Balancing work & parenting
What we’ve learned about running a studio and being parents
Designers, partners and parents
James and I are a husband and wife design team based in Wexford Town. We own the Pixelpod design studio and we are two-time Irish Design Awards finalists, specialising in branding, graphic design and web design. Our studio is based in a shared workspace called 61 North, which we set up in 2016 and also manage. We are parents to an awesome 5 year old, Ella May. For the first 3 years of Ella’s life, I didn’t get much sleep, going to the toilet was a group event and coffee was always followed by a “hell yeah”!
Living the dream
Owning your own studio is the dream for many designers. It’s the promise of having more creative freedom and flexibility. For me, designing, creating and constantly learning is an awesome way to live. Pixelpod was set up in 2011, which was the same year we moved to Sheffield and got married. In 2014 we decided to join forces in our design careers, move back to Ireland, and establish Pixelpod as a carbon neutral design studio in the South-East. Now we have the pleasure of working with some great people, creating new brands and websites for clients in Ireland, the UK and Belgium. Our aim was always to make Pixelpod a fun and successful Irish design studio that we could be really proud of. Making this happen is alot of work, sheer determination, taking chances and having Fosetts Circus level juggling ability.
Balancing design and parenting
We have found parenting, working together and managing two businesses to be relentlessly challenging and stressful, but never boring! It means having some general do’s and don’ts. Like do try to carve out family time every day and don’t talk shop at the dinner table.
As a parent, you need to be organised. Making sure you’re there for school pick-ups, homework, school activities, swimming lessons and planning for school holidays. For work, it’s travelling to meetings, pitching, networking, accounting, project management, brainstorming, designing, developing our studio and managing 61 North. It’s HARD and it can be overwhelming sometimes. You don’t get many holidays and sick days don’t really exist. You are constantly going and constantly doing. You also often wonder, “Are we there yet?”.
But there are also positives to working for yourself. Running a small business means that you can change your direction and focus when you need to, whether that is for personal or business reasons. James and I are really supportive of each other and get through a lot of work very quickly, moving between the various roles we play. As business partners and parents we have different skill sets and we divide up what needs to be done depending on those strengths. Realising what our strengths were took time, but we figured it out.
When Ella was younger, I felt guilty for leaving her in creche for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week. It was a blur between parenting and running a business – at meetings I could have just as easily have pulled a piece of Lego from my bag, as a pen and notepad. But as all new businesses know, you need to be disciplined and really push yourself in order to get your business off the ground. However, in the last year we have reduced our working week and now spend more time together as a family. Having this quality time away from the studio has actually helped us focus and we are more productive when at work.
Learning and Living
I used to think that routine was the enemy of creativity, but for us it’s been essential to making our lives happier. James and I have worked out a good routine and work around Ella’s school and activities and setting up our studio and home in Wexford was a chance that has worked out really well for us.
Being a parent and Creative Director has taught me to be patient, prioritise and be clever with my time. Being tired constantly and working long days is counter-productive. Taking time out for yourself and your family will also benefit your business.
While understanding what I’m good at, I’m also keenly aware of what I should get help with. At Pixelpod we work with very talented developers, designers, photographers, copywriters and accountants to look after pieces of work that we either don’t have time to do or simply can’t do.
Finding the balance between parenting and working is difficult and not always intuitive but we have found that feeling guilty about not being in the studio or not being with your family is a waste of energy. Regardless of where you are, be present and be passionate about what you are doing.
Thanks to Ella May for the artwork!