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Take some time our for yourself (Just being a mom)

– original publish date: 5/24/11

All too often, I feel like I work too much and am not being compensated accordingly. I know a ton of other photographers out there that share my frustration, exhaustion, and under-appreciation. It’s tough. Especially when you’re a parent. When you work from home, at what point do you draw the line? Do you work around your kids’ naps? Or when they are entertaining themselves with toys and you’re able to break away? Do you work at night, after they’ve gone to bed, so that in the morning you are beyond exhausted because you were up editing until 3am?

Even though I “don’t work Sundays” I still end up editing most Sundays. I just don’t shoot. But I’m still working. This week, I took my Sunday afternoon and took my toddlers up to the bike trail. 2 weeks ago, I took an entire day off just to play with my kids and that evening, take pictures of THEM for myself. I was able to take, edit AND order prints and products of those pictures all in the same night. And it felt amazing to have done it not only for me, but for my kids. It’s not fair to them that mommy is not only working all the time, but doesn’t have time to take THEIR picture. When I looked at my walls and realized that the pictures on them are a year old, it broke my heart. So I did something about it. But it just never feels like enough.

A photographer’s job isn’t 9-5. The hours are odd and usually consist of more than 40 hours a week between shooting, emailing, editing, ordering, meetings, etc. In a regular job, you may get up, go to work at 8am, get off at 4pm and are home and with your loved ones by 5. When you are home, work doesn’t matter. It’s just work. If your boss told you to give up your evening at 8pm to do something you’d tell him where to stick it :) But as a business-owning photographer, it doesn’t work that way. In the summer, sessions take place in the evening, sometimes as late as 8pm, lasting until 9. By the time I get home, my kids might be in bed. In the afternoon, when they are playing with toys I’m trying to keep up on editing, because if I take too much time away from it, I fall behind. When I come home from a shoot, it’s not just over from there. There is SO much that goes into a session, and its hours up hours of work. And when you get home and set your camera bag down, you’ll usually end up at the computer for the rest of the night, editing not that session but others- previous sessions, to keep them on time. My husband spends many nights on the couch by himself while I work, frantic to keep on top of my edits. There’s always a queue, but hopefully it will never be as bad as last fall. I told myself never again, and scheduled this spring accordingly.

That all went to the birds when we had nothing but gross and cold weather the entire months of March and April. TONS of sessions were rescheduled, and pushed back into May and June, which were already booked and full with their own sessions! Now in May, it’s done nothing but rain all month long, and countless sessions have been rescheduled into late May or June. It’s not a good feeling to struggle finding rescheduling dates for someone and not being able to accommodate them, because you are too booked. It’s not a “problem” of being too busy, but more an issue because of the weather that was out of everyone’s control. So here I am, again- working night and day to keep up, because I have more sessions than I know what to do with thanks to a few months of bad weather. The point of all this, is that in the midst of everything, no matter the reasons or circumstances, you need to take time for yourself. This week my oldest asked me to play with her and I told her that I couldn’t, I didn’t have time. She said “mommy why not? mommy working? again?” At that point, I found myself in tears. It’s not fair when she asks me to play with her and I have to tell her that mommy doesn’t have time, mommy needs to finish this CD before the mail comes today, mommy has deadlines to meet. It’s supposed to be more freeing and relaxing to work from home and run your own business, but it’s usually just the opposite.

At the end of March, I raised my prices. A LOT. I charged what I was worth, and what I felt like my time away from my family was worth. I stopped giving away the CD of edits for “free.” I completely changed my business model and converted to a high-end model that allowed me more one-on-one time with each client, which is what I wanted, and allowed me to take on less volume. I could take on 8 clients per month instead of per week. Everything will improve from my business view, to my family life. I will have the time to treat my clients like GOLD and not rush them in and out because I have to do a million sessions just to make any money. Just to break EVEN! I won’t even get into the insane expenses of running a photography business. That’s another day.

But in the meantime, I still had several months of old sessions booked up.

The rain has caused problems for a lot of people and businesses the past couple months- photographers, landscapers, contractors, etc. Right now I’m trying to do 3-4 months worth of work in about 2 months’ time, and it’s taking a toll on both my kids and my family. Even regardless of that-I’m trying to discipline myself to take a certain period of time off in the day to spend with just my family. Whether it’s an afternoon on nice days to go out and play with the kids, or evenings on the crappy ones to sit and watch movies and eat popcorn. I have to keep reminding myself that as much as I LOVE my work, and I pour my heart and soul into it, and love my clients…I cannot put their families above my own. In the end, NOBODY will look back on their lives and say “Man…I wish I would have spent more of my time on business and less on my family.”

These pictures are recent, from Nov 2011.