When I first became a Mom, I found myself cringing in answer to that dreaded question, “what do you do?” and throwing out something to the effect of “I used to be a journalist, a newspaper editor.”
I never thought to become a stay-at-home-mom; I always expected to have an in-office (or more appropriately, as a reporter, an out of the office) career. But, life happened and being a stay-at-home-mom was the best choice for our family. It was not, entirely, the best choice for my overly active brain, which gets bored when I don’t have seven or more projects in progress. The emotional whiplash of going from being a cops and courts reporter, photojournalist and newspaper editor to mommy was tough. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words, “I’m just a mommy,” which is how I thought of it then.
1. Weaving Photography into Mommy Life
Eventually, I was able to craft a new career that allowed me to keep my mommy status while being able to answer that now not-so-dreaded question, “what do you do?,” with more confidence and less foot shuffling. “I’m a writer.” I’m also still, sort of, a photographer. But that’s a work in progress, so that information only comes out later in the conversation. When I was in journalism school training to become a photojournalist, I remember one session on food photography. It was somewhat interesting, but honestly I never thought I would use it. I don’t even clearly remember what exactly I did for the project. I do remember that a classmate who worked at a bakery brought leftover treats to photograph for his project and shared his leftovers. Apparently I should’ve been paying more attention to my own project, because I am now a freelance writer and food photographer.
Food photography is incredibly different from my photographer wheelhouse of spot news and crime scene photography. There’s no imminent danger from a bagel. And, of course, while you set the composition of the shot in all photography, photojournalism is a story that you try to convey by composing a photograph from the scene and capturing part of that story.
2. Now for Something Completely Different: Food Photography
Food photography is different at its core from photojournalism. Not only is the subject matter completely different, but the process is also different from start to finish. You create the story in food photography. You craft the scene from food and props and set the composition entirely from scratch. The difference between food photography and photojournalism is like the difference between studio and candid photography. With candid photos of your family, you photograph what’s happening. In the studio, you craft the scene for the smiling faces to be placed within. For awhile, the lack of excitement meant I paid about as much attention to my food photography as I did to that project in college. It was something fun to keep my brain active while I raised my children, but it would never be a true career.
I wrote a recipe and corresponding blog post about said recipe, snapped a photo of the dish and, if it looked like what I made and was somewhat pretty or appetizing, I was happy. I tried not to put too much professional photographer pressure on myself about it, since it wasn’t my usual photography. This is coming from the Mom who has trouble doodling at the request of her children (ages 2 and 3) for fear of having the sketch not be a perfect-trained artist drawing. Needless to say, I wasn’t always successful in trying to get over the professional photographer pressure.
3. Shoot Every Single Day
While I continued to shoot food photography every day, I wasn’t always happy with it. I’m still not always happy with it. I did force myself to publish every day through the first year, in part to get over my own self-consciousness. (My first year of blogging focused on a New Year’s resolution to create a new recipe each day for my family to eat.) After all, most people who read my blog are interested in the recipes and, while it’s important that the food look appetizing, my readers aren’t super critical of my photography skills. Shooting every day not only forced me to photograph and write more often than I may have wanted to, it also kept me going. There are always times in a new project or new career that you think to yourself that it just won’t work or isn’t worth it.
The challenge portion of the project gave me a defined goal to reach. I’d put it out there that I would write 365 posts, with something different each day. There were some days, particularly in November when I felt like I had blogged about every family-friendly vegetarian recipe ever in the world, I regretted this decision a bit, but I still did it. Even when I didn’t feel like writing or shooting, or I felt like my blog would never amount to anything, I did it because of that goal.
4. Crafting a Passion
Eventually I realized the joy in having control over the creation of the photograph from start to finish. What seemed like a major downside in the beginning became a great outlet for creativity. What I love about food photography is that it lets me fuse my love of cooking with my visually artistic side. And, the best part of food photography is that it lets me be Mom and professional on my own terms. Sometimes I even slide more toward candid, storytelling photography by incorporating my kids into the food photos. I don’t know how Moms who are reporters at daily newspapers do it, I really don’t. Journalism, in that sense, has never been a 9 to 5 job and it never will be. If I’d chosen to stay in that career, I wouldn’t be the Mom that I wanted to be and would probably end up resenting the career or the kids.
Changing the focus of my life was tough; some days it continues to be tough. But crafting a career that I could love while still being a stay-at-home Mom became important in my life and I don’t think I could go back to a different life now. Since starting my blog, I’ve gained a loyal following and I’ve also enjoyed branching out into freelance writing and photography for other larger sites. What started out as something to keep my brain from descending into what I called “goo-goo ga ga land” (it can be tough with no adult conversation for stimulation), I’ve molded into a career I can be passionate about.
I love writing and photography as well as the community that is found in social media and in interacting with other bloggers and writers. No matter what your former career entailed, if you’re a Mom struggling to hold on to a career or retain some portion of your “old life,” take chances, be creative with how you’re going to fit work into your new life and schedule time to do what you love. It’s great for you and a great example for your kids.
About the Author
Kristi Arnold is a freelance writer and photographer. She is the author of VeggieConverter.com and freelance writer OrganicAuthority.com. Find more musings from Kristi on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.