Why I Will Be Significantly Cutting Back My Work Hours

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post where I logged one of my days, minute by minute. Just being a mom is a lot of work. Trying to juggle running a business full time and taking care of a baby and four furry kids as well is a lot to handle every day and I am running myself down in the process.

Previously, I have felt like I have been failing with the photography business because I wasn’t meeting certain arbitrary goals, or booking as many clients as some other photographers on a regular basis. Then I had a couple of weeks where I met my “goal” number of sessions per week and I realized something…it was way too much for me. Some people may be able to handle shooting that much and that often, but I cannot for so many reasons. The main reason, I was in too much physical pain with my limited mobility to handle shooting that often. Second, I am not a photographer who runs a quick couple of presets on my photos and burns them on a CD. Each image I produce gets hand processed to perfection. When I overwhelm myself with shooting too much, that also means that I will be spending hours upon hours editing photos, which is a lot of time away from my family. At the end of E’s first year, the thing I regret most is how little time we have spent together as a family. It really makes me sad. I am tired of doing the baby transfer once my husband gets home so I can rush into my office and spend hours in there alone. Things are going to be very different around here going forward.

I felt like I kept looking at so many other photographers and thinking wow…if they can shoot so many sessions per week, plus keep up with a blog, homeschool their kids, and grow all of their own veggies, etc. what am I doing wrong that I can’t seem to manage my time better? Then I realized that everyone’s circumstances are totally different, and I am so over trying to work at goals for myself based on what other people are or are not doing. It is a really dumb way to set goals.  My husband works long hours most days, and is usually exhausted by the time he gets home.  I feel bad that I have put so much stress on him to help me with things when he does get home, and it is time to make things easier on all of us.

I also realized when looking around my office today that while I have spent a lot of time photographing our baby E, I have spent more time photographing other people’s pets than our own in the past year, which makes me feel so sad. Our poor furry kids are often too shaggy and dirty to be photo ready, so they have been left out on many occasions. I am going to work on putting my own family first, and make more of an effort to do the photos that I want to take for our own use…like more of our furry kids each individually, and more of E with his “siblings” (and Instagram pictures do not count). I am going to start putting in bath time/nail clipping/hair cut time for the pets in my calendar and treating it like any other appointment that I have to keep. I have also promised Ed more park/play time and less Mommy working on the computer time. 🙂

So if you are one of my photo clients and reading this and curious how this may affect you, here is what will be changing. I will be booking less per month, which means some of the session fees have gone up slightly. When I say I am fully booked for a month, it means I am fully booked…whether or not I have days without appointments. Instead of promising that photos will be ready in 1-2 weeks, processing time is going to be extended. Saturdays are premium sessions only, any upgrades to standard sessions come at an additional cost, and Sundays are not available for anyone, ever. We are also thinking about cutting out seasonal mini sessions in the future, but we are undecided on that at the moment. I am really sad that I feel like I was so stressed out and overworked this past holiday season. I am going to make more of an effort to be an emotionally present wife and mother.

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aliciainwonderlandblog.com

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Striving to Find Balance

After having lost a year with working on my photography business, now that I am feeling better I am super determined to get things rolling again. It has been a lot of work lately trying to get everything restarted and re-branded since we are no longer putting weddings as the primary focus of the business. I am firmly resolved that I will bring the business to the level that I feel it should be in terms of quality, service, and success.

So far, I have been struggling with the whole work-at-home-mom thing. Little E does not like to nap, which makes it difficult to get much done during the day. If he does take a nap, he tends to wake up within 10-15 minutes maximum. He sleeps well at night, but just fights sleep during the day. As a result, I end up waiting until my husband gets home and can entertain E for a while, or waiting until after E falls asleep at night to get most of my work done. Most days, I find myself spending at least 6 hours straight at night working on the computer, which means I end up getting very little sleep myself.

I keep telling myself that this crazy intense period is just temporary until I cross off all of the things on my to-do list to get the business relaunched. It just does not seem like a good long term solution though since I know there will always be busy periods, especially if the business starts to grow as I hope that it will.

My husband and I keep discussing the issue, trying to figure out a solution. As the piles of dishes and laundry stack up (some clean, some dirty), I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed. We discussed looking into hiring someone to come in occasionally to either help with taking care of E or helping with the housework. We are both very strongly committed to the decision of not having someone else raise our baby, and that I am the person taking care of him during the day. So then that leaves the option of having someone come in and help on occasion with laundry, dishes, and general cleaning up. This makes me so uncomfortable though since I have really neurotic standards about how things should be washed and put away. I picture having someone come in to help, and me spending most of my time instructing them how things should be done, not really solving any problems (the whole if-you-want-something-done-right-do-it-yourself complex).

I stumbled upon this graphic last night online, and it really made sense to me. I am going to try hard to start applying some of these guidelines to my life.

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Since my husband works an average of 50-60 hours at his full time job on a good week, we struggle to find quality time together. He assists me with most of my photoshoots, which is great since he can also take care of E while I am shooting. In the picture below, you can see them spending some time together while I was working on a recent shoot. 🙂 It was E’s first time seeing the ocean and he was fascinated by it. We have brought him to the ocean in the past, but for some reason, he happened to have his rare long nap whenever we went!

In an effort to try to be as mentally and emotionally present for my family as possible, and still feel that I am giving my own goals as much attention as possible, I am trying to come up with a set of guidelines for myself. So far, these are the rules that I have set for myself:
1. No photoshoots on Sundays (with only a very rare exception). Sundays are our family day, so we can go to church in the morning, and spend the rest of the day together, either doing something fun, working on a project for the house, etc. Most clients like to schedule photoshoots on the weekend when they are not working, but if I book up both of our weekend days, I will end up never spending any quality time with my husband, and that is not an option ever.
2. I am trying to set aside two designated times per day to work on emails. It is tempting, especially with a smartphone, to try to keep up with emails and messages in real time, answering everything as soon as it comes in. That is exhausting, and does not allow me to give my full attention to E when he needs it. If something is really urgent, it is much easier for me to talk on the phone than answer an email. I am convinced that part of the reason he is such a happy baby is due to the fact that I try very hard to give him my full attention when he is awake, and stay positive and happy around him.
3. I am trying to not feel so guilty for allowing E to have a bit of tv time some days. I struggled with the desire to keep him from watching tv much, especially since he already turns into a little tv zombie when one is turned on. However, some days I have found that is the only way that the laundry or dishes really get done. This baby has a ton of energy and likes to be entertained!
4. I am not going to worry about feeling guilty anymore about not putting 100% effort into some of the friendships where I feel like I am doing all the work to maintain the friendship. If someone does not reciprocate the effort to maintain a friendship and expects me to be the one to always initiate plans or phone calls, that friendship is going to be put on the back burner for a while.
5. If we are invited to a party or event, the only camera you will see in my hands is my iPhone. I have too high of standards to allow myself to just shoot a bunch of images and spit them out for a friend, even if it is just for a family event. I have fallen into this trap in the past, and often feel like it is expected since I am a photographer. I am a perfectionist, and have to spend time perfecting in post-production every image that I take. That all ends up taking up a bunch of my time that could be spent focused on other things, and I will not do it to myself any longer. If you have a friend who is a doctor, you wouldn’t expect him or her to go around a party giving everyone a quick checkup, right? So why is it that people expect a photographer to always have a camera in hand, and be willing to shoot everything?
6. I am going to allow myself to continue to work a bit at night since it is the only time of day when the house is quiet, but I am going to start setting a timer for myself so I don’t force myself into chronic sleep deprivation. Things that are not finished by the time the timer goes off will have to wait until another day.
7. I am also going to start forcing myself to take a couple of nights off per week. E and I had a nice relaxing day yesterday with a couple of playdates, and I was determined to not do any work for one day. Yet once he fell asleep (and my husband was at work stuck in a lab overnight), I found myself bored and started working again. Before I knew it, it was 3 am before I went to sleep. It would have been much better if I had just taken an entire day to relax!
8. With my huge list of food allergens that I have to avoid, I am going to start prepping meals ahead and freezing them again. We literally have to cook almost every meal we eat from scratch, and it gets quite overwhelming on some days. There are so few places where I can actually eat without having a problem, and it gets old. A selection of homemade frozen meals would really help cut down on some of this stress.
9. I am not going to stress too much if the basket of clean cloth diapers never makes it back into the individually sorted baskets on the changing table. Just being committed to cloth diapering (and line drying them) is an accomplishment on its own.
10. With the exception of my husband’s work clothes, I am going to try to stop stressing out if every piece of laundry is not completely wrinkle-free.

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I normally do not welcome unwarranted advice from others about parenting, but in this particular instance, I am curious if anyone else has any wisdom to share. Any other small business owner moms/work-from-home-moms have any advice for me on how to balance it all?