What’s Next for Us

Brandon has been out of work for nearly six weeks now. He doesn’t have any prospects lined up, but unemployment benefits have finally started coming through. They won’t replace his income, of course, but along with what I’m making, we’ll be able to cover our mortgage and bills. Insurance is my biggest concern because we’re now on COBRA, which is expensive.

I know I haven’t written anything about our situation since I mentioned it upon returning from Alt Summit. It’s been stressful, to be honest, and easier to not dwell on. Our roles, our daily routines, and our financial outlook all changed overnight, and we’re all (the kids, too) still adjusting.

I’ve had an assistant since October, Valerie, coming three days a week for six hours a day. She had been helping with some of the administrative blog work (setting up Facebook giveaways and responding to advertising inquiries), but she also helped me a lot with Eleanor and August. Now, with Brandon home, we need her less (and it was suddenly hard to pay someone for 18 hours a week). Valerie has been great, and happily flexible in regards to hours, so she’s staying on board but mostly working from home.

The kids have benefitted from more time with their daddy, but even though that’s a good thing, it has still been an adjustment. Brandon and I have different parenting styles in some ways. Eleanor and August do well with routines – a fairly predictable structure to their day – and things have shifted all of a sudden. They’re fine (we all are), but it’s something I think about. I’m also working more, and for longer stretches during the day, and my work/life balance feels out of whack.

I had an interview a couple of weeks ago for a copywriting position with a great Chicago-based company. I hadn’t sought it out, but if I were looking for a 9-5 job, it’s exactly the kind of place I’d want to be. Had Brandon still been working, I probably wouldn’t have even considered the opportunity, but with him home it was something that needed to be explored. Ultimately, after a lot of thought, I passed on the position. I’ve worked for years to create this job, this crazy job of being a “professional blogger” for myself that lets me work on the things I love. I started blogging before I had children, but now working from home and being able to spend time with them is something that I wouldn’t give up unless it were truly necessary. If I need to, I could start up my shop again or take on web design work to make more money. Had I taken the job offer, I would have had to cut back on the blog, and that’s not something I want to do. I am more committed than ever to Making it Lovely.

I’m not able to be the sole breadwinner in the family. Not yet, anyway… but things are going well. I have my writing jobs at Family Style on Babble and at My Colortopia. I accept advertising on Making it Lovely directly for small businesses (e.g. Etsy shops), and through Federated Media for larger companies. I also work with sponsors. In fact, I’ll be heading out to San Francisco on Thursday for business. I’ll be lining up new sponsored content for the blog, and also pitching some new ideas with my team at FM.

Sponsorships are a tricky subject for some, I know. It’s something that I’ve written about before, and I’ve done a lot of sponsored content since then. There was one campaign in particular that I don’t feel was executed well, but it’s something that I’ve learned from, and I feel good about how I’m applying those lessons as I move forward. I am proud of the standards I hold myself accountable to, and proud of the partnerships I’ve worked on.

Sometimes a brand’s sponsorship can be looked at as a commercial at the beginning or end of a post, similar to the way you may see a show “brought to you by XYZ.” In those cases, I’m not required to (or even asked to) write about the brand. The topic may be tangentially related, but the post is then completely up to me. The other type of sponsorships that I’m interested in facilitating are more closely tied to the brand involved, but they would allow for some fun projects. I’d love to do more home makeovers for readers (free of charge to the recipient), but for that to happen, we need a budget. I have other ideas in the works as well, and I’ll be doing my best to make them a reality.

We still have a lot of thinking to do. As I mentioned, Brandon is now on unemployment, and it is a lifeboat for us. Our way forward is unclear right now though. He may get another steady job, and life will return to what we knew as normal for all these years. There is a fantastic local store up for sale and we considered buying it, but unfortunately, the details didn’t fall into place for us.

We’ve talked about reopening Pink Loves Brown, with Brandon running it, or having him contribute more heavily to Making it Lovely. There are benefits to both, but clear drawbacks and concerns as well. If we pursue those options, we would lose the financial stability we used to have, and at the same time, we would need to secure independent health insurance. We would also no longer be able (in good conscience) to receive unemployment benefits, and that would be a further difficulty for us right now.

I do want to thank you all for the support you’ve shown us. Especially as we figure out our direction in the wake of Brandon’s job loss, but before that, too. I want you to know that it’s greatly appreciated. I’m lucky, even in the more difficult times, to have such an amazing community, and to have been able to craft this life with my family.

160 Responses to “What’s Next for Us”

  1. Rachel May February 28, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this right now, but I thank you for being real, open and honest. I think so many people right now are going through something similar and everyone wishes they just had a roadmap (one over here, please!) to show them the way. I’m sure you will figure it out one way or another, but I am still thinking positive thoughts for you and your family. I’m glad that in a tough situation, you’re still aware of what will and what won’t make you happy (i.e. the job stuff). It is nice to feel wanted by another company though:)

    Best wishes to you all, stay strong-you got this!

  2. elizabeth@lovelylittleparties February 28, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    I love your positive attitude, Nicole. Thank you for being so transparent and honest with us. There are so many people in this same situation so thanks for being “real”.

  3. Jessie February 28, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    Stay positive and everything will fall into place!! :) I have had similar things happen to me in the past years. I always tell people that the things that seem the “worse” in life, usually end up being the best in the end. We grow and learn from everything. You know this already though, because you have a great outlook on life. *hugs*

  4. lindsay February 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    As corny as it is, cliches are cliches for a reason. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and you’ll only look back at this later and see how you all grew and changed from it. It’s impressive for you to put yourself on the line with your readers and be so candid, it really helps us feel like you’re a “real person” and not just some perfect wife/blogger/momma. I hope your stormy seas calm sooner rather than later. You have lots of people rooting for you and your family. It will work out.

  5. Rebecca February 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Best of luck to your family!! I know what you mean about having your husband around sort of throwing off the schedule with your kids… My husband works from home 2 days a week, and although I love having him around, things feel more chaotic. :) Hope you get things sorted out soon!

  6. mirka February 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    With all these difficulties, it sounds like you have a plan and I wish you lots of luck in getting sponsors and advertisements. This is a great website. You have done a fantastic job. I wish you all the best and thank you for sharing and being real.

  7. Mona Idriss February 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    A lovely post. The photographs are amazing!! Why not open up an etsy shop to supplement some of your income? You have amazing typography skills and you are a great photographer!!

  8. Lisa February 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    That must have been a difficult post to write, Nicole. You are an inspiration always + esp. in these difficult times. Wishing you the best of luck in finding your voice + stride moving ahead!

  9. Hally February 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    I know I’m just “one little ol’ voice”, but I think it would be AH-MAZ-ING, to hear more from Brandon on your blog. I’m obsessed with decorating, designing, and redecorating and I often think it would be nice to have a male perspective other than my husband usual answer of ‘eh, whatever’. It would also be cool to have him do some style posts since he seems to have quite a bit of style sense as shown in your photographs. Anyway, I think it’s something to consider. I think it would be great!! Can’t wait to hear what you all decide to do. Good luck, and just know were all going through hard times as well so we definitely understand and can empathize. Much love, girlie!

  10. Amy February 28, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    I just had to add my voice to all of those thanking you for being so honest and articulate about your experience. It’s hard, but when I worked for an organization that supported women entrepreneurs we’d call these moments “time to put on the big girl panties.”

    As it happens, I worked at that non-profit for 4 years, moved on, and was immediately laid off about a year ago. My partner and I have been together for 7 years but she and I don’t live together and we support ourselves totally independently (including both owning apartments). When I got laid off I made the decision to start a business consulting. It was hard, complicated, and frightening, but there is no way I could have learned as much as I did as fast as I did.

    I hope that you find, like I did, that you are smart and strong enough to get through whatever life throws at you…and that being the bread winner feels pretty damn good!

  11. Andrea February 29, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story, Nicole. Having gone through a similar situation, I know that it’s hard. It’s hard to think about, let alone share on your blog. While it really sucks, you discover so much. You discover things that you never thought you can do, or things that you’ve forgotten that you are capable of. From reading your post, I can see that you are realizing all the things that you can do – which is awesome. The hardest part for me what the uncertainty of it all, especially with a family. I will be thinking of you guys, you’re future will be bright!

  12. Holly February 29, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Good luck!

    In the 10+ years that I’ve been married, my husband has had various stages of employment and retraining. What I’ve learned is that it provides our kids with an opportunity to build a closer relationship with their father, and that it teaches them flexibility by watching their parent shift roles from time to time and having to deal with those changes.

    These changes always bring adventure! I hope yours is a good one.

  13. Mefi February 29, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Thanks for sharing. Your blog is awesome and will continue to enjoy your posts.

  14. barbara@hodge:podge February 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Wow, what a life changer. My husband was laid off last Tuesday from his corporate job of 21 years. Didn’t see that coming! I blog, but just for “fun”, no income from that. Right now we are figuring out what the best route is regarding our financial compensation from the company but the scary part is not knowing what the future holds!

    Good luck to you and your husband, we know what you are going through and feeling!

    Hugs.

  15. spark February 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Hi Nicole, Just wanted to let you know that I really hope karma or whatever gods there are step in for you and provide you and your family lots of lovely opportunities. I will always remember your kindness when I was 9 months pregnant and OBSESSING over a nursery chair (eames rocker) and you answered my question so quickly. It was very personal and I felt very blessed that my personal style icon :) would actually respond! (yes I was extremely hormonal being 2 weeks overdue). My husband has gone back to full-time study so we have no income for the next 6 months. I’ve have gone back out to work for a couple of days a week. It has been hard but not as hard as expected. Hope this stage in life goes smoothly for you all. xxx

  16. Carla Sumka February 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    There’s no doubt things will work out for you and your family. You’re clearly creative and talented–it just might take time for the right fit. I work full time from home and husband works part time at a radio station. With two kids, always tough to go without dual full time paychecks, but we’ve learned to live with less. He watches the kids during the day and works evenings and overnights. I’m sure your husband will enjoy the time home until a new job comes along. You just keep doing what your doing and it’s going be fabulous. And if it’s not, there’s no hope for any of us who aren’t as creative and talented as you :) BTW- when you visit with Federate Media, tell my pal Helen Jane that I say hello please. We grew up in the same hometown, went to summer camps and (some of) college in Wisconsin together. She’s creative and inspirational, like you.

  17. erin / dfm March 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Nicole! I love your transparency and vulnerability in writing all of this. I (along with so many of your loyal readers!) know good things are going to come out of this transition and I can’t wait to see what those things are.

    We’re rooting for you, love!

  18. Izabela March 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Nicole, I can totally relate to your struggle between the security of 9 to 5 job and doing creative although non-traditional kind of work. Two and a half years ago I was at the end of my pregnancy and I had a vision of quiting the job I didn’t like to stay home, raise my son and working from home by pursuing my creative passion. I had a PLAN! But then my husband was laid off, and soon after had to go thru a spine surgery. To support us I had to put aside my dreams of quitting the 9-to-5, and go back to the job I didn’t like. Fast-forward two+ years: my husband is still unemployed and I am still at the same job. But I did not give up my dreams. I have recently started a blog, and I plan to open a store and offer classes. I am determined to make it happen! And all that to say THANK YOU! Thank you for all the inspiration, information and talent that you so generously share with us. It is thanks to your blog that I got the courage to take the first step to see what happen.
    I know at first it is a shocker, having lost the stability of your husband’s income and having him at home. But sounds like you have lots of ideas (not surprisingly!) to make this work. It might get tough, and then it gets even tougher, but in the end things have a way of working themselves out. All the best to you and thanks again for all that you do!

  19. Imogen March 2, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story. I felt compelled to simply comment you and your family on how you have been able to cope with such a drastic change and adapt. I know the future is uncertain (as it always is) but your optimism and commitment shines through. Sending more optimistic vibes from Australia. x

  20. becky March 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Nicole I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through and I just wanted to say that I am thinking of you.

    Becky

  21. Laura @ Lolalina March 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    So tough. I know; my hubby was laid off a few weeks after our baby was born and it took a year to find another permanent position – he was able to temp in the meantime, but as you say, COBRA is no joke, so it felt like a tiny trickle of money. Financial worries suck, there’s just no other way to say it.

    I’m glad to hear you have some options to consider, and…should you decide to take on new web design clients, I would be VERY interested!

    xoxo Laura

  22. Emily March 3, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    I know how tough it is when work and money stresses are combined with having a young family and your own business. Change and uncertainty of what next are always challenging but when you are managing change for yourself and your family it is even more difficult.
    It sounds like you are in a good position in terms of knowing what you and your family need/want, and I hope that you can all work through this together and reach a better, calmer place soon.
    Sending love and positive thoughts x

  23. Dariela March 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    I’m sure you guys will make it, you have so much you offer here and you are always sharing all your info.
    I also work from home on graphics and blogging and we’ve been very tight for about a year or so, it’s hard even though my husband does have a job but like you say, I don’t want to give up the time I spend with the kids and schedule flexibility. Glad you are committed to your blog cause I’ll keep coming to read you, you are so inspiring! Good luck to Brandon finding a new job.

  24. Mae March 17, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    I’m so sorry for your struggles. My husband is in his second round of unemployment. Wall Street has not been kind to us. We are considering large changes; a career change, a move accross the country. None can be taken lightly with four children in tow. I appreciated your candor. Good Luck and God Bless your family.

  25. StickyCake March 21, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Thank you for sharing to us your troubles, I hope they are resolved as soon as possible.
    Good Luck, sincerely. I love your work and I follow your blog with great admiration.
    Buona fortuna e in bocca al lupo!

  26. Rebecca March 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Oh, unemployment sucks.

    I am so glad that you and Brandon are working through it,
    as best as you can.

    I was out of work for two years,
    and it was incredibly difficult.

    But?

    You will get through this.
    You will.

    Love to you and your family–
    I hope the new normal becomes employed normal very, very soon. :)

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