Life

WHO HAS TIME FOR BALANCE?

Last weekend, I photographed a wedding "up north."  If you're not from Michigan, you probably have no context of why people from Michigan are always talking about "up north."  It's like there's some kind of magical place that exists somewhere north of the 45th parallel, that draws people into some kind of "heaven-on-earth" experience.  Actually, it's exactly like that. 

Over the last year or so, we've become the kind of people that go "up north," so last week, I talked Beth into packing our three little people into the car with the promise that if she was willing to hole up in a hotel room for the day Saturday with said little people, we could have some quality family time together for the rest of the weekend.

What a perfect analogy for the life I often find myself living - both as a photographer - and as a business owner.  Life becomes the adventure of figuring out ways to fit together these two - sometimes competing - pieces of family and business.  

In reality - I love what I get to do.  I love photographing weddings.  I love being a part of the important moments of people's lives.  It's a privilege and an honor - one that I take seriously.  But, all of that is small, compared to the opportunity I have to live in the important moments of my family.  

Running a small business isn't easy.  It's not supposed to be.  It's hard work and long days, and it's often very stressful.  That's the life of a small business owner.  At the same time, it comes with a great reward - freedom.  

One of the things I hear from photographers, is how hard it is to balance work-life and family-life.  It's hard to figure out where the boundaries are - or even what boundaries are!  For me, the answer is about perspective - and it's about understanding why I do what I do.

It's pretty easy to end up with a small business that consumes you - and your life.  There really is a lot to do, but your photography business doesn't have to own you.  By starting with an understanding of why your business exists, you can put everything else in perspective - including boundaries.

My business exists to:

Add value to my family, by adding value to my clients.


I value my clients greatly, but I value my family more.  In fact, it’s only because of my family that I own a business.  The minute it stops allowing us to meet our family and financial goals, and allowing me to meet my personal and artistic goals, it’s no longer worthwhile.  Here are a few of the things that might help define boundaries that make it easy to focus on that mission statement.

- Always take at least one day off a week with family.  For us, it doesn’t matter what we do, we just do it consistently (every week) and we do it together.  

- Maybe for you it would help to not check email after 6PM.  I try to not use the computer after 6PM.  There’s nothing that happens in my business that can’t wait until morning. (by the way, working from home means I suck at this, so I go "offline" from about 4pm - 8pm, and then get a little more done before I go to bed).

 - Keep to set “work hours.”  If you don’t define them, you’ll find yourself working all the time.

-  Don’t bring work home.  No matter what.  Don’t edit photos from home, don’t reply to client emails from home, and don’t answer your phone when you get home.  Keep work at work.  If you "work" at home, then leave it all in your office.  Pick a "work" space where you do work, and when you leave... do the important things.

-  Be intentional about both "quality time" AND "quantity time."  By the way, the best way to create quality time is simply spending a lot of time together.  Some of my favorite quality time with my kids is when I come out of the office (which is on the lower level of our house) and they simply want to roll around on the floor and wrestle. 

Last weekend, I took more than 1,000 photos.  The wedding was gorgeous, and the couple was stunning.  The details were flawless, and I had a great time.  But the photos above are far and away my favorite.  Those are my people.  

 

And that's why I do what I do.

 

This was a post I originally wrote almost exactly a year ago - but I revised it this weekend after finding myself reminded of what really matters....

MACY IS THREE!

"Is it warm or cold out?"  That's the very first question Macy asks every morning.  For as long as I can remember her talking, she's asked us whether it's warm or cold outside.  Because if it's warm, the next question is "can I wear a dress today?"  

I remember a few months ago, this very conversation happening when my response was "how about if you wear pants today...?"  to which, her response was "how about you go wait downstairs while I get dressed."  

Of course, if you get to know Macy, you'll know that it's not just any dress, but a princess dress.  And even if you tell her that "today isn't a dress day," eventually - whether it's because she sneaks down to the dress-up clothes, or changes outfits when she's supposed to be taking quiet time - she ends up in a princess dress.

So, when we asked her what kind of a 3rd birthday party she wanted, no one was surprised when she said she wanted a princess party.  


We love you Macy, and are so blessed to have had you in our life the last 3 years!  You are becoming such a beautiful little lady - both inside and out - and we can't wait to share in the next adventures of your life!

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?

It's 12:05AM.  December 21, 2012.  12/21/12.  Apparently the world is supposed to end today.  I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about that.  I do know that as I sit here by the fireplace working on this post, Beth is sitting next to me working on a Christmas present for the girls, and I am reminded that I am the most blessed man on earth.  

Photo © Anne Ruthmann (www.anneruthmann.com)

Today, we celebrate our 5 year anniversary.  It's almost hard to believe all that's happened in the last 5 years.  We started down a journey unlike anything we had the capacity to imagine. Together we have spent 5 years celebrating each other, comforting each other, helping each other, honoring each other, forgiving each other, learning about each other, and loving each other.

We've had 3 little people join us, as we've become a family over the last 5 years.  We bought a new house, an old van, and a lot of diapers.  We've become the kind of people who equally love to travel the world together, as well as stay at home and sit in front of the fire.

I don't know how it's even possible that 5 years can seem like a blink of the eye, and yet I can't even wrap my mind around everything that's happened.  In fact, there's really only one thing I know for sure - being married to my very best friend has made me more blessed than I can ever imagine.

I guess if the world does end today, it will end with me loving you more today than I ever have before.  Of course, I'm rooting for 5 more years.  And then 5 more after that, and 50 more after that.  

 

I love you Beth :)