Friday, September 20, 2013

The Having It All Project: Elaine Griffin

Elaine is another new connection I met at BlogHer13, over breakfast as she was about to go speak at one of the sessions. Yes, at BlogHer, the superstars often mingle among the public and are totally approachable to boot! Here's how Elaine is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a work-at-home mom of two kids, a 7-year-old boy, and a 3 year-old girl. I run a social media and web design business from home that I have built from scratch. When I say from scratch I mean I learned all of this on my own, pouring over books and the internet, practicing for hours and hours. Since I am still trying to pay for my sociology degree I am not using, I couldn’t justify more loans. DIY was the name of the game! I also write two blogs, Elaine Griffin Designs and The Laine List and I have a third blog, a food blog my son and I have been developing, coming soon! I also do some freelance work that is unrelated to my business and blogging. Oh! When I have the time I try to train for and skate in a recreational roller derby league or two. Unfortunately, this takes a back seat a lot of the time, as the demands of my growing business and family take over. You might say there is a lot of chaos going on here. And you would be right. I am constantly seeking that ever elusive “balance!”

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I am a HUGE list maker. I am constantly strategizing how to make things run a little smoother. I list, and re-list, lather-rinse-repeat. Seriously, I think I am single handedly destroying the Earth with all my paper usage.

Ultimately, my lists really serve as a guide and as a way to calm the voices and worries in my head. Sometimes there just are no coping strategies that allow me to “have it all.” Take this summer for example. There just weren’t funds for daycare and day camp and a family vacation (which we REALLY needed), so I tried to come up with a system where everyone would get their attention and fun, and I would still be able to work. It all basically failed. My kids demanded more from me than I was able to give while also getting it all done. So, work didn’t get done. And although I’m still digging myself out and getting caught up not only on client work but also on growing my own business, I’m almost there. We survived, and we were happier for it. We did have it all! And I still have my lists as a reminder of what I had planned and how I planned to do it. You can always go back to your work, but you can’t go back to the hours missed with your kids.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
It all breaks down all the time! Not just the day-to-day scenarios with trying to parent, but also the general what the heck am I doing with my life scenarios.

For example, when we were on vacation we were in a car accident, and the stress and pressure of having to fund a new car has been getting the best of me. It made me ask the tough questions about my path as a business owner. Am I doing the right thing? Am I contributing enough? Is it all worth it?

After letting myself cycle through all this, I realize the answer to all of these questions is yes. Part of my ability to be a good mother and a good role model is my ability to chase my dreams and achieve my goals. My kids need to see that. I need to feel that.

My basic philosophy when it comes to breakdowns, whether it is my kids or myself, is simple. Let them happen. Because they do, no matter how hard you try to plan and strategize and scheme. Hungry happens. Feelings happen. Tired happens. Accidents happen. And that is where you get your breakdowns. So, let them happen, then take a deep breath, apologize if you need to, and put it all in a big bubble and blow it away!

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My main life and mothering role model is my mother. Not only did she balance it all – work, children, and house, but she looked near-poverty and stress in the eye and kicked it in the face. She made a lot of our clothes, which were beautiful, and the envy of my friends. We always had enough, and honestly, I don’t know how she (and my dad) did it. She took frugality to a whole new level, and I’m pretty sure she has the secret key to finding the extra two hours in a day we all are looking for. I like to think I can make something out of nothing like she was able to.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
Ha! I thought I would have a PhD in sociology by now! I was going to be a world-renowned feminist, working to educate the public about race, class and gender oppression, raising my children without gender boundaries. I was ready to take on the world.

I think I’m still taking on the world, but on a much smaller scale. Through writing and web design I am able to stay creative. I still care, and am vocal about race, class, and gender oppression, although not as active in organizations as I would like to be. Mostly I’m trying to be a good role model for my children. I want them to care passionately about human rights, or about anything really, as long as they have passion. I want them to see me succeed, to fall, to be in limbo. I want them to know what chasing their dreams and living their lives looks like!

Relate to what Elaine is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

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