Elise Blaha Cripe makes stuff like it’s her job. The San Diego-based mom of two started a blog in 2005 because she wanted to share her thoughts online. Soon after, she began sharing her artistic talents on her site through craft projects and tutorials and through an online shop where she made and sold everything from letterpress prints to wooden plant stands.
Along the way, she discovered that her true passion is helping people set goals and make them happen. (Tune into her podcast, Elise Gets Crafty, for great episodes on this topic.) To build on that passion, Elise launched a daily planner and goal setting workbook, Get to Work Book®, while she was pregnant with her second daughter last year.
In an interview where we talked about babies, balance, business and more, Elise shared a peek into her life as a mom and as an entrepreneur who is building a brand and pursuing her purpose beyond motherhood too.
Why did you decide to become a mom? Was it a hard or easy decision?
This is an interesting question because obviously a ton of decision-making should have gone into it. But the reality is I always planned on having kids and figured I would be a mom so the decision to try for a baby was easy.
What challenges did you face after you became a mom and how did you overcome them?
At first, everything felt challenging. My husband Paul was gone for the first month – he was deployed in Spain – and so I struggled to parent alone. I had my mom there, thank goodness, but it still was terrible to be without Paul. I struggled a ton with breastfeeding because my daughter Ellerie was tongue-tied and the pain was intense so I ended up pumping. And I really struggled with what felt like a real imbalance. In the beginning, it felt like I would never have a moment to myself again, much less a moment to work on my business.
Everything got better in time. Paul came home. Ellerie started sleeping. I got on a decent pumping schedule. We got some help with childcare. All of this made me feel a little more like myself which I think is key. That first day post-baby that you feel like you again is a really good day.
How do you find ways to engage with the woman you used to be before you became a mom?
You know, I think I am the exact same person I was before. I've gained a bit more patience though. And I'm a bit more efficient with my time. The biggest way that I connect with pre-baby Elise though is through my job. I have built a business over the last seven years but it's only this past year that I have really found my stride. It's exciting and stressful and wonderful and hard. I need it all though to help me be true to me.
What strategies do you use or habits do you practice to make space and time to give to yourself?
The number one thing here is routine. So doing the same things so the girls know what to expect. I have them on the same afternoon nap schedule and they go to bed at the same time around 7:30. Without this sleeping pattern, things would be a hot mess.
What advice do you have for moms who want to start prioritizing themselves again but don’t know where to start?
Pick one thing a day that you're going to do for you. In the early days, it might be sitting down and drinking coffee while it's warm. Or it might be taking a shower. Don't compare your life now to all that free time you used to have. Instead focus on carving out just a few minutes. Slowly, I promise those minutes will get longer.
How do you define self-care? And what does it look like in your day-to-day life as a mom of two and a business owner?
Self-care is about doing what makes you happy for the sheer point that it makes you happy. It looks different for everyone. For some it's exercise, for others it’s a nap or shopping or a pedicure or a book or coffee or quiet. I try to do something just for me every day. Right now, with the two little ones and a busy job, it's drinking my coffee in the morning while the house is still dark while I do something mindless like read blogs or scroll Instagram. And if that doesn't happen because I woke up late or because the girls woke up early, it's reading in bed from a real book – not a device – before I fall asleep.
Sometimes, I get bonus time and I get to get out for a walk around the neighborhood by myself listening to podcasts after the girls go to bed and Paul is studying. I love that quiet where no one is asking me for milk. Ten minutes of self-care feels like enough as long as my focus gets to be on just one thing.
When does mom guilt show up for you? How do you manage it so it doesn’t prevent you from creating and living the life you envision for yourself and your family?
I occasionally have to travel for work and to do it well, this means leaving the girls at home. That sucks every single time. Even though I know it's good for me and even though I know they are taken care of, it's so hard.
Also Ellerie has gone to daycare two and then three days a week since she was 15 months old. It's been wonderful for her and necessary for Paul and I to keep working like we do. But sometimes she still struggles with drop off and, on those days, I want to throw in the towel on the whole business. But I don't. I am not sure I'll be able to keep Piper home with me as long as Ellerie was home and that's hard. I feel guilt over that too.
But, as we all know, life isn't about the making the easiest decision, it's about making the best decisions. I make tons of mistakes and just work to correct them.
If you could change one thing about the way our culture approaches motherhood, what would it be?
I wish we'd stop talking about doing it all. No one has ever asked my husband how he handles his busy job and two kids. Why is that? It drives me insane. I also wish the comparison thing would end. Babies are so extremely different and parents are so extremely different. It's like comparing apples with semi-trucks when we try to discuss parenting methods.
What drives you to continue being both a mother and a busy entrepreneur?
Ha! I think this is that question. It never crossed my mind that I'd stop working after my babies were born. I love my job and growing this business isn't something I want to wait on. I am extremely lucky to work for myself and have the flexibility that I do. I don't feel like I'm missing out on them growing up and I love that they see me working everyday on a career I love.
Let’s talk about balance. Is it possible? And if it is possible, how have you created a better balance in your life?
Balance is not about spending equal time on your work and your life. I think balance is about how you feel. And most days, when I go to bed at night I feel good about where I am at and when I wake up, I feel excited about where I am headed. That is all I can ask for.
I got here by being serious about asking for help and knowing my limits.
On your podcast earlier this year, you shared that you picked a word to guide you this year. Will you share what that word is and why you chose it?
I choose "enough" to help me remember that this is it. This moment, these days, this year – this is it. I don't want or need to wish this time away. I also need to remember that I'm already doing enough. I have enough on my plate with the business and the babies and it's okay to say no to the things that don't support one or both of those.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the moms in this community?
You're doing a great job. This gets said over and over and over and over and yet it's so easy to forget the words. It's all okay. Feeling great about where you are in life right now? That's awesome. Own it and enjoy it. Feeling eh about where you are in life right now? Hang in there. Think about the tiny steps that you can take to help make the days feel a little bit softer. Talk it out. Reach out to folks who you love and trust who love and support you. One day at a time. The highs and lows of motherhood are intense but temporary. We're all just looking for that magic spot slightly above the middle of the two.
Thanks so much for being here Elise. Where can people connect with you online if they want to learn more about you or your work?
My favorite Internet corner right now is Instagram and you can find me there @elisejoy. I also occasionally blog at ENJOYITblog.com. My planner products can be found at www.gettoworkbook.com and inspiration for the book can be found on Instagram @gettoworkbook.com. I also have a podcast that talks mostly about creative small business: Elise Gets Crafty on iTunes or you can stream it at elisejoy.com/podcast.
To get more interviews like this sent right to your inbox, you can join my community of mamas here. (When you join, I'll also send you my free online class, More Than a Mom: 3 Steps to Find Your Purpose Beyond Motherhood as an added bonus.)