…I have to say that it completely depends on how you define success. If success is defined as a mad dash to the top of the ladder and whoever gets there first is successful then yes having children definitely interferes. But if success is defined as quality of life as in being loved and showing love and having deep, long term relationships that cause you to question the meaning of life and love and art and help you to look at the world through different eyes well then I would say that having children helps you to be successful.


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  1. I read the entire post, and it’s great. I am a freelance editorial shooter based in Montana with 3 kids under age 5–for a few months I had three under 2…ugh!…& I never stopped working. (I did my first assignment 5 days after my singleton was born.)

    I was adamant when pregnant with my first about NOT telling photo editors I was pregnant for fear they’d stop calling me with assignments. The last time I promoted myself (sent out promos, touched my website, spent 2 weeks pounding the pavement with my portfolio in NYC) was when I was pregnant with my first in the fall of 2005. I was just beginning to “show” and looked like I had a beer belly, but I could hide it with a sweater, so no one suspected. Somehow–even while completely dropping the ball on marketing & self-promotion–I still get calls. However, when I had my twins in 2008, word somehow got out, and I’d get calls from apologetic photo editors saying, “I know you had twins recently, and I am so sorry to bother you…but I have a shoot near you. You probably don’t want to do it…” At least the calls still came in, but it drove me NUTS that people assumed I wouldn’t be interested. I’d spent 13 years working my a** off building a freelance career. I wasn’t going to roll over and give up. (One local editor with children sympathetically advised, when she heard I was expecting twins, “You should just take a year off.”) You can’t really do that when you freelance–editors start calling other photographers, and if that shooter does a good job…that’s who’ll get the next call.

    Now that my twins are about to turn 4, it’s so much easier. But I could seriously write a book called, “Adventures in Breast Pumping”…while on assignment I had to get pretty creative about eking time out /odd places for that. But I did it by working twice as hard, and I’m proud to say never missed a deadline or let a caption slide by. Before I had kids, I used to be able to waste time like nobody’s business & wasn’t as efficient with my time as I have been forced to become with children. Now I can seriously work faster and get twice the work done in half the time, because I have to. I don’t have as much free time to goof off &, and that’s not a bad thing.

    I think some people just assume that when you have kids you’re going to be preoccupied and distracted and not on top or your game for awhile. But that’s super unfair to generalize like that. I was extremely blessed to have a supportive husband, two sets of grandparents nearby, and–for 8 months–a live-in nanny, who went to full-time once we didn’t need her living in. I wish people wouldn’t assume you’re going to be overwhelmed with a baby or cooing over it so much that you don’t want to leave.

    I think freelancing is the perfect career for a mom. When I’m not on a shoot, I’m working in my home studio, which is 50 steps from our house. When I go on a shoot, I’m “LYNN DONALDSON, PHOTOGRAHER” the person I always was…not LYNN DONALDSON, MOM OF 3 with cheerios stuck to the bottoms of my feet. (I am busiest May through October doing back-to-back assignments, but November through April I have it pretty chill & can pretty much have dinner on the table ever night.) I feel super lucky to be able to get to step back into my “former”/adventurous life. It makes me a much better mom. And being a mom makes me a much more efficient shooter.

    Now I just need to get on the horse and finish editing my new website and print a portfolio and start showing it. I guess you become a mom–especially of 3; 1 didn’t slow me down much–you have to let SOMETHING slide…and since I was still miraculously getting calls (no doubt due to the years & years I spent living in or traveling to NYC to show work & build relationships) I let go of marketing & self-promotion . Now that my youngest are nearing 4, I’m finally ready to think about that aspect of my business.

  2. Great story Lynn. More power to you!

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