If you’ve known me for any amount of time you know that I have four beautiful little girls. They are all 5 years and younger and the last five years have been an insane, crazy, fun journey.
When I first became pregnant with our oldest; Elleanor, I was working full time at the YMCA coordinating before and after school programs while trying to do my little photography business on the side. I was working easily 50-60 hours a week and found that I had little to no time to invest in my business. When Cyle and I found out that we were expecting one of the first things out of his mouth was ‘Go quit your job!’
I remember looking at him in disbelief. We had just bought a house and he was about to go through a career change, not to mention the added expense that this brand new baby was going to be. How on earth could I quit my job?! We needed the stability and the income!
He looked at me and said, “I know you’ve always wanted to be a stay at home mom. Now you can do that and try and get your photography business going.”
His confidence in me and his total selfness in taking the full burden of providing for our family was humbling. But I remember nervously stepping into my boss’ office not two weeks later and telling her that I was pregnant and would be leaving my job a month or two before my due date.
That was the very beginnings of Fieldstone Photography (or back then it was called Oh Snap! Photography). I had a little office in our brand new house, a baby sitting at my feet, and the world at my fingertips.
Over the next five years we would have three more children and business would grow to heights I had never even dreamt of. But with that business growth came a juggling act that I wasn’t prepared to handle.
Most people hear that you stay home with kids and ‘run your own little business’ and they think – ‘Oh how nice. I sure wish I could stay home and do whatever I want all day.’ When the reality is that you are working TWO full time jobs and that brings a world of stress and time management that most have never seen.
I just announced on social media last week that we were beginning child care! We are on day three of child care (we have our kids go to a sitter two days a week) and let me tell you it is ah-mazing!!! BUT, it was most definitely a journey getting to this point and I had five years of working at home with ALL of my children at my heels before reaching this point.
Through those years of family + business growth I learned a thing or two about working at home with your kids and how to work well, keep your sanity, and still be the mom you want to be; and I would love to share those with all you working mama’s out there!
Everyone’s heard it a million times – if you fail to plan you plan to fail. It seems so easy when you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck for this deadline, or an assistant handing you a schedule at the beginning of the day. There is so much freedom in having the ability to do WHATEVER you want. But that freedom can also become your biggest chains.
By not planning out your days and the tasks you want to accomplish you will find yourself in a rut of doing nothing, spending your days scrolling Facebook, racing to meet all these deadlines or meet customer expectations. You will find yourself reacting to all the things happening in your life vs having a clear cut plan with direction.
This looks different for everyone and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to plan out every hour of your day. But have some set goals that you would like to accomplish for the day- and follow through with it! You will find so much satisfaction in crossing things off a list that it will motivate you to continue going.
These goals must include both business and personal items (unless you have set business days + personal days). So often I found myself neglecting my at-home responsibilities in lieu of sitting on my computer all day while my kids sat at my feet; but that is a WHOLE other point (see point 3 below). Be sure that you are taking care of both sides of your life or you will quickly find yourself unbalanced which will lead to more stress and ultimately it can quickly lead to burn out.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me – but I used to cringe when I heard the term self-care. I thought it was the next millennial trend and something with no merit. Then I began researching it, and really digging in to the true meaning of what self-care is and how it can affect your life.
Self care is more than just taking a spa day every once in awhile. Self care is about your MENTAL HEALTH. And I don’t have to tell you that your mental health is one of the most important things to take care of.
Again, if you don’t plan specific self care into your schedule then you won’t do it. You’ll find yourself covered in baby spit up, the sink running in the other room, 10 emails in your inbox, a screaming toddler in your lap; and you will collapse and break down wondering how you can even continue doing this anymore. Want to know how I can paint such a vivid picture? Because that was me.
I ran my tank to empty day after day, never finding things that filled my cup, never find things to calm my stress levels. My husband took a course with the Army on resiliency training and he would constantly tell me that I needed to manage my stress and all I could do was look at him with tears stinging my eyes and tell him that I didn’t know how.
You see; men compartmentalize. They tackle one task at a time. But we women… Oh that is not how we are wired. You’re cooking dinner while thinking about that order you need to fulfill, and planning for the new line that you want to launch in the fall, while filling up a cup of milk for your kid, while also answering an email about custom orders, while also listening to your husband talk about his day at work, while also trying to get some dishes done… Do you get my point? This is our life. This is how our brains work. And the only way to get away from it? PUSH PAUSE.
Push pause and go take a walk alone instead of answering emails. Push pause and draw yourself a bath when the kids go to bed instead of binging on Netflix for three hours. Push pause and take a day with the girls without the kids and *without your work*! Find things that bring you joy and schedule those into your calendar.
It can be so easy as a passionate entrepreneur to let work become your entire life. Most people think that we become entrepreneurs to work less and spend all our time at home. When the reality is that most entrepreneurs work more. Yes you’re doing it from home, but it can be so easy to let it consume you and become all you do or think about.
This was a BIG problem for me; especially as my business grew. I had more and more work on my plate, and seemingly less and less time with my kids. Oh don’t get me wrong – they were still there. But I was working every single day and they would be playing by themselves or watching TV. I would get so mad when they needed something because it was pulling me away from my work and I was just getting into a rhythm. (I’m being totally transparent here – so please learn from my mistakes).
My kids were begging for attention through the things that they were doing or the way that they were acting and I would sit there and cry saying ‘I don’t know why my kids act this way.’
Let’s not forget the reality here that part of your job is being a mother. Being a mother doesn’t mean just keeping the kids alive and fed while you work. This means spending time with them, listening to them, playing and reading with them. You must be present with your children instead of constantly letting work be priority one.
This goes along with my above point and that is to find work hours in between. Have specific pockets of time that you will work (and yes, it can be while the kids are home).
After we had our fourth child I quickly realized that working during the day while they were home was just not much of a reality. Not if I wanted to keep my sanity. So I began working for an hour or two after dinner, or I would work for a few hours after everyone went to bed. I would work during nap time.
You can also have set work time where your kids know – this hour or two chunk of time is when Mom works. You can teach them to sit at the table and do an activity, or that can be when you put a movie on.
This is all very dependant on how you run your home, what type of business you run, and what ages your kids are. Mine were all babies so I knew that I couldn’t work while they were all awake. But some might have older kids that can have some alone time, some might have one baby that take frequent naps throughout the day. Find a rhythm that works well for you and your family, and then follow through with it. This will give you time to work so you can also have time with your kids and family.
I can hear you now – ‘But Sandra, I don’t have the income to support outsourcing’ I hear ya, I really do. Please just read this because there might be a point in your life where you have to ability to do this and it really can be such a valuable tool.
Most of us will come to a point in business where you realize you just don’t have enough time or energy to do it all. For most entrepreneurs you are trading time for money; and you can’t create more time.
So the key is finding things that don’t bring you joy, and outsourcing that to someone else. That can be cleaning the house (can I get an AMEN?!), editing your images, client gifting, mailing packages, client onboarding, etc. It looks different in every business, but by outsourcing these small portions of your business you will get back more time to spend with your family and more time to do what you love.
It takes a village, amiright? Raising kids is hard, and that coupled with being an entrepreneur can sometimes feel like the loneliest thing in the world.
By finding people that can relate to you and totally get where you’re coming from can be an empowering thing. Find people that can speak into your life, will let you vent when you need it and will come alongside you when the time comes.
A wonderful resource to look into is the Rising Tide Society. I will tell you that I did not have any friends in the industry before I found this group. I was doing this alone just guessing, hoping what I was doing was working, and feeling utterly alone most of the time.
After joining this group I now have more creative entrepreneur friends than I can count. It’s put me in contact with some amazing people and has made me some of the most amazing friends. Finding your tribe is a powerful tool that will only propel you forward in business.
There are many, many more things that I could tell you about being a work at home mom and if you’ve got a few hours to grab coffee I could talk your ear off about it. It can be a hard place to be; being passionate about being a mother but also being passionate about your business. I spent years feeling guilty about that until I finally realized that I can be a boss business owner and still be a fantastic mom. I don’t have to choose. And neither do you. It’s all about finding a balance and rhythm that works for you.
photographs by: Fieldstone Photography & Ashley Bowman Photography