I’ve always admired 417 Press, a fantastically witty graphic design studio based here in Montreal. Her cards always make me laugh and smile. They are exactly what I want to say even before I knew I wanted to say it. Let’s just say – if you’re looking to put a smile on your face, or perhaps more appropriately, someone else’s face – check out her cards. (I’ve got a grin just thinking about this one).
I reached out to Michelle Secondi, Graphic Designer and Letterpress Printer at 417 Press, because she really seemed to have it all going on… a fantastically creative and successful business, a happy marriage (I have a feeling they have a lot of laughs based on the fact that he’s the inspiration behind a lot of her cards) and beautiful seven-year old twins.
Michelle was game and agreed to answer my questions about how she does it all.
What’s your work schedule?
Before our twins were born, I happily worked until 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening and often on weekends when I had to deliver a big job. I learned pretty quickly that you can’t do that with kids; it was impossible to focus with the kids around and nobody was happy. That’s when I set rules for myself: no more working on weekends and work starts as soon as the kids are dropped of at daycare (now school) and stops as soon as they come home. I became much more efficient even with a shorter work day. Eight years in, however, things are shifting and work is starting to creep into family time, so right now we do find ourselves having to make adjustments.
How do you handle childcare?
Being self-employed, I only took two months off after the babies were born and then worked part-time for about a year. I also decided to breastfeed and we had a diaper service, so we sacrificed other things to be able to have a nanny. By the time the kids were 14 months old they went to daycare and that is when I really returned to work full-time. Now the kids are in elementary school, get on the bus at 7:30 am and are home by 3:30 pm. My clients are understanding and know that my work day ends at 3:30, but we’re actually talking about using the after-school daycare service. I’m feeling like I need another couple of hours a day as the wholesale business grows.
When do you typically hang out with your children?
After school! We talk about their day, look at the homework that has to be done, and do crafts, sports or games if time allows. If we’re rushing off to activities, driving in the car is also a great space for hearing about what’s on their minds.
What do you like best about your current setup?
I love my home studio because it’s set-up exactly the way I wanted (although we now need more shelving space for all the new products!) It’s also separate from the rest of the house so it feels like a distinct space. More importantly, the time saved by not commuting is a huge deal.
Do you have any time for yourself?
Ahhh… this is probably my biggest weakness. I love what I do, so whenever I get a chance I’m researching or writing down ideas or reading blogs or whatever will help the business. Then, on top of running a business full-time, I coach an inter-city soccer team and manage a hockey team. Some people say I need to cut back or slow down, but I love the pace. I started running and doing yoga again, does that count as time for yourself?
Do you ever wonder how other women manage and do you ever talk about it with your friends?
I talk about this with my best friend ALL THE TIME. Like, every day. We agree that keeping it simple works best. We choose nearby schools and activities so there is less time driving around, we’re not afraid to say no (does your kid really have to go to the birthday party of some kid whose name they don’t even know?) and use services/technologies that really do make life easier, like catered school lunches, putting your kids on the school bus (tip courtesy of another super busy entrepreneurial mom friend) or menu/grocery apps (the AnyList app has saved my life).
What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
Keep it separate. Don’t check email or answer the phone when it’s not work hours. We can do it all, but there is a time and place for everything. Being organized helps. A lot. And sometimes rules – even your own – are made to be broken.
What role does your partner play in helping you achieve balance?
I’m actually really lucky here. My husband also works a lot and he isn’t what you would call handy, but he prepares the kid’s snacks every weekday, cooks on the weekends so I can have a break and does the grocery shopping (I know!) He also never complains about doing it all if I have to leave town for days or work late or on weekends.
Do you find it irritating that balance seems to be a women issue? No one seems to ask men how they manage work-life balance.
You know what, I never thought about this before, it’s so true! I think my best approach to this is to teach our son to be a thoughtful person and respect others. Hopefully I can be a good role model for him… and our daughter as well.
Is work-life balance possible?
Yes! But like anything else, it takes effort.
Thanks so much Michelle!
More from this series: