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8.16.2010

{mommy monday} time for a reality check

At the beginning of the year, as part of my resolution making process, I chose a word that I'd focus on and keep as my mantra for 2010. That word was "focus." At the time, coming off almost a year of unemployment and moving woes, I felt like I really needed to collect my thoughts and emotions and put all my efforts into finally starting my photography business "for real," after 15 years of basically portfolio building. I've been taking pictures for other folks since I graduated high school, and all the while, I've carried tons of guilt and feelings of inadequacy because I just couldn't bring myself to take that leap of faith and start a real business.

A funny thing happened this year as I began to focus on myself, my work and my life. Instead of finding the motivation I needed to get that overdue business started, I found myself in the midst of a huge reality check!


photo by tccba

I get asked all the time "how do you do it?" I have to chuckle every time because there is no secret and I don't do it all. In fact, to be completely honest, I suck at half the things I do because I try to do too many things. Like the cleaning...it doesn't happen. My house is gross, the kids run wild all day, and there's always someone waiting on me for something! It's hard to admit, but like many of you, I stretch myself too thin too often!

I recently came to the realization that being a mom really *is* hard! I thought to myself, why am I feeling so guilty for not doing more? Being a stay at home mom is a full time job on its own! I love my life and love taking photos on my own terms, whenever I choose to. I like sewing only when I feel like sewing and not when I have 10 orders waiting on me. I am much happier and a whole lot more creative when I can just create art for the sake of creating art, no matter the medium. I'm blessed that we don't need additional income, so I really gave some thought to where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my (not quite) business(es.) You know what I decided? I don't really want to be a business!

photo by Jenny.A.

Our community of photographers/moms is very large and in many ways, very close knit. With that comes some drama. There's always someone out there to tell you what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. There is tons of peer pressure to sell a certain product, use certain equipment, sell or not sell digital files, charge more, charge less, use a certain type of website, "network," post things on this site and that site...it's tough sometimes! Heck, we have even gotten some flack for not keeping up with this blog better, which is so funny to me since we started this blog for ourselves and moms just like us for fun! My point is that it's easy to be made to feel like you aren't doing it right. That you aren't quite good enough. We (you, you, you, you and I) need to stop allowing other people to make us feel this way.

There's this popular idea out there that if you are a good photographer, you prove it by having a business. You get good. You start a business. I have photographer friends come to me with the same guilt issues and feelings of inadequacy that I struggled with, wanting advice on what to do. They get caught up in the whirlwind of building a business while taking care of small children, and it all becomes too much and the joy gets sucked right out of it. Many of our peers work full time and do photography on the side, tend to small children while staying up until 3am editing and they are successful doing it. But you know what? When it's *you* doing it, you don't see how crazy hard it really is! The mom part alone is a full time job! IT IS HARD!!! Why do we do this to ourselves!? It's crazy, I tell ya.

You know why? Because we love it. We love photography. I love photography. I started out trying to focus on building my business, but instead, ended up putting the focus where it belongs...on my passion for the art. Just by refocusing myself, I am so much happier with my work than I've been in years. I don't need a business to be a great photographer, and I don't have to be the perfect mom/wife/photographer/business owner/3am editing machine to be successful in life. There will always be time for a business later...like when my kids can feed and fend for themselves!

photo by barefoot momma photography

So, what have we learned from my ramblings?
  • Being a mom is hard.
  • Stretching ourselves too thin is a common form of self-destruction and is CRAZY! We can NOT beat ourselves up if we can't make it work! We should be considered saints when we do make it work.
  • You don't have to be a professional photographer to be a good photographer.
  • It's ok to say "no."
  • Building businesses can wait. Watching your kids grow can not.
  • We are photographers because we love photography.
Go forth and reflect! xoxo

62 comments:

  1. So very well written Jen!!! Bravo!!! I totally get it!! ♥

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  2. this is a perfect blog post...reading this as I edit wedding pictures blury eyed with a sink full of dishes ;-) thanks so much for the inspiration and encouragment

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  3. Heather Day8/16/2010

    You done brought tears to my eyes, momma. How right you are, about ALL of this! I've been having some feelings lately about showing up late to the party, when I should've been working toward this for a long time. That I'm somehow 'behind' in all that I'm doing. I appreciate this re-centering update. I'm glad I stopped editing long enough to read it;) Love you!!!

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  4. I love this post.

    It's exactly how I feel as well! I have babies. I stay home to raise those babies. I find my joy in photographing those babies {and everything else}.

    Thank you for posting this. It's nice to have a little reassurance. : )

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  5. Amen! I'm new to the whole 'mama photographer' thing but I'm already feeling guilt for various reasons when really, I should just follow my own path and not worry about what 'real' people (let alone anonymous online people!) think. I love photography, I do photography for others from time to time, but I don't need to build an empire to be happy with where I'm at, especially at this point in my life when I have much bigger (and more important) things to focus on, like being a good mama to my son. Thank you for writing this, so well put!

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  6. amen!

    i struggle every day with all these things.
    stretching too thin, joining too many projects.
    then the ruts creep in and i find myself in a panic.
    i too feel like i have stepped back a bit these past few months. quit my 365 on a very happy day 177, and felt good about it. just breathing and clicking... breathing and clicking.
    xo

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  7. i love this post... i really do! so well written!

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  8. So true!! GREAT article.

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  9. Boy - oh - boy does this ever sound familiar. Thanks for the wonderful post . . . often times, I wonder if it's just me . . .

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  10. Ummm you made me CRY.. in a GReat way:) I too have felt this pressure in building a business ( have been taking pics for EVA but just started really pursuing the business side a year ago- and truthfully liked it better when I didnt worry about dates/times!! lol) I don't NEED to build this right now and for SURE don't want to take all the JOY I feel through this passion of mine- or the joy I have from raising my family…. thank you THANK YOU for giving me an overwhelming since of peace with my decision for the future "business" part of photography- now to put it into action is whats hard for me…LEARNing the"art" of no ( or not right now…) is whats super hard for me:( thank U!!!!!

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  11. this is wonderful. Thank you. :)

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  12. This was FABULOUS!! So real and so true! Thank you for keeping it all in perspective!

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  13. How fabulous was this??? Just the kick I needed... I always put editing my childrens photos last, but they should come first. I've already got the "take care of your children before the house" down pat. :)

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  14. Thank you for this!!! It is wonderful and what I needed to hear right now! -- Renee

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  15. That was very well said and I totally agree. There are times when I want to throw my arms up in the air and say "I QUIT!" because I feel stretched too thin, because I had to miss a special event in my child's life due to a big shoot, because I am exhausted from those 3 am editing sessions, because because because. It usually takes me getting a self imposed nice long day with my kids and totally unplugging for me to regain my sense of balance. The bottom line each person has to do what works for them and only you know what is best for YOUR life. You can still be a great photographer who is passionate about the art of photography without taking on the huge commitment that is a photography business. There should never be pressure when it comes to enjoying an artistic and creative venture. Everyone needs to do what feels right for them and their family. :)

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  16. Thank you so much for this post! You have taken the contents of my heart and put it on well, the internet! =) I am a stay at home mother of 2 young boys, who's been waffling between starting a business or not for 3 years as I am just busier and busier each year...but this spring, I lost my 66 year old father to Hodgekins Lymphoma only 6 weeks after his diagnosis -
    I was shooting & processing for folks and ordering prints for a semi-persistant client literally during the week of his death and was scheduled for a wedding the week of his funeral. A friend helped me find someone to cover the wedding, but everything was INSTANTLY into perspective. After the funeral, I realized I didn't enjoy my life trying to live up to other's expectations...that my husband and children were going to become the "focus" this whole summer - I have never felt more free to sort through my life & art - and have come forth with a lighter heart and spirit - feeling excited for this fall. This week I am getting back into the swing of things with 6 sittings, but feel ready, balanced and like God has given the go ahead to start again by giving back my heart and inspiration...and by helping keep my focus. Thank you for expressing what many artists go through! God Bless!

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  17. What a great post, it's always nice to know there are people out there that you can learn from and relate too! Great reminder! Also, a big thanks for using my picture to go along with your post!

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  18. This was perfect timing for me to read. I'm sitting here after having a c-section 6 days ago and already worrying about the fact that I scheduled a shoot in 2 weeks and then booked myself solid for the months of September and October. Learning to say NO is something I feel so guilty for, especially when I have other photographers telling me what to do to make my business successful. It's nice to hear another mom who knows what's really important-Thank you so much for this article!

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  19. Love love love love LOVE this!! This is SO ME right now!! Trying to do it all....really put things into perspective BIG TIME a few weeks ago when my three year old ASKED me to stop getting on the computer, editing pictures and making tutus (my NEW venture)! I felt HORRIBLE and realized that all those pictures, tulle and editing can wait.... HE CAN'T! Now I only edit once he's in bed and when I'm tired, I go to bed. Period! Thanks for the post! It's fantastic!

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  20. I'm almost standing in applause, but I do want to warn against the lie that moms of toddlers believe...there is NOT more time when your kids get older...there is more CAR time and more Social/Activity schedules to keep! So, this will be applicable even when they can feed themselves and fend for themselves. I've forwarded to the 5 women I recently asked to help hold me accountable for more balance and "getting my life back"!

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  21. Oh absolutely! I could have cried when I read the thing about peer pressure. Spot on girls and thank yuo so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings on the blog. It has made my day x

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  22. wow, well put. We, as women, expect far too much of ourselves. I was thinking today during my full time teaching job that I feel like my principal is stretching us too thin. Our state is stretching us too thin. We are getting paid less this year, but I have more students, and I am expected to fill their needs even MORE than I was last year! It's no wonder we burn ourselves out! It helps to know that other people feel like this too. Thank you for this!

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  23. FANTASTIC! Thank YOU! I was just telling my husband the other day, "I dont NEED to start a business" I am enjoying what I am doing now. As a SAHM of 5 little people, I want to enjoy photography and not HAVE to do it. This is perfect. Thanks for sharing it. I shall go out and snap more photo's for ME ;)

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  24. WOW! This spoke to {and apparently many many other parents/photographers!} more than I can ever relay! I have a small photography business and just recently have been stretching myself too thin and have almost lost the joy of what I used to LOVE {photography!}. This helped me to recenter my focus as well. Thank you.

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  25. Wow... funny how I needed to read this today!! I was just saying that I need to get my act together, I had given myself a 6 month deadline after the birth of our first child and moving back to the US from overseas, to launch my business. Three months left till my deadline, I'm completely lost. Then I look at my 3 month old and wonder if a business is even right for me....

    "Building businesses can wait. Watching your kids grow can not."

    Thank you!! ::tear in my eye::

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  26. As a new parent...I have just experienced a HUGE wake up call. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. And that is something I don't want to take a back seat because of having a business. It's hard learning how to balance life. Thank you so much for posting this. Let's us all know we are not alone in this struggle! =)

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  27. Anonymous8/17/2010

    Well, I'm not a mother, but I can certainly understand this post and identify with parts of it. I have 58 events scheduled to shoot this year and have a total of two free weekends for the rest of the year. My wife works full time during the week so we're going opposite ways quite a bit. I plan to cut the events in half next year and add more portrait sessions during the week instead.

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  28. Christal Thomson8/17/2010

    I know I'm not the only one feeling these things, but it's nice to see it come from someone else!! Thanks ladies!

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  29. This past year has been a year of change and reflection. And what you wrote hits the nail on the head. Thanks.

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  30. Deanna Johnson8/17/2010

    Thank you. I am having one of those days where I want to lock my two year old in his room so I can edit for longer than 10 seconds at a time, but this is just the perspective I needed.

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  31. perfection, this is a wonderful post!! i too need to jump on the I need to learn to say no bandwagon!

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  32. Thank you for sharing! I am not a mom {well, except to furbabies}, but I have many fellow/local photographers who are moms and I often chat with them about the balance and 'focus' of having a business. I will remember to tell them..."Building businesses can wait. Watching your kids grow can not."
    Well said!

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  33. Man! I needed that reality check. Thanks so much! I've been struggling with the same thing, having people tell me what I need to do to be successful and feeling like my worth was based on whether or not I was. I was pouring all I had into sessions and editing and then getting frustrated because my three year old little girl asked for a drink and it meant I had to stop working. I'm a mom first. Anything else is frosting on the cake and let me tell you, while I do charge for sessions (and I because of this I have recently limited myself to 3 or 4 a month) I am by no means interested in making a full time business out of it! Thanks SO much for sharing!

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  34. Amen. I have a photography website (www.vanessa-paris.com) but I've chosen to study Nursing at Uni and be a very-part-time photographer and just do what I love doing, taking photos of my kids:)) Thank you for saying it how it is:)

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  35. It can wait.

    Thank you. That point in particular is resonating with me right now. I was about to jump feet first and all I can think of is the work, more time and energy I'll be taking from my three young boys and our family. This puts everything into perspective and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  36. I can totally relate to everything you said. I too am a full time stay at home mom with 4 boys under 10, they are my life and i love them more than anything. And I love photography too and I have been told that I am good at it. I do want to have a semi part time business going soon. I just recently made my own website (www.christylynnphotography.com) and I am loving this part of being creative. For me as a stay at home Mom I feel I am the luckiest gal ever, and to have my camera and photography is, like others have said, just more icing.

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  37. This is the best blog post I have ever read, and I mean that! This is amazing and so very true and something I really need to work on... starting NOW!!! THANK YOU!!! From one busy mom/photographer to another!!! :)

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  38. Mandi Murfin8/17/2010

    PERFECT!!! That was wonderful. Thank you for your awesome words :-)

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  39. Cheers! I totally agree with you. My passion for photography is growing and a business is possible---BUT I have little ones at home that I know will not be here much longer (before they start school) so my business will wait. Thanks for sharing so openly....it was awesome to read. :)

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  40. Amen. This is seriously one of the best posts I've read all year. Being a mom is hard. There's really no explanation necessary. It just is. As you said, it's a full time job in itself. I got caught up in the 'must start business' mentality, it drove me crazy and I canceled and refunded the rest of the sessions I had booked. Kids are only kids once and that's where my attention will be.

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  41. Anonymous8/17/2010

    UNLAX..... Just because you Can do it doesn't mean you Have to do it.

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  42. I feel like you wrote this out of my own head... Awesome, and scary a little.

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  43. LeeAnn S8/17/2010

    This is one of the greatest posts ever! I have been feeling guilty about not starting a business, but with two very young kids at home (2 1/2 and 7 months) it's near impossible. Plus I think if I started one now, I wouldn't enjoy it.
    Thank you so much for this reality check!

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  44. WOW...I had the same on my heart. Trying to homeschool, with 5 children, 2 of them age 5 & 3, while keeping up a home, helping hubby with our small coffee bus. that raises $ for the heart of Africa, being a good wife, and WHAT??? A clean home and dinner on the table...LOL! My heart was filled with a desire to take what I've learned and teach it to my girls while they have a love for it. I put together my own class for them, and am incorporating it into their schooling. I am so excited, and I am certain I will learn so much in it all, bettering myself, while enjoying time with my girls and photography! I still do photoshoots, but am focussing on the important things in life...the ones that grow up and move out, and you wonder where time went.
    http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=578117671#!/note.php?note_id=418412824583

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  45. i think u wrote this for me and a few of my friends!! thank u x spot on.

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  46. This hit me hard! Thank you so much. I will be bookmarking this one so I can reread over and over again!

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  47. very well written, thank you for posting this:)

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  48. Thank you! Thank you! I am a sah mom and have been struggling with this very thing! I have my own part time photography biz and have been struggling with that fact that everyone around me is booming and I am not! Came to the realization that you did the other day...just because people are not ringing my phone off the hook or I'm not running around like a mad woman, DOES NOT make me any less of a photographer!

    Thank you again for this post and reconfirming what I realized. My family comes first b/c my boys won't need me forever!

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  49. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Just what I needed to hear today. I am trying to figure out if I want a business or what to do. Thanks for permission to not have to do it all. It is a reminder I needed.

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  50. inspiring. Thank you for being so real!

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  51. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing what I and probably a whole lotta other momma's are feeling! Though I do NEED to build my business and do NEED the additional income, I try to space things out and limit the amount of sessions I do just for the very reasons you speak of! I have been building the "biz side" since May of this year and my goal is to not overload myself or take away from my children and husband. It's a work in progress. I NEED to be there for my family and I most certainly do NOT want to drive my passion out of me or kill my creativity! It's possible to do it all, but it's impossible to do it all well....that is my philosophy! Thank you again....I hope you won't mind if I share...

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  52. wow. you have no idea how much i needed to read this article today. thank you.

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  53. Thank you! I'm going to post this on my FB if that is ok. Everyone should read this!

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  54. Victoria8/18/2010

    I wish I had read this a year ago before I decided to start my business. I have 3 kiddos ages 5, 3 1/2, and 18 months and if someone would've told me years ago that I would dive head first into having my own photography business while being a stay-at-home mom of 3, I would've told you you were crazy! I guess that's just what I am!!! It's been an on-going struggle since the beginning-trying to balance it all. I really don't think I'm very good at it but knowing that other mom's are up at 3am just like me editing away while the kids are fast asleep...helps me feel not as alone. This is a topic that is really just not talked about. Thank you for sharing this.

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  55. everything you said is so so true... i was a photographer before i had my daughter. i so desperately wanted to be shooting and working not long after she was born but it was so hard to juggle everything and i felt like i was failing on all fronts... last year my daughter started school and i am shooting again and loving it! i think you are so right... our kids grow up so so quick and if being a photographer is your passion and your calling in life and its meant to happen, waiting a few years wont change that! enjoy the moment and be easier on yourself. rowe x

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  56. Very well written!! I started out this venture and intended on building slow while my two are very small. I got busy last fall with 2 weddings and sessions and found myself hating everything about the photos I was editing because it was taking me away from my family far too much and I was turning into a stress case. I backed off, raised my prices and set my policies up and have been focusing on my own work mostly now and what does come my way is either on my own terms and pace or I am getting compensated for my time. I feel way less stressed and hopefully will have enough respect from my readers to value my work enough when I am ready to really take the plunge and take on more then 2 - 3 sessions a month. This past year has been a real eye opening experience though. My family definitely comes first.

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  57. It doesn't get easier when they can feed and fend for themselves. They still need and want your attention. You have school, after=school, sports and social activites to drive them to or help them with. Just keep making your art and stay happy!!!

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  58. Thank you! Wonderfully put and exactly what I needed to make the final push to end a crazy photography business life and put the focus back on what is important to me...my family. :)

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  59. thank you. I needed to read this more than I ever realized. thank you.

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