If I could go back in time...

Winter 001
{taken in Dulwich Park. My new favourite place to think!}

....I would sit down and really think about attempting to build a business at the same time as building a young family. My photography business really took off when I was pregnant with my first baby. I will be very honest and tell you that it certainly wasn't planned. I was doing a PhD at the time and the plan was to finish that and become an academic, although for many reasons I already know that career path would have been just as difficult/impossible to juggle with a young family too. Anyway, the business did take off and it grew faster than I could have ever hoped. A wonderful thing in many ways but also very, very hard to balance with having children. 

If I could start it all again, I would write down all my ideas and dreams, and box them up until my children were all at school and then begin. I am not going to regret what I've been doing for the past 6 years because that would be a silly waste of energy, plus it has taught me so much, I have made some wonderful friends and I have worked with some very lovely people. But, I am going to be very honest about it being hard and why I am now stopping for the forseable future.  

It is very hard to explain to anyone who doesn't run their own business and have young children, just how hard it is. Last night I was busy updating all my accounts (one of the many jobs that needs doing before I can stop) until at about 9pm there were little footsteps on the stairs. One of my little ones was up and about, and couldn't possibly go back to sleep without a story, more milk, more cuddles. If you have little ones, you'll know the score! So, my work had to stop and he had to take priority. I wanted to remain calm and patient, partly because that's what I wanted to do as a mother but also because I know from experience that if I am calm and patient the whole process of getting him back to bed will be so much quicker! But at the same time I wanted to cry. My accountant is waiting for my books, I am desperate to finish them so I can start Christmas crafting. It was late and I didn't want to be working through the night again. This was my time. 

This is a small but fresh in my mind example of how my life has been constantly pulled in two directions by my children and my business over the past six years and it's been exhausting. No matter how hard you try (and I most definitely have tried) to limit the amount of work you to, to outsource, to have rules for a work/life balance, the reality is that both little children and clients are unpredictable! I am posting an album from early 2010 today...finally, almost three years later, ordered by my clients. Who would have predicted that work would need to be done three years after the event?! 

The biggest mistake I made was not having enough childcare because I really wanted to be with my children. That was the whole point of working from home and running my own business. But in reality I probably would have had more real, quality time with them, if I had worked for say 3 days a week 9-5pm and then been home the rest of the time, focussed on them. The trouble with running your own business is that you need to be thinking about it even when you're not working. How to grow it, how to attract new clients, how to develop your style, etc. etc. So, perhaps even if I had had more childcare it may still not have been enough. 

I have been doing all this while my husband has also been very busy with his own businesses, so we have also had an additional issue to add to the mix. Whose work is more important? Whose clients are shouting loudest? Trying to both do extra work in the evenings and weekends but with three little children to look after. Plus he's been heavily involved in my business too, as a photographer, a designer and of course my tech guy! But all in his spare time. If you know him, you'll know he doesn't really have any spare time! 

It is very easy as a woman to pretend you can do and have it all. Look at me, I have three beautiful children, a fourth on the way, a successful photography business, and a blog. Oh and I bake cakes, craft my own Christmas presents, exercise regularly and have lots of wonderful friends! It's all fabulous. Look at me juggling it all. You can do it all too if I can. But only if you are prepared to live on very little sleep, to be constantly stressed (even if you don't realise you are), to drop balls too often, to cry a lot, to feel pulled in two directions all the time, to feel like you've completely lost yourself, to not be the mum or the business woman you really want to be, to never be able to watch TV without working/sewing/blogging/cooking at the same time. I could go on.

I am not saying you can't run a business while bringing up young children but it is not easy. Time goes very fast and before you know it your little ones are at school and all those precious baby and toddler moments are gone forever. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to stop all this juggling now and concentrate on being a mum. Yes, I'll still be one of those mums that bakes, crafts, blogs and throws herself completely into it all but this will be without the stress of also having a business to run. Ideally I will probably stop until our youngest (due in April) is at least at pre-school. I may of course change my mind about this as time goes by but I have learnt so much over the past 6 years about how much work is doable and how much is not. I also know just how much extra stuff comes with every single shoot that I do.

Gosh, this post was supposed to be much more thought out and probably contain lots more stuff but over the past couple of weeks I've been struggling to get to the point where I really can say "Closed" because there is still so much to complete. And all I've wanted to be doing is nesting in our new home and crafting for Christmas in the time that I do have for myself. I have cried about it all a lot and it's really shown me that stopping is definitely the right thing for me right now. I hope it hasn't come out like a big old feeling sorry for myself rant! I just wanted to be honest and share the juggling, trying to have it all reality. 

Now I'm going to indulge my little guy in some mummy time before his big brother is back from nursery. The juggling can wait until later! I'd love to hear your experiences if you are in the same position or any tips you might like to share with us all for managing this successfully.