****This is a part of a series that I am writing for work at home mothers...aimed primarily at the many work at home photographers I have mentored over the last three years, but I am surprised to see how many other work at home mothers connect with what I have to say on the topic. My work has shifted a lot in the last three years and this is becoming a larger and larger part of my life and it felt strange not to share it anywhere outside of my classes and workshops. So, I'm going to start sharing it all here. I am grateful for my clients support and encouragement.
I have been a working photographer for almost 11 years. I started my business before my children were in school full time. And, now, with my oldest in high school, I feel like I have experienced being a work at home mom through most childhood stages. This, coupled with my mentoring of literally hundreds of other female photographers--most of whom have children--has made me realize that all work at home mothers have one giant thing in common:
They have all mastered the art of working in the cracks of time.
I'm not saying that there are not men that don't also have this particular talent, I'm just saying that, with very few exceptions, every work at home mother I know, is a master at the art. What do I mean by that? Well...for starters, many work at home mothers have made the choice to be a work at home parent so that they can be a 'stay at home parent' while working a full time or part time job. I want to be super duper clear that I don't believe it is possible to be both...I mean, you can be a work at home parent, but you can't also be a stay at home parent. There is an extreme distinction. Working in the cracks is one of the biggest ways to distinguish between the two. I mean--work at home parents spend nap times answering emails. They will bring their computer to the parent watch room at dance so that they can finish up a project. Heck, I've even made phone calls to clients while in a parking lot waiting for my kid to finish an activity. And...the biggest guilt inducing thing for all work at home parents...children will spend hours parked in front of screens so that a deadline can be met. Yes, there are all sorts of BENEFITS to being a work at home mom, but we are all super aware of those so I don't need to point them out. For me, I think it's time to start talking about the disadvantages.
Listen, we could get into how I think modern day society is not structured to support families with young kids -- I truly believe that is the case which has lead to this mess of families stressed to the limits both financially and mentally, but there is nothing I can really do about that reality aside from voting the right way to affect the proper change on that front. What I can do to affect change on an immediate level is start to encourage everyone to value the people who are doing those jobs. I'm not just talking about work at home photographers...I am talking about all the people who are hustling in the cracks of time so that their families can make ends meet. One common thing that I see 'mom photographers' do is undervalue their time that they spend working. They have a bunch of different ways that they will find to justify that. A big reason I see over and over again is that they are saving in childcare expenses so they don't need to earn as much as if they took a job working outside the home. What they aren't counting is the wear and tear on their family life. That might sound silly, but I have seen so many women become extremely burnt out because every crack of time is filled doing work for someone else--whether it be one of their family members or one of their clients. They work long hours every day trying to be the best manager of their house and their business. And, they undercharge because they underestimate the wear and tear this is having on their relationships with their children and their husbands. They think they are doing a good thing by bringing in a little bit of extra income for their family, but they do a terrible job figuring out exactly how many hours they are working in a week--not to mention how many of those hours are late at night and on the weekends which would be charged out at higher rates if they were working for someone else.
Over the last three years, I have begun mentoring primarily female photographers on creating sustainable businesses. I want women to know that they don't have to spend their evenings and weekends ONLY capturing memories for other families. That it is important to schedule in YOUR LIFE as well. That your children are only little for a short amount of time and making the choice to be available for them is worth the sacrifices--if you are TRULY available for them. And, you can do all that while building a business that can grow into a real income for you when your children go to school full time. That your time isn't worth less because you are also a mom. That your husband doesn't have to subsidize your business--you are perfectly capable of creating a great one all on your own.
So....I'd love to hear your funny stories about working in the cracks of time. I know you all do it? Wanna share what that really looks like in the comments?