Let me just start by saying that I am most certainly not the expert on parenting, owning a business, or a combination of the two.
But I have learned a lot in the last four months and there are some things that I wish somebody had told me.
This is going to be a pretty personal blog post because well, the last few months have been a bit brutal for our family.
Numbers 1 and 2 are my ideas on parenting in general.
To give you a little back story:
Lucian is four months old now. Shortly after he was born my husband went underway, I had a serious medical emergency that landed me in the hospital, and well, my husband kept going underway. He has been home for maybe 4-5 weeks since Lucian has been born. But never longer than two weeks at a time. This has taught me A LOT.
So here is my advice, from one new mama photographer who is doing things solo (for the most part) to somebody who may be freaking out (even if just a little!) about the new journey they are about to stumble upon.
1. Nothing in life is constant.
Nothing in life is ever really predictable. And if they were, things wouldn’t be fun.
We had some pretty serious misfortunes pop up that threw our family upside down for a while. It happens. It can suck. But you will be stronger for it.
There was one night where I called my mom and I told her that I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be strong anymore because it was just too hard. I told her that my husband shouldn’t have been taken away from me. I shouldn’t have had medical issues. I couldn’t handle it all because I just wasn’t strong enough.
Her words were “You cannot change what has happened. Take some time to cry but then pull yourself together. You have to be strong for that baby.”
No matter what happens, remember that nothing in life is constant.
Except for love. I believe love is constant. I feel that love is constant. Because when times got hard, love is what I clung to.
As a business owner, you may be emotionally prepared for difficulties, as you have most likely faced them often while in business. Sometimes you have to let go of the notion of how things should be and accept things as they are.
2. Figure out what works for YOU.
Everybody parents differently. I don’t think there has been a day where I didn’t see something about what you should do/ should not do.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter.
What matters is what works best for you and your family.
Personally, I’m a baby wearing, breast feeding, co-sleeping kind of mama.
Some of these decisions do have a direct impact on my work. For example, when I second shoot a wedding I have to pack my pump and find time to pump during the chaos of a wedding day.
I planned on cloth diapering. But I also planned on having my husband home on a semi-regular basis 🙂 We still plan on doing cloth once he gets home, but for now it’s disposables. And I felt bad about it for a REALLY long time. But you know what, it’s what works for us right now.
It is really hard to remain free from judgmental eyes as a new parent. Everybody is an expert on how children should be raised.
You know what I say?
Trust your instincts and do what works best in your heart.
3. Know what you can handle and set limits.
I was planning on coming off of maternity leave at 6 weeks.
But I also wasn’t expecting to get so sick after delivery.
Since coming off of maternity leave I have been limiting the amount of clients I take per month.
Normally I would take on 8 a month.
Now I feel more comfortable around 5.
I would much rather give fewer clients an absolutely amazing experience that stress about deadlines and worrying about a list of sessions that need to be edited.
Which brings me to my next point…
5. Use your downtime to restructure.
I am a firm believer in working smarter, not harder.
I personally have a pretty killer workflow in place that allows me to completely edit a session within a day and have products delivered in less than a week.
I created a Client Lounge to give clients a place to have their questions answered without having to go back and forth a million times via email.
And let’s face it, with a new baby, I really don’t have time to answer emails all day.
I used my maternity leave to create systems that allow me to alleviate my workload while still maintaining great customer service.
There are many studio management software’s that allow you to organize and streamline things.
And another thing, if you need to outsource editing or emailing or whatever for a little while, that is perfectly okay!
6. Have a work schedule.
Let me just say, Lucian is a very easy baby.
He likes to go to sleep at 8pm and wake up at 10am.
I typically begin editing at 12pm and finish around 10pm-12am.
I am a night owl and this works for me.
I definitely take breaks so that I can play with him and feed him, but having a set work time allows me to focus and mentally prepare myself for the days tasks.
One thing that I use while editing is the Moby Wrap. It allows me to be close to Lucian while working.
7. Do not procrastinate.
It is easier said than done.
But when it’s work time I shut off facebook and focus on editing.
I tell my clients to expect their images to be fully edited in less than a week because it gives myself a deadline.
I thrive on order and schedules, so having that set date helps keep me in check.
8. Find reliable child care.
The plan when I was on maternity leave was that I would shoot on the weekends and my husband would take the baby for some daddy-baby bonding time.
Well, that didn’t quite work out.
I wish that I had taken the time to get a sitter lined up when I was pregnant so that I could interview, meet with, and get to know them.
Doing so with a baby in tow is much more difficult because you are adding another person’s schedule to the mix.
9. Figure out your goals and where you want to take your business.
I have certain personal goals that I have set for my business.
These goals are both immediate and long term.
Within the next year, I want to be able to pay off all of our credit card debt, pay off my student loans, and remodel the home a bit with the income that I make for my business.
My long term business goals are much more extravagant.
In order to reach my goals I had to sit down and figure out how many clients I could take on while still having time with my family, how much I wanted to make, and figure out what I could do to help my clients have an amazing experience.
My downtime was when I really put it all together and I came out of maternity leave kicking my business goals’ ass!
10. Have a support system.
I felt like a failure because I was the only one responsible for feeding my child and I felt couldn’t get it right. I wasn’t able to do something that is so natural.
Well, one thing nobody told me about breast feeding is that it is difficult in the beginning. And it is okay if you struggle with it because that is normal.
It turns out that I was doing it correctly, but in my panic of not being the perfect mom from the get-go I let my emotions overcome me.
Having a support system in place really helped me take a step back and relax. It helped to give me the confidence and security of knowing that I wasn’t a bad mom and that everything I was experiencing was completely normal.
And when my husband had trouble at work, I was able to call Carly and have her watch Lucian and listen to me cry.
Sometimes you just need somebody to be there for you because you know what, it in’t easy.
Being a parent is not always easy.
You will not always know the answers.
Trying to run a business while taking care of a new life can be incredibly scary, overwhelming, and exhausting.
But it is also the most exciting thing you have ever done.
Bonus! 11. Remember Love.
One thing is constant: Love.
The love you have for your new baby will overcome you and make every singe tear shed seem meaningless and trivial.
After having my husband there rubbing my back non stop for six hours as I labored, and giving me the strength and support to bring Lucian into this world naturally, I realized just how amazing of a man I married.
You may get overwhelmed and want to lash out. You may feel like you are doing all of the work. You may get stressed out and take it out on your partner.
But remember this: Your love is what brought you here and your love is what will get you through it.
After all of the things we have experienced these last four months I have to say I have a new found respect and admiration for my husband. My love for him is matched only by my love for Lucian. These two are my world and I could not imagine my life without them.
And since no post is complete without a picture, here is my little baby love. Lucian is four months old and he continues to amaze me. Words cannot even begin to express how much I love this little man.
August 9, 2013