It's working for Stacie Billis, Cookbook Author, Food Editor and Podcast Host
Simple things like putting my computer away by a certain time of night, keeping a reasonable bedtime, and maintaining a workout schedule are helpful to me.
I want to say, “Don’t worry!” but I know that’s the kind of advice is only helpful in hindsight. So, knowing that new parents will, indeed, worry, I will say: trust your instincts! I have a Masters in child development and have spent an entire career being the “child expert“ in different contexts and absolutely nothing I learned to earn that title compared to my instincts, which were different with each child because each child is different, and I was different with each of them too.
Yes and no. I worked in creative development for children’s educational media. Having grown up in restaurants and always having had a passion for food, I knew that food and cooking could be a springboard into meaningful content for parents and kids. My graduate thesis was a television concept using food to explore history for kids, and I was always dreaming up food content ideas. Then, after I had my first son and decided that television production would keep me away from home too much, I jumped into creating my own food content. The rest is history.
No! When I first started creating food content, podcasts didn’t even exist! I had dreamed of becoming a cookbook author, so that piece fits, but working on DIJFY with Meghan has been the most amazing whirlwind. A new partner! A new medium! And The most amazing way to reach parents right in their kitchens.
I’m not sure what making it work means, to be honest. I’m not trying to be obtuse, it just… Never feels like I’m actually making it work!!! I’ve spoken with many parent entrepreneurs and hear the same thing from them too. The idea of “making it work“ is something that I think people see from the outside. when my kids were young, I always felt torn: I wasn’t doing enough for them, things at work weren’t moving fast enough, everything felt like a compromise. I questioned myself constantly. I feel like I’m finally hitting a stride and, though I would love to credit some meaningful awakening in myself, a lot of it has to do with having kids who are older and more independent. It’s always been a struggle, or maybe more accurately put, a juggling act — but from where I sit now, I wouldn’t do it any differently. I can say that, because at 11 and 14 years old, I can see that my boys have not suffered for me creating space for myself. I am very connected to them and them to me. They are proud of me, and I am proud that they have seen me chase my dream.
It became clear early on that one of the things that differentiate DIJFY is my and Meghan’s friendship, and that people could imagine being friends with us as well. We very much feel like we are recording for friends too! all this friendship is really about community connection. We’re not just creating “expert” content to blast out to parents – I mean gosh, there are more recipes on the Internet than any human could possibly ever imagine, much less use — we are in a community with other parents. That only heightened during Covid when isolation had us all seeking out ways to connect meaningfully from home. When that crystallized for us, we realized that we needed to pivot away from thinking of ourselves as influencers or content creators and towards the community. we have a lot of exciting things coming down the pike with this in mind!
Help! First of all, I have older kids. That helps tremendously. I also have a babysitter for the after school hours Monday through Friday. And in the spirit of transparency, which is very important to us, DIJFY started right as I was finishing my second book. I was able to do both for a while, as the podcast wasn’t very demanding, and then I was able to take time off of Freelance work (something I do it after every book project because it is so exhausting and all-encompassing) and so I had nearly full-time availability to start building the business. that said, I knew that kind of “free time” to focus on building a new business wouldn’t last forever, so we also set some ambitious goals about making the project self-sustaining and also compensating ourselves. Those goals were big motivation to get creative over how we’d build a profitable business from the start.
I don’t know that I keep myself particularly well rested! I do work long hours and throw myself into the business, a part of that is how much I love working on DIJFY! Simple things like putting my computer away by a certain time of night, keeping a reasonable bedtime, and maintaining a workout schedule are helpful to me. I really do try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night! That, alone, goes a long way for me!
We always prioritized childcare because, even though I knew my career would take an unconventional shape, I always wanted to work. I love working from home and having a self defined, flexible schedule, so that I can be available for my kids… But help is key. I can’t tell you how many times I had tremendous guilt because I felt like we were spending money on child care that I wasn’t returning to the family pot. But since my husband is an entrepreneur, as well, he understood that it wouldn’t be a linear journey. Yes, some years, my work was actually a financial deficit – and we certainly did with way less support some years – but we were both committed to investing in my career long term. I want to be clear that I know it’s a privilege to be able to make these decisions, but I also don’t wanna perpetuate the idea that you can build a business AND be a full-time mom without help AND take care of yourself AND be happy. I think that’s a myth and the dangerous one to promote. when a parent wants to start a business, I think it’s very important to sit down and take stock of all your resources, from time to finances to people around you who can support you, etc. and to make a plan. The primary caregiver parent needs support to play that role and also start a successful business. Period.
This is a tough one, because hindsight is that play for me. I don’t think that one single new normal ever set in. In fact, things stabilized for me once I got more comfortable with constant change (which is not easy for me!). Things are constantly changing, even now. For example, there was a period when my kids were around 7 and 10 years old where we were smooth sailing. I had time to work, they were slightly more independent and less needy. Then, my older became a teenager and I suddenly felt like I needed to be around more again. With teens, just being available and around is important… But that totally changes how I approach my work time.
It wasn’t so much working, because I felt so sure that I wanted to work, but the guilt around that. I was my own worst enemy!
Truly ask for help. Having a job or career or starting a business is not what makes while working mom: ALL moms are working moms. In fact, SAH Moms never get a break from their kids, which always struck me as incredibly challenging. I’m sure other people see it differently – none of us are the same – but wherever you find yourself in your journey, get HELP from other parents, your community, grandparents, people to whom you can outsource overwhelming jobs, therapists, WHOEVER!
Also, connecting with moms who have older kids is very valuable to me. When I only speak with moms in the same place as me, it is affirming, but can also amplify anxieties. Parents who have BTDT are such a source of calm and comfort for me.
My husband. Don’t get me wrong: it’s been a struggle. There were so many times when he (unknowingly!) failed to give me what I needed in the moment, from day to day (and vice versa, of course!). But much of that was a matter of improving our communication. At the end of EVERY day, I knew that he believed in me and without a doubt supported my desire to work and build career.