From her studio in St John, NB, Chavah Lindsay creates beautiful wedding dresses and a line of women’s wear she sells through Chavah Designs, her online storefront. And, for five of the last nine years, Lindsay has designed a gown — or two — for the NB Heart and Stroke Foundation’s annual Heart Truth fundraiser. The event — which celebrates its 10th year, and Lindsay’s 6th, in 2018 — features a red dress fashion show and celebrity concert, and this year will see YouTube sensations Walk Off the Earth headlining the stage. Both hugely time consuming and personally satisfying, Lindsay makes space for this annual event, and her home-based business, while juggling family life with her husband and three children — ages nine, seven, and three. We talked to Lindsay about how she manages to squeeze purpose into her life, while balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship.
Why did you start doing what you do?
I started designing a dress for Heart Truth the first year it started, in 2009. I missed a couple of years because my mom was sick, but apart from that I’ve been involved every year. I actually started doing this event before I started my design business full-time, and was still working in retail at that point. Heart Truth is open to all graduates (myself included) of the fashion design program at the New Brunswick College of Art and Design, and each year they put out a call for designers and hope that they have enough.
What does this work bring to your life?
It’s really fun! Last year was my first time actually attending the event in Moncton, and it was a blast. It was a little reward in the end to be a part of the whole thing and the runway. The women we’re designing for are not models, they are survivors, so they’ve never experienced walking a runway before. So it’s really cool to see them get so excited for this event.
This year I designed a dress for a 13-year-old girl who’d had a stroke. To be able to celebrate her and how she’s this strong little girl dealing with this is great. For these people that model for Heart Truth to get to experience this, and for me to be a part of giving them that experience is really cool.
Why is this work important?
Because I’m able to use my craft to raise awareness. Being able to use what I do to help is not only important for me, but also for these people who have gone through this or are affected by it. The girl I designed for this year has supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which I hadn’t heard of and I’m sure few others at the event had too before meeting her. From time to time her heartbeat speeds up and can go anywhere from 100 to 300 beats per minute just out of the blue. It’s really scary.
Has parenthood changed how you view your work?
Well, it was partially parenthood that pushed me to pursue this and start my own business. And I made a commitment to my mom that I’d go for it before she passed away. I also wanted to show my kids that you have to just go for it and do what is going to make you happy, even though there’s always going to be a reason not to.
What do your kids think about what you do?
They see people constantly flow into our house on Saturdays when I’m working, so it’s kind of funny for that. I don’t know, when they have friends over they’re like, “This is my mom’s studio, she’s a designer.” I don’t know if they see any difference between doing the Heart Truth event versus my regular work because to them it’s all mom making dresses, but yeah, they think it’s neat.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other parents about living with purpose?
You have to find what’s going to make you happy and just go for it. It doesn’t have to be a full-time job, it just has to be something that is right for you. If you’re a mom there’s never enough time for anything, and you’re just going to drain yourself anyway, so why not use your time going after what you love?
What do you think you have in common with other moms?
Difficulty in managing my time around all of my kids activities, and I have to work when my husband’s home from work. He works a regular Monday to Friday eight to four job, so I work after everyone’s done supper and when they are done their hockey and their skating lessons and all those extra things. I just kind of have to sneak in work whenever I can, but I find time because it’s rewarding, so I make it work.
What’s been hardest about what you do?
Finding the time to do everything that I want to do. It’s really hard. I’m buried in mounds of laundry half the time, trying to sneak in some time. My studio is right in my house so it’s this toss-up all the time — should we go play group today or does mommy need to finish doing this dress order? It’s this constant battle for my time. It’s tricky but you have to make it work. There’s a lot of mom guilt involved.
What other moms do you admire?
My mom, honestly. I came from a family of five kids and somehow she balanced that. Anytime I’m having a hard day and I’m like worn out I’m like, “My mom did it with five kids, how the heck did she do that?” And she still managed to work part-time and deal with us, and then she actually campaigned for the heart and stroke foundation too, so she found time to give back to people too, despite the crazy life she had.
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The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Come join us on Facebook.