This wasn't the blog post I set out to write today,
but it is something that has been weighing heavy on my heart for weeks, even months and I feel writing about it here may help so many.
I've said it before, but I really struggle with the term "hustle" when it comes to us self-employed and entrepreneurs. We are often encouraged to glorify business. Our success is not only measured financially, but in our follower count, our gear, how often we're featured and by which publication etc. Sometimes it gets to the point where that defines who we are.
It has been weighing on me hard for a while now. In the photography industry we are encouraged to HUSTLE, post on Instagram everyday, respond to all enquiries as soon as they come in, no days off, invest in your business etc. All of this is important to create a thriving business, but I think I speak for a lot of my colleagues when I say it can all get to be a bit much. And I'll be honest, it has taken a toll on me. If I don't check in with myself, that becomes who I am and defines my worthiness. When it takes a toll on me, it takes a toll on my family. And especially my three year old who is SO in tune with emotions and how I'm feeling. It's not fair on my boys and sometimes I need to reprioritise and remind myself that I am their mama before I am a wedding photographer.I've been so convicted lately to rest and to breathe. And most importantly, I've been convicted to make more space for my family - who should always be my first priotrity any way!
For those of you who don't know me, I'm married to the love of my life, Jonny and we have two little boys. Sam is three. He loves the outdoors, diggers, tractors (anything with engines and wheels really), Paw Patrol, and volcanoes. Finn is one and a half. He loves the outdoors too, animals, football, airplanes and broccoli. Both boys are fiery and somewhat strong willed but the most tuned in, empathetic people I know for only being on this Earth a short while. And they need me.
They need me more than my business. They don't need me to be the most successful photographer in Northern Ireland, they just need me to be their mama. They need me to get on the floor and play with them. They need hugs. They need me to listen and HEAR them. They don't care about my "hustle" or lack thereof. They are at the age where they sense when I am stressed or anxious. I've been so aware that they notice when I am on my phone and distracted and I hate it. I don't want their memories of me to be of the back of my phone or laptop instead of my face. Just today, I was rushing around cleaning my bathrooms after getting Finn down for a nap and Sam set up with an episode or five of Paw Patrol before sitting down to work. Just as I was finishing up, looking forward to a bit of hot coffee, Sam asked "Mommy, you want to watch my iPad with me?" My first instinct was to tell him no; that I had work to do. But then he asked again. I knew immediately that he needed ME. He doesn't know or care that I have a mountain of admin work to get to. He just wanted ME. So I said "Sure, buddy!" We cuddled on my bed and watched video after video of excavators and he had the biggest smile on his face the whole time. That's all he needed. He doesn't need me to book every enquiry. He doesn't need me to be featured. He just needs ME.
To clarify, as your photographer I work my booty off. I work hard to make sure your days are captured well, your questions are answered and that you feel safe. I will always respond to you in a reasonable time frame, get your photos back to you as quickly as I can, and constantly work on improving my craft. This is my chosen career and I love making it happen. But I love my boys more. Being a wife and mom will ALWAYS come first. That's why I say no the "the hustle." That's why I take time off to rest on Sundays and only work during nap time, after bedtime or when my boys are with my husband or family members. Yes I still work hard. I want to be an example to my boys of what it looks like to be committed, faithful and hardworking. But I also want to be an example to them of "constant" and "present." I want them to know that they are loved unconditionally and that I'm always there. Raising them with a constant presence is my priority. THAT is my highest calling.
I love what I do. But one day I will shoot my last wedding and put my camera down for the final time, but I will never not be their mom. When they talk about me when I'm gone, I don't want them to lead with "she hustled and was a decent photographer," I want the first thing to come to their minds is how much I loved them and that I was constantly there.
I will work hard as your photographer because I love what I do. I love my clients. It really is what I feel created to do so I will steward that to the best of my ability. But before any of that I am Jonny's wife and Sam and Finn's mama. They are my top priorities always. Their well being is far more important than an instagram post, than my follower count or my success. Yes, everything I do is for them and I will work as hard as possible. But their little hearts will always trump my career.
So fellow creative, small business owner, parent etc., I encourage you to REST. Enjoy the company of your friends and family. Be present with your family. Sign out of your social media, delete the email app off your phone and BE PRESENT. You've worked so hard and what you've built won't disappear overnight because you prioritised your heart and the hearts of those around you. Say yes to hard work but no to the hustle. Trust God with your business, "the labor of your hands" and I promise you won't be disappointed. You'll never regret being there for the ones that need you most.