I fell in love with Petit Elefant, the blog of Allison Czarnecki, a few years back (And a little bit in love with Allison, too, let’s be honest. Her hair alone makes me want to be her pal). The writing is smart, sarcastic but still profoundly warm and loving. There’s content in there for women in all stages of life, interested in traveling everywhere, in all sizes…it’s just a wonderful place to alight in the internet.
Recently, readers have experienced Allison’s lovely daughter’s health struggles via raw, honest, beautiful writing about motherhood, family, health, self and everything wrapped up in ourselves and our children. Her #hopeandloveforsofie efforts rallied the best of what social media can do as fans and followers and friends and family tagged hearts they found.
We had reached out before that journey started to feature Allison and decided to wait to run this piece. Last week there was some good news that Sofie was starting to feel better (hooray!). And we were excited to share some wise words from her wonderful mama in celebration of that news.
Allison is primarily a writer, but is also a small business owner as she notes that starting and running a blog is the same as running a small business. So she’s part entrepreneur, salesperson, marketer and photographer. She writes, and has written for, many online publications including Baby Center, Pampers, Babble, and more, in addition to freelance writing gigs all over the place.
Her kiddos are thankfully at an age where they’re both in school all day, so childcare isn’t tricky right now (note: Allison documents the scheduling of appointments and school during Sofie’s illness on the blog. It’s tremendous to read how this family navigates such a challenging, many-month experience).
However having started her blog over 8 years ago though, the kids were little and she admits it was really hard. A 3-year-old on her lap or underfoot while she was working 10-12 hour days made for a pretty stressful few years. She didn’t have childcare help until about year 5-6 when for a short time she had a nanny and babysitter a few times a week. Now it’s just Allison and her husband, who she tips her hat to for the lion’s share of the household work, kids appointments, school stuff with a smattering of help in the form of neighbors, friends, and occasionally family while she travel all over the country for business.
Even at its hardest though, and while acknowledging working from home is no picnic, she’d choose freelance and working at home over an office any day of the week. Even though she runs under tight deadlines regularly, she appreciates the flexibility of running to a parent teacher conference at the last minute or picking up a sick child from school.
Here’s what Allison had to say about being a SpitfireMom.
How does being a mom influence your work?
Being a mom influences every single part of my work. The positive part is that my kids give me perspective. When I’m really stressed out over a deadline or work project, or the world feels too heavy to carry, my kids are always there with their own needs, giving me a reality check on life. A good friend of mine, also a blogger and freelance writer, etc. told me one time something that has become my mantra: ‘there is no such thing as a blogging emergency.’ That is the absolute truth. A challenging part of being a working mom is two-fold: I don’t have time to screw around, so when people email me 10-15 times about a project trying to micromanage me, I won’t deal with it, I have two kids who need me full time and they take priority over work every time. Work is not my full-time job/priority, my family is, always. The other really challenging thing about being a working mom is missing stuff. I’ve helped my children do math homework over the phone, long-distance, parent-teacher-conference via email, held their hands virtually while they’re having a meltdown over missing me, and on and on. I’ve missed swim meets, orchestra concerts, plays, and soccer games. It’s the hardest part for me, having to travel without my kids, hustling for jobs all over the country.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients?
Usually I’m approached about projects because I’m a mom. I would recommend letting peers/coworkers know that about yourself! Having kids isn’t a detriment to a career, in fact sometimes it can be a bonus. But along with letting people know you’re a mom, I’d lay down pretty strict rules about how things work, ie. I don’t answer, email past 5 pm on a Friday, and I don’t work over the weekend. If you’re emailing me about something that needs to get done on a deadline between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, it’s not going to happen. Period.
We know a SpitfireMom like Allison has tips to share, so we asked for her best time saving trick:
Time saving is the hardest! I think planning ahead is my best trick. Having a system for things. Things come up constantly in my personal life, but if I have an editorial calendar in addition to doing certain things certain days of the week, everything usually runs more smoothly. For example, I have specific days of the week on my blog for each topic I cover: Mondays: makeup/style Tuesday: recipes Wednesday: travel, etc. Keeping that in check is amazing. If I photograph all my blog post projects on one day of the week and then edit on another, things line up really nicely. It doesn’t always work that way, but when it does, I’m the happiest and most mellow.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out?
I haven’t figured out how to follow my own advice! Having everything neat and orderly in my business life is ideal, but it doesn’t always happen. I’m haphazardly throwing things together at the last minute all the time. It’s really hard for me to find time to cook dinner, sit down and do homework with the kids, or just hang out and be a mom. I feel like I should always be doing 10 things at once, because that’s how many things I always have to do!
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out your expecting, Allison says:
YOU CAN DO IT! I think now, more than ever, having kids and being a professional goes hand in hand. I have girlfriends who are CEO’s of major companies and girlfriends who hold prominent roles at agencies, and those who are entrepreneurs in fields primarily full of men. There’s always flexibility (even if your dude boss or coworker tries to make you feel otherwise) and holding your ground on separating work and family time, making family time sacred, is critical. One of the other amazing things I’ve found, is that having a sisterhood of girlfriends with kids who are working women is priceless. I have networks of girlfriends in all aspects of my life, but the ones that are most invaluable are my girlfriends who hold down major jobs while kicking ass at parenthood. It’s a really tricky balance and there are some days you miss a soccer game, but land a major deal or succeed in work. But hopefully at the end of the day, or at the end of all your days, you will have put enough investment in both pots that each gets a fair amount of attention. And I’ll always default to spending more time with my family, always.
Allison, we wish you and your family health and happiness. Here’s to family, friends, the power of flexibility and the catharsis of getting it down on paper (even if digitally!) and out into the world. Thank you for sharing your life and family with so many people. You truly, truly kick ass at parenthood.
Julie & Heidi
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