Ajira is my new friend, a fellow photographer and mom from California who I met on Twitter! She has a little boy a few months younger than Zachary who is just adorable, and she shows off her photography and blogs about her clients & her life over at her website. Her post is all about balance – running your own business, being a mom, and keeping it together. I know from my own experience that it’s tough. Read more to hear Ajira’s thoughts…
A balancing act
As we DMed back and forth about this guest post, Karen suggested I write about balancing work and motherhood. I literally laughed out loud. A little crazily actually, so I was glad she couldn’t hear it because she would have been frightened. HA!! I was frightened, and I’m with myself every day!! (Ho ho ho – I’m hilarious, right?)
I agreed to though because I think this is a subject that plagues most of us. How do we find balance between our personal lives and our work lives? Especially when our personal lives include caring for loved ones?
That was the magic answer. Did you like it? Ha!!
Okay, fine. There is no magic answer. 🙁 We each have to plod along, trying different things until we find the system that works for us. The key is to keep trying different things, while keeping your goals in mind. Oh, you don’t have goals? Hmm. That will be a problem. Seriously. You’ve got to write down (I mean it, don’t just think of some great ones, write them down) and put them somewhere where you’ll actually look at them again. On your wall, bathroom mirror, journal, whatever. It’s important that they are visible to you. It actually makes a difference. Not only because you’ll have them in mind that way (without carrying them in your mind, as it were), but also because you can adjust them as you need to. There are all kinds of great exercises for goal writing. Start as simply as you like.
I’ve been called a dreamer, an idealist, unrealistic and sometimes even foolishly optimistic. It’s alright though, I just don’t see why I can’t have my cake and eat it too. I can’t help believing that all things are possible. So here I sit, writing this surrounded by boxes of our belongings. We’ve been packing for what seems like forever and in a few short hours we’ll be moving to our new home. Once we get there, surrounded once more by boxes of our belongings, I’ll be rereading this and then sending it off to Karen.
My business was born a few short months before my son was conceived. From the start of my pregnancy, it insisted that I take it into account. I was horribly nauseous and vomiting at all hours of the day and night. For months. Calling it morning sickness would be making a molehill out of a mountain. It was ridiculously serious.
And yet… I had sessions already booked and didn’t want to cancel them. So I called up my clients and told them about it. Asked if they minded my bringing some snacks, a ginger ale and a be-ribboned bucket to the session. Luckily for me, they were all incredibly gracious and sympathetic (and amused I think). So. I did my sessions. Slowly, with lots of breaks (seconds long people) to take a deep breath until the nausea or lightheadedness passed and then we pressed on. And we got delightful images!
All this to say that I never got a chance to think of myself as either a mother or a photographer… so it’s never been a question of trying to decide which was most important to me. I love my son in more ways than I can describe and with more depth than seems possible. And I also love creating and capturing connections. Like Avedon said, “If a day goes by without me doing something related to photography, it’s though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence.”
I am a mother and a photographer, all the time. I knew from almost the very start of my business that I would have to fit my business around my child, which is what I wanted. I love that being my own boss means I can choose where to be (at home) and with whom (my child). As my son gets older, I find that while he can entertain himself better, he also needs more of my attention in concentrated bouts. So, I work on my business during naps and after bedtime. Sometimes I can do more while he’s awake. We go location scouting together, and I test all my gear on him. Daily. We often go to client meetings together- they all know about him from reading my blog and talking to me. When I’m shooting a wedding, or need to attend a meeting without him, my husband watches him (he also works for himself). I shot portrait sessions with him in a carrier or stroller when he was younger and he often slept right through them. If I was shooting a family, he would play with the kids after. If I was shooting a maternity session, the mama-to-be got all misty eyed about what she was about to be gifted with as she watched my little one beam and gurgle. As he got older and wanted to run around more, I’d enlist help from a friend who would come with me to the session and play with the baby while I worked and then we’d all (clients too!!) play together afterwards.
It is important to me that my son is with me as much of the time as possible. Especially during these most formative years. It is important to me that I get to watch, support, delight in and respond to him. I just want to be with him and see him grow up. I love that my work is not only a balm to my soul but also allows me to be with this wondrous little boy who is so much like his father and I and yet so much more himself. That I get to be with him everyday, that I get to model to him a life spent pursuing a passion, that I get to show him a life lived in love is beyond anything I could have dreamed of or wished for as a child. I am astoundingly blessed.
This is not to say that I do not struggle. Remember the ‘ha!’ at the start of this post? Yeah, that was about the struggle. Sometimes Chésaweh’s teething coincides with moving, writing a guest post, sending clients’ their images and editing sessions. And somehow it’s all got to get done. I do as much as I can for as long as I can and then rest. My goal is to do each thing with all of my energy until it’s done. And then on to the next thing. I aim to minimise regret as much as possible. I don’t have time to waste wishing I’d done things differently- and I know what I’m talking about here because I’ve done it. Oy! I try to remind myself that I’m here now, and this is where I can work from.
There are certainly nights where I am beside myself because I’m trying to get something done for a client but Chésaweh needs me or where I’m playing with him at the park and trying to plan out my schedule in my head. It’s something that is a work in progress with me. Given that both are changing constantly, a certain planning while being prepared for whatever comes is required. While it is sometimes stressful, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Being with my son and my camera makes me happy.
What about you?
A few of Ajira’s beautiful images: