I’ve hesitated to write this series for a long time, because I’m very aware of the fact that I have a great situation and that most of my options were handed to me. In short: I’m lucky and I know it.
But with that said, trying to do the stay at home thing while trying to do the working thing… it’s a challenge for me. During the first year, I truly didn’t know if I was up to it. I’m writing this series because it’s a fairly unique situation – to work and raise small (or older) children in the same space, at the same time – and not a lot of people have shared the nitty gritty of how they do it. There’s a host of blogs that address scheduling/entertaining toddlers and managing the chores of a SAHM. Likewise, there’s wealth of great information from high-profile photographers about keeping workdays focused and productive. But for those of us trying to work from home, in the same general space where we’re raising our kids… neither set of advice fully addressed my dilemma. In truth, I really hope this series helps someone. But if nothing else, it was a letter to myself – a way of clarifying and codifying what I’ve learned over the last four years, where I’ve failed and succeeded, and how I can do even better moving forward.
Today, for the first part of the series, I thought I’d just go ahead and address the challenges presented to stay-at-home-working moms.
Itty Bitty Time Chunks
I have 4 boys – 10, 8, 4, and 10 months. Two are in elementary school, one in preschool, and the other one pooped 5 times yesterday, took 6 bottles, and ate 3 meals (read: smeared food over his face 3 times). My days are extremely fragmented. For me, this has proven to be THE most difficult challenge – when I have 5 minutes, what will I do with it? Clear the table? Switch the laundry? Post a sneak peek for today’s engagement shoot? Or just give up and check Instagram?
Competing Areas of Focus
After writing those first two paragraphs, I breathed a sigh of relief (getting started is the hardest part!) and glanced up. Right now, I see two pairs of shoes strewn across the living room, multiple stray (always unmatched!) socks, a book laying on the floor, sofa cushions askew, lunch dishes and cheese stick wrappers on the table, and a vacuum right smack in the middle of the floor. Since I spent all morning straightening up, I’m super discouraged by these things and very tempted to get up and fix them. On the other hand, as I watched work emails roll in while I did dishes during my clean-up time, it took an enormous amount of restraint not to just stop washing, dry my hands, and reply to the urgent one “real quickly”. Of course, overlapping work and home life is a common dilemma, but it’s intensified when EVERYTHING happens in the same space. There is no escape to an off-site office.
Change of Plans
Two hour delays. A cry from a toddler just 15 minutes into naptime. The school calls to say someone left their violin at home. All right during “work hours”.
An Identity Crisis
This one is harder for some of us than others. Everyone feels the need to fit in, and this can be tricky for those of us in the middle. Am I a stay-at-home mom, with all of those societal expectations – that I’m endlessly flexible, always changing and sacrificing my plans, making myself available to watch other kids, make meals, volunteer, and pick up on early dismissals? Or am I a working mom, skillfully balancing the demands of a family and a career through discipline, routine, and an incredibly strong work ethic? Sometimes – a lot of times – it feels like I’m neither. That can be a little difficult for me.
WITH ALL THAT SAID…
THIS is “living the dream” for a reason. The reality is that, when managed well, I’ll never be both of those ideals, but I will be a little bit of both! From the time that I began this experiment a few years ago, I’ve moved from being in the worst of both worlds to having the best of both worlds. For the next installments of this series, I’m going to share some general philosophies and strategies that began to shift this from a nightmare to a dream situation. And finally – I’m going to get really transparent – I’ll share with you the nitty gritty – my personalized daily system. Hope you stick around. Let me know what YOUR situation is… I’d love to hear!!!!
Becky Hadeed is a wedding/food photographer and mother of 4 boys in Highland, MD. Her two happiest places are on a trail with her family & camera or in the kitchen cooking for a big event. She and her sister-in-law, Susie, both believe in a work-life balance that includes time for reflection and service to others. For that reason, they chose to work together and share the responsibilities for growing their business. They are bringing on two associates this year and are excited for the challenges ahead!