This post is part of our series meant to encourage women in various stages of their lives to tune out the noise of society’s demands and find a balance that works for them, which in turn makes their whole families much healthier.

Meet Chelsea: wife, mother of two and small business owner (you may have seen some of her pictures on our blog or more recently the WBAP event pictures on our Facebook page).

Hi Chelsea! Tell us a little about your business and family.
I’m the owner and lead photographer for a boutique wedding photography business. Our business is the sole support of a family of four, and although we travel considerably for weddings and shoot two sessions a week usually on location, we’re officed out of our home.
 
As a mom of two kids, how do you find balance?
I wouldn’t say for sure that I have found balance, but I’m certainly better now than I was two years ago. We have made “modest home, rich experiences” our family motto, and we highly prioritize travel and adventures as a family. We work very hard, but we play just as hard. When we’re going to have a particularly busy month, we try to make sure that the following month leaves a lot of room for family trips and lazy day movie marathons with our kids. 

What tips do you have for making sure a working mom stays healthy while juggling work and family?
Eating! When I first started working from home, my meal schedule was completely wonked. I quickly learned that I needed to get up and eat breakfast every morning just like I would if I was “going” to work rather than working from home. I’ve also found that I feel healthier and more energetic as both a mom and a business owner if I get dressed and put on makeup in the morning. That sounds ridiculous, because no one’s going to see me, but the act of “getting ready” in the morning even if I’m just walking into my home office reminds me that I am a productive business owner and a member of the outside world!

Also, there are certain times of the year when I don’t have time for boot camp or my regular workout routine. During those times of year, we never miss Family Dance Party! We turn on Top 40 Dance hits and shake our booties around the house all together until we fall down in a big sweaty pile. It’s pretty much the most fun workout routine ever. 🙂
 
What tips do you have for managing your time in the midst of so many responsibilities?
Lists! I’m a list addict. We have a “What’s Happening This Week” white board that helps us all be able to see, at a glance, where we’re working, what projects are due, and what the kids have going on. Everything is color coded. I also set alarms in my phone that remind me to take a break. If I count on myself to just remember things, it’s never going to happen. I set myself up to succeed by having written schedules for work AND home that keep us all on track. 
 
How has being a working mom made you view sleep/rest differently?
I never knew what tired was until I was working 80 hour weeks running my own business with two children in tow. I wish I could go back and tell College Chelsea to hush up, because I had no idea what exhausted felt like. But you know what? I also had no idea what HAPPY was. I’ve started viewing exhaustion as my body’s way of saying, “Good job today.”

Now, there are definitely times when I realize I’ve pushed myself too far, and that’s not healthy for anyone. In those cases, I have learned to let work go un-done. It’s not going to be done up to my standards if I’m exhausted, anyway. It’s ALWAYS better to take a 2 hour nap and come back fresh than to work like a zombie and have to re-do something tomorrow because of mistakes. 
 
What mistakes did you make that you wish you could go back and fix?
I wish that I had more of these balancing systems in place when I first started working from home in 2009. I spent 18 months completely frazzled. The simple act of keeping up with daily and weekly To Do lists allowed me to feel much more in control of my workload, even though we’ve since added another child to the mix!
 
What is the hardest part of maintaining balance in your life?
The hardest part of maintaining balance in my life is knowing when someone needs a little extra. There are times when one child or the other, or even my husband, just needs a little more from me. It could be emotional, it could be when someone gets sick… any number of reasons why the normal amount of relaxing or “togetherness” time isn’t enough on any given day. As a person who’s addicted to lists and schedules, sometimes it’s hard for me to abandon those scheduling mechanisms. But it is always, always worth it.
 
What does a balanced life for you look like?
For me, a balanced life doesn’t mean I’m never exhausted, or I never feel overwhelmed. Owning a successful business, that’s just going to happen. A balanced life for me means that I always have something to look forward to. If we’ve got a crazy week at work, I’ve got a break with the kids at the zoo to look forward to the following week. If we’ve got a light month and lots of lazy family time, I can look forward to busy season returning because I’m lucky enough to love my job. My goal for life is not only that I’m always content with where I am, but also looking forward to what’s coming.

What advice do you have to fellow women?
You are not just a mother. Yes, you ARE a mother. That is perhaps your most important job. But if you are JUST a mother, then you aren’t training your children to be complete adults… and isn’t that our job, as parents? I set aside time to cultivate my relationship with my female friends, and time by myself, and prioritize above ALL my relationship with my husband. The choice to NOT put my children first in my life has made me such a better mother. Instead of a shell of a woman who resents her lack of autonomy, I’m a complete successful person who is proud of every facet of who I am. My husband, my children, and my customers ALL appreciate that!

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To women out there who are balancing a demanding job and raising children, what advice do you have for moms in Chelsea’s shoes? Remember – we want to build each other up and encourage each other to live balanced, healthy lives.

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