I guess you could also call this post TMI about Tannie. We have a lot of new readers and I thought it was time for a little back story on why this blog is even here? So sit back, relax, maybe grab some popcorn and have a bathroom break, cuz this is a long one.
Many of you new readers probably don’t know that I recently traded in my Career Pants for Stay at Home Pants. Why did I do this? Well we need to go even further back. Growing up I never really had a strong desire to be “a mom.” I wanted kids, I wanted a family, but I also wanted to have a career. However, I had before me the amazing example of my own mother, who placed her children above her own wants. She is a successful Pianist with amazing talent. Rather then growing it into a concert career she chose to teach Piano from the home. Thereby allowing her to be at home with us. This was a huge blessing in our family and very much contributed to our turning out.
As I went through college and began developing my talent in the Communication Design field (Graphic Design if you’d rather) I always kept the example of my mother in mind. I wanted to have my career and my family. But wanted to keep it all in the home. I wanted to be home at those important cross roads for my future children. So I turned down internships, I skipped apprenticeships and made a lot of my professors angry by choosing to work form home when I graduated. They felt I was wasting my talent by choosing to be a mom. In fact one of my professors to this day still will not answer any emails or other contact from me. He was very upset with my choice to just work from home. In a way I can understand him. He just didn’t see the path I wanted for myself and my family.
So I graduated and I did it! I had Austin and started my own business from home. I called it tann|design and at first it was just little ‘ol me working away. I got my first little client, and that client referred me to someone else, and they referred me to someone else and so on and so forth. I had Logan and still kept plugging along. After about 5 years of doing this on my own, I could not longer do it alone. So I started partnering up with others. I used some contractors, I hired a second designer, I kept a copy writer on staff. Things were going really well. I had some really amazing clients and some awful clients, some really fun projects and some terrible projects. And (for the most part) things were going well. But not everything was comin’ up roses.
Things were getting to a point where Dan and I started discussing moving the business out of the home. It was just growing too much. I wasn’t making a million dollars or anything, but in an economy where business after business was failing, I was growing. It was exciting and I felt super important. People liked me. I got my first large international client.
I had done it!
Actually, I had not. It was at this time that the rose colored glasses were removed. Suddenly I stopped looking at my business and started looking at my family. Things were not good. Dan was not only working at his job, but then having to come home and do my household stuff. We believe all chores are equal, but I wasn’t even doing my fair share. The kids were getting more and more needy and whiny. They missed their Mom! Why did they miss their Mom? Well, the more and more my business grew, the less and less I paid attention to them. I thought I was doing it.
I was wrong.
In my mind, I was taking the kids to school, working, and picking them up. They would never notice that I had a business. In my mind, I thought that I was not taking any time away from my kids; that it was balanced.
The truth was, I was waking up early and working, then taking the kids to school, then working, then picking the kids up, then telling them to be quiet so I could work, or make a call, or do some research. We were not going on Play Dates, we were going on Press Checks. The most frequent words they heard from me were “shhhhhhh, I’m on the phone.” I can’t even count the times I took my kids out to have some one-on-one time, only to spend it on the phone with clients. I had also hired someone to come watch them on the days they weren’t in school. That way they wouldn’t bother me while I worked.
So much for being there at the cross roads!
Another thing I needed to learn about myself is that I totally lack the ability to “turn it off.” I just could not let whatever stress happened that day stay in my office. I would snap at the kids, snap at Dan and stomp around the house until I could resolve whatever it was that was bothering me. I was frequently working all night and through the next day. My happiness level was tanking. And we all know that it’s the Mother who sets the tone.
The Smith’s tone was not good.
Even after realizing this, I just told myself, “that’s ok. I can balance better, I can do better, this can still work.” So I kept pushing through. But the more I pushed, the more unhappy I became. I started resenting my work. I began to hate being a graphic designer. I was losing the “passion.” See, once I realized that my family wasn’t happy, then I wasn’t happy. Nothing is worth the sacrifice of my family. NOTHING. I learned something about myself. Even though I did not grow up wanting to be a Mom, now that I was one, I loved it! And I wanted to be the best Mom my kids could have.
One day, I was sitting in front of the computer. I had just gotten off the phone with one of my least favorite clients. It was a horrible conversation and I was so tired of dealing with this person. I just sat there staring at my screen. I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this? What is the point?”
I didn’t have an answer. *crickets*
There was no point. It was nice having the extra money, but we didn’t need it. It was nice having the prestige of my business, but I didn’t need it. It was nice using graphic design as a creative outlet, but it wasn’t the only way. None of it outweighed the importance to me of my family. Nothing is worth failing my kids. And nothing is worth damaging my marriage.
Then, a stray thought entered my head, “Just shut it down.”
Once that thought came into my head, I knew, with absolute certainty, that this was exactly what I was supposed to do. I truly believe it was the Spirit speaking to me and telling me to be done with it. Not everyone is religious. But I think everyone can relate to that feeling when you suddenly know exactly what you need to do. And that is what I felt.
I did not hesitate for a second. I quickly typed up the following letter.
I am taking the time to contact just a few of my larger clients to let them know that tann|design will be closing the doors for an indefinite amount of time. It has come to my attention that things in my personal life have gone unnoticed because of my busy work schedule. Those of you who know me, know that family comes first and I can no longer allow my children to come second. All too soon they will be old enough to not need me anymore, but this is not that time. With that said, tann|design will be finishing up all current contracts and will not renew any future ones until further notice. My website and facebook pages will continue to run, as I do hope to open again at a later date, but any new work will not be accepted. As of now the plan is to take 1 year off to refocus and bring the attention back to where it should have been in the first place.
I understand that this is coming as a shock and is very inconvenient to some of you and also understand that you will not wait for me to re-open my doors. I will be sending a disc with all your files on it so that you may be able to continue work with another firm or designer. I apologize for this inconvenience and hope for your understanding. I value each of you and appreciate the business you have brought me. This has been a successful time in my design career, but for now success will have to wait.
Once again if there is an outstanding contract, it will continue to be honored until it’s fulfillment. Thank you.
Tannie M. Smith
Once the letter was typed I hesitated for a second. My finger hovered over the send key. Suddenly, as if someone were in the room, I heard, “do it!” So I did, I sent the letter out and then the shakes began. I felt so nervous! I was shaking and sweating. What did I just do?! What were they going to say? I was terrified of talking to anyone. I was debating whether or not I should just shut off my phone. Before I could, it rang. I answered. It was one of the “scary” clients. I was not sure what to expect. However what I got was total support! All day I received phone calls from my clients. Each one wished me luck and totally understood and admired my decision. Were they sad to see me go? Yes. Were they upset to have to find a new designer? Yes. Were they mad at me personally? Absolutely not. Not one person said anything to me that was negative or angry. I was so relieved. The most shocked person to call me was Dan. I had BCC’d him on the email. He had no idea that I was even thinking of doing it. I had no idea either, of course! But the first words out of his mouth were, “I am so glad.”
Please understand that Dan has always been supportive of me and still is. He was my best cheerleader (in a manly way, of course) and my accountant. :-) That was literally the first I had heard from him that he was unhappy with my work. I had no idea the stress I was putting on him. He asked me if that was what I really wanted. When I told him yes and the preceding story, he was very relieved. Later when I told the kids, they both started jumping up and down and shouting, “YAY!!! We get Mommy back!” (and all this from me working IN the home!) To this day they still talk about it. In fact a couple weeks ago Logan shared in class for Show and Tell, that his Mom stopped working so she could be with him more. More then a year later and he is still appreciating it.
It is a very surreal feeling to stop something so suddenly. Who shuts down there business right when it’s about to totally take off?! It’s funny, when I tell people I shut down my design firm, they usually say something about how tough the economy is, and everyone was struggling etc., etc.. They are always shocked when I correct them and say, “Actually the problem was that it was doing too well.” However, I know it was the right thing to do.
Even more so today.
Do I regret my business? No! I loved my business. It was a manifestation of myself. I did, in fact have to go through a bit of a mourning period. It felt like a death at times. Some amazing friendships have come from that experience. One of my most wonderful, amazing friends is a former client. (That’s a shout out to you DaRhonda!) I never would have met her otherwise. So no, I do not regret my business. I regret letting it get out of hand. I regret not understanding myself better. I regret missing out on my kids youngest years. But I would not take the experience away, as I gained so much from it.
It has now been more than a year, in fact, it is closer to two years. In my letter I had implied that I might open again in a year. However, that is just not going to happen. See, now that that part of my life is gone, I don’t really want it back. I didn’t realize what a constant stress and drain it was on me. Now I find that I am happier day to day. I have more patience with the kids, not always, but it is more. I have time to invest in my marriage more. Most of all, I get to actually enjoy being a Mom. Something I never expected to do and I do enjoy it! Each day my kids amaze me and every night I thank my Heavenly Father for them. I can’t believe how much I set aside when I was trying to “do it all.”
Is everything perfect? No, absolutely not. See, I am still me. I still want to matter to the world in some way. I still need to get my creativity out. I am a busy type of person. A doer. Almost daily I struggle with not filling my time with something just as time consuming as my business. I have to reset each day to focus on my family. It would be more natural for me to focus on myself and pursue some interest of mine to it’s greatest height. However, that time is not now. My kids are here for maybe 13 more years at most. After that, I have the rest of my life to focus on and pursue what I want. So for now, it is all about them.
Well, not ALL about them. Like I said, I still need to create in some way. So that is why I blog. This is my new outlet. It allows me to feel important in some small way, even if only Dan reads this. It still makes me feel like I matter to the world in a weird way. It makes me work on projects and get things done, that otherwise I might let slip by. It allows me to do and be, without taking away from my family. That is a large reason why I haven’t gotten into the “money making” side of blogging yet. I fear that I won’t be able to control it, if it turns into a business. Would it just be another tann|design? Thus, I’m sticking (for now) to the policy of “as long as it doesn’t cost money, we don’t mind not making any.” Just keep reading and making me feel special. ;-)
So to make a super long story short.
I blog because my family is important to me.