This post started out *planning* to just be a quick heads up to clients where I’m at right now in terms of coffee table book designing, session editing, and for photographers waiting to hear back on open workshop dates how much longer they’ll be waiting for a response. But the answer is *way* more complicated than a simple, “Hey y’all! Alicia (office manager) is going through finals week in college and I was just gone for a week and a half, so it’s going to be until next week for anything to be done work-wise, kthanks!! :)”

Because what it boils down to is Rachel Vanoven 1.0 would have sat her butt at the computer and spent hours she didn’t have to edit all the Rise & Shine workshop models images to get them done ASAP. She wouldn’t have waited for Alicia to finish her last week of tough finals and dove in and started answering every email that came in (if you’re wondering, just in the last week, there are probably close to seventy-five unread/un-responded to emails)…not only would this have taken hours away from her kids/husband who she had just spent a week away from, exhausted her already post-workshop/traveling sleep deprived body/mind, but it would have seriously screwed with Alicia’s methods and organization in my email.

Rachel Vanoven 2.0 has made priorities that go something like this:

1. Be a good wife–biggest rule for me. Because if Nick and I are happy with each other, the kids are at peace knowing that mommy and daddy are doing good. So Nick and I make it a *must* to have a weekly date night. With Instagram and Facebook updates, I used to worry that clients will see me out on the town with my husband and be all, “Well she has time to ____________ (see a movie, grab sushi, etc) with her husband but I’ve been waiting on my ___________ (sneak peek, album design, disc, etc.) for a few weeks now!” Now, I have conditioned myself to just enjoy myself with not just Nick, but any friends and family I happen to be with. There will ALWAYS be more work to do. Rarely are photographers completely caught up on everything!

2. Be good to myself — This follows the theme of being a good wife. The reason it comes after wife stuff, though, is because I believe that you have to put your spouse first (within reason) so that may require sacrifice on my part, but Nick does his part as well, so it’s all good. But by being good to myself, I include grabbing brunch with a friend, watching DVR’d Vampire Diaries, and sitting on my back porch and drinking coffee for as long as it takes to wake up. The old Rachel used to *immediately* every morning set her alarm for 6:00 am and go straight to the computer and answer emails that came during the night. Because when you do newborn photography, your clients are typically up at all hours of the night 😉  This no longer happens anymore–I was *killing* myself with work.

3. Be a good mama — Confession time, for the first two-three years of my career, I was a sucky mom. I’m not fishing for compliments, I don’t want to hear, “Awwwww, Rach—you weren’t a sucky mom at ALL!” because I was. I was awful. I put my clients and becoming successful in front of my kids and I regret it with my whole heart. I went back to work when Josie was SEVEN days old. I stopped chaperoning field trips. I stopped cooking family meals. I rushed through nighttime book readings. I missed nearly three years of my kids’ lives that I can never get back. The wake up call for me came in the form of my oldest daughter’s steadily decline in school. I wasn’t paying attention to her homework. I wasn’t helping her study. I didn’t even know there was a website all the other parents were actively a part of that kept them up to date on class assignments and whatnot. I saw mood swings start, attention-hungry kids acting out so I’d give them the time of day. My sweet boy would want to show me something and I would mindlessly say, “Uh-huh, cool, bud” while not taking my eyes off the family pictures I was editing. His plea? “Mommy! Look with your EYES!”

Something had to be done. I wasn’t being a good wife, mother, and most importantly I had lost who I was as a person. I was making EVERYONE happy except for those closest to me.

My first step was hiring Alicia to handle my email. I know it can be frustrating as a client to wonder why the heck you can’t just talk to RACHEL, but keeping up with my email is a full time job (which boo-hiss Alicia as an awesome photographer herself and about to enter her Senior year of college, will be passing the torch onto a new office manager during the next few weeks!) and I can’t just pop in and pop out and expect Alicia to keep it flowing smoothly. So when she can’t work, my email will come to a standstill. And I’m okay with that (now–old Rachel would have been twitching).

My second step was to cut back on my workload. For 2012, this meant cutting my family sessions down to 15 and only one newborn session per week maximum. I go to the studio Tuesday-Thursday ONLY, and these are the ONLY days I work. From 9am-3pm. Period. Any other work on top of that is minimal and can be done quickly from my phone or home computer, but I don’t keep any work sessions to edit at home now.

I’m not sure where exactly I’m going with this, but I’m thinking that if I can share my story, maybe other photographers (or any working parents) can learn from my mistakes. And I’m hoping clients waiting on pictures (mostly models from the Texas workshop, a donated shoot right before I left, and then a newborn shoot less than a week ago—I don’t want you guys to think it’s MONTHS before clients get their pictures!!) can understand why I’m not jumping RIGHT back into full time work after being gone for 9 days.

Would love to hear how other working moms juggle it all…and if anyone else had a wake-up call like I did. How about from the client perspective?

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