Balancing work and parenting
By Yvonne Rath, Co-founder of Pixelpod
For a designer, owning your own studio is the dream. It’s the promise of having more creative freedom and flexibility and for me, designing, creating and constantly learning is simply an awesome way to live. The company I work for, Pixelpod, was set up in 2011 by my partner James and I, 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 of the country. Now we have the pleasure of working with some great people, creating new brands and websites for clients in Ireland, the UK and Belgium and have been twice recognized as Irish Design Awards finalists.
Our aim was always to make Pixelpod a fun and successful Irish design studio that we could be really proud of. Making this happen has taken a lot of work, requiring determination, a willingness to take chances and the ability to perform circus-level juggling.
Our studio is based in a shared workspace in Wexford called 61 North, which we set up in 2016 and which we also manage. We are parents to an awesome five year old, Ella May. For the first three 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’!
We have found that parenting, working together and managing two businesses is relentlessly challenging and stressful but it is never boring. One solution we have found is to have some general do's and don'ts. For example,
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 skillsets and we divide up what needs to be done depending on those strengths. Realising what our strengths were initially took time but together we figured it out. When Ella was younger, I felt guilty for leaving her in creche for eight hours a day, four 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 quality time away from the studio has actually helped us focus and we are more productive when at work.
Over time we’ve evolved and learned many lessons. For example I used to think that routine was the enemy of creativity but for us it's been essential to making our lives happier. Being a parent and creative director has taught me to be patient, prioritise tasks and to 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. I understand what I'm good at but 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.