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Why I Stopped Feeling Mom Guilt For Working While The Kids Are Home

november 11, 2018

I think anyone who has a kid has experienced some mom guilt for working, guilt for not working, guilt for letting your toddler have a piece of candy, guilt for not giving your kid a piece of candy, guilt for living too far away from family, guilt for letting them watch TV, yada yada yada. There are endless possibilities about why parents can feel guilty about something they are doing (and let’s be honest: people judge you no matter what you do).

Feeling Mom Guilt for Working is the Literal WORST

And I’m totally guilty of that. I really am. I’ve felt guilty for all of the above reasons and only about 10,000 more. Ever since I opened this business for our family in 2010, the balance between working and being present is the one I’ve struggled with the most. It’s just really hard, because when you work from home – there is no separation. There’s no “going to the office” for 8 hours a day. There’s no pre-determined schedules that you have to work, aside from planned shoots and weddings of course. And because there’s no guaranteed paycheck like there is with a cushy salary job; the hustle is real and the hustle is hard. The days “off” are far and few between, and even when you’re off – well, you’re not really off. There’s always a text, email or comment to get back to, there’s the struggle of needing to stay visible on social media and blogging – my gods, the blogging.

And the kids? They need me. 24/7, they need me – emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically need me … and I’m only one person. I can only do so much.

Why I Stopped Feeling Mom Guilt For Working While The Kids Are Home

Randy + I talk all the time about how there are very, very few big name photographers who have kids. In fact, I can only think of a small handful of industry leaders who have families (and even fewer with large families like ours). I see people I look up to and see them hustling hard and finding lots of success, and I can’t help but think they must have it a little easier because their only responsibilities are themselves and maybe a cat or dog. It’s easier to drop everything and jet off to Europe for a week, and without the costs of having a family, it’s a lot easier to build wealth.

It’s a LOT of work being a work at home parent. I’d go so far as to say it’s harder than working outside the home, and coming home. My logic in that is that least when you have a job outside the home, you can separate life from work a bit more.

This summer, I had an Oprah A-Ha Moment. A legit “holy shit, I’m doing something right” moment. A realization that I honestly had to give a few days to let sink in, before I had the balls to post a blog about it.

It’s OKAY to work in front of my kids.

It’s OKAY to tell the kids “not right now, I need to get this done.”

It’s OKAY to show the kids that responsibilities have to come before playing.

And I don’t have to feel guilty about ANY of it.

This summer, we traveled a ton and we moved into our dream house and I shot half a dozen weddings (and Randy shot four of them with me). I had a small handful of elopements, engagement and family sessions, I have been working hard on marketing for next year (we are more than halfway booked for 2018 and booking into 2019 already), I have been busting my ass at Instagram and Facebook and growing our slow-but-steady email list. I’ve had phone consults and mentoring meetings with up-and-coming photographers/business owners, I’ve done all the bookkeeping, all the packaging and mailing of goodies for our couples. I’ve edited over 20,000 images this summer, without outsourcing once.

Basically, I need a golden lasso and a cape because I feel like freaking Wonder Woman.

And all the meanwhile, my kids saw this. They know I wake up early in the morning to work. They know they have to be quiet (or at least try to be) while I’m on my phone consults. They understand I need help picking up the house, doing laundry, taking care of our dogs, and even cooking dinner. They get the connection between mom + dad working hard and all of them getting to do fun things like football, swimming, getting new video games and going on epic road trips.

And guess what?

I’m done feeling guilty about being a work-at-home mom.

Why?

Because my kids tell me when they grow up, they want to open up their own business. They want to have a large family and adopt babies and rescue all the puppies. They want to serve our country. They want to be productive members of society, with responsibilities. They have hopes and dreams and aspirations to do something big. Every day they talk about what they want to do when they’re adults, how they want to live their lives and all of it – ALL OF IT – requires lots of hard work.

And I realized this summer it’s because they see us working hard, chasing our dreams, and they see it pay off big time.

maroon bells family session

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying it’s okay to be a workaholic. I’m also not giving you permission to totally blow off your kids or your spouse or your responsibilities and as Rihanna sings in the most annoying song of the decade, work-work-work-work-work.

But what I am saying is: it’s okay to find a balance between work and home AND it’s okay if what you do isn’t what everyone else does. It’s okay to do what works for you – if that means working from 4:30-9:30 in the morning on edits and blogs (or working from 7pm to 1am for you night owls). It’s okay to tell your kids, “I need to work until lunch, then we’ll eat and go swimming” – and follow through. It’s okay to make your kids do chores, to help around the house, to take care of their own laundry and pets and yard work.

Kids Chore Chart

It’s also okay to adjust your workload to balance the time you spend working. It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to outsource things that sucks up your time, that you don’t find enjoyable or that you simply don’t want to do anymore. It’s okay to go a day or two without posting on Instagram. It’s okay to take an extra day or two (or even a week or two) than you ‘normally do’ to return sessions or weddings, because family will always need to come first. Always.

Your clients know you love them. Your couples know you’ve got kids and a home life, and they know you’re busy.

If they don’t? Raise your prices, because people who value photography and your artistry will also value your time.

If you’re struggling with work-life balance, here’s my advice to you:

  • Figure out the best time for you to work is for your family. For me, it’s early in the morning, but I’m an obnoxiously early morning person. I don’t work at night unless there’s cake involved! 😉
  • Ask for help. If you legitimately can’t bear to sit and edit while you’re kids are playing outside, outsource things or hire someone to come hang with them while you work. Just be sure you’re adding that additional cost into your cost of doing business!
  • Manage expectations. Adjust your timing so it’s realistic with your family life. Don’t promise your clients a one week turnaround when you know you’ve got a hundred things going on that week at home – give yourself a buffer of time, and pleasantly surprise them when you get it done early. Remember: under-promise and over-deliver!
  • Create a sustainable workflow so nothing ever doesn’t get done. For me, that means utilizing 17hats to make sure our clients are always taken care of with emails, questionnaires, invoices and to-do items. It means editing sessions, backing images up on our external hard drive and also online using Zenfolio, uploading them to Pixieset and blogging my favorites ALL before delivering to the clients.

And most important of all the advice:

  • Give yourself some grace. You’re not perfect, it’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to not have everything figured out.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the kids are home from school today, I’m 100% caught up on all my work stuff – so we’re going to have a lazy day, watch Arrow on Netflix and start working on birthday prep for Sierra’s birthday brunch this weekend!

 

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