Can a Photographer Have Maternity Leave?

One of the biggest things that worried me when counting down the months to delivery was ‘What’s going to happen during my recovery period?’.  ‘Who is going to take care of my couples…Capture their most precious moments…Edit Images.. Pay Bills.. Meet with Clients..’.  You get the point, I’m sure!  Before announcing our pregnancy, Google and I became besties on finding other photographers who added Mommy to their resume.  Most women sadly had to cancel weddings and take a sabbatical from their business for a few months- not an option for me.  I’m a workaholic who adores both the industry and our clients yet all of that can change with the words ‘Emergency C-Section’.

Prior to delivery we had leads in place for events that I may potentially not be able to attend from July to September.  Thankfully, I made it to mid-July until my body had, had enough.  With one wedding booked at the beginning of August and two at the end, I hoped and prayed our son would arrive just a bit earlier than his 8/26 due date.  He came through but with extra complications; Jason attended the first wedding back only days after leaving the hospital.  We were so fortunate that our couples are beyond amazing and caffeine is a legalized drug, as Jason was most definitely sleep deprived!  As weeks passed, sleep became ample again, yet the hardest part was watching Jason leave for weddings that I REALLY wanted to be a part of.

During the recovery period, I can’t even express the amount of love felt for baby snuggles however I never imagined how hard it would be to juggle parenting with entrepreneurship.  Instead of napping when Declan napped (seriously whomever came up with this idea needs hip checked into a pile of pampers), I edited, held meetings with Skype or over the phone, kept up the business, and prepped for upcoming events and shows.  Still, I had no strict routine, and felt all over the place and interrupted with trying to maintain business items while feeding, snuggling, and caring for the new addition.  I’d love to say there was a quick fix or a 360 moment… not so much.

If you’re a new photographer parent here are a few tips that I discovered:

1. Don’t Give up on the Routine.  By the time I thought I was set, we’d hit a growth spurt and it’d be all mixed up the following week.  It took about 6 months to get a good strong routine down that was easy to say “I’m available between 9 and Noon and after 3pm”.  For me, I slipped back into the FT day job/ FT photography job lifestyle again with my workflow.

2. Stay Active and Eat Properly.  If you invest in yourself, everything starts to fall into place. Too many times it seems Mother’s give up on themselves in place of fulfilling the needs of their child.  By taking care of yourself both in fitness, nutrition, and fashion, you’ll feel amazing and be less fearful of getting back in the swing of those networking or client meetings.  10 weeks post-op I was heading back to the gym and personal trainer, getting back to my routine and health happiness.

3. Be Honest with Clients and Yourself.  Communicate honestly to clients.  Pre-baby I knew I could hold two meetings one evening, an engagement shoot the next, and then hit up a double wedding weekend and I’d be good to go.  Obviously things change when you have a child, however priorities and schedules need to be more fixed to allow for family and personal time.  I have certain evenings that are designated to work and clients and others to family time.  It also allows me during the day to know that Mondays are always my catch up day from the weekend (also known as Get Shit Done Monday) after enjoying Sunday completely off and devoted to my family.

4. Have a Healthy Support System. There is no way on this green Earth I would have been back on my feet as quickly as I was (even though it felt like months) without my husband and mother-in-law.  Both were amazing and beyond helpful with little things, such as dishes or laundry.  Business wise I knew I could count on my lead photographers to help with client communication, capturing events I was unable to attend, and keep Jason smiling and laughing.

5. Count your Blessings Every Day!  Regardless of what or who you believe in, life is a gift.  Seeing the progression from newborn to now almost 9 month old, every day, every baby smile is a blessing.  Although it can be frustrating having a mound of work on your desk or thousands of images to edit, nothing beats the simple things in life.

What tips might you offer to a full time business owner on maternity leave?