Balancing Act- What I'm learning as a mom and small business owner
I was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. When I became a single mom, I started doing photography part-time. This spring, I opened up a studio for Sweet Lemonade Photography and I am planning for full-time long term success. And guess what? It's scary. It's hard. It's exhausting.
I wake up thinking about work. I go to bed thinking about work. And those who know me best, might find that surprising. It surprised me. I've always been an easy going 'whatever happens, happens' kinda girl. And now, I have a different outlook. I have a vision. I have dreams. And I am setting goals to reach those dreams. I'm planning to succeed.
What I didn't plan for... was the struggle balancing work and my personal life. I realize many people have been struggling with this for years. As a stay-at-home mom for 13 years, it's something I'm just now dealing with on a daily basis. As a single mom running her own business here is what I'm learning...
MY WORK DAY LOOKS DIFFERENT
Summer is wonderful. And summer is tough. I absolutely love having the flexibility of spending so much time with my boys during the 6 weeks they are with me. I schedule the majority of my sessions when the boys are with their dad. However, the 6 weeks the boys are with me, I can't just stop doing the behind the scenes work... marketing, designing albums, ordering wall art, following up with clients, scheduling new sessions, emailing upcoming sessions with style guides about what to wear, etc. So while summer is amazing, summer is also exhausting. I spend my days with my boys and then start working once they are in bed. After 2 days of not doing any work at all, I needed to get several things done. After tucking my youngest into bed (my bed..cause at our house.mi casa (or bed) es su casa (or bed) ha! he asked me if I was coming to bed . I explained to him about the work I had to do. He was sad but understood. I thought for a minute and decided to take my laptop into bed. He was so excited and said, "oh good, now I can snuggle up to you and I'll be able to fall asleep." So while I was clicking through emails using my left hand, I was tickling his back with my right and he was sound asleep in record time. And each night, when I finally get to bed, I too fall asleep in record time cause the number of hours of sleep I'm getting each night is far less than during the school year.
BALANCE ISN'T 50/50
Balance doesn't mean that you will spend equal amounts on your work and with family. It doesn't mean it will always be consistent every week. You can consistently count on things always being different. :-) Sometimes you will devote 100% of your attention to your family. Other times you will devote 50% to family and 50% to work while other times it's necessary to dedicate 90% of your time one week to work. That's ok. Learn to be ok with it. Don't beat yourself up when you have to work late every night one week and can't have dinner with your kids. Because, I bet you're also quick to take an afternoon off to watch your child read his poetry at school. You might have to travel for work and can't be there to tuck them in but you're also the one calling to Facetime for virtual goodnight kisses. I've struggled with the concept of finding balance. As a small business owner in its infancy stage, I know I need to invest as much time as possible in my business but I also know there is nothing more critical for me to invest in than my kids. For me, balance is not about dividing my time a certain way. For me, I choose to think about balance as priorities. Prioritize your life and focus your energy on what is most important. The amount of time spent on each area will vary day to day and month to month but keeping your focus on your long-term goals for life, not just work, will help you find contentment in your day to day.
Never thought I'd say this. Make lists. In order to be organized and feel productive, make lists of things you need to accomplish daily for work and personal. There is nothing better than being able to cross things off your list. Anyone ever add things to your list that you've already done just so you can cross them off? I know I'm not the only one. It feels good. I need to be better about making lists daily but the days I do, man I feel good. Another thing I have found to be helpful is setting timers. Race against the clock. In the next 10 minutes, I'm going to get x and y done. Before I start lunch in 20 minutes, I'm going to get z finished. Helps me manage the smaller chunks of time I have. My boys are old enough that I should have larger chunks of time but oddly enough every time I sit down to work, WWIII is breaking out in my living room.
IT'S OKAY TO SAY NO
The best decision I made to help my business was a decision I made several years ago. When I was beginning the divorce process, I was a hot mess. I could hardly get my boys dressed and off to school so I knew I couldn't do anything extra at that point. I resigned from the Crisis Nursery Board. I stopped signing up to be 'room mom' for my boys classrooms. I like to give 100% when I'm involved and I knew I didn't have 100% to give to anything so I took a step back from everything. I walked away from other responsibilities so I could give 100% to those who mattered most. Every time I said no, it gave me the freedom to say yes to something else... most often it was more time with my boys. Some days it meant I could say yes to a nap which was desperately needed.
Now as a full-time mom and business owner, having already pared down my responsibilities I've continued thinking like that. Before I say yes, I think
1) does it directly help my business
2) does it directly impact my children in a positive way
3) is it fun and something I really want to do
4) do I feel like it's something God wants me to do?
If I can't say yes, to one of those 4 questions, then I'm ok to say no. Saying no, provides me with plenty of opportunities to say yes to what matters most.
MAKE TIME FOR YOU
You've always heard it's important to take time for yourself. One thing I have done faithfully since last November is going to the gym. You can read more about what I like about No Limit Fitness in this previous blog post. 5 days a week I start my day at the gym. Many days I don't feel like going. Most days, I'm glad I walk out glad I did. Some days, I don't feel any better leaving than when I arrived. But I keep showing up and going through the motions on days I don't want to be there. And 8 months later, I'm so glad I did. I'm making time for myself. I'm taking care of my body which tremendously impacts my mind and I approach the day with a better attitude. I've allowed my friendships to take a back seat the past few months and that's something I'd like to change. I need to make time for coffee dates, walks in the park to chat, or dinner. Don't forget to make time for you... whether it's reading the bible every morning, getting a pedicure once a month or calling a friend. Do what makes your heart happy.
YOU NEVER HAVE A DAY OFF
Being my own boss was appealing so I could set my own hours, travel down to Florida to visit my mom when I wanted, stay home with my boys when they are sick, etc. So while, it's perceived by others that I don't work a 'real job' or I only work part-time, the truth of the matter is I never have a day off. I am always 'on'. A potential client can be lost in less than 10 minutes. Here's an interesting tidbit... with technology advances, an expected response time by a potential client from a business has gone from a week (in the 90's) to a day to now customers expect a response within 10 minutes. If I don't respond within 10 minutes, there is a great likelihood they have now become someone else's new client. So while I may not be behind a desk from sun up to sun down, I am constantly working. There are days, I wish I could put work in a neat box during certain hours and leave it til the next day. It doesn't work that way. And I'm ok with that. The positives outweigh the negatives for me but it's just a fact. A fact that caught me off guard to be honest. As a small business owner, you have to hustle. And the hustle never ends. You don't take a day off.
I WILL SCREW UP EVERY DAY
There is a lot to learn. Running a business has been a steep learning curve for this stay-at-home mom turned small business owner. I screwed up yesterday. I screwed up today. I will screw up tomorrow. I didn't respond to a client fast enough. I designed an album incorrectly and have to reorder costing me a lot of time and money. I hit the wrong key and have to re-edit an entire wedding. I will make mistakes. It will be ok. I will learn from them. I will move on vowing to do better the next day.
I CAN DO IT
Phillipians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"
The best part of running my own business is realizing I can do it. I can do anything I want. It's a powerful feeling. For years, I was made to feel inferior and incapable of anything. Sweet Lemonade Photography has been such a blessing to realize I have qualities God gave me to thrive. I can do all things through Christ. I'm using the gifts He gave me to find fulfillment in my job, joy in what I can provide to clients, and satisfaction that I am using my talents to the best of my ability. I don't need to find my value in anyone else's opinions. My value is found in Him. My strength is found in Him. My hope is found in Him.
Yes, I will make plenty of mistakes. But making mistakes just means I'm trying. And the more I try, the better I become. You know what I'm becoming? I'm becoming a better version of me. And there's nothing better than that.
Heather is the owner of Sweet Lemonade Photography and co-owner of Sweet Darling Weddings. Life gave her a bunch of lemons (you can read a little more here) and by keeping her focus on God, finding the positive in each day, and surrounding herself with supporting, loving and encouraging people she has turned those lemons into the sweetest lemonade. Heather was a stay-at-home mom and when her life got turned upside down, she started her photography business which has provided her so many unexpected blessings. And now you know the story behind her business name. 🙂 If you want to know more about her personally, you can read Heather’s personal blog Sweet Lemonade Life which was created to share her heart, her adventures and find ways to bless others. You can contact Heather for photography at firstname.lastname@example.org or personally at email@example.com.