Tuesday, October 28, 2014

thoughts on being a working mama


I remember feeling lost. It was mid-October, burnt out from a wedding season, headed to North Carolina for my second Making Things Happen conference, not knowing whether I'd be coming home with the intention of quitting my business. 

I've never really written about my struggle with thinking I might not be able to do it all. We've all heard that sentiment about how it's better to do one thing well, rather than half-ass two things. Could I be the photographer I wanted to be AND be a mom at the same time? Or would my clients suffer? Would I miss out on family moments by spending my Saturdays shooting and my weekdays editing?

But when I came home from MTH I had these words bouncing around my head, stronger than ever:


After having Coop, I plunged into wedding season a month later. He was born on April 10th and I shot my first wedding on May 18th. I've received countless messages from photographers and other wedding industry pros asking about this transition. Was it a struggle? Was I too tired to even hold my camera?

I am want to share my experience in the hopes that just one person might find this helpful -- but first, a warning:

I am not "the everymom." I have a very good baby. 
He sleeps well. He eats well. He does not have any health issues. 
The experience for many others will be entirely different, but all I know is my own :)


I found out I was pregnant in August. I photographed 4 weddings between August and October and yes, it was a bit different than shooting non-pregnant. First thing I noticed: I had to pee. Prior to this pregnancy, I would dehydrate myself on wedding days to avoid having to find minutes throughout the day for a bathroom break. Not kidding.

But I found I needed to make time to eat throughout the day to keep up my energy, and drink LOTS of water. 

I was off for the entire winter with the exception of a few engagement sessions, but shot one wedding in February, at 7 months pregnant. I hyped this wedding up in my head thinking it was going to be INSANELY challenging. I thought I would feel so tired by the end of the 8 hours, but honestly it was barely different than a regular wedding day! I am glad, however, that I wasn't shooting at 7 months pregnant in the middle of Summer...


I spent from February to April getting prepared for my mat-leave. I answered all of my emails daily just in case I'd go into labour at any minute. I slept a lot and enjoyed my last few months of me-time. 

As I mentioned above, I had Coop and shot my first wedding one month later. I had a natural delivery (that doesn't mean I didn't have drugs though, it means I didn't have a C-section), so my personal recovery was very quick. Three days after getting Coop home from the hospital, I felt back to my usual self, only maybe a touch sleepier. I was entertaining our friends and family during their visits, and I was still answering emails from prospective clients. 

Shooting Kim and Jeremy's wedding in May was amazing. It felt so great to get back into the swing of things and reconnect with my creativity. It's easy to feel like you've lost that part of yourself after having a baby, but in my own experience, it was just like riding a bike. I picked up my camera and felt instantly at home again. 

The only difficulty I noticed during that first wedding day was a bit of discomfort from not feeding/pumping on my regular schedule. I pumped fully right before leaving in the morning at 10:30am, and didn't get a chance to pump until during the cocktail hour at around 5:30pm. I didn't really know my body well enough to know whether this was bad, or whether my milk supply would be messed up the next day. Now I know that I can go way longer than that without pumping and there's no damage done. 


It took some time to get an idea of what my daily routine would be. When would I find time to upload photos? How would my turnaround time change?

I can't believe how much more productive I am with my time now that I have Coop, it's so crazy. The minute he dozes off to sleep, I'm hitting the office HARD and doing everything that needs to get done from uploading to editing, blogging, social media, even working on editorial submissions from past weddings. 

I answer 99% of my emails with one hand on my phone while I'm feeding Coop. Where I used to edit a wedding over the course of a week or two, picking at it whenever I felt inspired...now I can get most of the work done in only a few sittings. 

Coop is an amazing napper -- he's been sleeping downstairs since 8:15am and I've already finished my morning workout, answered my emails, and I'm in full-on work mode. I've learned to see my uninterrupted office time as a gift and I use it wisely. 

My turnaround time has not changed. If anything, my wedding clients are getting their photos a few days earlier than in recent years. 


I don't have a ton of advice since every baby, every mom, and every workload is so different. But I've learned a few things along the way that I think may come in handy:

Don't take on too much. I usually shoot 16 weddings in a year but for my maternity leave I only accepted 8. This number was comfortable. I felt like I had the time at home to be with Cooper, enjoy his baby-days, see my girlfriends for lunch on occasion, and find my routine.

Skype is your best friend. Before baby, I would meet with clients a few times throughout their planning process to talk about timeline, album design, etc. but that is a little bit more difficult now. 

Manage the expectations of your clients. If you're going to be answering emails slower than usual, send them a little note explaining your circumstances as a new parent (along with an adorable photo, perhaps?) and how you'll be responding as soon as you can. This goes a long way! 

And don't forget to slooooow down every once in awhile. Listen to the baby blabbering and get your head out of the computer whenever possible. Say "no" to the things that weigh down your week, and "yes" to those that lift you up. 

Oh, and... take lots of baby photos. 


If you want to see more photos of Coop, 
I posted a bunch this morning on the family blog!

2 comments:

  1. Love this blog post. Although I am not a mom, I hope to be one day and always worry about 'doing both'. You're quite inspiring and I only hope to have a baby as good a Coop one day :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for being so honest about your experiences, being a working mama definitely deserves a medal doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete