I Run My Own Business... When Should I Start Having Kids?

John and I got married when I was 19 and he was 20 (still children, essentially) and our world lay ahead of us. It was 2009 and North America had just crashed and burned into a terrible recession, making it a wonderful time for two poor, naive and eager practically-teenagers to start a business. I was still in University, John had just graduated from a Diploma photography program, and our glasses were tinted with the most beautiful roses one could find.

At the time, our standard of living was… flexible. We were pretty confident that the University food bank was just an alternative to the grocery store, and that eating President’s Choice White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese topped with half a chopped tomato counted as a healthy lifestyle choice. Energy drinks counted as breakfast food. We never paid rent or any bills late, but at $689 a month between the two of us, we didn’t have much excuse to. Our cell phones were still Blackberries and roaming data was a luxury of royal proportions, so our cost of living was exceptionally low.
There was once a time that John didnt have a beard. And we ate spring rolls off of barbecues.

This, my friends, is the ideal time to begin a business, and in 2009 - year one of marriage - we took the plunge together. Sort of. John took a lot of photos in our “studio apartment”, which is a fancy way of saying that a friend came over to model Labatt t-shirts with lights and a background setup in our kitchen / dining room / living room (all one space, people). I did a lot of editing in between essay writing. John shot his first video wedding on a digital recorder and worked at a camera store just to get the discount on his ideal camera. He quit about a week after he made his purchase. We shared an apartment with a friend just to justify living in downtown Toronto, the heart of it all. We really did begin from the ground up. Blood, sweat and tears. Hustle.

So, when in 2011 we found out we were expecting our first baby, we were two years into self employment, only 21 and 22, and actually beginning to see some business growth. and actually beginning to see some business growth. (Growth from zero is still growth.) We were still in the thick of rookie mistakes and our accountant did a whole lot of slow and heavy head shaking when reviewing our embarrassingly messy “budget worksheets” at tax time. But growth nonetheless.

Once Lilian was born in 2012, New Vintage Media was in full swing and to our excitement we had a summer full of weddings lined up. Not just a few, but a full, vibrant summer of weddings. Between John shooting commercial work, wedding work, and my job at a local coffee shop in Orillia, it seemed we might be able to continue this business together - even with starting a family. And I began to dream of first-shooting.

When Lilian was 3 months old we shot our first destination wedding. She came with. 

Adding a child into your photography / cinematography business is as simple and as difficult as you make it. If you, like us, had realistic standards and expectations for life (perhaps buying a house or taking expensive vacations is not high on your priority list, for now) it doesn’t need to be too complicated. Nursing an infant while editing photos is actually kind of simple. We rotate our schedule to revolve around nap time and bedtime and work in bed if necessary (not advised, but there’s a season for everything, and nursing a baby is a good time for this).

Then we added another, Everlea. It was 2014 and I was now first-shooting photo, cinematography was becoming a key component of our business through John, we chose a steady freelancer (Leigh, still an important part of the team!), and we essentially were two full-time employees. This is the point where we began asking for help: homeschooled pre-teens were our saving grace, available midday and for cheap (homeschoolers tend to finish their work before lunch because there’s no busywork). Our toddler had the attention she needed while we managed to adjust the nursing/editing/shooting schedule to match. Finding childcare on shooting days became more complicated because we now had a toddler and a new baby, both quite needy, and the days for shooting are long. Ask. for. help.

Hanging out in the car during an engagement shoot!
We had our busiest year yet as a business and had been planning a 4 month trip to Nicaragua, so, spurred on by a setback out of our control, we embraced life and took it. One 7 month old and one two year old in tow, we lived in Nicaragua on our off-season and explored various aspects of ministry living, adventure living, and learned what it looks like to live in a house with scorpions. Real.

Children in carrying devices = travel is possible.

Three months ago, we added our third to the bunch, Montana. And as you can see, New Vintage Media is still kicking hard. This season is quite different than our last because three children under four years old is demanding in a way we didn’t think possible. Just when we got the hang of parenting three, busy season has begun. We deal with an absurd amount of poop in a day. There is food…. everywhere. Just everywhere. Where back in 2012 we made a change toward healthy living, took a stance against Goldfish crackers, and claimed all of our toys would be made of wood and for imaginative purposes only, we now rely on heavy doses of pre-packaged snacks (sorry, environment), cardboard pretend laptops, and toys that beep, boop and sing. Afternoons have a very real reliance on Netflix. And homeschooled preteens… still our saving grace.

Montana Banana.

But we are doing it. Having kids does not mean abandoning the hustle. Having kids doesn’t mean your business needs to suffer, and it doesn’t mean your attention to them needs to suffer either. As with everything in life, toss out the idea of balance (it’s nonsense) and embrace the idea of priorities. Every day has a unique priority: today, 2/3 kids are with a babysitter while we both work; yesterday, John and I took the morning off to go to the gym and enjoy an hour of swimming with the kids and a donut date afterwards. Two days ago, we were building table forts in the day and staying up to late hours in the night catching up on emails and contracts. No two days look the same, no two evenings look the same, no two weekends look the same. Every day, a different need arises and every day we must address that need individually and specifically. John and I have different roles within our business, and sometimes the priority shifts between whose role must be focused on that day, or that hour, even. Neither one of us is “the cook”; the cook is the person that cooks on that specific night. Neither of us is “the editor”, “the photographer”, “the planner”. We are both all of that.

We live on a pre-purchased meal plan that costs $9.99 a month and is worth every penny. We eat well, we exercise frequently, and we believe in the importance of play. We bring our kids with us to Starbucks while the other has a meeting. We eat out or order-in to ease burdens. There are weeks where we almost live out of our car. We use reward systems. We explore. We let them get bored. We enforce quiet time. And if we’re home, we always, always, always eat dinner around the table. (Everlea runs in circles around it, but you get the idea.)

I wouldn’t say we’re mastering the art of parenting and running a business. Sometimes one or the other gets a little more neglect (or a little more television) than it should. Our kids undoubtedly come first, but our love for them fuels why we do what we do. We believe in family, we believe the world is beautiful, and we believe that it’s so important to capture the moments, the things that make this world so beautiful.

So, when should business owners start having kids? Whenever they’ve buckled their seatbelt and put on their trusty helmet. It’s going to be a ride, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one.

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