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Guest Post – Freelance Mommyhood with Wild Ink Press

It’s with great excitement that I welcome the immensely talented Rebakah Tennis of Wild Ink Press to The Sweetest Occasion. Rebekah is a graphic designer, letterpress printer and devoted mom I personally admire – today she’s here to share a little bit of insight into life as a wonder woman juggling all of those titles and more. Without further ado, I’ll allow Rebekah to share her wisdom…

Hello, to all of Cyd’s fabulous readers on The Sweetest Occasion! Rebekah Tennis here. My husband and I have a small but growing letterpress studio in Chico, CaliforniaWild Ink Press. I was thrilled when Cyd asked me if I could write a guest post in honor of the National Stationery Show in New York City this week. Could there be a more fantastic place to be? Wish I was there this year! Sigh…

So, I work from home as a freelance designer. Before wading into letterpress about two years ago, I was a regular freelance graphic designer. That’s what I got my degree in, and I love it. I worked for a small firm in Sacramento for a year or so, before realizing that freelance was the life for me. So for the past seven years I’ve been blessed to work for myself. Those of you who do the same know the great ups and downs –  pick your own (long) hours, find inspiration everywhere as you work, flexible schedule, etc. It’s tough, but enjoyable and reasonable.

Then, I became a mommy. In 2007, a small adorable baby, Cameron, entered our lives. He is now a precocious two-year-old bundle of energy. This is him:


He is our first, and honestly, we have a couple more planned (we’ll see…) so kids are likely to have a greater impact on our letterpress business in the future. So does it work to be a freelance, work-at-home mommy? I say yes! While never easy, it’s very rewarding and I wouldn’t change my life for the world.

Here are a few things that have helped me along the way:

Wanting to be at home with the kids. This was the beginning motivation and why I chose a freelance career in the first place. Matt and I both wanted to provide a loving, stable home with a parent always available and not have “latch-key” kids. We also both wanted for me to able to express my creativity and keep active in things pertaining to inside and outside the home. I draw a lot of inspiration from this remarkable lady in the book of proverbs – figurative or not, she got so much done!

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule. This has to be the number one factor in a healthy work/home balance! I try to run everything on a timeline to get it all done smoothly – mornings consist of breakfast, a trip to the gym, emptying the dishwasher, straightening the house, bed-making, reading books and playing playdough (with a few emails and phone calls thrown in, I’m not going to lie). Then lunch and nap – which usually goes from 12 to 3 pm. Even if he doesn’t sleep, it’s a rest time, and he knows it (typically he falls asleep). All of this happens the same, everyday, like clockwork and usually I don’t get any complaining and get that nice work time from noon on to design and get back to clients or get out to print in the studio. And then after that, his babysitter comes. Which brings me to my next point…

Get Help. I mean that! I was a hard sell on getting a babysitter. When Cameron was an infant, I was able to work with him right by me and things seemed easy and uncomplicated. But as he got older, and became more, well, two-years-old, it took more and more energy to keep him occupied and less and less was getting done. Matt finally convinced me that having a sitter come three days a week for three hours at a time was not abandoning my child to be raised by wolves but rather creating a fun and fulfilling environment for both me and Cameron. So Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays we have some dear dependable help from 3 to 6 pm and Cameron loves and looks forward to this. Which means that three days a week I can work six straight hours (nap plus sitter) uninterrupted, and that is letterpress gold my friend! I don’t know that this exact schedule would work for others, but it sure is incredible for us.

Get more Help. Here’s another small confession – I do have someone come and clean the house every two weeks. You could call it a luxury, and if the budget was ever very tight this would be the first thing to go, but once again, we sat and did the math and if I could produce two to three good hours of design for a client, it could cover a complete cleaning by a housekeeper – and let me ask you, would you rather spend two hours doing design and six hours playing with your favorite child or eight hours just scrubbing your house? Right now this one’s working like a charm, so if it’s not broken, I’m not fixing it…I can get by with doing light dusting, sweeping, and every home-improvement project under the sun, those all keep me busy enough, I think.

Work and Play together. In both my office and the print studio I try to create places that Cameron can play if need be – our studio fridge is painted in chalkboard paint, he has trucks in one corner, and I let him play in leftover cardboard boxes and rearrange wood type. Here he is having fun on one of our printing carts – and yes, he is half-dressed and covered in food, now that you mention it:

Everyone On Board?
It almost goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it – if I didn’t have the most awesome husband, none of this would be possible. Not only did he catch my dream to have a small letterpress studio, but he went and took all of the classes with me, (at SFCB, a fabulous resource) became a proficient letterpress printer, mechanic and is still a rice farmer all at once. And when I have to get files off to plating or work into the night on a design or deadline, he is 100% Cameron care, and gung-ho about it too. Even as I’m writing this, I can hear him giving Cam a bath and them having tons of fun in the process. And having someone else who understands letterpress makes it so much less working alone, and so much more incredible partnership.


Accept a bit of Mediocrity. I hate to mention this point. But it’s so true. If you want to have it all (time with husband, time with kids, time to decorate your home and time to travel, time to cook and entertain and time to be involved in the community, all plus letterpress) then you must accept some mediocrity. I am sure I’m not as good about phone calls and emails and deadlines as I would be if I wasn’t working from home. My designs suffer a bit too, I think. And that hurts, as a perfectionist. But I have to keep reminding myself of what’s important, and it’s all those “times” I just mentioned. So, I’ve got to let a bit of that go. Strive for greatness…as much as I can.

Late and Early. I think long hours apply to pretty much every freelancer I know. As a mom, mine are just a bit wacky schedule-wise. They  fall into the categories of “after Cam’s bedtime” and “before Cam wakes up”, although Matt will tell you I really hate the latter…too early! Most of our good printing gets done between 8 pm and 2 am, and some of my best design and emails are before 7:45 am when Cameron wakes up.

Enjoy it all. If I didn’t love my work, and love my family, I wouldn’t be inspired to balance both and enjoy the busy and sometimes stressful times they bring. But I do, and feel so blessed to be able to try and “do it all”! If you don’t love what you do, and love being at home with your kids, it’ll probably be impossible to make a work-at-home situation anything but a disaster. I’m definitely not perfect, and I do pull my hair out on occasion, but thankfully, I have a thick bunch of tresses, so nobody notices it missing.

And lastly…

Emergencies do happen. There is always that time when the job won’t  ink correctly, or I’m late on a design, or the plates come wrong, or something, and I just need help immediately. In my life, this is why Elmo was created. We don’t have television at our house, and I don’t like Cam to watch too much cold media, but hey, I get stuck, I must work, and having him on my lap watching on the left side of the computer while I frantically email on the right side is why they created the 27″ iMac screen, yes? Oh, or the time when I put him in our perfectly enclosed, safe backyard for a little unattended playtime and come out ten minutes later (too quiet!) and find him halfway buried in a bag of grout:


Good times. Ah, the life of a mother!

These are a few humble suggestions from someone who obviously hasn’t been doing it very long (mom or letterpress) but would love to keep doing both. What about you? Any added suggestions or great tips?  I’d love to hear ’em!

I thought I’d end this post with a mom and letterpress image – that is, why I do what I do:

Many, many thanks to Cyd for letting me babble and guest post here on her beautiful blog!

{Photos by Wild Ink Press.}

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Monday 24th of May 2010

ahhh... thanks! What an encouraging post. .-= ashlee's most recent blog post: Favorite Finds - Savannah =-.

guest post { the sweetest occasion } » Wild Ink Press

Tuesday 18th of May 2010

[...] out our guest post on being a freelancer and a mommy over on The Sweetest [...]


Monday 17th of May 2010

This is something I think about a lot because down the road, I want to have kids. But I already feel like I have no time and can't imagine having a child on top of it all. Working from home has it challenges but I love it...and posts like these make me feel like it may not be impossible to have children. .-= Kelly's most recent blog post: Real Gay Engagement: So You’re EnGAYged winners: Mary and Peper =-.

helen | sweet olive press

Monday 17th of May 2010

Amen to all that! There are days that I dream of the *peace* of my old 8-to-5 pre-kids design job (space to focus! quiet! luxury!!!) but honestly I wouldn't swap letterpress + design + kids for anything. It's chaotic, but it's magic too. Three cheers for mamas who make it work :) .-= helen | sweet olive press's most recent blog post: Letterpress Wedding : The Islands =-.


Monday 17th of May 2010

Great post and so nice to hear someone keeping it real cause let's face it for most of us working for ourselves at home, we often have to work around distractions of some kind and with no 'boss' to go to for direction or advise we muddle along until we find a way to make things work!! Very inspiring Rebecca! .-= Kate/MagnoliaRouge's most recent blog post: Moments... =-.

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