Welcome to Week 10 of Motherhood by Design – the series where mothers who also run creative businesses share their inspirations and their experiences juggling the demands of raising children while growing a creative career.
"Once I ditched the idea that my life had to be balanced between work and family and adopted the idea that they were all in a messy glob together and that inside of that were lots of connecting points and opportunities for me to be aware…that made a difference."
Davina Fear is a photographer who also calls herself a "Familyness Adventurer." While mothering her own four children, she's built a successful photography business and now coaches other photographers in new ways to improve their own businesses. Davina has shared so generously in her interview here about how she's balanced things (or not!) over the years - I'm sure you will both inspiration and strategy from her story.
Welcome to Motherhood by Design, Davina - can you please describe your family?
I’ve been married to Hot Guy (Mike) for 20 years. We have four kids! (I say it that way because that’s usually the reaction we get upon people hearing how many kids we have...which I don’t think is that many. My mom had 5 of us and my aunt had 12. I think the exclamation point looks like it fits behind a 12!) Our oldest, Emmett, is 17 and a senior in high school (we have been full of ‘the-last-time-for-everything blues and celebrations around here). Our twin girls, Miriam and Emma, are fourteen and prefer to be seen as individuals rather than twins (well...one is particular the other doesn’t mind). Grace is our youngest at 10 years old (and even though she’s the youngest, it feels like we are doing a lot of lasts with her, too. This is the last year I’ll have a child in elementary school...which makes it feel like I’ll officially have no little kids anymore).
What is your business?
There are three parts to my business... I help women see what a powerful influence they are having in their homes and with their families through photography. Often, as moms and business women we look around and feel inadequate in our own lives and homes. I photograph women with their families so they can see their awesome everyday, crazy chaos, and deep and meaningful relationships...the pieces of their lives that matter but aren't usually photographed. One mom's story can be seen by clicking here.
Photographers who have been in business for a while come into my business coaching program looking for a way to take their business to a place that feels more alive, profitable, and powerful in the world.
As a familyness adventurer I help families love where they're at in their lives, inspiring families to love their own unique path.
When you were a child yourself, how did you spend your free time?
Bossing my brothers and sisters around...at least that what they say. I loved to come up with ideas for creative endeavors. Things like...creating a revised script for, directing all of the girls in my mom’s tween girls program, and acting in the play “Annie” for all of the parents of my mom’s program for tween girls when I was 11 just because I wanted to, being the teacher to my classroom of siblings, being a ballerina (a particular ballerina- Maria Tallchief-first ever American Indian ballerina) and dancing around the house.
Did crafting or handwork play a significant role in your childhood? If yes, in what way?
My mom taught me to sew when I was 9 years old and I remember thinking that the seam ripper was my enemy. But I loved getting to make curtains and bedspreads for my room with my mom. It was always so fun to take on a challenge like that and then stand together and look at what we had created. As a teenager I couldn’t get enough of taking pictures. My family would laugh at how many rolls of film I would go through but I didn’t care.
When we first began having kids I decided I wanted to create some income to supplement the work my husband was doing. I turned first to handmade things...soaps, quilting (thanks to my mom teaching me to use a seam ripper), paper making, photography, etc.
When you were a child, did you have ideas about your own future as a mother? Was motherhood something you’d always imagined for yourself, or is it an idea you grew into later in life?
As a child, I did always imagine being a mother. Although, I was not super into people’s kids. I babysat but it wasn’t my favorite way to spend my time, but that didn’t keep me from taking jobs and making good money. Even though I didn’t love it, I took great pride in being awesome at it by creating a great babysitting kit, bringing it to my jobs, and making sure the house was as clean or cleaner than when the parents left on their date.
I did see myself getting married when I was young but not before I was 25 years old (and then waiting to have kids after we were married a few years). Most of my friends and the people I knew planned to get married much earlier and have kids right away...so my desire to wait until 25 seemed like I was waiting until I was pretty old to want to get married and have kids.
In your early years of motherhood, did you have/make time for your creative pursuits, or was your creative work put aside for a while? If the latter, when did you pick it back up?
I’ve made time for creative pursuits through out my life. When I was newly married I loved doing little things to decorate our one bedroom apartment. Each time we would move I to a new home I would get straight to work on decorating our home with the few resources we had.
I spent time handmaking things in hopes of creating more income for our home.
One day while researching yet another handmade project the words came to me to simplify my projects. I looked at all of the supplies and projects I had going and knew that the only one I would really miss if I got rid of it was my photography projects. I got rid of everything else and threw my focus, learning, enthusiasm, and excitement into photography.
Did you start your creative business prior to becoming a mother, or after?
I started my creative business after becoming a mother. For Christmas one year I told my husband that the only gift I wanted was an SLR camera, classes at the community art center, and time to practice.
During my community art classes the photographers there asked my why I wasn’t doing photography as a business with the amount of talent I had and encouraged me to think about it. I was a bit freaked out by the idea of creating something for someone else and possibly ruin it or not measure up to their expectations.
Within the week I had someone ask me if I would photograph their son’s wedding. And from that point on, people kept asking to book me for sessions. Before I knew it I was creating a website and running a full on business.
What prompted you to start your creative business? Is it something you saw yourself doing when you were a child?
It’s funny. Because I had spent years trying to find a creative business to start with making handmade paper, soaps, quilting, etc. And then when I had found THE business it felt like I fell into.
In reality, I got focused. I CHOSE something to love and put my heart and soul into. When I did that, God...the universe...everything...opened up to me to make it an amazing opportunity and powerful experience for me.
How do you balance your creative work with your role as a mother and how has that changed over time?
Over the years the way I balance my creative work and motherhood has evolved and at times the lines have become very blurry or leaned to one side or the other.
The act of balancing feels like it’s not real. I think balance is a bit of a myth. An expectation that we all have and believe that we all should be doing and that some of us are doing it better than others.
The reality is...are we loving where we are at. If we are, we are balanced. Are we doing the things that make us feel whole in our business and as a mom? And not the things that we ‘should’ be doing or that when we look sideways we see other moms doing and we aren’t doing.
To me, loving where I’m at means that I’m connecting with my kids and husband everyday. If I’m feeling that connection...then I feel balanced. If I’m aware and noticing when I’m connecting and being deliberate about it. Knowing, in this moment, right here, I’m connecting...either with my kids, a client, my husband, my dog, my work, making dinner...whatever it is. For me the awareness of the connection is what tethers me and anchors me.
Once I ditched the idea that my life had to be balanced between work and family and adopted the idea that they were all in a messy glob together and that inside of that were lots of connecting points and opportunities for me to be aware...that made a difference. It let me let go of more and look sideways less.
For me, I’ve built in connecting points with my kids and husband and clients and work into my everyday. I have 5 connecting points with my kids and husband clients everyday. Do I do everyone one of them everyday? Nope.
And that’s the thing, if I miss one...I’ve got another chance. I get a do over 4 more times that day. So I’m guaranteed mom success and business success.
In what ways does motherhood affect your work processes?
Over the years my process has changed and evolved, motherhood has had a huge influence in that evolution. When I first began my business as a photographer, I primarily photographed weddings. And they went perfectly with my young family. I could be with them all during the week and go photograph couples when my husband was home in the evenings on the weekends. My kids rarely had to have a babysitter because they would always get to be with their dad. And I got to be with them all during the day everyday.
When all of my kids went to school, weddings didn’t feel as perfect for my life. I switched to doing family sessions and soon after I developed familyness. I created adventure and fun and helped families to see that there is so much they are doing right in their life together.
Now, I photograph the everyday life of families and coach photographers to be more fearless and success full in their business.
I photograph 10 families a year, in their everyday life. I literally hang out with them for a full day of their life...beginning to end. I capture all of those things they really want to remember. The sleepy cuddling in the morning, the pancakes and sticky fingers, the little sibling rivalry fights that break out, the break down at the grocery store, the lunch time silliness, naps, school days, bath time and bedtime, the little random hugs and funny faces...because our lives are built on the everyday. Those are the things we all miss when they are gone. One of my favorite experiences of many of my clients is when they see their photographs from our session and say things like, “I had no idea that we had so much magic.” or “Seeing my family through your eyes gave me permission to stop thinking I need to be perfect because what I have is so so amazing even with the chaos and crazy and imperfection.”
Coaching photographers is incredible and inspiring and amazing. I love seeing my clients do things they’ve never done and surprise themselves with amazing results. Watching a client make $30k in one month when we discovered something they hadn’t connected completely as a perfect marriage of what they loved and an opportunity to generate income. And another client make over $20k in the first week of working together because of changing a few simple put powerful things she did with her clients is completely exciting for me.
I think it’s amazing the twists and turns that life offers in opportunity and possibilities! I love the chance to be creative in so many different ways and in ways that bless the lives of others.
In what ways does motherhood affect your creative products?
At the beginning of my career I was drawn to weddings because I felt like it was a life event that could be captured as something that wasn’t staged...it felt so much more real at the time than any other photography. There were real moments and I was there to document it.
The more I was part of weddings and the more I saw my own life the more I felt like life isn’t really built on incredible, once in a life-time days that are created with pomp and circumstance. Our lives are built on the everyday stuff...those are the days that I love. Weddings are just the beginning of a long and beautiful and messy and crazy and powerful and life changing story. And everything that comes after that beginning day is what I want to photograph.
What is the biggest impact that your children have had on your business?
I started my business after my twin girls were born so I know nothing of my business without my kids being part of it.
A long time ago I realized that the impact my children have on my business depends on the impact I have on my kids. If I talk about how much I love my business and let them know that when I’m working I enjoy myself then they are going to be happier. If I’m a mom that complains about my business and is annoyed by clients or stressed all of the time then my kids are going to wish that I didn’t have to have a business.
My kids and my husband want to me to be happy. If my business is something that brings joy into my life, they are going to love my business, too. If it makes me miserable, they are bound to be miserable about it, too.
Knowing that they are a mirror for how I feel about my business makes a huge impact on me.
How do you think your creative pursuits, including your business, affect your children?
answered above. ;)
Is there something you hope your children learn from you by having a creative business?
I hope my children learn that their dreams are possible and that you don’t have to sacrifice everything to be a healthy mom to your family. There are so many possibilities for everyone. We can be amazing moms and be incredible business women. We don’t have to choose ‘either/or’...we can choose ‘and.’
What advice would you offer the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood and wants more hands-on creativity in her life?
To the mom who feels drained by the demands of motherhood I say, take back your powerful self. Decide that you want creativity in your life and make it happen. Don’t let you circumstances or money or time leave you a victim. If you want more creativity in your life take action. Decide that Tuesday nights are yours to be creative and get a sitter that can show up every Tuesday night. If that’s not what sounds good to you, start small. Put some fun creative energy into your kids or family in some small fun way. Decide that you’re going to go on a morning adventure every Wednesday morning and explore a park or trail together. Even if you don’t go very far make the journey exciting. Get out into the world either on dates with yourself, your spouse, or your kids. Leave your house! Be the strong, decisive, powerful woman you are and make some awesome stuff happen!
Thank you so much, Davina, for sharing your thoughts with us today! You can find Davina in the following places: