Nearly two years ago I was 7 months pregnant floating around with two of my wedding industry bump buddies in photographer Emily Quinton's garden. We'd met through Twitter and, having discovered we were all a week apart in our pregnancies, became good friends supporting each other through the sickness, heartburn and cankles.
Our photo shoot was a shoot like no other in that not only were us three models pregnant, but so was the photographer and hair-stylist and many of the items we'd borrowed to style it came from designer mums with young families. Very baby orientated.
|Image © Emily Quinton|
|Image © Emily Quinton|
In my mind motherhood was going to be a bed of roses and I was going to breeze along whilst effortlessly balancing my business on one hip and baby on the other. I wasn't completely deluded, I knew life was about to completely change forever and I felt I was prepared for the sleepless nights and sacrificing my own needs. But, I'm a fiercely independent person and when our son was born in September 2010 I was there the week after sitting in floods of tears battling with breast feeding (it took three weeks to "get it") trying to write a magazine article on just 4 hours broken sleep. Being self employed makes it extremely difficult to just take time off, particularly if like me you work from home because despite being able to close the door on it, you know it's there. All in all I took seven weeks off, but I still very much had my eye on things.
|Two very tired parents! © Sara Thomas Photography|
He was a typical newborn as babies go. I had hoped he'd be like my mother said I was (she had to wake me up for my feeds!) but he slept sporadically and fed in the same way, meaning it took a few weeks for us to get into any routine and all the while I'm wondering how on earth I'm going to manage getting my clients through the latter stage of their wedding planning, after all it's my job to shoulder the stress! The wedding industry moves fast and if you don't move with it, it's very easy to be left behind. When I look back at that time I can't believe how much pressure I put on myself to stay visible when really all I should have expected of myself was to focus all my attention on my baby boy and me.
Needless to say, the pressure of juggling in those early days took its toll on me and I virtually shut down, so my husband became our support system and he kept things ticking over-he cooked, kept the house clean, got up in the night to do the feeds I was too exhausted to manage and made sure we had food in the house. Oh and did I mention he worked too?
The Juggling Act
As he got older I quickly learnt to snatch opportunities during his down times, so if it meant I went without my morning bath or getting dressed just so that I could catch up with my admin for an hour, I did just that.
We're very fortunate in that we both work from home, so sometimes if I need to be in town for a meeting then my husband will take Mini Monsieur for the afternoon. The same goes if he has to go out to work, so we share the responsibility equally and life flows smoothly now. Well, most of the time anyway!
Keeping My Identity
Almost two years on and now Mini Monsieur has a fantastic routine, we've learnt how to brush work and family life alongside each other. I've built my business up from nothing in a difficult industry, I started from nothing and work incredibly hard at all hours to develop and maintain it. In the early days I felt as though I'd completely lost sight of who I was and had unwittingly exchanged myself instead for a 24/7 milk machine in frumpy PJs moulded to the sofa. That's why I fight so hard to keep that work/family balance so that I have something for myself-it's incredibly important. As a creative person I need to be in the kind of environment to keep things fresh and to allow me to grow. Lots of my mummy friends are exactly the same; take my bump buddies Vicky Rowe and Annabel Beeforth for example. I can vividly remember skyping Vicky once when her son was napping on her lap whilst she dealt with crockery hire enquiries and, once he was in bed for the night (or at least until he woke for another monster feed) she was back to packing up crockery orders in time to deliver them the following morning. A logistical nightmare but it was and is essential for her business (and sanity) to survive.
Working from home gives me the flexibility to spend time with my son in the way that suits him. We go to baby group twice a week and during the afternoons we might go out to the park or do some gardening. He's at such a wonderful age where he's learning to talk and picking up new skills all the time and I'm blessed to be able to see these moments and not be tied to a maternity contract.
What About The Baby?
Did I mention how incredible he is? He's funny (his comic timing is something else!) clever and almost always full of sunshine. He's had such a variety of experiences already in his life and has even come to work with me on shoots once or twice. No matter what goes on for either of us personally his routine never changes.
|Mini Monsieur at his 1st birthday bash © Rhys Grant|
Ok, so is it worth all the hassle?
Yes, absolutely, although being completely honest with you, I've often sat there at the end of a manic day being mummy, eyes propped open with matchsticks and just about to embark on my working evening and thought "why the hell do I bother??" Sometimes I get so tired of the constant fight to keep all those plates spinning, but I know that I'd be lost without my career. I have to have something for me too because that's healthy. It's really bizarre when I'm out networking dressed up to the nines, styling models for a shoot or getting a bride ready to walk down the aisle to then come home to Mini Monsieur for nappies, milk and bedtime! Let's face it, in the not-too-distant future he'll be starting school and embarking on a whole new adventure so having my business to concentrate on will soften the blow when it's time for me to let him go. *Sob*.
The key for me is learning to find a balance, communicating with your partner (this is so important!) and giving yourself time to just "be", whether that's doing the weekly shop, heading out for a walk in the woods or sitting in front of the TV for an hour. Some days I'll want to devote all my attention to my son, others I'll have to juggle the laptop on the edge of the sofa whilst I watch him play. I'm far from perfect though and to prove it I'll let you in on something...
This is the current state of my desk. I haven't worked here during the day for several weeks now and given that it shares a space in my son's room I've not worked there of an evening for almost two years. So for now, it's home to paper work, props and my sewing machine.
|It's organized chaos. © Tiffany Grant-Riley|
When I decided to tackle this subject I was really keen to hear from other working parents-particularly those who were self employed and/or working from home and the response I had was amazing- so much so in fact that I'm giving over a whole post to the mums who wanted to share their stories. Part Two will be up next week, so if you're about to embark on your own journey or wondering whether or not to continue, watch this space, it's well worth a read!