Do you pursue your dreams? What would happen if you took that brave leap of faith? Photographer mum Anna shares her story of finding the right balance for her after initially giving up on her dream to be a freelancer.

mum photo

Striking a pose!

What is the striking story you have to share?

Since I started doing photography seriously at the age of 16 I always wanted to be a freelance photographer. I studied photography at university and got a job working as a studio assistant. However, the long, unsociable hours that were incompatible with having any family life and the financial uncertainty made me feel unsure about making freelance photography my career. I started working in photography education, which I did enjoy but was also a “safe” option. I always did some freelance photography alongside it, but was never brave enough to switch to just doing that.

After having my son I became more unhappy with my job and working in education in general, spending my time somewhere where I was stagnating and unhappy just to earn money left a much more bitter taste when it meant time I was away from him. I also want as much as possible to teach him by example and the idea of striving to earn your living from something you are good at and enjoy seems like an important lesson to pass on to him. Following some life coaching sessions I decided to go for it: to quit my job and finally do what I had wanted to since I was 16 – work for myself as a photographer full time, on my terms.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Deciding for myself how to spend my time and where to focus my efforts, as well as having time to pursue my own creative work and keep fit is amazing. With my family photography I often get regularly re-booked by the same client and get to record their children growing up, which is a wonderful privilege.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Financial insecurity and ensuring I have proper relaxation time where I shut off from work. Also having no day-to-day colleagues means I am having to build a network of fellow freelancers and self-employed people to meet regularly with, which is actually great. I’m reconnecting with old friends and meeting lots of new people who do interesting and creative things.

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

My son goes to nursery and is looked after by his grandparents. I have much more time for myself now than I did previously, because I have built it into my schedule right from the beginning. As I often do photo shoots at weekends and in the evening I am taking time for myself on weekday daytime without feeling guilty. I spend that time working on my own creative projects and swimming, both of which are very important for my happiness and sense of general well being.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

After having my son it took me quite a while to understand my new identity as a mother – which parts of my old identity were still relevant and what did I need to add to that. In fact, I’m still working on it. My photography style is now closely related to my parenting style, so that is in some ways a reinvention of myself as a photographer.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

My height. I’m 6’ and I have never been ashamed or uncomfortable about it. It has had a role in shaping my personality and when I actually manage to get clothes that fit me they hang really well.

What makes you stand out?

Physically, my height makes it hard not to notice me. In terms of my photography business, I use the principles of attachment parenting (empathy, respect and understanding) to create a situation where children can feel comfortable and express themselves, so that I can take pictures that are a true representation of their personality at this point in their lives. I also work with a designer to create unique and beautiful photo products.

Is it important to you to support other mums?

Very. Since becoming a mother myself I feel like I have been welcomed into this special society of talented, creative, warm, caring and understanding women. I have much better relationships with other women than I ever had before. When I have struggled other people have supported me selflessly and I aim to do the same whenever possible.

Which mum inspires you?

I have been massively inspired by all the mums I have met who have forged new careers inspired by what they have learnt from being a mother, and then juggled these careers with parenting. The first of these that I met after having my son was Emily from the South London Sling Library.

What would you like the next Government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I’d like the choice of who looks after a child (either parent or childcare professional) to be able to based on what is right for that family rather than what they can afford. There is so much emphasis on getting mums back to work but what if they want to stay at home? And what about dads? The nature of mine and my husband’s work means that we are both able to be around for our son and pursue our careers at the same time. We are very lucky in this and I think we should work towards everyone having this option. In addition to help with childcare costs parents need flexible working options, higher wages and lower housing costs so that they are really able to make choices rather than having to do what is necessary.

A big thank you to Anna for sharing her story and do check out her lovely website.