Motherhood and Business :: Alisa Burke

Sep 19, 2013 | Being A Mama, Life in Progress

This series shares brave, honest, sometimes hilarious stories of how we hold it all together in one breath and let it all go in another. I want to share stories of what mamahood + biz really looks like, and demystify the idea that we can’t do both well….because I believe that we can do both really well.

I created these questions as a way for me to sit and pause inside the wisdom of mothers who are on the path with me. I’m deeply interested in hearing what they have to say about how they manage, how they cope, how they do their work in the world while also being fully present in the center of their motherhood journey. I need the examples, the stories, the truth.

Today I’m so excited to share Alisa Burke’s story and wisdom with you! I have yet to meet Alisa in person (a fact that we can’t believe considering she now lives on the OR Coast)  but we were connected about four years ago through our mutual editor/publisher and we’ve stayed in touch ever since and through our mutual motherhood journeys. I’m one of her stalkers on Instagram where I often wonder HOW IN THE HECK does she do it all? I’m also a big fan of her super popular website which is crazy full of great ideas, art tutorials, classes, and stories of her life with her husband and daughter. I love the way incorporates creativity and motherhood in gorgeous ways. And did I tell you our husbands are both surfers and stay at home papas? Yes, there’s that, too.
Get ready, friends. To be INSPIRED…..


I am the product of wonderful parents who were self-employed artists. Thankfully they recognized my abilities and interest in art and supported my creative goals at an early age — so early, in fact, that I cannot remember life without art. By about the age of 7, it was pretty clear that when I grew up I wanted to be an artist and my parents supported this endeavor for my entire life. By the time high school hit, I had already been selling and showing my work and my identity was wrapped up in being “that quiet girl that made art”. I went on to college to study painting and printmaking, grew my creative resume, continued showing my work and bounced from one creative job to another. Insert 15 more years of juggling a day job with making, selling art and teaching workshops and here I am today working for myself as an artist and author.


Over two years ago my husband Andy and I decided to start a family. Three months later I was pregnant and we made the decision to chase after the dream of simplifying our lives. We set a plan in motion to leave our fast paced lives in Southern California and move back to my small hometown on the Oregon Coast to pursue a simpler life where we could raise our daughter and run my creative business together. During my pregnancy we worked, planned and saved money for our dream and in October of 2011, my daughter Lucy was born and our world was turned upside down in the best of ways. For the first eight months of Lucy’s life I was at home running my creative business, planning our move and taking care of a baby while my husband finished up his job as a structural engineer. In July of 2012 we hit the road for the Oregon Coast and never looked back! Today my husband Andy and I work as artists while we raise our daughter Lucy.


What makes you come alive? 

I have to say that creativity makes my spirit come alive. I cannot explain the feeling I get when I make something (anything) but it feels like magic. Whether I am drawing, painting, sewing, crafting, taking photos or even cooking I feel most alive. Being an artist and creating every day is what I was made to do: it is as essential as breathing.


 What matters most to you?

I could write an entire post just on values but I will keep it short and sweet by sharing that FAITH, FAMILY and CREATIVITY are at the core of every single decision I make in life.


How has being a mom changed your boundaries & priorities when it comes to your business? What do you find yourself saying NO to, when you used to say YES? 

Being a mom has definitely changed my boundaries and priorities when it comes to my business but in unexpected ways. During life before Lucy, I was very productive and goal driven. At the core of everything I did (the creative process, business decisions and priorities) was an overwhelming passion and need to make art. Once Lucy was born my thinking changed. While art is still the core and foundation of my individuality, I now feel like I’m doing it for Lucy, our family and our future. I now see my passion for creativity to be a way in which I can be a provider and this has influenced the direction of many decisions that I make. I wish I could say that I find myself saying no more often (these days I only say no to travel opportunities) but to be honest I have been saying YES as much as possible. Saying “no” actually feels like a luxury that was reserved for my life before family. But don’t get me wrong! We should all give praise when we have the opportunity to say, “yes!” But I guess if I were to sum it up, my boundaries have changed with the arrival of family life. Long ago, my dream was to simply get paid to be an artist, but now that I’m older my dreams are more about using my passion for art to create a future for our family.



How do you structure your day? When do you rest, when do you create, and how do you summon the energy to show up for your kids, while running a business? 

Structure is my biggest challenge these days! My business has been rapidly growing, which means more time, organization and structure is needed. Since most of my time is spent working from home with my husband and daughter all day, structure (and juggling distractions) can be tricky! I don’t necessarily have set days or hours for work, but instead have accepted that I have to work seven days a week BUT with lots of flexibility. I find that it is helpful to split tasks up into small chunks of time (or “micro-sessions”, I like to call them). I’ll work for two hours at home or in my studio (which is luckily 5 minutes away), and then change gears, switch off with my husband and take over with the childcare duties (while he takes a break and goes surfing, works on his art, or works around the house). We switch back and forth like this all day – a harmonized little tag-team. Everything from checking email to filming online classes to making art is typically done is small blocks of time. I have what I like to call “creative ADD” (where I need to jump from project to project to stay inspired and productive). To be honest, even before becoming a mom, I enjoyed working this way! While it’s probably not the most ideal way to work or run a business, right now it seems to be working for me.

There are times when I really miss the freedom to be selfish with my time, but those moments are thankfully fleeting. More than anything, I love spending time with my daughter and being a part of her daily schedule. I know this time in her life is short so it’s a priority for me to soak it all up as much as I can. While it would make more sense for me to leave the house and work for more than 2 hours at a time on a project- our schedule makes me happy. I love being at home and incorporating my daughter and my husband into my daily creative projects and tasks. I also love being available to drop everything and go play with my family. I’d gladly work late into the night in exchange for a day of adventure!


What kind of world are you trying to create for your child to grow up in? 

When we found out I was pregnant we set a dream in motion to leave busy Southern California and return to my small hometown on the Oregon Coast to raise our family. My husband quit his job to be a stay at home dad and pursue his own art career and my creative business became the means for our survival. We knew that if we decided to start a family there was no looking back, we wanted to say gooodbye to the predictability of steady jobs and income and choose the road less traveled. Our longing was to live a simple and alternative life with creativity and family at the center. It’s definitely not always perfect (in fact it can be down right challening) but now that we are living our dream, we cannot imagine our life being any other way. From days spent together, to making art as a family, to running a business together- our goal is to build a life that mimics the rhythms that feel most natural for us. I know that our goals will always be changing and evolving but right now our focus, in a nutshell, is to embrace simplicity, explore creativity and nurture Lucy’s passions.


Have you ever had a full-on, grown-up-lady tantrum or puddle-of-mush meltdown? (Be honest.) What triggered it? What was the lesson, for you? 

While I don’t have meltdowns all the time, I’ve been known to sit in the corner of my closet and cry! Typically my meltdowns are triggered by stress. Not exactly a revelation, right? I tend to be one of those people who stuff their daily strains down and finally something that happened months ago sets me off and I lose it. They don’t last for very long, just long enough to expel all those thoughts, fears, stressors and emotions. It’s either my husband or parents who listen to me and give me encouragement and then I usually pick myself up and move forward. What I have learned over time is that there’s nothing wrong with a good-ol-fashion meltdown. For me, it’s a good way to clean the emotional slate. It’s like turning the etch-a-sketch upside down, shaking, shaking, shaking and presto! A fresh start.


What is the most rewarding thing about being a mom and an entrepreneur? 

Hands down it’s the flexibility and availability to be a part of my daughter’s life. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the opportunity to run my business from home while making memories with Lucy and my husband. At any moment we can drop everything and go play outside together- all the late nights, strange hours, and 7 day work weeks are worth it!


For you, is balance a myth or something you reach for – tell us your philosophy, your secrets, your ideas.

I used to live my life thinking that balance was the answer to everything and then I became a mom! Those early days of taking care of a baby and running a business were really challenging because I had to re-train my brain to think and operate in a completely different way. While I was able to be creative and productive, I learned very quickly that balance was NOT the key to my success anymore. Instead, I found that operating “one day at a time” or even “moment by moment” helped me forgive myself when balance wasn’t achieved. These days, I’ve found a better rhythm of being an entrepreneur and a mom (a lot of this has to do with a wonderful stay at home dad for support) and my daily success has nothing to do with balance. Of course there are aspects of my life that could be in better balance: self-care, time management, cultivating friendships, etc. but these days I am happy and satisfied if I keep my expectations simple and manageable. If I’m productive, creative, joyful and present for my family, I am satisfied at the end of the day!


What is your biggest struggle? How do you handle/manage/cope?

My biggest struggle has been with asking for help! I am a control freak who has a ridiculous amount of energy and a talent for multi-tasking which is a dangerous combo for knowing when and how to seek support. Over time, I have become really good at handling pretty much every aspect of my business but once Lucy arrived this got tricky. For the first year of motherhood I continued to operate as if I could do it all, but this way of thinking caught up with me and I had to learn the hard way (exhaustion and burn out) that I must ask for help. Juggling motherhood with my business has taught me that I need to step back and start leaning on those around me for help. Admitting that I cannot do it all has been a BIG struggle for me and it has been even harder to learn how to ask for help. It seems like such a simple thing- to reach out for assistance but for me it will continue to be a life long struggle.

::The MOM-BRAIN, at WORK:: 

How has being a mom influenced your business? Do you bring your mama ways to work with you? If so, how? 

Leading up to pregnancy and Lucy’s arrival I spent so much time scared of what would happen to me and my business once I became a mom. I mean, I was obsessed with the worrying about losing my creativity and my identity as an artist and entrepreneur. And then Lucy arrived and something really amazing happened: my inspiration and creativity flourished in ways I never could have imagined! Incorporating motherhood into my life as an artist and entrepreneur has been the single most profound part of this journey so far. I knew our lives would be creative and that parenting and business could co-exist. I knew I would introduce art to Lucy with the obvious: drawing, painting and crafting. But what I didn’t realize was how inspired I would be by having a child. Every moment of every day I find myself tapping into my creativity to express my love to Lucy. From making things that bring her joy to using art for teaching moments to finding inspiration in her interests, I have discovered a whole new way to be creative. All of this has greatly influenced the direction of my creative business and added a new way of seeing to the way that I make art. I now consider myself a mom blogger (something I would have cringed at before becoming a mom) and I have found a really unique perspective and voice that I enjoy sharing with my readers and customers. I have always loved inspiring others to be creative but now I am able to inspire women to incorporate art into motherhood.


What’s one of your secret indulgences . . . something you love to do, when you’re unplugged from your work & nobody’s watching? 

Self-care is something that I am not so good at these days and as much as I wish I had a beautiful and profound way to indulge, if I am going to be honest, I love watching trashy reality t.v.! I have no shame in admitting that I love a good television show and when I unplug from work I enjoy a mindless Housewives marathon! And I have been known to enjoy driving fast while blasting rap music (alone of course).


If you kid was in charge of your business, what changes would he or she make — immediately?!

Effective Immediately-

We would eat food off the floor

Paint or draw on our feet before starting the day.

Wear underwear on our heads.

Give random hugs and blow kisses to strangers.

Limit time on the computer and phone (it’s so boring).

Take lots of breaks for dance parties.

Paint the refrigerator instead of canvas.

Take a nap in the middle of the day.

Listen to opera music all day.

Oh wait, it just dawned on me most of these things are already happening 🙂

Huge thanks to Alisa for time, and for giving us a peek into her life.
You can connect with Alisa through
Website | Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Blog

Click here to see all the posts in the Motherhood + Business series.

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (3 comments)
  1. mama bleu

    So encouraging!! I am a caregiver for my grand children a couple days a week. As a working artist I love hearing stories of how other working artists are making it work! Thank you Alisa and Kelly Rae!

  2. Pippa Storyofmum

    Love hearing about creative mamas being inspired by motherhood, thank you so much for this.

    I still find it amazing how much it is possible to do creatively alongside my children, despite the challenges. I love how inspiring their spirit can be, connecting me to the joy of creating again. And the desire they create in me to be the best person I can be so that they do the same has inspired some brave creative leaps. Thank you x

  3. Jane George

    i loved that! Thank you ladies. as a mummy of 3 little ones… trying to restart an art career…especially with the added challenge of my eldest daughter having smith magenis syndrome, any inspiration is sucked up like water on a desert xxxxxx


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I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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