Finding The Work/Life Balance, Part I (In Which I Actually Answer The Question)

My son and me on a Sunday morning. This photo was not taken for Ramshackle Glam.

Today’s question, from reader MS, comes from the comments under this style post.

I’m curious how you balance the kind of work you do with making time to be in the moment. You mentioned that this was a “date night,” but it also has a work component, given the photos and subsequent post. Do you get [these photos] out of the way in the beginning, or save [them] for the end? Do you ever feel like [your work] intrudes [on your life]?

I like how forthright you are and willing to take us behind the blogging curtain, so I was hoping you’d share your thoughts on how you get content without sacrificing [your private life].

I’ve gotten a few questions lately about the whole work/life balance thing. And while my work is weird – it’s inextricable from my life (plus I work from home, and travel a lot, and have a sort of unusual schedule), I still think the answer to this question is interesting and post-worthy for two reasons:

  1. Because what I do for work involves documentation, and I think everyone (blogger or no) is affected by all the constant-photographing-of-everything that’s become so pervasive in our culture;
  2. Because every single woman I know struggles with balancing work – whatever her work is, whether it’s being a stay at home mom or freelancing or working in an office – with life. Every one of them. And strangely enough, in some ways those who love what they do seem – in my experience – to find it even harder.

An Actual, Logistical Answer To This Question

I have a pretty involved response to the second point up there, but first, I’d like to answer this question in a “Blog Advice”-style, straightforward way, because this is something that Kendrick and I have been working on literally since Day One.

It’s still – and always will be – a work in progress, but over the years we’ve gotten better at making sure that my work doesn’t interfere with family time beyond the amount it has to (and it does have to, to some extent; that’s one of the things on the relatively short list of “cons” of my job). We were bad at it in the beginning, because I was stressed out by my new venture and wanted to shoot everything, all the time, and we were bad at it when we first had Indy (because all of a sudden I was taking care of a toddler 28 hours a day, and started de-prioritizing “us time” out of fear that my career and income would suffer in the exact moment when I really needed it to do well).

But we’re better now. Not perfect, but better.

A dilapidated roadside train station

A roadside structure that we found on the way to Carmel and decided to use as a background because it was there. (It didn’t work very well.)

So Here’s How We Make Shoots As Un-Intrusive As Possible

1. Keep It Organic (Really). If I have a look I want to shoot (and need Kendrick to shoot it for whatever reason), I plan to wear it during a time when I was going to get dressed up anyway (like for a date night) and take the shots either where we were already planning to go or on the way there. This means I don’t have to spend extra time doing hair and makeup when I wouldn’t have ordinarily planned to, and also means that we don’t drive all over the place in search of “the perfect wall” – whatever we have to work with has to be good enough. Basically, I try to make sure that the photographs themselves are the only thing that takes extra time – not the prep.

2. Get It Done, And Get It Done First. We’re people who take a lot of photographs on our day-to-day travels anyway, but if I specifically need photos of myself for a project, we always get those out of the way as early as possible. If an organic moment comes up later when we’re taking photos just for fun and those end up being the ones I use, so be it – but if not, we already have what we need without making the whole day about TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS OF JORDAN (ugggggggg).

3. Keep Shoots Oh, So Short. We usually take about 20-30 shots, from which I choose 5 or 6, and the entire thing takes…maybe ten minutes, total?

Jordan Reid in a shot by Sue Hudelson

Here I am in a photo that I paid someone to take of me

4. Hire Pros When Necessary. About a year ago, I started hiring photographers for client shoots, and at this point I’d say 80% of the shots of me that you see here – whether for a sponsored post or not – are taken by a pro. Nowadays when you see shots of me taken by Kendrick, it’s usually because we’re goofing around and having fun (which is what was happening when these photos were taken – we were waiting for the elevator and I had a glass of wine in me and we were just messing around).

5. Set Specific Work Hours, And Be Realistic About What You Need. I have set work hours – 9AM to 4PM – and during these hours I have childcare. I write books and put together proposals and make calls and take product photos when my children are in school or napping or being watched by our part-time nanny. I could not do what I do if I did not have help, and I’m exhausted and angered by the prevalent (on the Internet, anyway) fallacy that women who work from home should somehow be capable of simultaneously running businesses and being full-time parents.

Every mother is a working mother tote bag

Tote bag that speaks the truth

Everyone needs help, and the suggestion that women who work from home or who work in unconventional careers (or who freelance, or whose work is to raise their children) and employ people to help out are doing anything other than what they feel is best for their families is yet another example of the strangely inequitable expectations placed on women when it comes to the work/life balance.

(Can you tell this makes me mad? It makes me so mad. Which leads me to the second reason why I wanted to respond to this question…which is a whole lot less logistical and also very, very important to me, and which you can read in Part II – coming up in a bit.)


Bottom photo by Sue Hudelson.

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