Coronavirus has turned pretty much everybody’s ideas of traditional workplace on its head, but what do you do if you find yourself with extra time on your hands because of that?
If you’re Chris Boudy, it means you start a new project…
Or many new projects.
Here’s what I learned talking with Chris about his many endeavors.
The balance between creativity and tech
The first thing to know about Chris is that he exudes a good balance between self-proclaimed tech “nerd” and creative developer. For his day job, Chris works as Director of Information Technology for Volunteers of America, but all of his side hustles and projects are much more “right brain.”
Working from home has allowed for more quality time with his wife and four children (including more meals together and a movie night every Friday), as well as saving money and more time to work out.
He’s actually found himself becoming more productive while working from home, finishing his work for the day around lunchtime.
In fact, many of Chris’ activities were born out of just having too much free time on his hands, and his creative mind telling him “I’ve got time for something else!”
Chris’s first creative outlet, for example, actually started back in 2017. Chris became the Creative Director of Creative Orleans — a creative shop that specializes in website design, book publishing, and video production. He works with a handful of other creatives that work with him on specific projects.
What to do with a vacation-less summer? Build a garden, of course
Chris says he and his family pretty much exhausted their Netflix and Hulu choices in a matter of weeks. He and his wife were facing a summer with no camps to send their kids to, no vacation to look forward to, and Chris was looking for an activity.
That’s when he had a conversation with his wife, an entertainment chef, about how much money they spend on potatoes. Chris says his “nerd side” took over, and once he decided it would be more cost-effective to grow their own potatoes, he absorbed all the information he could about gardening.
Then one morning he woke his two sons up early and took them to a “secret meeting,” telling them they were starting a “secret garden club,” complete with a “secret pact” — rubbing their hands in the dirt.
Not surprisingly, the 7-year-old was more enthusiastic than the 14-year-old. But as the three of them learned together, Chris’ sons began to really lean into the experiment. And one day, the boys came running inside and told Chris he had to come take a look!
It was only a small bud that had started growing, but all three of them were so excited that they just stood in silence and watched it in amazement.
Chris called it a parenting moment. “I make a lot of mistakes,” he said, “but this time, I knew I got something right.”
Phase 1 of the garden included strawberries, potatoes, and carrots, but in Phase 2 they upgraded to a host of seven different vegetables. Chris’ 14-year-old even decided that he wanted to become a flower expert, planting twelve different types of flower seeds. While Chris believes there may be an ulterior motive involving the girls at his son’s school, seeing his son take the initiative to buy the seeds himself and do the research has made him very proud.
At first, Chris and the boys created their Boudy Gardens Instagram page as a way to share their gardening with their family across the country. But over time, they began to hear feedback from other Black families and minorities who rarely saw people of color represented in the gardening community and wanted to learn, too. So they added a YouTube channel as a way to share their experiences as first-time gardeners with a wider audience.
Fatherhood for the modern family
Once Boudy Gardens was underway, Chris felt the familiar creative voice telling him “you still have too much time on your hands!”
A few years ago, Chris had started thinking about writing a book about fatherhood. But his wife (who, he said, is always right) told him he should wait. And Chris is glad he listened — he’s undergone significant personal growth and development since the idea first came to him.
But now, he had a new spin on the idea — a podcast about his own journey to going from a good father to a great father.
And Chris has plenty of experience. At 35, he’s a father to four children in a beautiful blended family. For years, it was just Chris and his son, but once he married his wife Toya, 2 quickly became 5. Chris told his son, “Things are going to change. We can’t eat Doritos on the couch anymore…”
But Chris never wanted there to be an “us vs. them” mentality, never referring to any of the children as “stepchildren” and refusing to allow them to refer to him or his wife as “my dad” or “my mom” — just Dad and Mom. He told the new blended family early on, “The only way we become a family is through experiences with each other — even if they’re not all fun.”
One of Chris’ most incredible parenting memories was earning the trust and acceptance of his daughter, who was 11 years old when Chris first met her. Over the years, the two developed such a loving relationship that she surprised him with the idea of getting matching tattoos on her 17th birthday — for her, Tweety Bird holding half a heart on her wrist, and for Chris, Snoopy holding the other half on his wrist.
The love Chris has for his daughter, and all his family, is clear to me when we’re talking. (In fact, he teared up multiple times during our interview.)
And that love is equally clear in Chris’ new podcast, where he discusses not just the highs of having his younger son ask to sleep over in his older son’s room, or his daughter teasing his teenage son about girls from school — but also the mistakes he’s made. “One of the things fathers might take away from my podcast,” he told me, “might be what NOT to do.”
But Chris certainly has an extensive and unique perspective on fatherhood, which is all the more necessary to share in this modern world, where families look less and less like the “typical” 2.5 kids and a dog household.
In particular, Chris wants to discuss his experiences as a Black father and the unique challenges that come with raising Black children in America.
But his podcast is geared to all fathers, stepfathers, would-be fathers, soon-to-be fathers, and father figures of all types. And each episode ends with an action to take, to inspire listeners to think about their roles going forward.
WFH TIPS/ STUFF
So what has Chris learned while working from home and working on these new projects?
A few things:
Chris sometimes experiences a bit of whiplash switching from logic work mode in the morning to “the baby just wrote all over the wall in marker” mode in the afternoon. So one thing he’s done is take the email app off his phone and only checks it 9AM, 11AM, and 3PM.
He also learned that just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should be free and available 24/7, and it took him some time to set the boundaries for himself that he now swears by.
Chris maintains a tentative daily schedule that concentrates the majority of his work in the morning. That gives him more free time in the afternoons to finish work, work on his creative projects, or spend time with his family.
Chris believes the best way to do that is to ensure your free time isn’t wasted. “So instead of a 4-hour Netflix binge,” he suggests “what about a 2-hour binge and 2 hours of learning, reading, and developing?” He also tries to maintain the schedule that he creates for himself so as not to “steal time” when he’s in Dad Mode. He tells me, “I have to be honest with myself to make sure I’m not double screening (on my computer when I should be engaged with my family).”
Want to learn more about exactly HOW Chris set up his new podcast?
Join us on August 5th @ 1:30pm CST for an exclusive “Show and Tell” where Chris will give us an inside look at the tools and systems he uses. REGISTER HERE – it’s free!