As I write this, today is Monday, March 30. A couple hours ago, I stepped outside, barefoot, and threw the frisbee a few times with my dog. Inside, my 8-month-old daughter, Penelope, was screaming her tiny head off in her room and frankly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed air. I needed to breathe. She cried for half an hour attempting to take her usual afternoon nap. She cried the whole time I made dinner and she cried the whole time eating her dinner. I put her pajamas on against her will, cradled her in my arms, held that binky in for dear life, and rocked. And rocked. And rocked. And she finally drifted off to sleep.
Don't worry, she wasn't sick, this was just an off night. The ones who love her call her Poppy, and we’ll all tell you right away what an even-keel, happy baby she is. She has the most adorable round face, big blue doe eyes, untamable brown hair, and two tiny bottom teeth. She is my world, and I don’t take her for granted for a second. But nights like tonight are an in-your-face reminder that I do this job alone. When she cries in the middle of the night, I don't take turns with anyone to get up, every turn is my turn. When she’s fussy while I’m making her bottle, I can’t immediately scoop her up while someone else warms the milk. When she’s got poop running up her back, and the dog is reaching to lick it, and I’m trying to open the stupid wipe container with my pinky while keeping a hand on the squirmy, poopy child . . . during all this, I am so clearly reminded that I am a single mother to this sweet [stinky] pea, and I have been from day one. Literally.
How one day changed the course of my entire life.
My now ex-husband (which still sounds so weird to me) left me on October 21, 2013. That date is forever engraved in my memory. I got off work on that beautiful fall Monday, and I distinctly remember driving home, the leaves falling, and thinking how happy I was with every aspect of my life. I loved my job as a graphic designer for a small local agency, I loved that my side-hustle selling printable planners online was suddenly taking off, I loved our adorable cottage house, I loved our rambunctious border collie, I loved that we were trying to start our family after nearly 5 years of marriage, and I loved my husband. Then I got home, and everything changed.
He sat me down at the kitchen table, hardly a moment to set down my bag, and he told me he was done. He didn’t want the house, didn’t want the dog, didn’t want the marriage, and didn’t want the family. I was speechless. Stunned. I was completely blindsided. For a moment I thought I was dreaming.
“So…what does that mean? You want a divorce?” I asked him. The word divorce stung. He nodded yes.
And guess what I felt next? Relief. Instant relief. I heard a voice in my head, clear as day, say Kelsey, this is your ticket out.
I know. I was a little confused too. Shouldn’t I be devastated? Shouldn’t I beg for him to stay? Shouldn’t I pray, God save our marriage? Yes, of course, the devastation came in waves and continues even now, but the begging and the praying . . . those never came. I did pray one prayer, and I prayed it daily. God, let it be clear. Whether we needed to stick it out or part ways, let it be clear.
We finished our conversation, and he left for the night. I sat at the table, bag still in hand, frozen. Tears rolled down my face, and I thought about how far we had come. We had nearly a decade under our belt for this relationship. We had worked through seasons of joy and seasons of frustration. We were on the brink of starting a family, something I had wanted for so long. And now here I sit. I had to completely start over.
I slowly stood up and went to the bathroom to get some tissues. As soon as I got in there, the thought ran through my head, I need to take a pregnancy test. If I’m pregnant, that changes everything. Spoiler alert: I was. And it did. All the other times I had peed on those dumb sticks in the last 9 months, it would take forever for the line to show up. But in an instant, there it was with it’s best buddy right next to it. Positive.
"Seriously?" I said out loud. “Now, God? Now I’m pregnant? Awesome."
I told my husband the next day and laid out his options: in or out. I wasn't afraid to be a single parent. My parents were divorced for most of my childhood, and I have wonderful relationships with both of them; I wasn't afraid of that option. I was also not afraid of counseling. I had seen marriages restored in the past, I knew the Lord could bring healing to our relationship if we put in the work. But the keyword is we. He wasn’t in it, and a week later he moved out.
Soooo... that was the first week of my pregnancy.
This is not just another mom blog or business blog.
This is the start of my story, and I'll share other parts as this blog progresses. But I wanted to share this snippet to show that everyone's journey is different. That day in October threw a big fat detour into my journey. In nearly an instant, I was standing on the starting line of a brand new path that I NEVER imagined for myself. Can I emphasize NEVER a bit more? NEVER. Though it took time to come to this conclusion, I eventually realized how exhilarating it was to have this opportunity to start something new.
In the last few months, Paper + Oats has picked up speed quite a bit, and I can't even describe how excited I am to see where this journey leads. A lot of opportunities are on the horizon, and I finally decided now is the time to start sharing what I've learned, both in my personal life and in my business.
This blog is definitely the start of something new for me, and my hope is that it will be an encouragement to those who read it. For a time, I thought I had nothing new to contribute to this massive world of blogging. Everything I had considered writing about was already being done. But ask 10 bloggers to write a post about donuts, and they'll write it in 10 different ways, reaching 10 different audiences. Every journey brings a new perspective! The Oat Bar will blend topics on single motherhood and my journey as a creative entrepreneur, shaping an approach that perhaps you haven't seen before.
One of my mottos for my business has been, look at what everyone else is doing, and do it differently. This has served me well so far, and I measure everything I do against this formula as I've worked my booty off to grow Paper + Oats. Literally from the first printable I ever designed, I looked through pages and pages of search results on Etsy of other printables, and guess what? They were all the same. I caught myself starting to design mine in a similar style, then stopped. Deleted everything. And started over. Look at what everyone else is doing, and do it differently. That night I created my first printable kit, and the design was completely different than anything else I had seen on Etsy. Within weeks, my shop was bringing in over $1,000 per month — a result I was totally not expecting. I decided then and there to always strive to break out of the mold with each new step for my business.
And that led me all the way to this blog, and months of saying to myself (yes, I occasionally talk to myself … sowhatwhocares), look at what everyone else is doing, and do it differently. I've been reading up on a wide variety of blogs, big and small, and learning everything I can about this new world of blogging. This is why it has taken me so long to start one — you guys, there are so many great blogs out there! But I really feel like I've landed on my sweet spot and discovered a niche that I'm truly excited to write about and share with you. I’m so hesitant to start a blog at all, knowing the time and energy that goes into keeping it consistent, relevant, and practical. But I’m going out on a limb here, deciding to be vulnerable (which is not my favorite thing in the world, ask my mother), and clicking Publish. Keep me accountable! If I forget about this whole blog thing in a couple weeks, drop me a line – this is your permission to nag.
Why single motherhood and entrepreneurship don't mix.
I’m not sure how many single mama creative entrepreneurs there are out there, maybe there’s a whole tribe, maybe we’re a rare breed, but either way, this is a direction I’ve decided to take this blog. It’s an avenue I feel hasn’t been explored much in this industry, and I'm excited to see what comes of it.
I know single motherhood isn't ideal, but it’s a reality for many moms. Being a creative entrepreneur is risky, anybody in this industry will tell you that. But as a single parent and the sole provider for your family, this risk can seem even greater. We have no spouse’s income to fall back on if our great new business idea is a total flop. We have no extra pair of hands in the evenings to help with the baby so we can work to meet a tight deadline. We have no built-in cheerleader lying in bed next to us when we get discouraged scrolling through the picture-perfect Instagram feeds. Entrepreneurship is a lonely business to begin with. Single motherhood plus entrepreneurship is the double whammy.
But Kelsey, I'm a happily married mom. Good! Stop what you're doing and send your spouse a sweet text, because having that partner is a blessing that should not be taken for granted. Now back to this — I hope you find encouragement and motivation in these words, simply from one mom to another. We're all in this together, and no one's story of motherhood is better or worse than another's.
But Kelsey, I'm a single kid-less boss lady. Here's my advice: sleep in tomorrow for me, will you?! But seriously, there will plenty of small business, creative entrepreneur, productivity goodness for you too. And there may be the occasional Penelope pic, so if nothing else, tune in to see her crazy hair.
Thanks so much for reading this far, you’re a trooper. Don’t worry, most posts won’t be nearly this long, so please don’t click unsubscribe just yet. I wanted to give you a quick snapshot of part of my story, and share my why behind The Oat Bar. I truly appreciate you following along with me on this journey, I think some exciting days are ahead!
Looking back on that crisp October day, maybe that unexpected detour was the best thing that ever happened to me.
While this blog will definitely serve as a journal for myself, I also want it to benefit you! So tell me about yourself — what motivates you? What type of work gets your fired up? What do you struggle with as a mother or entrepreneur? What do you wish you could do better in your business?
Photography by Adie Gateley at Salt & Sky Studios