We’re thrilled to have sweetheart slash internet Bright Spot, Erin Loechner, for June’s Mom You Should Meet! We’ve been big fans of Erin’s for a long time, and felt ourselves attaching and empathizing even more with the recent arrival of her baby daughter, Bee. Her site Design for Mankind (and new extension Design for MiniKind) is internationally recognized, just see the staggering press page here for evidence, and it’s no surprise. Erin’s eye for design and the next big thing excite, and her heart and intellect inspire. We’re not sure there’s any new fans to be had, but just in case you’re an Erin-first timer, here’s a little run down of what you’ve missed:
I grew up in southern Indiana in a very, very small town and headed to university to pursue a career in Media Relations (I wanted to be a news reporter, but my plans were foiled when I quickly learned that most news is bad news and I didn’t have the heart to stomach the delivery of sad stories. It took only one visit to the animal shelter for a personal interest piece to make me flee the news scene altogether!) I met my husband during a semester-long seminar where we filmed a documentary for American Red Cross and American Cancer Society. He was the director; I was a producer, and although we disagreed on everything at first, we slowly agreed on one thing: we were crazy in love.
He was a year older and moved to Los Angeles to pursue film (he won an Emmy!) and I stayed home to finish school. And although it was hard, I credit that nearly-two-year long distance relationship with developing the communication skills that keep our marriage strong to this day. Shortly after my graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles and we married. We bought a house, adopted two dogs and lived six years footloose and fancy-free a few blocks from the beach. I worked a lot of jobs in media, fashion, music, entertainment, advertising and PR before realizing that my dream job didn’t quite exist, so I might have to create it. Meanwhile, I had started Design for Mankind at a job where I’d become an impromptu (highly untrained!) art director as a place to catalog my visual inspiration and share ideas with the team. The blog skyrocketed after I shared our Los Angeles bedroom makeover (this was in 2007) and I’ve been writing and sharing and creating ever since.
A few years ago, we made a difficult decision to move from L.A. to the midwest to help take care of my husband’s father who had been recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was a turning point for us – choosing family over fortune – and it’s been a cornerstone for our life decisions ever since. We lost my father-in-law a short year-and-a-half later and we still miss him daily, but are so very grateful for the presence we all had in each other’s lives during the hard months of his slow decline.
Since then, we’ve been making an effort to live an intentionally creative life here in the midwest, renovating a home for HGTV.com and partnering with various websites to generate creative content via film, photography and writing. And, of course, I’m still blogging at the same site that launched it all, although I’ve recently added Design for MiniKind to the mix – a place for me to channel my love for kid’s design and modern parenthood.
Although I love-love-love my job, it can easily take over my life. There are no office hours on the Internet – no security guard that locks the doors at night. And I’ve always been a worker bee that has a hard time saying no to projects that sound exciting or emails that ask to be answered. So earlier this year, I made the decision to “slow blog” – maintaining regular hours during the day to answer emails/style photo shoots/freelance write, but to no longer blog just for the sake of blogging. Instead, I’ve been posting when I’m inspired – and only then. It’s been a welcome change, and a change that was fueled in large part with my daughter’s birth. I didn’t want to spend a minute away from her doing something that I wasn’t proud of or inspired by. I realize that not everyone has the chance to choose where they place their creative efforts, and I wanted to honor that choice by focusing on things that truly inspired my heart.
It’s been an amazing change, and I’m really grateful for the way my readers responded. I felt loved and embraced and encouraged, and I love seeing fellow bloggers adapt a similar pace. There’s a real world out there – a world without Instagram or Pinterest or TeuxDeux – and I’m on a mission to re-find it.
We had a little e-Sit Down with Erin, read what she had to say about life, motherhood, and tiny baby Bee after the jump!
1. What was the most unexpected surprise (hard or wonderful or both) about motherhood?
If you would have asked me this when Bee was a newborn, I would say it was the sacrifice of our bodies and minds and spirits to this tiny being. When newborns arrive, they bring bags that they promptly drop off under their mother’s eyes, scattering remnants of onesies and car seats and diaper creams all throughout their mother’s mind. It was a terribly difficult adjustment for me as I realized I could no longer form a sentence that didn’t involve breast milk or soothing or reflux.
But now, Bee is nine months old and forming a personality, and the newborn days are long gone. There are less tears, more laughter. And yet, it’s still hard in a different way. The surrender of control has been the hardest for me these days – walking the tightrope between making good decisions and realizing that all of the good decisions in the world can’t control the outcome. Accidents happen, no matter how many ways we attempt to babyproof our lives. And when you love someone as much as you love your child, it’s a harsh reality to face. So I suppose I’m surprised by how much love can sometimes look like gripping anxiety – and how a simple baby giggle can wash that same anxiety away in a heartbeat. It’s a very complex love, this parenting thing.
2. How do you balance work and family? Some moms call it a balance, some a juggle, and some just make trade-offs, what’s your take on “having it all”?
You know, my mantra these days has been to set priorities for the things that matter and to set realistic expectations for the rest. I wrote a bit about this here, but I’ve been making a serious effort to delete the phrase “I don’t have time” from my vernacular. Time is surprisingly malleable and we all have schedules we adhere to – some “busier” than others. But I’m a firm believer that if you set priorities and manage your expectations, there will always be enough time in the day for the things that matter most (as long as we remember to focus on them!). Our home has plenty of dust bunnies and I’m in dire need of a haircut, but I’m choosing to put my time elsewhere for now. And I think, for me, it’s important to make that distinction that how we spend our time is a choice. We’re not shackled to our inbox or office or calendar – unless we choose to be.
My priorities right now, this very second, are to maintain a healthy relationship with my husband, care for (and find enjoyment in) the early months of my daughter’s life and end the day feeling fulfilled, restful and at peace. So if Bee’s avocados aren’t always organic or I haven’t made time to plan the perfect 1-year-old birthday party for her, that’s OK. I’m choosing where to focus my time and energy – and that, to me, is the only way I can “have it all.”
3. What’s your diaper bag necessity, or must have item for Bee?
Oh gosh, I am such a first-time mother that I’ve stuffed my diaper bag to the brim with toys and snacks and outfit changes. It’s nuts, really. But I’d say if I had to choose just one diaper bag necessity, it would be a board book. She loves this one, and it almost always buys me a good 10 minutes of Bee Entertainment at a restaurant or church.
4. In 60 years what do you want Bee to remember you for?
I’d love for Bee to remember a mother who set boundaries with love, responded with grace and handled with care. I want her to remember a woman who would happily offer her hands to help and words to encourage. And I think, most of all, I want her to know what every mother wants their child to know: that they were loved unconditionally.
Photography by Woodnote.