Making time for me! How I learned that sewing really is self-care.

New Arrival

Our little family – me, Fred, and Tailor. Photo credit William Marcus.

My life has been a little challenging since July 23rd – the day my husband, Fred, and I brought home a Mini Australian Shepherd puppy. The puppy’s name is Tailor. He’s so great, but he is an Aussie and he is a puppy, which means he is a handful. Within a week of bringing him home, my world felt out-of-control. Though Fred and I are both parents, we didn’t raise children together, and suddenly, here we were, attempting to co-parent a furry, four-footed baby! This was a new challenge for us as a unit, and Tailor’s boisterous entrance into our lives magnified Fred’s tendency to be inflexible and my inclination to people-please. (Not a great combo!) Between work and struggling to keep Tailor out of Fred’s hair, I feared I’d never have time for myself again.

The Dilemma

Before Tailor arrived, Fred and I had achieved a stasis in our lives. Fred is retired, but he hosts a weekly music show on public radio, and he is on the board of an environmental group. Plus, he works hard in the yard and does all the grocery shopping and food preparation. I work many hours at Confident Stitch and love to hike and sew in my off hours.

But, when we brought him home, Tailor quickly began to wreak havoc on both our domains. Fred’s yard and garden were ripe for digging, and his time for meal preparation was interrupted by Tailor’s shenanigans. My desire to work, sew, and hike was thwarted by needing to keep Tailor out of trouble and entertained while Fred did his thing at home.

No Quick Fix

At first, my solution was to work hard on getting Tailor trained up. We invested in classes and a puppy crate and worked on setting consistent boundaries with our little Tasmanian devil. But soon it became apparent that no amount of training could combat pure puppy energy. Puppies need to run and dig, chew, and bark! There’s no universe in which Tailor could have seamlessly joined our household. Change to our routines had to happen. But, because I knew Fred didn’t really want things to change, I began to bend over backward to try and take the burden off of him.

I made a Venn Diagram to illustrate our competing Interests. The only Interest Tailor, Fred and I share is “Treats,” and even then, our definitions of treats all differ! Freeze-dried liver for Tailor; dried mangoes for Fred; and, chocolate for me.

Powerful Words

Bringing home a puppy is hardly a traumatic experience. It’s not akin to a cancer diagnosis, or a parent with Alzheimer’s, or a car accident. Nevertheless, Tailor’s arrival created a situation that threw me for a loop.

I wasn’t sleeping enough because the puppy demanded a 5 am breakfast and play outside. My work schedule became erratic because I would rush home at random times to take over puppy care after receiving a call that Fred had hit his limit. I turned down invitations to do things so as not to leave the dog unattended, and, on top of it all, I had absolutely no time for my number one stress reliever: sewing.

My nerves were fraying. I was frustrated and felt at a loss. But then, while rereading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, I stumbled across a passage that has made all the difference. In Week Seven she writes:

Make this phrase a mantra: Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.

The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron. Photo credit – take heart shop

After weeks of not daring to ask for sewing time, I decided to start treating myself like a precious object. I needed/wanted a new pair of pants, so when Fred and I talked about our plans for the day during breakfast one Sunday, I said I’d like one hour to sew. I was only able to carve out 30 minutes that day, but I found over an hour the next day. By treating myself like a precious object, I felt stronger. And so I decided to look at other areas of my life where this mantra could be applied.

Making Changes

For the past 8 years, I’ve spent over 40 hours every week working at the Confident Stitch because that’s what it takes to get a business up and running! After getting Tailor, I didn’t want to admit that I might need to cut back my hours. (I have a bad habit of trying to care for everyone but myself.) But, with Julia’s words in my head, I finally broached the topic with my staff, and we found a solution.

It seems obvious now that letting my team run the shop on their own for a few hours a day isn’t that big of a deal. But it wasn’t until this mantra helped me to frame my self-care as a strength and a necessity that I was able to take a step back and see the whole picture.

My new pair of Free Range Slacks made from the 7.5oz Jetsetter Stretch Twill in Royal

Your Needs Matter

I’ve learned from this experience that it’s important to express your needs to the people around you. Because I’m such a people-pleaser, I spend a lot of my time worrying about what other people want. When Tailor began to disrupt our routines, I began to overcompensate. Fred wasn’t quite ready to get a puppy, and he made a lot of sacrifices. He cut way back on his environmental work and made less time for friends. I felt that I couldn’t ask him for one more thing, even if that thing (time to sew) was important to me. But, the longer I disregarded my needs, the more frustrated I became. I felt powerless.

As soon as I took my power back, started taking care of myself, and expressing my needs, things became better. I hope that next time you and I feel like we’re giving more than we can give, we both stop to remember the mantra: treating myself like a precious object will make me strong. We don’t exist just to wait on the people and puppies around us. We are precious, and taking care of ourselves is a valuable strength.

Now go do some sewing!

~Kate

26 thoughts on “Making time for me! How I learned that sewing really is self-care.

  1. Amanda says:

    18 months ago my son dropped off an 8 month old puppy because where he lived would no longer allow them to have pets. Mae (nicknamed Mayhem around here) has been a challenging addition to our lives as well. While we have a small acreage, we also have chickens, ducks, cats and a geriatric dog (16+ Lab) and the addition of an untrained pup who lived in a rental house with really no boundaries or rules threw us for a loop. At first the only way to even temper her energy was to walk her three times a day. She can not be off a leash because she loves to chase anything and everything, and does not always come on command. So, your struggles with a high-maintenance pup I can understand! We also are in the process of starting two businesses and I’ve felt lately as if we are working 24/7 to get things off the ground. I appreciate you sharing that you needed to take some time for yourself! I love the slacks – I haven’t made any fun clothing for myself in awhile. It’s a good reminder as we finish up one year and start the next!

  2. Elizabeth F Robertson says:

    Thank you for this, it’s a timely reminder for this time of year. Thank you. Wishing you Happy and peaceful holidays.

  3. Dona Taylor says:

    Mini Aussie’s are a bundle of energy for their first year and they will gradually mature to semblance of calm. You will find that a he will have a wonderful “off” switch as he gets older…and nothing can compare to their personality, which will magically compliment yours. I found with ours, that a game of fetch, especially if it involves stairs, will satisfy their energy as well as a hardy and tough game of tug-a-war. These are tough, strong, highly intelligent, very entertaining dogs also quite easy to train if you can find what reward they desire. For our mini teaching her to come was rewarded with a game of tug-a-war. Something she loves to this day. They are so smart that they will learn what you want just by observation of your family over time. She has also learned to pee on command….very useful. She’s 4 years old and an amazing companian and friend. Lest she sounds perfect she did manage to destroy the bottom foot and a half of my design wall and pull a quilt off of my frame we built a barriar around my quilting area.

    • kate says:

      Thanks Dona!
      I look forward to a calmer dog, but I love Tailor so much! I have had other dogs, but none compare to his companionship.
      🙂 Kate

  4. Laurie Boyd says:

    Kate,
    Loved the tale of “Tailor and the New Pants”. It was a great story and
    additionally inspired my vow to get more sewing time for me.

    Great photos, beautiful dog, beautiful family and joy!

    Merry Christmas and God bless you every one!

  5. Roxi B says:

    Kate – thank you for sharing your story. I loved that you picked up the artist’s way by Julie Cameron. I’ve had my copy since 1994 when my son was born and I had a corporate job, a musician husband and completely lost my way creatively. I also love that you leaned into your team. Way to go! I think I’ll pull Artist’s way from the stacks this weekend and see what inspiration it has for me. Happy Holidays and New Year.

  6. Morgan says:

    Thank you so much for this honesty, Kate! I can definitely relate to the bending over backwards to keep people happy. Intend to keep my life small to avoid the conflict instead of opening up and improving communication around my needs. This is a nice lesson.

  7. Sandra Blackwell says:

    I got my dog a dog a couple months ago. Dog is now 2. Dogs dog is now just about a year. Hoping her brain downloads soon! Aussies are working dogs. They need a JOB to keep them engaged and out of trouble. Good for you for making time for you.

  8. Cathy Larsen says:

    Thanks for such a wonderful post Kate! I saw myself in so many of your words and experiences.
    Thanks also about the reminder about “The Artist’s Way”. I will pull out my copy of that again and re-read some passages.
    Best of luck navigating your experiences with Taylor, your relationships and life balance in general. Judging by many of the comments in this thread, you are certainly not alone in your endeavors. Happy and blissful sewing to you!

  9. Pati Palmer says:

    Kate, I enjoyed reading your story. Recently I reminded my self that sewing is indeed a proven stress reducer according to a study I read while I was on the board of the American Home Sewing Association many years ago. Running both a business and life often leads to not taking care of yourself. So good for you to put in action what you know you need to do. I feel much the same right now. I read your blog to the very end. It it because have that Missoula connection? I too am finding hiking and sewing calming. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Sue Osborn says:

    Thank you so much Kate for sharing and encouraging all of us to take care of ourselves. And sewing is definitely a stress & anxiety reliever!

  11. Suzy Johnston says:

    Your comments knocked me on the head! I don’t have a new puppy, but have realized my sewing time has slowly and subtly disappeared.
    Family, home, yard, memberships in organizations and life in general has taken my sewing time.😵‍💫
    THANK YOU for reminding me to be more intentional!
    I will need to PLAN to get

    taken my time! I

  12. Heather G says:

    Kate, thank you so much for sharing your journey. As a recovering people pleaser, your struggle to “treat yourself as a precious object,” resonated with me and was a gentle reminder that I need a reset in my own life. Thank you!!

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