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life. right now.

I’ve been debating whether or not to post this. I decided that I would because this is real. This is me. The blogs I follow diligently have real women behind them that reveal more than just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The pretty package tied with a bow that a blog can showcase is an edited version of real life. Certainly it is real, but it is not everything. There is always more. I am attracted to the “more” that lies behind the pretty package. The struggles that surely, every mom feels.

This is the conversation that I cannot get out of my head:

guy at godaddy: So I am looking at your site. You are a designer? No, you are into fashion. Wait. You are a photographer? What exactly is your blog about?

me: Yeah, well. It’s a little bit about a lot of things. Creativity, pictures, style.

guy at godaddy: So, let’s start here…What are your 2 year goals? And then your 5 year goals with this site?

me: Now that is a great question… [insert loooong pause here]

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking and priority re-evaluation. Never before in my life has there been any question about my personal and professional goals until now. My personal goals seem to completely outweigh any professional goals & I am trying to be ok with that. No longer can I tell you what my booking numbers or marketing strategy goals are for the next fiscal year. No longer does it really matter. I never started this business for the money, it was always for the joy & balance it provided. Right now the balance is out of whack. & I need to fix it.

My current goals seem to go something like this: raise a happy, kind, well behaved child. make sure my husband knows I love him. keep the house clean. keep the floors clean. don’t forget to feed the dog. empty the cat litterbox. plan healthy meals. shop for meals. make meals. get out of the house. every. single. day. have meaningful relationships. take a shower. get dressed. pull it together. keep it together. be creative. when I can. quit using the word NO so much. read a book. keep up the positivity. NOW.

welcome to my life.

During a recent road trip my husband & I had a conversation about my role in our family. He talked about a surgeon he works with that runs around saying he is 100% Dad. 100% Surgeon. 100% something else I can’t remember. Can a person be 300% of anything? Is it realistic to think that you can do everything & do it well?

My husband married me, in part, because my #1 goal (after accomplishing my corporate career goals, of course) was to be a wife & a mom. Those two jobs mean the world to me & I don’t take any part of them lightly. With the demanding hours of his profession, I don’t get much of a husband and I manage this entire household–top to bottom. He is currently in the middle of a research year, so he is around a lot more often, which has given me the freedom to work. This has been a blessing & has opened my eyes to my limitations. I seem to be learning a lot of lessons these days.

I have started to get really busy. I am seeing what I am capable of & just how much work this business is. I love it. I LOVE having my own company. I love the work, the art & the brand. I am a perfectionist & nothing is overlooked. BUT, (there always seems to be a “but”) this comes at a cost to my family. Is it worth it? Is it giving me more balance or less? I adore success. I crave success. I need it to be happy. But right now, I think I need to change where I seek to achieve it.

I have no idea what this next year will bring. I have a feeling I will not be booking any more sessions beyond those that are already on my calendar for a good long time. I have no intention of putting my camera down, but where does that leave everything? I told myself a few months ago that now just might not be the time. You were all so incredibly supportive & it meant A LOT to me. At the rate I am going, I fear I will raise a child who thinks it’s normal for her mama to split her time between her family & the computer and that just doesn’t sit well with me. This little girl needs me, because more often than not, I’m all she’s got. I need to be an example for her & I am not so sure I am being a really great one right now. As my business & my blog are both growing & getting more attention, it seems so counter-intuitive to press “pause” just as things are ramping up. But that is just the way it is. Maybe the pause will open new doors. (This blog gives me a lot of encouragement.) How’s that for looking on the bright side?

I have to say that I really have come to love blogging. My passion for photography will never go away, but clearly, that is not the only thing on this blog. So, if I give up booking sessions, will you still come to read? I don’t know. I hope so, but without being a “working photographer” will I lose credibility? I have no idea. Do I care? I haven’t decided. Does getting paid to take pictures make me more of a photographer than taking pictures just for fun (but with just as careful an eye & the same exact skill set)? Not sure. Without “work” I would have more free time for my creative hobbies, which would likely result in more of those being shared here with you. But do you care? I don’t know. Do I blog for me? Or for you? I think it is somewhere in the middle. For some strange reason, it helps to get my creative projects off my chest and out in the world. It frees up my brain. Weird, I know. I LOVE the positive discourse amongst women that I have found here. But where is this all going? Does it have to go anywhere…or can it just BE what it is? I am pretty sure I get to make that decision. I am not sure why it is such a hard one to make.

I am going to make a suggestion and don’t be mad. Why don’t you just put the business on hold until our kids are in school?

But what about the investment, my camera, lenses, software, all the money–

What about it? Are you going to take pictures of our kids?

Yes. Of course.

Well then it was worth it.

[images taken by the amazing Michele. I am SO grateful to forever have these family moments frozen in time.]

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  • Tamara - I am so there with you, but you also need to think about ‘you’ and not the ‘you’ you want to be. If you need/desire success then I wouldn’t quit. Take a sabbatical, only book one session a month, limit your blog posts to 1-2x a week (even though we would miss you). There IS enough time in the day to be ‘you’ and be wife/mother/teacher/maid/chef/nanny etc. I joined a mommy’s group and I spend a lot of time after bed time at the computer so I am free during the day, but as my toddler is yanking on my leg signaling its dinner time I feel your pain :) Hang in there mama and email me if you wanna ‘talk’ more :)ReplyCancel

  • Tori @ - I support you in whatever you decide. I KNOW that people will still read.

    And, besides, you can still do shoots for me and share those :) haha!ReplyCancel

  • Jen Barnes - Man. I wish I could be as open as you. I need a new blog I guess. I can’t get over the mental image of my Father-in-law printing out every single blog entry from *both* my biz blog and our family blog and that just… grosses me out and puts up a HUGE mental wall up for me. (He actually does that and it also makes me not want to visit them, like, ever. Seeing words I wrote printed on papers and strewn around their house and attached to their fridge is just creepy!)ReplyCancel

  • Jana Perenchio - I think every girl in your shoes thinks about this sort of thing every single day, I sure know I do. Actually I think we talked about this the very first time we met up for lunch. It’s all about balance and finding the perfect one for you & your family which is so hard but I also find myself getting sucked into the competitiveness of it all…..”Well SHE’S doing it all and doing it well so why can’t I?” I beat myself up when I find myself thinking that way, which is OFTEN!ReplyCancel

  • kristen fenton - Shawna – I hear you!! It’s so hard to find the perfect balance, isn’t it? I’ve been struggling for 12 years and still haven’t found it! You NEED that creative outlet just as much as you need to fold laundry, change diapers and peel carrots…I love your blog and will keep reading, whether you post once a day or once a year! Somebody gave me some great words of wisdom…”if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it!”

    p.s. OMG I really hope the “300% surgeon” isn’t my husband – doubt it was…because, that’s THEEEE CHEESIEST [and most untrue] thing I’ve ever heard in my LIFE!!! :DReplyCancel

  • Kim - You do what you need to do for you & your family. Plain & simple!! The struggle will be there until your kids are grown & out of the house (maybe even still then). You keep a beautiful, happy home with a loving husband & the cutest little niece an auntie (& notice I spelled it with an “ie” … just for you) could ask for. If the questions are there, tugging at you, then you know the answer & the direction you need to head. Believe in that! Your gut hasn’t been wrong yet.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for posting this today. With a second on the way, I seem to be farther from my original goals than ever. I think that you will find your direction, and follow your passion, sooner than you realized possible. It still is an ongoing battle for me, personally, to not have an actual paycheck… But then the little ones say or do something that I know that they wouldn’t have done without my influence, or someone says “your blog so helped me out!” that I say “ok. This is where I am right now.” We don’t get second chances. Congratulations to you for daring to take a pause from your long term goals to reevaluate and choose whats right for you. That is a true courageous mama. Go get ’em Shawna! (And besides, you KNOW you’ll stay amazing/growing in your photography. Check out how cute your girlie is. Who wouldn’t want to take pictures of her constantly?!)ReplyCancel

  • Catherine - I’ve been stalking your blog for about a month now, and whether or not you’re a “professional” anything doesn’t matter to me. I love your blog because you’re honest, talented, and creative. The ideas you post help me feel more organized/capable/inspired, and the photos you post of your everyday life remind me that there is beauty all around us, even in the ordinary. I completely understand what it feels like to be pulled in too many directions and realize that your life has become unbalanced. Best wishes to you as you find your balance, whatever that may be!ReplyCancel

  • ashley - i can’t respond to anything related to being a mommy… hopefully soon, though! however, i adore all your “other” posts & am convinced you have the most adorable subject in your little caroline! i could look at pictures of her all day! p.s. any hubby who gives a suggestion like that is a keeper!ReplyCancel

  • Megan - You are an amazingly talented woman. Balance is such a tricky thing! You have to follow your heart and follow your goals at this moment in time because you can never get this time back, especially all the precious moments with Caroline. I love each and every one of your posts and will continue to read all of them regardless!! I only wish I was able to write a blog or keep a journal like you do, if not for me for my daughter some distant day in the future. Your hubby is def. a keeper!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy of KSW - Wonderful. Beautiful. So incredibly relatable. You can count on me to stick around, sounds like we are going through so many of the same issues right now. And we’re local! Look, you just made a new friend :) Best wishes on all of it!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - Now that we have Caysen home, I’m constantly referring back to previous posts that you’ve done (diapering, baby food prep, and others). They have all been so helpful :) I will certainly still read!!!ReplyCancel

  • nowlin roberts - Wow…I guess that guy at “godaddy” was pretty darn helpful! Your readers, especially me will follow wherever you go!ReplyCancel

  • Renee - I love reading all of your posts. Even though I’m not a mom yet, your “parenting” posts encourage me to take mental notes for when I do have kids of my own (your baby food and cloth diapering posts are bookmarked!). I also find the way you write your thoughts very inspiring and your photos are beautiful, whether they’re taken of paint cans or otherwise! I will absolutely continue to read.ReplyCancel

  • -shawna- - I keep reading these comments & want to thank you all for your encouragement, support & enthusiasm. I am so thankful that each of you are here. Your comments mean a lot to me.ReplyCancel

  • Janalin - What a post. Can I say “I love you?” ;) These thoughts run through my head daily and your line about the split between mommy and the person on the computer… guilty. Keep posting about this decision because I need some more thought on this stage of life and I REALLY appreciate yours. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Jen - Shawna – ah, the work/mommy connundrum. No matter what people tell you, there is no balance. There is only what is right for you, Tommy and Caroline. I wish I could say that after residency their job gets easier, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. Trust me on this. You have a really unique situation with a surgeon spouse, and whatever career path you choose, there are always going to be the call nights, the tdy weeks, and later, the deployments. Throughout this journey of working/parenting/etc. I have always listened to my heart and it has always told me the right thing. So, my advice to you is this: listen to your heart. Your kid(s) are only little once and you can’t get the time back.ReplyCancel

  • Colleen Sheehy - I love this post. I have conversations like this in my head all of the time. Thank you for being so real.
    Oh and by the way, I don’t read your blog because of your sessions. I just like what you have to say overall. I’d still be here. And I commend you for being an awesome Stay At Home Mom. Not many people get that.ReplyCancel

  • Meghan - Oh how did I struggle with this when Brooke was on the way. There are still days that I struggle with it, trying to get everything just right and really does it matter in the end? I just hope my kids are also kind, happy and healthy and a husband just the same.
    P.S. I will laugh if it was John saying this, although he can be very sarcastic ;)ReplyCancel

  • Michele (Pinkle Toes) - I think it takes a LOT of courage to admit that you cannot be all things all the time. I don’t know why we can’t accept that…particularly as women. I tell this to anyone who will listen, but someone gave me this advice when I was agonizing over whether or not I should quit my full-time job to be a SAHM: “Do what makes your heart leap.” It sounds like you’re doing just that. And you will never regret it, my dear.ReplyCancel

  • Writer Mama - I’ve been blown away by how difficult it is to balance motherhood and work. I’m a SAHM but I’m also a part-time freelance writer, and have part of a novel that’s been sitting for awhile. It’s TOUGH, and my guy is only 2 months old.

    Do what you need to do… but I have to agree with the others, I’m glad you’re not done blogging! I love following your blog and your facebook page. :)ReplyCancel

  • Abbi Z. Meadows - My husband and I had a similar conversation just this week. Personally, I love your blog for your insight and the images…it doesn’t matter to me if that means images from sessions or DIYs from your personal life. :) I believe as creatives, we all find a way to work our ‘art’ into our daily lives…we just have to be careful the balance isn’t tipped to the disadvantage of our families.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Shawna, I’ve thought about this post for awhile and although I must admit I have no insight into being a stay at home mom, I will say that your daughter gets to watch everything you do. That means she will watch you be a stay at home mom, or watch you be a small business owner, or watch you be WHATEVER! She will see you balance your life and make time for what you determine is important to you. So whatever you choose, don’t feel like you’re short-changing Caroline. She will learn from you no matter what you’re doing and she will grow and change while watching you. If you need a creative outlet to make you feel like YOU, don’t give that up. She will watch you and learn that mom has lots of roles in her life, including being a business owner, but if that doesn’t fit with your family, so be it:) No one knows the right answer, but kids manage to turn out just fine, no matter what:) Good luck…KatieReplyCancel

  • heidi @ wonder woman wannabe - Wow – your life sounds a wholelot like mine these days. :)

    …just popp’n over from a link to you via ‘Steady Mom’…I’m sure I’ll be back!


  • Ashley - Okay, so this post is making me think a lot. Mostly because I am a stay at home mom, and I’ve done the opposite of you. I love this blog, it seems like something I could see myself doing, because I love all these random things you do. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on equipment and starting a business only to have to put it on hold to have a baby, because I wanted to be able to be with them ALL day. I now have a 9 month old and a 2.5 year old. I still feel like I want to be at home with them… but I’ve also been struggling with not having a creative outlet, and feeling like I’m getting further and further out of the photography loop. I’m guessing this doesn’t really help you, except maybe to know that no matter what choice we as mothers make, we’ll always wonder if it’s the right one. Oh, by the way, I’ll still read your blog… I’m hooked now :)ReplyCancel

  • Marylin - I have a 21 month old (my whole world!) and a full time career and balance can be difficult to achieve. We both know how precious these moments are with our sweet babies and how fast they’re going. Do what you need for YOU and just know that we will be here waiting for the next bit of fabulous you have to share. Whenever that may be. And by the way, you don’t “lose your credibility” by not booking sessions. That doesn’t detract from your talent. See what works for you and do it! It doesn’t have to be so black and white.ReplyCancel

  • Carrie - Your blue dress is fabulous and looks like it would be great for us nursing mamas. Where did you get it, if you don’t mind me asking?

    P.S. Love your site!ReplyCancel

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