Rachel Shingleton is an Oklahoma City mom of two who is the creative mastermind behind Pencil Shavings Studio. People across the country know Rachel from her personal and inspiring blog. She's run an online shop (which she recently closed to spend more time on the things that bring her the most joy) for the past five years where she sells accessories and home decor bearing her bright designs. You've likely seen some of these beautiful designs in major stores like The Limited and Nordstrom over the years.
Her blog was named Better Homes & Gardens' top decor blog in 2014 and her products have been featured in HGTV Magazine, Southern Living and RealSimple, just to name a few.
But deep down, Rachel is a working mom with the same struggles you'd imagine from someone trying to keep a tidy home, make memories with her two sons and steal away for a date night with her husband every now and then. Born and raised in Oklahoma City, she and her husband, Simon, met in the first grade, started dating in college and got married 10 years ago. They have two sons: 8-year-old Jude and 1-year-old Archer. This month, she gives us a peek inside the beautiful 1969 Quail Creek home she's lived in with her family for the past seven years and shares her secrets for finding success at home and at work.
MFM: You run a successful design business and keep an inspiring blog. Tell us about your work.
RS: My background is in graphic design and I started my own studio when Simon and I first got married. After Jude was born, I started blogging as a way to build a community and have a place to talk to other creatives. I really wanted a very fluid line between work and life, I had no interest in separating the two. Everything blossomed from that. I found my voice and my community on my blog.
In 2011, I started my own shop online because I wanted to pursue more product design. Everything grew from there. I ran the online shop for five years but recently shut it down. My time is so tight right now with my kids and I don't want to be over-committed. Closing the shop gives me more time to pursue licensing stuff and I really want to dabble more in interiors. It was a tough decision. On one hand, I didn’t want to let customers down or turn down opportunities or money. At the same time, I need the mental space freed up to allow other opportunities to come in. I really do see the value in saying "no" so you can later say "yes." Right now, I need to say "yes" better to my family and myself.
MFM: What is a typical day like at your house?
RS: It’s ever-shifting with a baby. He's really changed everything. But now Jude is in second grade so Simon gets up and takes him to school while I get up with Archer. I try to work while he's napping or while he's at Mother's Day Out. I pick Jude up from school and then it's just absolute mayhem until bedtime. There's lots of playing with neighbors, watching movies, playing with the dog and reading and doing sing-a-longs before bed.
MFM: Are there benefits to working from home as a mom?
RS: My husband and I are both self-employed (Simon is a real estate agent) and I think there are a lot of benefits to exposing Jude to how hard we work. There are a lot of discussions about why dad is leaving after dinner to go show a house because that's his job. I hope we have instilled in our kids that if you want to make things happen, you're the only one responsible for that.
It's more difficult to work from home in some ways, but the trade-off is you have flexibility. The boundaries are definitely blurred. You're working from home so that pile of laundry you haven't gotten to yet stares at you all day. You have to establish boundaries and get help when you need it. I try not to be in baby land all day every day. Taking time for Simon and I to have a break together where we go to dinner or take a weekend trip somewhere is important. Carving out time to remember you're a grown-up and you have interests is important. It's a challenge but I'm the best mom when I remember I can't just be in mom mode non-stop.
Getting time away is a huge part of mental health. It's hard as a mom to admit you need to take a step back and take care of yourself. There's not a mom I've talked to who doesn't feel the same way. You have to have some space for yourself so you can better take care of others.
MFM: What do you do when you find time for yourself?
RS: I love to get lost in a big stack of books. That's nurturing to me. I also like to just prowl around town and check out new shops and explore, have lunch with a girlfriend or go get my nails done.
MFM: There's a lot of chatter among women lately about balance. How do you feel about trying to balance work and home life?
RS: I think there's a huge misconception about women having it all. I feel like the struggle for balance is ever-present. I don't think I believe in balance. I believe something has to give.
MFM: When you had Jude, you were already establishing your career. How did you adjust to accommodate for motherhood?
RS: When I had Jude, I really thought my career was over. I really didn't know how I would do it.
I didn't know what the roadmap would be for running business and having children. I had to learn I could do it however I wanted. My time is more limited but it forces me to get more done. I wish I could go back in time and hug new mom me and tell her the career would be more than she ever thought.
MFM: Many people feel strongly about keeping work and home life separate. What prompted you to combine the two through your blog?
RS: I wanted the potential client to see I was a real person. I just wanted somebody to want to work with the whole me, not just a part of me. Is there stuff I don't share? Sure. It's definitely shifted over the years. The older Jude has gotten the more I don't share about him. I would never want him to feel uncomfortable. With babyhood it's different because everybody's baby experience is kind of universal. Once they get to a certain age, it gets trickier. There aren't a lot of moms out there blogging about their teenage kids. It's tricky to talk about those kind of experiences.
MFM: What are the biggest things your kids have taught you?
RS: Parenting at any stage is eye-opening. It's incredible to become responsible for someone else in such a big way.
MFM: What are the best and worst parts of motherhood?
RS: The best part is just getting to share your life with these fun little people and to experience things through their eyes. I love traveling with them. The best stuff is the long-term memory making, giving him the experiences that will hopefully shape his path. The worst part is just the physical exhaustion when you're in the trenches in the baby/little kid stage. There's an emotional exhaustion when they get older, too. It's no longer discipline for little things like hitting, it's developing character. As they get older, it gets exponentially harder.
MFM: Your blog is full of beautiful photos of your home. How do you keep it looking so good with young children at home?
RS: It’s difficult to keep things looking good at home. I want it to be the kind of place we all enjoy. I also want my boys to understand how to take care of nice things. I remember growing up and not being able to sit on the bed at a certain neighbor's house. I don't want there to be some room full of things that are untouchable to my kids, so I try not to be too anal about it. But having nice things at home helps my boys understand how to respect belongings and act at other people's homes.
MFM: You’ve been candid on your blog about dealing with postpartum depression, something many moms are familiar with. What advice would you give others moms going through difficult periods?
RS: Just be patient with yourself and be open to whatever season you're in and communicate your need. Simon has been so awesome to take Jude to school in the morning since Archer was born. I didn't know how I could physically do it all. Just talk about it. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do, but that's the fastest way to resolve it. I wish there was a magic system for it.
MFM: How do you want people to feel when they're at your house?
RS: Home is the place you come back to when you've been chewed up and spit out by the world. When Jude goes to school, I just can't help that he feels tired or that other kids are mean or that things are hard. But when he's home, we're there to support and catch him.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity. To learn more about Rachel, visit pencilshavingsstudio.com.