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.

  • chelse

    Thank you for being so thorough in your answer! I have been wondering how exactly you manage everything. I work from home/own an online business with a 10 month old. Figuring out how to still work, which I love and raise my son is taking a lot longer than expected. Excited to read part two!

    • jordanreid

      in my experience, finding childcare that’s flexible but still affordable is the number one concern of mothers who work from home or don’t work traditional hours. (the ‘affordable childcare’ is also a massive concern of all working moms, everywhere, but that’s another story – addressed it a bit in my comment below.)

  • Olivia

    “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 care for their children 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.” THIS THIS THIS! OMG I could kiss you right now. People think I don’t work because I’m also a SAHM – I work ALL THE FUCKING TIME – that’s what social media managers do! I also get a LOT of nasty looks from people when I’m with Weston and on my phone – it’s called WORKING! I get really fired up about this too. Just because my office has a small child in it ALL the time doesn’t mean I don’t bust my ass to pay bills. Thank you for this!

  • Sandy

    Great post. Thanks especially for sharing your work hours/childcare situation. Of course you have no obligation to do (why don’t we ever ask men who is taking care of their kids?), but it provides reassuring context for women like me who work in an office and are sometimes prone to grass is greener syndrome and fantasizing about having a magical work from home job that would let me make money and be physically with my ‘ll the bulk of the day. For me, that fantasy is dangerous because I forget that I actually have an awesome job that I’m awesome at and that I am still an awesome mom even when I’m not at home.

    One quibble: the all moms are working moms trope grates. I don’t disagree with the premise and I get that stay-at-home parents take a lot of societal shit, but for me being working mom–by which I mean a mom who works another job for pay–is an important part of my identity and that particular phrasing is what I use to mark myself and find my tribe. It is not meant as a slight in the least and I get frustrated when I try to talk about struggles that are unique to moms who have employment and get derailed by moms who pointing out that they work too, which is of course true, but not really a conversation I’m interested in having because 1) it’s not my sitch and 2) I already agree!

    • jordanreid

      i think all women who work struggle with this intense guilt, and i definitely agree with you that there is a ‘grass is always greener’ thing going on no matter what type of job you have. childcare is especially challenging in my particular line of work because my hours are SO variable, and i often have very little notice – as an example, i’m going to new york to shoot a segment for a client april 11. or maybe it’s april 18. i might have to be gone for just three days, but it’s possible it will be five. …and oh yeah, the client may decide to go in another direction for the talent altogether. and trying to figure out childcare to support this schedule is an absolute nightmare. but of course there are many pros, as well. i just think that when it comes down to it the most important thing is that we respect ourselves for our efforts, respect other women in different situations and realize that they’re doing the best they can, too…and mostly just take it easy on ourselves, because i don’t know a single woman who doesn’t beat herself up about the amount she works/the amount of time she spends with her kids/the amount of time she’s romantic with her husband/et cetera ad infinitum.

      regarding the all moms are working moms tote – it did feel kind of out of place in this particular post, because the stay-at-home-mom isn’t exactly who this is addressed to…but i wanted to put it in anyway because it is SO important to me to honor the work that full-time mothers do, and so often i feel like their efforts get disregarded or undermined in an absolutely unforgivable way (by their partners, by their friends who work in office jobs, by society). i have friends who are full-time stay-at-home moms, and i absolutely could not do what they do. and if i had to do it, i’d be terrible at it. i do see what you mean, though – i also take enormous pride in the fact that i provide financially for my children. i just know that there are so many SAHMs who read this site and i wanted to ensure that i honored their work and conveyed my intense respect for it as well, even in a post that doesn’t necessarily apply directly to their situation.

      • jordanreid

        ps i also included stay at home mothers in the paragraph about how everybody needs help because so many of my friends who do this have ENORMOUS guilt at the idea that they might need help. they want help cleaning the house, or they want to hire a sitter for a couple of hours so that they can go do something they have to do (or even just WANT to do; that’s allowed, too), and they feel like they should be able to do it all, all on their own, because they’re not “working.” and they are. and they’re allowed to ask for help, too. this is kinda off-topic; it’s just something i want to make sure i clarify 🙂 🙂

        • Sandy

          Totally agree. I actually have a stay at home husband who struggles with some of that. Fact is, sometimes he could really use a sitter during the day to get shit done even if he doesn’t get paid for it, and the time will come that we hire a cleaner I am sure of it.

        • Olivia

          Jordan, “as an example, i’m going to new york to shoot a segment for a client april 11. or maybe it’s april 18. i might have to be gone for just three days, but it’s possible it will be five. …and oh yeah, the client may decide to go in another direction for the talent altogether, which would mean that i don’t have to go anywhere after all ” — how does this work with your anxiety issues? I would NOT be able to handle this not knowing what my schedule looks like with kids! I guess you’re used to it by now? My anxiety would have a field day with that. Ha!

          • jordanreid

            well honestly, my anxiety was never really about day-to-day logistics; it was much more like DEATH AND MY FUTURE AND MY CHILDREN WILL GET OLDER AND LEAVE ME ONE DAY. you know, the stuff you have tons of control over 😉 and that is what the magical potion called zoloft has helped with. also having a nanny who is willing and able to be supremely flexible with the hours she works each week is valuable beyond measure. i literally was just talking about this with kendrick – there are childcare options that would be more affordable (daycare, for example), and i’ve been tempted to save money that way…but the value of having someone who can accommodate the oddities of my schedule (within reason, of course – we’re not interested in taking advantage of anyone) is massive.

            still, though, the financial side of my career – because there is so much variability and uncertainty – is something that gives me enormous anxiety. you know what honestly helps? excel spreadsheets and mathematical projections. it’s dorky, but being able to stare at real numbers that matter in the real world and graph out trends helps SO MUCH. who knew statistics class would end up being so helpful? 😉

      • Sandy

        Thanks for the context re: the quote. I respect that you’re trying to be inclusive of all moms. It is enlightening every time I realize that someone in a totally different situation feels the same type of guilt I do.

  • Annie

    I appreciate your (eventual) transparency, but I hope you realize you are still in a privileged position. Yes, all parents would do better with help and support, but for the majority that’s not a possibility – whether due to financial constraints, location, anything really. I understand that you are upset and defensive, but it comes of very privileged because the majority of Mothers don’t have the ability to hire care, cleaners etc. And yes, some of those women are working from home, or attempting to put together a non-traditional career. I am glad that you have support and a schedule that works for you, and your children are adorable and I’m sure this consistency also helps them as well, but please consider your tone, especially in the last paragraph.

    • jordanreid

      I am in a privileged position, because I can afford the help that I need. If I made less money, I could not afford this help – all of my income would be siphoned directly into childcare, and it would be very hard for me to rationalize continuing to work. And that – for me personally – would be devastating, both because I think I wouldn’t be very good at being a full-time SAHM and because I love what I do. I see so many working women – especially those in unconventional careers or who work from home – experiencing guilt for having to ask for help, and I don’t see many men experiencing that same guilt – largely, I think, because of societal expectations. That doesn’t seem okay to me.

      I am grateful that I can work from home and can afford the help I need to do so. I am, however, angry that so many women in this country are forced to choose between working jobs and caring for their children, because there are so many situations in which it is virtually impossible to do both. The daycare system in our country is broken, and it’s women who are suffering.

      • Annie

        I feel that this is a bigger discussion than your initial post suggests, but I agree with that sentiment as well – but it includes so much more, including healthcare, welfare etc. I do always appreciate your replies, as encouraging discussion is helpful.

  • Brett Cortell

    Love this. As a relatively new entrant to the working mom life, I’m finding it challenging. Especially because I REALLY love what I’m doing! It’s a constant balancing act and adjustment for my husband who is used to having me do everything!

  • After reading part two first I just had to read part one and I have to say what a brilliant read!

    • jordanreid

      thank you so much, cathy <3 <3

  • I really like this article please keep it up.