Scrolling through the photos on Kwandaa Roberts’ Instagram feels like watching an episode of Fixer Upper. The interior design enthusiasts’ style is similar to Joanna Gaines’, right down to the shiplap and strategically placed copy of The Magnolia Journal. But Roberts’ fixer isn’t in Waco—it’s in a walk-in-closet turned mom cave, and, she bought it at Target.
Yes, the amazing interiors featured on Roberts’ account are that of a dollhouse. This mom’s miniature project proves that taking a few minutes of ‘me-time’ for mom at the end of a busy day can turn into a beautiful thing.
Roberts has always had a passion for interior design, but she doesn’t want to be redecorating her own house every six months, and as a busy OB-GYN and mom to 3-year-old Eden and 5-year-old Noah, she wouldn’t have time to anyway. “When I am home I try to be totally present for my kids,” she tells Motherly.
Mamas know how fulfilling a busy day can be, but we also know it can also leave your tank pretty empty by the time the kids are in bed. That’s why, for Roberts, getting her design fix through a little late night HGTV isn’t really an option.
“I’ll do all the stuff, clean up, put them to bed, and I’ll say, ‘I’m gonna watch one thing’, and then I don’t because I fall right asleep,” she explains, “So my ‘Mommy time’ doesn’t really become ‘Mommy time.’”
Roberts ended up finding a way to stay awake during her ‘me time’ last Christmas, when she bought a dollhouse for Eden. The house was originally pink and purple, and Roberts wanted to give it a more muted makeover. “I painted it and put up wallpaper and I had a lot of fun doing it,” she says.
That house design was toddler-friendly, but when Roberts saw a Fixer Upper inspired dollhouse at Target, part of the Gaines’ Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line, she knew she could make the wooden shell into a design masterpiece.
“I just started working on it at nighttime and it was just for me and just for fun,” she recalls, adding that because she was doing an activity she didn’t feel as tired as she would in front of the TV.
Research indicates that creative leisure activities like Roberts’ are good for our health, protecting us from stress and helping us at work. But statistics show many moms have trouble finding the time for ‘me time.’
A 2015 survey by Edison Research found only 23% of mothers say they “put in a lot of effort to keep up with their own hobbies or activities.” Just over half said they do make an effort, but have to share their ‘me time’ with other priorities. Twenty percent of the moms surveyed say they put in no effort at all because their own hobbies and interests are not a priority.
According to Pew, 60% of working moms say they don’t have enough ‘without the kids’ time to pursue hobbies and other interests. About half of moms who are not employed say the same thing.
“When we don’t take time to nurture ourselves and indulge personal interests, it’s easy to lose touch with who we are in the world,” psychotherapist Cherilynn Veland, author of Stop Giving It Away: How to Stop Self-Sacrificing and Start Claiming Your Space, Power and Happiness told Psychology Today.
Veland notes that emotional well-being is closely tied to physical well-being, and if moms don’t take time to relax and reenergize, we can end up at greater risk for psychological and physical health conditions.
“As women, we’ve been socialized to think about and care for others first. That can be a good thing in moderation. But taken to the point of self-neglect, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed, resentful and stressed out — and that’s not helpful for either ourselves or those around us,” she says.
Taking time to do something for you, whether it’s working on a dollhouse or knitting or just kicking back with a full-sized copy of The Magnolia Story, can actually make you a better mom, and in Roberts’ case, it’s been life-changing.
She’d never used Instagram before her co-workers encouraged her to post pictures of her mini fixer-upper, and now she’s getting messages and making connections with people from all over the world.
“Kenya and Australia and Romania—I’m huge in Italy right now,” she explains, adding that she’s thrilled to hear from people everywhere who’ve been inspired by her creation and are dusting off their own dollhouses and other crafty hobbies.
Roberts was even more thrilled to see the woman who inspired it all, Joanna Gaines, noticed her tiny work and gave her a big shout out on social media.
Roberts tells Motherly her best friend is a huge Joanna fan, and she is too (obviously). She says “it’s so exciting” to see her work featured by the Fixer Upper star and fellow busy mom. After all, if anyone knows what it’s like to balance a passion for design and family time, it’s Jo.