Our final poster in this look at working motherhood is one of my oldest friends. Susannah and I have been friends since elementary school, and I couldn’t have been happier when we both ended up moving from Kentucky to DC in the same summer. I have loved getting to watch her welcome two little girls into their family over the past couple years, and I have cheered her on as she and her husband walk the long road to adoption. They are in the final stages of bringing a little boy home from El Salvador, and she and I have candidly talked over the years about the need to hold loosely to any work-life balance, because needs and desires change as families change.
Hi! I’m Susannah…follower of Jesus, wife to Josue, mom to two little firecrackers, Elise (3.5) and Lydia (1.5), and owner of Authentic Portrait.
I started my business 8 years ago, straight out of college while engaged to my soon-to-be husband. By the time we had our first child just over 4 years later, I had a dreamy photography studio and had no plans of staying home full-time. In fact, I’m not even sure my husband and I ever even had a conversation about if I would because we both knew that I would continue working. Since my first was born I have waxed and waned in how much I work, and come to a pretty happy 20-26 hours a week outside of the home (not counting the many late nights at home :D), and for this season of life it feels right. The ability to be with my girls half of the week, playing in the yard, taking pool trips, finger-painting one work of art after another, creating meals we enjoy, and even trying to keep some semblance of order in our home is really amazing and I don’t take it for granted.I remember soon after I had Elise clients and friends would ask me how everything was going with a baby and a business and I would often respond that it was good, and that I was just trying to figure out the right family / work balance. One sweet client, who was also a working mom, chuckled and told me I just might spend the rest of my life looking for that balance because it is so hard to find, and is ever-changing. And man, was she right. My husband and I have had many a late night conversation asking sincerely how we’re doing at this balance thing. Are we working too much? Not enough? Missing important things in our parenting? How can we be better? Do we need to make some changes? The ability to re-visit our “norm”, have a spouse’s loving perspective and always be willing to keep our priorities in line is so important to us.
Two words come back to me when I think about life as a business owner and mom.
It can be exhausting and overwhelming to try to meet so many needs. To grocery, plan meals, do preschool drop off, wash the clothes, unload the dishwasher, sweep up the cheerio dust, pick up the craft supplies, kiss the booboos…and in another world to respond quickly to clients, finish another blog post, complete an order, post on Instagram, photograph a session, design an album, keep up with the marketing plan etc etc. So often I look at a week ahead and wonder how on earth it can come together. If I’ll have enough…or be enough. And the answer is a resounding no. Experience has taught me that I can’t possibly do it on my own, and when I try it is disastrous. What a relief it has been to allow myself to recognize and remember that truth. I lean hard on Jesus who promises that HE is enough, and that his strength is made perfect in my weakness. And I lean in to my sweet husband who truly partners with me in life, family and even business, making this all possible.
I’ve also learned how important it is to be present, wherever I am. When Elise was young, I’d put her in the baby K’tan and hammer out e-mails and blog posts, but as she grew, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t fair…to her or to my work to try to work while with her, so I made the decision be fully present. For me that means I try really hard not to work when I’m with my girls. In the past I’ve used nap time as work time, squeezing every possible minute out of it and refusing to even get up for lunch or a potty break at times (eek)! Now that I have more consistent hours & days that I’m in the studio for work, nap time is more flexible. Sometimes it still is business work and other times it is work around the house. And on the work side, being present means I don’t take my kids to the studio, even if I don’t have any meetings or shoots scheduled. This has saved me immense frustration, and allowed me to be much more fruitful in my time both with my family and in my work.I love what I do, and I really do love working outside of the home…for me I really believe it makes me be a better mom (this confirmed by my husband :). Most days (not going to lie and say every day), I am genuinely excited about the day to come…whether at home with my girls or at the studio with my clients. The dress code is comically different…heels, makeup, a polished outfit for one, yoga pants, oversized tank top and sunglasses over naked eyes for another.
So for now you’ll find me coffee drinking, photo taking, park playing, heart praying and life dreaming as we navigate this whole parenting thing.*The first photo is Susannah’s studio partner Amanda, and the second and third photos are by Katie Mitchell.