I think a lot about the last number of years building my toy making business, but I haven’t known how to articulate them for public consumption. I’ve actually never been sure that it should be for public consumption. Mostly because we all like to cozy up with things that we can aspire to. Hard times are quite a bit less attractive.
The thing is, recently I’ve heard more people, women in particular, being honest about a few things and I thought that maybe beginning to write a bit of this down might be helpful.
These years have taught me lots about the business of building a little company from learning about the production of sustainable products, building customer relationships, preparing for wholesale trade shows, design trends, branding and yada yada…but it’s also posed questions for me about the way we view the arts, the roles we give children, how motherhood is and is not valued, and probably most importantly it’s taught me a lot about myself. It’s taught me some things about my strengths, but as it is with human nature, it has screamed at me about my weaknesses.
I’m beginning to hear more stories of women who struggle with the transformation that happens when becoming a mom. It’s something that maybe people agree needs to be talked about more, but it still feels like an under-mined narrative.
Right after my first daughter was born I felt driven to have creative projects in development. It’s something I’ve always done, but looking back, it was pretty intense. Because I had been working on my own art practice and in community arts and most of my work was grant based, I didn’t have a maternity leave so I felt a necessity to keep producing. I know that some of this was also born out of a need to still feel viable. Without the affirmation of a maternity leave I unconsciously believed that I wasn’t viable. Maybe not always so unconsciously. Maybe these are parts of postpartum… I made work that I loved, but I began a life of straddling motherhood and wanting to be all the things (maker of healthy meals, singer of songs, reader of books, filer of clothing that kids quickly grow out of, and maker of magic moments) to these two beautiful new humans all while trying to be a valuable creative.
I started Fidoodle in this half dream state of not enough sleep and not enough people around to help remind me of who I am. I’m not sure I could count the number of times that I have heard women say things like.. ‘I can’t believe I didn’t get what this would be like”. I was one of those women.
With doing so much handmade work (I recently took stock of inventory that Fidoodle sold and in the second half of Fidoodle’s life there were more than 22000 toys and workshops and prints in the mix) I have spent a lot of hours listening to podcasts and they’ve offered me company and helped teach me things I had not expected. I love listening to these personal narratives and stories of hardship followed by the relief of understanding, some ‘aha’ moment or finding joy in new communities….it’s all very meaningful, but something didn't feel right about it’s juxtaposition to the long hours of working on my own to produce blocks, and dolls and rattles that I hoped would bring good moments to people's family lives. I was alone while I worked and that was a lot of the time and lots of it after kids were sleeping. My partner and kids have always been supportive, but at the end of the day, it was me and the deadlines and the financials and the stress of subcontractors sometimes not meeting deadlines... and the sleepless nights.
I’ve ended the hours of printing and sewing now and I’m still waiting for that beautiful light switch to go on that follows the hard times.
I’m trying to be ok with this new quiet of the end of something. And it is quiet.
I’m working on some small projects and I’m going back to school in September to figure out how to work with people in new ways. That’s a big part of what I think I’ve been missing.
At the moment though, I am fighting hard with the monsters of insecurity that want to tell me that I don't have a lot to show for my 12 years of work. I’m trying to reconnect to myself, trying to eat better again and fix the body injuries that come with repetitive work. I’m working things out, but I am also quite sad.
I keep thinking that I need to finish this note on an upswing. Believe me, I know that I'll get my footing back and I'm figuring out some things, but right now it’s the valley part, and I know lots of people in the creative community (particularly those being moms at the same time) struggle quietly. I just wanted to say it out loud .
If you’re still reading this…thank you so much for letting me be honest.