Kathleen Shannon wears a lot of hats, and she wears them well. She is a creative director and a coach at Braid Creative (which she runs with her sister, Tara Street) and a mom to a 2-year-old son, Fox. She also co-hosts Being Boss, a podcast for creative entrepreneurs, where she advises people how to build a creative career and get paid to live the dream.
So yes, Kathleen knows how to work hard. But she is also committed to self-care and to creating the kind of work-life blend that allows her to be a great mom and a bold business woman as well.
Kathleen joined me from Oklahoma City to chat about being your own woman, prioritizing yourself and changing our definition of the word "mom."
Why did you decide to become a mom? Was it a hard or easy decision?
Becoming a mom was one of the hardest decisions of my life – fortunately, my husband helped make the decision for us and put a baby in me. Ha!
What challenges did you face after you became a mom and how did you overcome them?
My son didn’t sleep for more than an hour and a half (often he was up every 45 minutes) for the first year of his life. I tried everything – meditation, vitamin D – but nothing was working. I was pretty miserable and sleep deprived. And after breaking down in my midwife’s office about how tired and sad I was, she prescribed me Zoloft and I began seeing a therapist who specializes in postpartum depression.
How do you find ways to engage with the woman you used to be before you became a mom?
I’m still very much my own woman. My son goes to daycare, which gives me a lot of time to do my work, workout and do the things I loved doing before I had a baby. If anything, having a baby has helped me grow into the woman I am now – he’s made me stronger, more compassionate, and nurturing. Having a baby was my (sometimes painful) initiation from maiden to mother and for that I am so grateful.
What strategies do you use or what habits do you practice to make space and time to give to yourself?
Daycare for sure helps me make time and space to work. I schedule everything in my Google Calendar. I make meetings with myself and I respect them. I’m also, by nature, very repetitive when it comes to my daily routines, which makes good habits easy to keep.
What advice do you have for moms who want to start prioritizing themselves again or pursuing their purpose but don’t know where to start?
First, know what it is that you need and talk it through with your partner or a friend. From there, mark it in your schedule. Now you have a need to be met and a time dedicated to meeting that need. The next step is then figuring out what you need to do to make that happen. Does someone need to come watch your kid? Do you need to let your partner know it’s a priority for you to make this happen? I recommend making your need a weekly occurrence that way everyone knows what to expect and you don’t feel guilty or like you’re causing an inconvenience by meeting your needs.
How do you define self-care? And what does it look like in your day-to-day life as a mom and a business owner?
I’ve never been one to sacrifice my own needs for others around me so self-care comes pretty easily to me. I eat three meals a day, I take a shower, I put on my makeup, I workout, I journal and write and I drink tea. I make time to nurture relationships and I see a therapist to process my shit. But lately, I’ve leveled up my self-care game by paying attention to my soul. I’ve been on a spiritual path and am realizing my heart and soul deserve as much attention as my body and mind do.
What does that actually look like day to day for you?
Two big things: I record my dreams every morning. I can't help but believe the stories, symbols and themes that come up in dreamland are ways my soul might communicate with me. So by writing down my dreams and spending time to interpret them, it gives me a chance to tell my soul I'm listening. To feel more whole as a mom and woman, I'm committing to nourishing my body, mind and spirit. This can be as simple as staying hydrated and taking my vitamins to something more complex like casting spells under the full moon.
If you could change one thing about the way our culture views motherhood, what would it be?
I suppose the identity of “mom” is the thing I wish our culture would chill out about. I am a mom, but that is not what defines me and my ability to procreate is not the only gift I have to give to this world. I also feel as if moms carry a lot of weight when it comes to raising their child and “it takes a village” may sound trite but it’s so totally true. So I suppose I wish our culture would acknowledge the village (the daycare, neighbors, school, friends and family) and stop being so hard on moms to do and be everything for their child.
What drives you to continue being both a mother and a creative entrepreneur?
My creative career is what fuels my soul – the work I do isn’t just to pay the bills but to help other creatives live and work like the bosses they are. In other words, I can’t not work. Being creative is just an inherent part of who I am.
Let’s talk about balance, or as you’ve called it before “the work-life blend.” Is it possible? And if so, how have you created a better balance in your life?
You know, my blend used to feel a bit like shit soup but I’m getting there. I would say the balance comes from not separating work and life but knowing what is important for my mind, body, and spirit and getting focused with where I place my attention and time to nurture those things. Sometimes those things are fueled by work – other times they’re fueled by family. I follow the energy where it is required.
Why call it a work-life blend instead of work-life balance?
I prefer a blend because for me work IS personal. But life is sometimes work. I prefer to be who I am 100 percent of the time – and that makes it so that I'm not compartmentalizing who I am on opposite sides of a scale to be balanced but instead letting it all blend together. It's like making soup though – I DO have to balance the ingredients to keep it tasty. I DO have to watch the heat to keep it from scorching on the bottom or overflowing. So I suppose, there is a balance but I like having my hand in the blend.
Thank you so much for being here Kathleen. Where can people connect with you if they want to learn more about you or your work?