Working Parents: Lindsay

Lindsay is a 38-year-old married mum of 5. She makes and sells beautiful hand-dyed items at All The Small Things.

My husband and I have 5 children, aged 15, 13, 10, 7 and 4. We also home educate our youngest. I run All The Small Things, where I hand dye things – mainly clothes and fabric, but also baby wraps and slings, and other bits and bobs as custom orders. I specialise in tie-dyes, ice dyes, but also have an interest in wax resist work, which I’m starting to explore more.I stopped work after having Niamhy, our second child, mainly because of child care costs, and at the time we thought if we could manage it, I would stay at home with the children.

When Iris, our youngest, came along I decided that if I was to make any money, it would most likely be doing something that meant I could work from home, especially because childcare can be so expensive, and asking others to look after 5 kids would be taking liberties.

We knew Iris was to be our last, and honestly, though I loved being a stay at home mum, and running our local sling library, I wanted to do more. My husband had recently changed his job, and also hours, which meant that we would be spending less time as a family than we were used to, so this needed to be considered too. Though I discussed this with Rob, the actual decision was mine. Rob made it clear that whatever I decided he would support me.

I opened All the Small Things, a small, online shop, selling work-at-home-mum (WAHM) made items, mostly baby/child related, made by other people. I’m very lucky that I knew several talented makers who were happy for me to be stockists for them. Iris was 5 months old when I became self-employed.

As the kids got older, I wanted to do more. I’d always done tie-dye, mostly for family and friends, so when friends suggested that I do some for the shop I thought why not. At first, it was just as and when I could, then as custom orders, and before I knew it, the hand dyed items were my most popular, so I made the decision to focus just on that.

Most weekdays, we get up at around 6 am – animals are sorted, sandwiches packed for lunches and then I answer any messages whilst having a coffee, whilst the kids have breakfast. Rob goes out to work at 7.30am, until about 6-6.30pm, so then I concentrate on seeing kids off, helping the younger ones, having a quick tidy up and school runs. I’ll check in a few times a day to check for messages, or uploading/sending photographs, invoicing and the like, but I just fit this in around other things.

I tend to dye (with all the associated washing and rinsing) between 3 and 5 times a week. I try to get the bulk of it done at the weekends when Rob is about, but sometimes I end up dyeing once we get back on from the afternoon school run. I usually set the younger kids up with some craft, maybe a film to watch, get them settled and then go and do my stuff in the kitchen. The kids know where I am, I can hear them and they know where to find me if they want me. We have our own little rhythm now which seems to work quite well.

Mostly, I think the children like that I work from home. They like that I can take them to school, pick them up, go to open days and such. Though my eldest will often tease me about being a ‘hippie’, I think they are quite proud of what I do too.

When I’ve had a particularly busy period for whatever reason, the younger ones have told me that I was doing too much work, so I have to stop and take a step back and explain to them why, but that’s not a regular thing thankfully, as the guilt is awful. And it’s as frustrating as hell.

The best thing is that I can still (mostly) raise my children in the way that I wanted to, and that the effort I put into my work makes me feel proud, and actually, that I can contribute financially too. Not that who earns what has ever been an issue, but it still means that me doing something that I love can help pay for school uniforms, the occasional treat, that sort of thing.

I love dyeing things, I love the artistic freedom, and the fact that it can genuinely make people happy, it makes me feel that I’m more than just everyone’s mum. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was needing more, for me.

If you’re looking for more flexible work, do what works for you. There isn’t a right or wrong way, everyone has things that work best for them. If something isn’t working, change it, things don’t need to be set in stone. Try to look after yourself a bit. This is something I struggle with. It’s easy to get burnt out, but surround yourself with people who will support you and who aren’t scared to tell you that you need to chill a bit! It’s very easy to get caught up with it all.

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.