When I was a baby-faced college graduate with a new journalism degree, I realized I had two choices: move to New York and hustle my heart out trying to land a job at a glossy magazine, or stay put in the place I loved (the Northwest) and try to make it as a freelance writer. I chose the later and worked a bunch of odd jobs on the side while I built up my skills and my clips and designed my business around a lifestyle I loved.
About a year in, writing became my full-time job and I continued running that business for roughly the next eight years — until suddenly it became clear that writing about food and cocktails was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. (Ironically, or perhaps not, that realization came around the time I became a mother.)
Over the next few years, as my daughter grew from a newborn to a baby to a toddler, I explored what a career pivot could look like. All signs pointed to coaching. So I wiped the slate clean, started turning down writing gigs and gradually built up my coaching practice (while bringing another little girl into the world too). I felt a deep desire to support and serve other women and help them design a business that suited their life goals, whether their goals were to travel more or work part time so they could be a present parent. I’ve been coaching and mentoring creatives and entrepreneurs for two years now, and it is exactly what I hoped it would be — and ever surprising and ever changing at the same time.
I have two little girls, Addison and Kennedy. Addie is 6 and Kennedy is 3, so I’m very much in the hands-on parenting years — though I imagine that will always be the case even if “hands-on” looks different later on. My husband Jake is a firefighter so we both have non-traditional careers; our schedules make it possible for us to spend time with our daughters individually and as a family while also affording us each the opportunity to do work we love.
The most important thing to me, as a mom of two girls, is that I lead by example by showing them what it looks like to pursue your dreams day in and day out. Even though they are young, my daughters are very involved and aware of the work I do, and that’s intentional. I bring them into my working world because I want them to know that they have so many opportunities to do work they love. I want to show them what it looks like to take the less traveled path in case more traditional options don’t feel right for them down the road.
After I became a mom, the biggest challenge I faced was my own belief that I could be either a present, engaged mom OR an ambitious entrepreneur. I thought I had to choose, and with my new mom blinders on, I couldn’t see that I could be both. Eventually, though, I learned that I could be the kind of mother I wanted to be and engage with my kids on my terms — not someone else’s. And, I discovered I could pursue my own version of success as an entrepreneur too. Once I realized that I made the rules and that I got to decide if I wanted to be both, I realized I absolutely could.
Motherhood has made me incredibly efficient. I have always been a productive person, but I’ve learned to work with more intention and focus than I ever have before, and to simplify, simplify, simplify. That’s necessary because the windows of work I have as a full-time entrepreneur and nearly full-time mother are much smaller than they were in my pre-kid days.
Just start. There will always be a reason not to get started on your business or that next project. But if you can encourage yourself to take the first step, and the next one, and the next one after that, you’ll get unstuck and start making progress that will motivate you to keep going.
People are always telling new moms to make time for self-care — for the yoga classes, the pedicures, the massages and dates with girlfriends. Those things are important, but so too is making time for you to fuel your passions from your pre-kid years.
So if you’re going to make time for anything, I’d recommend making time for curiosity and creativity. Make time for your hobbies. Make time for reading and dancing and cooking and painting. Make time for the things that make you come alive. Because you need that — and deserve that — and your kids will love seeing a mom who has learned to give to all parts of herself too.
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Ashley Gartland helps creatives and entrepreneurs stop over-complicating things and learn to simplify their business (and their to-do lists) so they can make more money and experience more freedom in their life. An entrepreneur since 22, Ashley got her start as a freelance food writer. After doing everything from event planning to writing cookbooks to working as an editor at a digital media startup, Ashley launched her coaching practice to show other women how to bring more ease to building their creative businesses. Ashley’s work has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Huffington Post and Being Boss. She lives for rainy days, prefers kombucha over coffee and can be found hanging out on Instagram and in her Facebook group, The Simplified Entrepreneur.
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