How did you get into this profession?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but until recently I treated it as a hobby. I graduated from Towson University with a bachelor’s in Fine Art Photography, with the lofty goal of pursuing art galleries. Shortly after graduation, I learned that a photograph hanging on a wall doesn’t put food on the table so I put that dream on the back burner and pursued a more mundane (boring and unfulfilling) career in banking. Life led me back to photography with a job as a ballistics photographer at APG, but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I stopped feeling so adrift. I opened up a family portrait business in 2009, which led me back to writing. Motherhood gave me a sense of purpose I had never experienced before, and taught me levels of compassion and unconditional love that I never knew existed. I knew I would unconditionally love my children, but it was the depth of my children’s love of ME that really opened my eyes. Every family that I photograph is such a gift to me, I learn new parenting tactics from each parent, and each child’s quirks and unique outlook on life, love, and joy makes me appreciate the world around me even more.
As for the writing… it all fell into place like it was meant to be. Sounds totally corny, but it’s true. I used to feel so ashamed of the way I parented my kids. My struggles, my worries, my failures, all weighed down heavily on me. Why was I such a wreck when everyone else had it put together so well? After a few heartfelt conversations with other mothers, I started to slowly realize— it wasn’t me. My struggles were so much more universal than I thought. I began to open up about it on my blog, and the tidal wave of “me, too!” that came back was overwhelmingly positive. The more vulnerable I let myself become, the more I opened up about my hurts, my losses, and my failures, the more I realized that they were normal. We mothers should be a tribe of support for each other, and for some reason in this culture, we aren’t. I want to create that tribe again.
How does being organized help you in your work?
I struggle with organization. I am naturally very chaotic and I’ve learned that the more chaos surrounds me, the more out of control and anxious I feel. Organization doesn’t come naturally to me, but I need it in my life. I have three kids, so we are always on the go. I use a Passion Planner to help me stay on top of everything. It has a monthly view to help keep track of planning for blog and social media posts, and daily views to keep me on task with housework and chores, appointments and meetings, and other to-do items. If I don’t have it written down, it will come back to haunt me at night and make my anxiety go nuts. Now if I start to worry, I just have to remind myself, it’s in the planner. It will be taken care of. I also heavily use the calendar in my phone to keep me on-task for school things (which kid has to wear red on a certain day, pajama day, field trips, show and tell) as well as all of our appointments. I review it every night and every morning. I joke that if it’s not in my phone, it won’t happen— except it’s completely true. Now this may sound like I run my household like a well oiled machine, but remember what I said above… I struggle with organization and I’m naturally rather chaotic. So we get intro grooves where everything runs smoothly and I marvel at how well it all works, and then life gets in the way, the system falls apart, and I slowly go insane. It takes a while to get running smoothly again once I’ve fallen off the wagon. I feel like most of my time is spent climbing back up and then falling off again, but each time I get a little better.
What do you do to help your clients take control of their life?
Mothering is very demanding, emotionally and physically draining, thankless work. Now, I don’t want to make it sound all doom and gloom, because it’s also the most wonderful, rewarding, inspiring thing I’ve ever done. But that doesn’t take away how HARD it is. My entire purpose is to give my clients a tangible reminder of how, despite the struggles and isolation, it’s deeply worth it. Those moments when you are so exasperated when you wonder what the going rate for a small child may be on the black market… your eyes drift up to the framed photograph on the wall. The one where the kids are just glowing in adoration as they look at you. The one where they are practically tackling you with hugs and when you close your eyes you can remember that day. It was right after your oldest child told you his favorite things about you while picking you a bouquet of dandelions, and the toddler wrapped her sticky fingers around your neck and whispered “love you mama” in your ear. And in that moment, the exasperation can fall away, you can release the tension and remember how amazing these little people in your house can be.
It’s so easy to get dragged under the tide when social media is telling you that everything you do to raise your children is wrong. Instead of second guessing your decisions, shamefully hiding all those less-than-stellar moments, or wondering what’s wrong with you, I want to create a village of support to remind all mothers that “YOU ARE ENOUGH!” Just as you are.
Sappari Solutions is founded on 7 Core Values, which one speaks to you?
Compassion. Hands down. It’s funny to me that you include it in the list, actually. Every year, I pick a word to be the “theme” of my year. Maybe it’s something I want to work on for myself, maybe it’s just a reminder to help with my outlook on a situation. This year, my theme word is compassion. Compassion for myself, to forgive myself on those less-than-stellar days and know that tomorrow is a new day to try again. Compassion for others, to remember that even if another mother’s choices may be different than my own, she is trying her best just as I am. To spend less time judging and more time lifting others up.