Log in Newsletter

Making it work: Juggling your career and your family


By Sharilyn Wells

Women have a tough decision to make when they decide it’s time they want children: to stay home with them or send them to daycare while continuing her career. 

I was faced with this question eight years ago. I decided on the latter. I didn’t want to give up my career in the Army, but I also didn’t want to miss out on all the milestones my son would accomplish. It didn’t help matters that everyone had their input for my decision.

“You’re going to let someone else raise your child?”

“Don’t you miss seeing him talk or walk?”

“What if you get deployed?”

“I don’t know how you do it. I could NEVER be away from my child.”

You name it. I heard it from friends, family and even my chain of command weighed in on my decision. However, my husband and I made it work. And no, the daycare didn’t raise my child, I did with my husband by my side.

A year and half later, I was entering my end to the four-year obligation I originally signed up for. I made the decision to leave active-duty and enter the reserve since my husband and my deployment schedules were conflicting and I wasn’t fully ready to say goodbye to the military. However, I didn’t stop working. I actually ended up working more.

You see balancing a full-time civilian job and a “part time” army career in the reserve, you’re actually working harder than most people. You put in more hours even though the tag line is “one weekend a month, two weeks a year.” Either way, my son still continued to go to daycare. Flash forward in my life about four years. I became pregnant with my second child. In turn, I was faced with that same question I faced seven years earlier: To work or not to work?

This time around, I chose to stay home for multiple reasons. Daycare is expensive and adding another child would be even more. The pay I was getting at my job would cover childcare … and that was it. I also wanted to get my own photography business up and running instead of trying to fit it in between my other two jobs and being a mom and wife.

Now I was faced with different questions

  “Do you really think your business will be successful?”

 “The little one won’t let you work at home; you’ll be too busy. The baby needs all your attention, not your ‘business.’”

Well guess what? I proved them all wrong. Long story short: I made it work because I needed it to work. What was my saving grace you ask? Baby-wearing.

My husband bought a HUGE hiking backpack for the baby. I wore that around the house, when he got big enough, while I cleaned the house or cooked. I also learned to multi-task. When I’d edit on the computer, the baby was in his playpen chewing on his toys or he’d sit on my lap chewing my teething “droolery.” (A necklace that momma wears and baby can chew on without getting hurt.)

The best decision I made was purchasing my first Tula. It is a baby-wearing “backpack” if you will. The Tula allowed me to put baby on my back and still move around freely. My baby is now two years old and he goes with me on pretty much every photo shoot I have. Thus far, the reaction has been very pleasant.

Now I get statements like:
“You are one tough momma.”

I’m not the only mom out there that thanks baby-wearing for being able to accomplish so much. Nikita Razo, another photography business owner now living in Georgia, said, “I baby-wear grocery shopping, to events, to photography sessions, to travel and at amusement parks. I wore him eight days straight while we were in Disney World!”

For Angie Llamas, a local mother of three girls and business owner herself, has been baby-wearing since the beginning.

“Baby-wearing is an essential part of my life. We have three girls (seven, three and five months) and I've been wearing since our first. I used a Bjorn back then. With our second, I mostly used a Moby stretchy wrap, but it wasn't until my third baby that I really grew to love it.”

Razo also brought up a great point about baby-wearing since she still breastfeeds. “I nurse all the time in my Tula when we are out and no one ever knows!” she laughed. “Wearing to photography sessions has been a lifesaver because he does still nurse and doesn’t like to stay with very many people. I can wear him on my front so he can eat or I can move him to my back where he can help make my clients smile.”

            One question that comes to mind for momma’s who want to work but have children who are too big to carry, what do they do? It’s tricky, isn’t it? I’m not too ashamed to say that I have brought my eight-year-old along for sessions and had him play his Nintendo DS while I photographed. It’s not the ideal way I would want to parent or run my business, but sometimes things happen.

For example, I had to bring both my boys to a military homecoming because of babysitter and time issues. I first warned my client, who was completely okay with the situation and such a doll. They are used to waiting at military homecomings. My eldest sat in a corner, did his homework and I even let him play my phone… something I don’t normally let him do.

Bringing your children along to work places is not for everyone. I don’t bring my littles to hospitals or events in which they need to be quiet or super respectful. I do draw a line somewhere and usually drop off at a daycare or sitter. I absolutely love PlayDate, a local by-the-hour daycare. The boys enjoy their time with the ladies there and usually never want to be picked up before their four hour cut off time. I also know work-at-home mothers who hire a nanny to watch their children while they get a few hours of work done. Basically, if you want something bad enough, you’ll figure out a way. That’s what moms do… they make it work.

In my opinion, mothers are the strongest people out there. But of course, I’m a bit biased.