It’s difficult to find the balance between being a mom and doing pretty much anything else, let alone being a hard-working photographer who is running a business. Both roles consume your time, energy, and brainpower—and clients on each end can be hard to please.
While we don’t have a magical answer for the motherhood/business owner balance, we can share the strategies that have helped all of us along this journey. Most of us here at Team Picsello are working moms who have faced this quandary for years.
So, how can you balance being a mom with being a business owner? It’s not easy, and it can take years to get it right, but we have lots of helpful hints that we hope will help you.
When children are very young or not enrolled in regular childcare or school, it can be especially difficult to balance motherhood and your photography business. If possible, it’s a good idea to consider the timing and your level of commitment to photography. You may want to outsource those tasks that are time-consuming or you may want to reduce the number of sessions you book or commit to photography part-time until you can devote more time away from parenting.
Alternatively, you can fill in for other photographers as needed until you have consistent childcare. You can also choose specialties that are more flexible in terms of scheduling. For example, if you have help during the week maybe you can focus on headshots or newborn shoots instead of weddings and events that tend to be on the weekends.
For photography sessions that can’t be rescheduled, like weddings, it’s essential to have childcare contingency plans. Have a list of people you can call for backup if your child is ill or there’s a school holiday. This can include reliable family members and friends, as well as a few trusted babysitters you can count on when needed.
One of the biggest pitfalls of trying to balance motherhood and running a photography business is the pitfall of multitasking. While tackling multiple tasks at once seems like a great idea on the outside, it is actually one of your worst enemies when it comes to getting things done.
When we multitask we often end up feeling exhausted and disappointed at the end of the day. Why? Because instead of having completed a few tasks from start to finish, we have started ten tasks and finished none. This leaves us with feelings of overwhelm, stress, and disappointment.
Moms are particularly susceptible to the draw of multitasking, considering all the things they have to juggle in a day. And when you top off the to-do list for mothering and photography with the mental load or cognitive labor that is specific to women, there is a lot going on.
Avoid multitasking by sticking to a schedule that separates chunks of time for each task. Try to focus on one task at a time to avoid burnout.
Stick to a Schedule
It sounds simple, but having a set schedule goes a long way toward increasing productivity and reducing stress. A schedule will help you accomplish the essentials without feeling overwhelmed.
Some people love to schedule every minute of the day, but it’s okay if that doesn’t work for you. Even a loose schedule of events will help you stay on track.
For example, tell yourself, “From 8-9, I will enjoy my coffee and my child. Then I will eat breakfast, sit down, and catch up on emails when I can in the morning. While my child takes a nap, I can buckle down and work. Post-nap, I’ll do some household chores while the baby plays, then dinner and relax.”
Alternatively, set specific tasks to specific days. Eg. Tuesdays, and Thursdays are your shooting days, Friday is editing day, Monday is marketing and Wednesday is operations (billing, accounting, taxes, education, etc).
Start each day with a task list and check them off as you go. Keep your task list small and reasonable. If you breeze through it and have extra time to get a bit more done, that’s great! But when you start the day with a reasonable task list, you’ll end the day feeling accomplished instead of discouraged.
For business owners, “mom guilt” is so real.
First, remember that children thrive in homes where moms feel fulfilled as individuals, whether in their careers or other pursuits. It’s amazing that your children get to see you be a loving mom and a business-owning boss!
Next, make quality time with the kids, beyond the craziness of getting ready for school and putting them to bed. Quality time will ease your mom guilt and bring joy to you and your kids.
Rituals are a great way to create meaningful moments, even in a small amount of time. Rituals are like routines that you do at the same time every day. But unlike routines, rituals are filled with love, warmth, and connection.
For example, you can pile into bed and cuddle for 10 minutes every day after school and talk about your day. Or sit on the couch, eat a snack, and read a story or two. You can also add rituals to existing routines, like bath time and bedtime. Sing a special song, or say a phrase like, “I love you from your head to your toes, from your heart to your nose,” complete with toe tickles and nose tweaks.
The best rituals include eye contact, playfulness, touch, and presence. Presence means that you’re fully focused on your child, even for just five minutes. You aren’t thinking about what to cook for dinner or the photos you still need to edit.
Building these moments of genuine connection into your day will help you and your children feel better about the time you spend building your business.
Scheduling a weekly family day is another strategy to increase quality time with your kids.
Set aside one day a week to focus on your family. Make sure it is on your calendar and it isn’t compromised. It’s easy to take on everything and hard to turn clients down. But when you try to be all things to all people, you can’t give yourself time with family or give your clients the service they deserve.
Boundaries are important for any business owner, but they’re essential for working mothers. Your boundaries aren’t a barbed wire fence rudely keeping people out. Boundaries are necessary to protect your peace of mind, time, and energy.
Decide what type of shoots you’re willing to take on, and which you aren’t. Set work hours, including the hours you’re available for client communication, and stick to them. Remember that every business has hours of operation. You don’t have to be available around the clock. Set up an auto-response to your email and instant message that has your working hours and response expectation time.
When your business hours are over, shut your workstation down. Give yourself guilt-free time to spend with your children, relax, or do activities you enjoy. Never feel guilty about telling clients, “No.” Instead, feel proud that you stuck to your boundaries and did what was best for you and your family.
Outsource tasks that you hate or aren’t in your wheelhouse, or tasks in your business or household that take up too much time.
For your business, review what really takes up a lot of your time and consider outsourcing these tasks. You can also outsource marketing, accounting, even culling or editing. You should already have allocated for this time in your pricing, if not you can contact us here at Picsello to help you with your pricing!
For your home life, remember you can’t do it all! Assess what tasks take up a lot of your time and don’t spark joy for you. One of the moms on our team outsources cleaning and laundry to lighten the load of household tasks. Another outsources cooking.
You can even do something as simple as ordering your groceries for pick-up instead of going grocery shopping. Or hire a babysitter to keep the kids company for a few hours while you focus on your work.
This isn’t about being lazy or not wanting to do something- it’s about time. Society has made it a badge of honor to work yourself to exhaustion. But being exhausted doesn’t do you, your children, or your business any good. It doesn’t make you any less of a mom or a business owner to take a few tasks off your plate—don’t be afraid to outsource and ask for help!
The hardest for all of us moms, yet perhaps the most important, is self-care. The saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is a cliché for a reason—it’s so true! If you aren’t taken care of, you can’t effectively take care of anything else.
Sometimes we can make sure everyone else is happy but we neglect ourselves. Self-care doesn’t have to be manicures or massages, it can be something as simple as having a long shower without someone asking you for something, binge-watching Netflix or simply taking a walk. Schedule in daily ‘me’ time.
You can’t manage a successful business or care for children if you’re running on fumes. Self-care is an investment in the health of yourself, your children, and your business. There’s nothing selfish about it! Remember that self-care is not “extra”, it is a necessity.
As moms and as business owners, we often set unreasonable expectations for ourselves. When we expect to do everything perfectly all the time, we get down on ourselves. We feel like we’re striving to be a stellar business owner and a Super Mom, and we’re failing at both. The best way to combat this (unreasonable and untrue) feeling is to set realistic goals and expectations.
One of the best analogies we’ve heard is this: Imagine trying to keep 100 balls in the air all the time. Some are glass, some are stone, and some are rubber. Some of them can hit the ground and roll away. We often think it’s our job to keep all 100 balls from hitting the ground, but this is unrealistic.
The glass balls are the most important, the ones we can’t let hit the ground (e.g., relationships with loved ones). The stone ones can fall sometimes, but they’ll hurt when they hit your toes (e.g., making time for yourself). When the rubber balls fall, they’ll just bounce back up into the rotation (e.g., cleaning your house or cooking all the time). The ones that can hit the ground and roll away are nice, but non-essential tasks (e.g., personal projects like decorating the house).
Our job is to keep the important glass balls from shattering and figure out the rest. Some days, all the balls will be in the air. Other days, they’ll all be on the ground. Sometimes, even the glass ones will hit the ground and crack a little, and that’s okay too.
Remember that your living room doesn’t have to be spotless 24/7. It’s okay if sometimes you order pizza instead of cooking a healthy meal. It’s not the end of the world if your child occasionally gets more screen time than you prefer.
It takes a while to get into the swing of things and find the balance we’ve been searching for. We all have good days and bad days. Always give yourself grace.
Being a mom is the hardest job in the world, and running a business isn’t too far behind.
Schedules, boundaries, and outsourcing will help you manage your business more productively with less stress. Have childcare contingency plans and spend quality time with rituals and scheduled family days. Prioritize self-care, have realistic expectations, and always give yourself grace.
Most importantly, remember this: It’s perfectly fine to be a mom and pursue a career in photography. Give yourself permission to be a mom when you aren’t working and a photographer when you aren’t parenting. Do your best and forgive yourself the rest. Your children will grow up with a balanced, fulfilled mom and an incredible role model!
P.S. Dads- we see you, too! While this post talks about the nuances and issues that specifically affect moms who are also photographers and business owners, we have written another helpful post about work/life balance with more great tips. You can check this post out right here.