Thursday, April 7, 2011

Having a full-time photography business and being a full time Mom

I get a lot of comments about how I manage my life. The answer is: day by day. I find that parenting requires an extreme amount of two things I don't have a lot of:

1) patience
2) organization

I still manage...somehow. I think it's because I have an amazing husband and my amazing sister/nanny lives in town.

Here are my top tips to manage having your own business and being a full time Mom {I have a photography business)
  • decide how you want your children to be cared for while you are away? There are more options than you think here.
    1. Full time daycare? This just wasn't something I could ever "swallow" and because I have a flexible job, I didn't have to. PHEW. I think that was one of my biggest fears about having kids. I hear that many of my friends kids love it, but for ME, it was always going to difficult mentally to drop them off. Especially if they cried
    2. in the home of someone else-- there are lots of options like this where Moms stay home and watch other people's children for fairly inexpensive. Sometimes as low as $3-5/hour. This could've worked when I had one but with two it was a bit challenging with various nap schedules I wanted to keep.
    3. trade days with another Mom. I did this one fall and it worked beautifully except I was pregnant and it made it super hard to take care of someone else's baby if anything went "wrong" ie: child refused nap so she needed a push in stroller or to be worn, or extra attention. Little did I know this was my baptism into having two children.
    4. in your own home care/hiring a nanny. This is the option I chose since I only had to work 2.5 days a week. Matt comes home a half day every Friday so this option was awesome. I interviewed a bunch of college students via the site and had great luck, only to have that gal move then learned what questions to ask and got a great nanny who is still with us. My sister does this job 6 months a year (she works seasonally) and I pay her. Bad part with this method: when nanny is sick -- you have to stay home.
    5. work from home while baby sleeps. HAHAHHAHA. I thought this could work for me for awhile but honestly when I'm home with a newborn or new baby and they go to sleep, I take a nap too. I did work from home with nanny at home some and found that I just got sucked into holding and loving my babies too much. I definitely needed to be working outside the home if the kids where home
  • set a schedule and stick to it. I work Monday-Wednesdays and Fridays and always take Tuesday and Thursday to be with my kids. This REALLY helped me schedule work appointments, get into a weekly groove and it really feels like I spend every other day with them... because I DO!
  • Support from the husband is critical. Matt can do everything while I'm away. He's very hands on and is super capable of any task with the kids: ie: bedtime, morning breakfast, diapers, making dinner with two kids running around, you get the idea. You work odd hours without great help either from your husband or a great nanny.
  • Allow your husband to figure out how to watch the kids "his way"-- try not to micromanage him. I have to remind myself of this all the time. At the same time, try to "get on the same page" with your nanny and husband about all the food choice, discipline, etc etc.
  • The days you are at home with your kids: play with them. This is the time you've set aside to be with them, don't be trying to squeak out more time to "check email" or make business calls. Make it clear to your clients: I don't work on X and X day. Set limits up or you'll find yourself not really enjoying your time at home with your kids and they will learn that Mommy isn't really paying attention to me and a whole slew of problems can arise from this.
  • Do personal errands and what not on your "home" days so that the days you are at work you have no personal stuff to take care of and you can really focus on being productive. This means scheduling personal appointments either when your husband is home or bring the kids to the grocery store, doctor, etc.
  • I can't "take lunch" with friends or plan any "non work" activities the days I'm working. I have to pack 40-60 hours of work into 30 hours. I bring a lunch and eat at my desk as much as possible.
  • I take Sunday completely off. I never schedule client appointments on Sunday. Unless it's a wedding, I try to unplug on Sunday.
  • On a non-wedding Saturday, I try really hard not to schedule anything. These weekend times with the whole family are really precious, I don't want to bother with a meeting I could have scheduled for Friday and miss flying kites with the kids, etc. There are exceptions to this but not many.
  • I schedule client calls at 8PM after the kids are asleep. It's usually a great time for clients to chat too. I will not talk to clients at home with my kids in the background.
  • keep a great calendar. I use iCal and have it on my iPhone, iPad, home and studio computer. Set alarms, send yourself emails. This really helps because life with kids is managed chaos.
  • Get your kids on a great nap schedule... that way when you do have days a home you can still get an hour or two at the computer to catch up when you should be doing housework, of course!
  • speaking of housework, hire a maid. Best money I spend every month. I.DO.NOT.CLEAN.MY.OWN.HOME. -- EVER. I tidy up, yes, I clean the kitchen nightly, yes. Bathrooms, floors and dusting... nope-- NEVER. This is a luxury service, but frankly I do not have the time nor the inclination to clean my home. It costs me $150/month to have a maid every other week. Bottom line: we don't have cable TV and we don't eat out much and I don't buy fancy coffee drinks. It's priorities, people. Believe me, you can find the money. You cannot get this time back with your kids. If you are a working Mom, you owe it to yourself. There is almost nothing that makes me happier than the day the house is 100% clean top to bottom and I didn't lift a finger.
  • Finally you will always feel guilt when you leave your children. When they are in Kindergarten and "supposed" to be at school, I think a weight will be lifted off my shoulders (and my pocketbook). Guilt is just part of being a working Mom. Hopefully these tips will help you get more quality time with your kids, be productive at work and make you a happy Mommy. I know my time at work is not only productive for my business but also for my family. I love my job and I look forward to every Monday, Wednesday and Friday but I also LOVE Tuesday/Thursday. It's a good balance. I hope you can find yours.

side note: I realize I'm super lucky to have this type of flexibility, but it's a blessing and a curse. Mostly a blessing but the business has suffered a little since I had the kids-- okay, A LOT. While I love my business, my #1 priority is my family. I can always have a successful business, but I can never get this time back with my kiddos.
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