04 April, 2008

Dear Natalie.

Dear Natalie,

How do you juggle your job with your 3 little ones?

As it's pretty much common knowledge that I had 3 boys in 3 years (the oldest is now 4), I seem to get this question quite frequently! It's awesome to me that so many moms and dads (yup, I get this question from poppa photogs too) out there are committed to their kids and want to give them the best! Let me just begin by saying that my husband and my children come first. Period. Period. PERIOD.

Remember that every family is different and what works for us, may have to be implemented differently in another home.

  • Prioritize. We sat down and made a list of our roles. What we are to and for ourselves and those around us. Then we took those and put them in a numerical list as to which truly matter the most to us in the overall scheme of things. If you choose to do this, you may find that the finished product surprises you. I was definitely surprised to find where photography actually sat when I was forced to truly balance things out. My list looks like this: wife, mom, member of my church, daughter, sister/friend, member of my community, photographer.
  • We hold every decision we make on how to spend our time and energy accountable to our list of prioritized roles.
  • The MOST IMPORTANT thing we do is set goals. So many people wonder why they don't ever get what they want in their lives. Well maybe they're never specific enough with themselves. You've got to set specific, measurable goals. Write them down. That step alone is MONUMENTAL to creating the home/life you've always dreamed of.
  • We set some ground rules. Here are mine (ours):
    1. Face time. When my kids are up, that's face time. That's the time that is for them to see their mommy's face, not the back of her head while she works on her computer.
    2. Stick to our schedule. Early morning. That's when I edit. Generally 5am, occasionally as early as 4. Two afternoons a week, that's when I shoot. I never shoot on Mondays. That's family night. Friday is family fun day. Richie takes Friday off work. Friday night is date night. That opens up Saturdays for me to shoot weddings. These are the rules. Period. We do have a detailed schedule we stick to (which for me is insane because I am a very spontaneous person naturally). It helps us make sure that the things that matter most get the attention they deserve. I'm not posting it because it would probably bore you, but if you're interested comment below and if enough people want to see it, I'll go ahead and post it.
    3. Richie's the sitter. When I shoot, he's the one home with my boys 99.9% of the time. This works for us, because my hubby is an entrepreneur. This gives us a lot more freedom than most 9-5ers. This was an important life-style decision that we made very early on in our marriage. We wanted to be able to always put family relationships first, so for us that meant dad needed to be his own boss.
    4. Ask for help. When I first started doing more and more with my photography, I found it very difficult to make time to be wife mom, photographer and MAID! It was such a struggle, and because maid was obviously not a top priority. . .oh the filth and disorganization that ensued! Gracious me. Like everything in my life, I made this problem a matter of prayer. That's when I decided to hire someone to help out around the house. She comes a couple of times a week for a couple of hours and does light cleaning. Adrienne, I love you!! She also helps out with the kids on occasion. . . like for example that .1% of the time when I have a shoot and Richie can't be home. It was tough for me to just admit that I needed a hand. Trust me. I REALLY like feeling capable. But having help frees me up to REALLY be with my kids when I'm with them, rather than being half way with them because they're watching a movie while I run around trying to pick up the house. I've been blessed to be busy enough with photography to be able to afford some help. Oh, and sometimes it's a business expense. So I can write it off! :) LOVELY!
    5. Say NO. You can't do and be everything for everyone. Measure opportunities against your list of priorities, and DON'T be afraid to say no. Don't be afraid to turn down a job if it interferes with scheduled family time. Another job (or two) will come around. I PROMISE!
    6. Shoot what you love. I only shoot what I really love. I have turned down a few shoots (generally by referring them to another photographer) because they just weren't a fit for me. It's not about the money. It's about the passion. Money flows when passion is present. I really believe that.
Well, there you have it. Our system. It's nothing spectacular, and trust me, we don't have it down to a science by any stretch of the imagination. But at the end of the day, it feels good for me to know that I've done EVERYTHING I can to be true to myself and the commitments I've made to myself to honor my priorities.

Got a system that works for you? WONDERFUL!! Let me know! Comment or email me at natalienorton{at}gmail{dot}com and I'll do a post of the responses!


Gibson Gang said...


Wow! That's some great planning and organization! Wish I could pull it together like that!

I'm in Oahu for the next 2 months... we need to visit! When are you free? My schedule is wide open!

p.s. I told my Dad about your work and he wants to try to set something up for when Amanda's in town too... then, he'll have all of his girls at once. He wants to do some family photos.

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

Thank you SO much for sharing that. You have no idea.

Widiger Family said...

thanks Natalie for responding. I didn't know it would be a post but I'm glad you did it that way.

Jennifer Rinaldi said...

Thumbs up for this write up! Well said Natalie!


Da Denninghoff's said...

I really appreciate you sharing your personalfamily goals. I love getting ideas from other people because it's hard to generate them myself. Natalie you are a very special person. Really thank you!