On self employment, no childcare, and feeling guilty for not pushing myself to the max

Sorry for the awkwardly long title, I couldn’t think of anything punchier to sum up this post. Also, it felt strange to write a post with no images, so I’ve included a few of a recent shoot. Check out my photography website to see more.

I had great photo sessions over Spring and Summer… and then I didn’t do much (any) marketing in August or September because I wasn’t in the right place to be thinking about furthering my business. I lost confidence in selling myself,  and I was trying to reduce stress. It felt easiest to take a step back from it all at that point in time.

Towards the end of September I was feeling up for it once more, did a bit of marketing, and now I’m booked out for the pre-Christmas period. This sounds amazing, but really I’m beating myself up about it – I’m only booked out because my family’s schedule between now and Christmas allows for only a select amount of photo shoots.

Sam is going on a two-week business trip, leaving me solo-parenting and therefore with far less time to edit. During this time, Arlo and I will probably decamp to my mum’s for a bit because, well, I’m not too good at dealing with the evening loneliness for that length of time. I purposefully didn’t take on work for those two weeks because I have no laptop to take my editing with me to mum’s, and because I wasn’t up to the challenge of combining solo-parenting with tight deadlines.

When I tell Sam about a shoot booking, he says “Great! Do more, aim for one a week”. We would both love for me to be able to start making a real contribution money-wise. But I feel like it’s not that simple. With no childcare and such unreliable naps from Arlo at the moment, I’d be stretching myself way too thinly. I’m not sure it’s possible.

I’ve also had offers that just don’t float my boat. Event photography is not something I want to focus on (unless it’s a family or friend’s event). I’ve had quote requests for time-consuming post-production work that I know I just won’t have time to fit in. In an ideal world, I would just like to concentrate on photographing families.

I know I’m taking on all the work I can comfortably handle. So why then does this post feel, once again, like a moan? Why do these careful explanations of how I need to juggle my time feel like weak excuses for not pushing myself to achieve the best I can? Why does it always feel wrong to turn down work and eagerly grab every opportunity for my young business?

Sam and I had a brief chat and sort of concluded that lack of time is my main issue, but perhaps I am being silly about saying no to work because I don’t enjoy it or because it doesn’t fit in with my creative aspirations. After all, not all work is meant to be enjoyable, and I know if someone offered me boring data entry work that would earn me a few pennies I’d most likely take them up on the offer – so why the different attitude about my own business?

Why do I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough?


On the subject of juggling children and working from home, there is a great new website in town. WAHMweb was created by fellow work-at-home-mum and blogger, Jem, after she noticed a severe lack of online space for UK-based work at home parents. WAHMweb is the UK’s first dedicated community for work at home mums running a home based business. There’s lots of useful resources, plus a forum for us work at home parents to chat. You can also find an interview with me all about working from home and how I manage it – ha, perhaps I should have submitted this post instead?

About Chloe

Sorry About The Mess documents the life of London blogger and photographer, Chloe, and her young family. Sorry About The Mess is a personal lifestyle and parenting blog.


  1. I’m currently on the opposite end of the spectrum. Taking on more than I can comfortably manage, fitting work into every odd hour of the day, using early mornings and late nights to catch up. It’s killing me. I’m getting virtually no sleep at the moment as it is with Oliver teething and whatever, so the extra stress is really weighing me down. I’m fast spiralling towards bloody depression at this rate and it’s not worth it.

    Don’t feel guilty for putting your family first.

    • Hope you can sort out your workload, I know it’s tough when you are launching a big new site that involves a lot of work – it’s not very easy to just take a step back.

      I’m just not sure whether I am putting my family first by turning down work and not really pushing my business. Maybe the best thing for our family at this point in time is for me to be earning more, so Sam can stop shouldering the burden by himself, and we can put a stop to the ever-increasing debt and have more security for Arlo’s future. Not that a few more photography jobs is going to stop that, mind.

  2. ”why does it always feel wrong to turn down work?” …. because the world says that being a mum is just something you are not something you ”work’ at, even though it requires putting the hours in day and night often with a broken nights sleep. How well you ‘perform’ doing the work of a mum is measurable in how contented your child is and how emotionally and physically supported you feel by your home/work balance. The proof is in the pudding and from what I’ve seen on your blog your little Arlo pud is smashing and your reluctance towards half-baked job opps is understandable if it’s going to rob you of time with him and not really provide much of a reward financially or creatively.

    Hesitating to expand your business while Arlo’s naps are a bit erratic seems perfectly sensible to me – over estimating what you can fit in can be a real death knell for a new business and can lead to having to let people down because when it does come to the crunch you will put your family first. Build slowly, give yourself a massive pat on the back for the work you are enjoying and trust in the good reputation you are growing (being recommended because you love what you do, are relaxed and friendly when working etc, will do more for your business than any marketing campaign)

    • Thank you for your lovely words. I’m not sure I’m struggling so much with not feeling that being a mum is valid work, I think I feel guilty more because we really need the money and I’m turning jobs down because I can’t find the time to make it work. You are right about over-estimating what you can fit in being a death knell for new businesses, this is a big reason why I’ve been careful to start slowly and only take on a workload that I am comfortable with.

  3. This was a great blog post! I wanted to read more! I am in a situation where I just take on to much and spend my nights tied to a PC the days chasing the kids with a laptop, paintbrush or another kid on my shoulders! why have I done it to myself – god only knows! I read a great inspirational blog by lucy. Have a read its very light and enjoyable x http://www.facebook.com/VirtueCoaching

  4. I’ve been in your situation. My husband & I set up our business when I was pregnant with our eldest. He does the ‘hands on’ work with clients and I concentrate on business development. We tried juggling childcare with work but I found I couldn’t give 100% to either the business or my kids so I stuck with 2 days a week, the business ticked along but I didn’t beat myself up about not pushing it further and figured it was just a ‘hiatus’ whilst the kids are little, then when they’re both at school, I’ll be in a better place to shift my focus to the business.

    The boys are now 3 & 4 with the eldest at school. I definitely feel my ‘mojo’ coming back now. Don’t beat yourself up. They’re not small for long and your focus should absolutely be on Arlo. There will be plenty of time to grow he business when he’s at school and you have more free time so try not to stress about it now.

    Also, if your heart isn’t fully in it, you won’t be doing your best so in that respect too it’s probably not the right time xx

    • Thank you. My original plan was to keep things managable and small for now and then take on more work when school starts and I have more time on my hands. But I’ve been distracted by all the offers that have been coming in now, and as much as I try, it just feels weird turning work down. Just have to accept I can only do so much, I guess.

  5. Go with your gut and do what feels right. You will still have plenty of time to grow your business when Arlo gets a little older and you perhaps have a bit more time on your hands. Right now there’s nothing to feel guilty about putting him and yourself/your creative aspirations first – it’s just inherent mother’s guilt that is niggling away at you, do your best to ignore it! xx

    • Yes that’s true. I did always say that I’d start small and grow the business once kids were school-age and I had more time. I need to remember that!

  6. I’m right at the beginning of my photography business venture and I’m doubting even making the start, as I already feel it taking time away from my small family…. and yet the creative soul in me NEEDS more people to photograph! It’s a tough one but I think everyone else has said it perfectly – do what FEELS right in your gut. You didn’t start a photography business to take jobs that don’t float your artistic boat. If you just needed money, you could get a job in a supermarket or office. You know what I mean? Money is important but so is your family and so is your artistic fulfilment. I think it sounds like you have a good balance right now, and balance is so key to a happy life, in my view :-) If you took away all the doubt and questioning – would you be happy with the way your life is right now?

    • If we were financially comfortable, I’d be massively happy with the way my business is going now. It’s just our money situation that makes me feel I should be taking every opportunity.

      And yes, I started photography because i knew it would be a very enjoyable way of making a few pennies, and something I could build on. BUT… This was only after applying for every single office/sales assistant/supermarket job under the sun for 6 months and not even getting one interview : ( Sometimes I think the sensible thing to do would have been to stick out the jobsearch until I found the elusive regular salaried job that paid well enough to earn something after childcare… But there’s no telling when/if that would have happened.

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