In two great ways, I have the most amazing responsibility in the world. I spend my weekends photographing weddings; the happiest days of a couple's life. But I spend my Mondays through Fridays with three small people who have completely changed my life. (And some editing. I try to get a little bit of that done too.)
When you work from home, it is so hard to divvy up your time between family and business. I imagine life's probably easier when you have a brick-and-mortar storefront and can flip a "Closed" sign and go home for the day. Sometimes I have wished I could afford an office location that's not in our home, or fast-foward to this home ownership thing and at least have a space with it's own door. (I'm seeing beautiful french doors, lots of windows, and a separate entrance for clients to come right in that doesn't require them to see the mess that is the rest of my house.) Right now my 'office' is in a room in the center of the downstairs, that's meant to be a formal dining room. Thankfully we have a huge living room, so we just turned it into a great room and put our dining table in there. But it's hard to get work done in the afternoons when everyone's going through here into the kitchen to grab a snack or a drink, or passing through to go out the back door; just about every downstairs room connects to this room.
(Not meant to be a technical blueprint, but you get the idea.)
There were days I desperately wanted to throw my hands in the air and scream "EFF IT!" I'd put my headphones in and try to drown out whatever's happening around the house, and sure enough there would be a tap on my shoulder and a small child (or husband; he's guilty too!) asking me for something. I've tried to tell all of them, "Look, you know how when dad's at work we all can't ask him for something because he's not here? I need you guys to do that with me when mommy is at this desk working. Please ask your dad and pretend I'm not here." But do you think it holds up? Well, let me tell you that it works even less with a 7 month old.
But a couple months ago, we finally found some semblance of a routine. See, Nic's been working night shifts from either 11pm to 7am, or 7pm to 7am, 4-5 nights a week. I should point out that those shifts fall on weekends sometimes too, which often mean that he'd work the night before shooting a wedding, or head into work after we've spent the day at one. He was exhausted, and I know that was really rough on him.
On the weekdays the schedule worked out well enough that that he would come home from work just in time to get the kids off to school, take a shower, then crawl into bed with Natalie and I. We would get up at 9:30ish, leave him sleeping, and spend the morning together until her first nap around 11:30/noon. Now this nap only lasts about an hour if I'm lucky, so I'd get emails answered, maybe schedule some social media posts, pull my phone for the business out of my desk drawer and keep that on me for the rest of the afternoon so I could answer emails and phone calls as needed. There really wasn't any point in throwing myself into editing since the nap wouldn't last long, and I'd have to slip into Mama Mode again. Once Nic would wake up for the day around 2pm, he'd take over with her and I'd get about two uninterrupted hours of editing until the older kids come through the door everyday (like clockwork) around 4pm. I wrap up whatever I'm working on, turn the phone to Do-Not-Disturb and tuck it back into its drawer, then step away from my desk for the day. High five for balance!
Today Nicholas starts a new job. He'll be gone from 6am to 2pm every Monday through Friday, and home on weekends. EVERY WEEKEND. In our entire relationship that's never happened. He's always been scheduled for at least every other weekend. This new job, and our recent decision to only take one wedding per weekend from here on out (so that we always have a Saturday or Sunday free) is going to change so much about how we can all spend time together, and his energy level at weddings. It's also going to change my morning routine around here!
On this first day, Natalie and I got up at 7:30am to get the big kids off to school. They were out the door by 8:55 (School starts later here, at 9:15; They go until 3:45, which I don't mind at all!) By 9:20 I had Natalie down for her first nap. We usually would be waking up around this time, so that's definitely a nice change. I got to eat some breakfast, which I usually skip, and be at my desk by 10am; which is where I'm at now, writing this. I even turned the phone on early, and I might keep doing that! Now I'm still not sure if I'm going to get more than an hour out of her nap since she woke up earlier, (Maybe I'll even get an extra nap out of her?!) so I'm kind of playing that by ear this week. For now I'm going to stick with just answering and sending out emails, just as I would before.
Our afternoon schedule really isn't changing. Nic will get home from his new job around the same time that he was waking up for the day. So he'll probably jump in the shower, and then he'll be responsible for all-things-Natalie while I work until the kids come home, as per usual.
So let it be known that I basically get a total of three productive hours each day, which lets me get one wedding edited each week, and design an album or two. I do take a break from editing weddings during the first full week of each month, so that I can spend that Monday - Friday editing all the sessions I've captured in the last month, and then I return to working on weddings the following Monday. This is a session editing week, and I'm kind of grateful that his start week at the new job came at the same time, as it's usually an easier week.
I can't stress enough how important having some general routine is to our family, to my productivity factor, and to my mental health. For a while there, I didn't define time for family or time for business, and it wasn't very smart. I was answering texts from clients at the dinner table or jumping on the computer to send an email and ending up there for an hour or more, and kind of flipping out on the older kiddos when they wanted/needed me. With the new baby along, it finally became apparent that it was time to outline some specified hours during which I could be available to clients, and make sure I was available to my little people, too. But even after getting into this routine, I'll admit that there are productive business days, and there are productive mama days; and ever single day I will happily take whatever I've been given!