habit. When I was off on maternity leave with my daughter, I challenged myself to sew every day. I managed to keep it up strictly for about six months (including during a camping trip!), but the habit definitely stuck. I no longer sew every single day, but it’s my default after supper unless I have something else going on. My husband and I have also developed a routine in the winter where every Saturday night he watches the hockey game and I get a few hours of sewing in. We pretty much never make plans on Saturday nights any more because we both love this ritual. He also enjoys that he subconsciously converted me to a Maple Leafs fan by my absorbing players names and positions by semi-listening to games.
  9. I sew through “tired.” I don’t use “I’m to tired to sew” as an excuse. Unless I am literally going to bed, I don’t allow myself to cop out and just watch TV because I’m feeling low energy. Most of the time, I find myself perk up after about ten minutes of stitching and a glass of water. My first day back at work after mat leave, I sewed for about an hour, even though I was exhausted and set that as the precedent for my new “working mom” life.
  10. I blog on the bus. I have a half hour bus commute to work each way and generally use the notes app to type up my blog posts. This is also when I do most of my instagramming (posting and research). A good portion of what I do for the Ottawa Garment Guild is also completed on my trusty #95 route. Without this time, there is no way I would have time to sew AND blog about it.

In sum, my friends, I think it’s important to talk about the ways we fit in our hobby to normalize the ways we make our life more balanced (out-sourcing, sacrificing etc) and less guilty. I refuse the embody the trope of the stressed, guilty, frazzled working mom. Let’s all be cool moms and share the ways we accomplish that.

2 thoughts on “How do I juggle being a pregnant, working mom and sew most of my clothes (or, on feminism and sewing)

  1. Well said. I love how you acknowledge your privilege and then balance that with concrete actionable items that could help others. I’m definitely taking notes about ‘sewing through the tired’ – I was guilty of that just last night…

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