It's working for Sally Roeckell, Photographer and Food/ Lifestyle Stylist
North Barrington, IL
Once I realized my talents were worthy of the time required doors started to open and clients opportunities filled my schedule. Most importantly I learned that my kids respected what I do. They love being a part of it.
I would say don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be everything to everyone. I pushed myself to the brink trying to handle everything. It’s ok to delegate without guilt. As much as I loved being everything to my kids I would have been better mentally and physically if I took time for myself in the beginning. I would tell myself, and any young mother , to take that tennis lesson, take time to recharge and keep date night a priority.
First, thank you for your kind praise. I’ve learned that building my business and focusing on my skills does not have to take away from my family. I spent the first years thinking I had to be 24/7 hands on wonder Mom and wife. Some how it was fine for my husband to get his MBA while we had three babies but if I took a weekend workshop I felt guilty. I was the only one placing that guilt on myself. I have a wonderfully supportive husband. Once I realized my talents were worthy of the time required doors started to open and clients opportunities filled my schedule. Most importantly I learned that my kids respected what I do. They love being a part of it.
I have seen a shift in the industry in a few ways. When I started it seemed difficult to find anyone who would actually be honest and open with the ins and outs of the industry. It’s seemed people were quite competitive and always kept a few cards tucked beneath the table. Camera equipment was incredibly costly and figuring out what you actually needed to purchase versus what you thought you needed what is sometimes a hard lesson learned. Photoshop was a very expensive and very complicated program. Now cameras are quite affordable. Photoshop can be a $10 a month subscription and there are people coming out of the woodwork offering to teach you the skills necessary to compete in this industry of content creation, advertising, food and product photography and blogging. I’m actually glad I learned it at the time I did because I feel like I was forced to quicklyI was forced to deeply research and learn.
I’ve never considered myself a traditional blogger. My blog was always a personal project that archived our family recipes and meals. I hope to continue as my children become young adults adding all of their favorite recipes and kitchen stories so they will have a place to visit me in the kitchen long after I’m gone. I just didn’t want that space to be a part of my business covered with advertisements and pop-ups. I’m happy with that confident decision.
I wish young people today starting in the industry understood the value of their efforts. I think too many believe they have to give it away to make a name for themselves. There were many days when I didn’t feel worthy of being behind the camera or on set styling and I still struggle to think my work is as good as some people might say it is. I believe every thing I do is one step in a long education process. Having the confidence to just keep moving forward is an important asset. In this industry it’s important to be curious always.
Lastly I have found in my industry that business skills will take you a very long way. I know marginal photographers who have made sensational businesses. And I know incredibly talented photographers who have made very little because they have more artist then business in them. The women today who are coming from corporate jobs and reinventing themselves as creatives seem to bring an intelligence to their craft that I think will change the face of what we see moving forward. It’s an exciting time.
Can you hear me laughing. In the beginning there was little resting or wellness. I had a knowledge of basic photography skills from a young age but as the world shifted from film to digital I had to learn a great deal. Many nights I could be found at my computer learning the necessary skills until wee hours of the morning. I was equally exhausted and invigorated by the challenge. I was fortunate that my husband saw my talent even when I didn’t and he helped greatly with the children. As a freelancer my dad changes with each project. Sometimes I’m flying across the country to work on location. I’m located north of Chicago and some of my jobs our long days in the city with a long commute. This is always tough when you’re a parent. My kids know that they’re my first priority always and they are my biggest champions and cheerleaders.
My true self care started when I decided to travel to learn more about food photography in other cultures with other photographers. At first I traveled as a participant in a workshop but quickly built a community of friends and colleagues who share my passion. We continued to travel together experiencing food cultures and photography whenever possible.
This time away is restorative. I return with memories and lessons that are priceless. During one trip I missed a special event in my sons kindergarten class and when his teacher asked where I was he answered in a very solemn voice by saying “she’s in a better place”. His teacher was confused and worried enough to inquire further only to find that I was in France. Still laughing.
While traveling with Accenture around the country I did miss my daughters first dance recital. I was broken to have missed it but thinking there would be many I took the job. When I returned home my daughter announce that she would never dance again. It was probably for the best, today she’s a 6’1” basketball player. Dance recitals we’re never going to be a thing for her.
We all get pulled in multiple directions as a mother. I think my husband and I were pretty good at loving our children in a way that allowed them to respect each other, lift each other up and be there for one another. In the same way they were always there encouraging me to keep moving forward and celebrating my small accomplishments with more fanfare than they deserved. I am a very lucky mom.
Covid was tricky. I’m not alone in experiencing that.
Just prior to Covid I started a small catering company specializing in charcuterie and grazing boards. It combined my love of plating and preparing food for others with my photography skills. It allowed me to show our product at its best on my website www.sageandjamgrazing.com
In a time when photography clients were not looking for content creation because they weren’t sure they were going to be able to keep their company afloat my catering business gave me work. Sadly, because of Covid we had to pivot and postpone some of our goals. Our main product is grazing tables and boards and with the uncertainty of covid people didn’t want to eat off a common surface. So we created individual Grazing boxes that became very popular. We managed to stay pretty busy. I think being flexible is the common theme of the last year.
Our family dynamic changed in this past year as well. We took in my 88-year-old mother-in-law and my 16-year-old niece. They are now part of our family and our daily cadence is a little different. For the first year of Covid my 25-year-old son moved home and as much as I loved having him here I was glad when his industry open back up and he was able to go back to work.
I found myself pulling back significantly choosing to spend time with family and let work take a backseat. I am lucky to have the freedom to do that. I feel for so many I’ve struggled during this time. Happily now my schedule is starting to fill again and I am creating new content for my blog and clients.
I think I alluded to this earlier in that being a mother was not a challenge for me. I think I was born to be a mother. It is what I am most blessed by being. My biggest challenge was getting out of my own way. Allowing myself to let go of some responsibilities and guilt and sometimes simply say no. Or other times say, I don’t need anyone else’s approval to take time for myself and my work. Being flexible has allowed me to grow in my industry and care for my family simultaneously.
Relax, they will live. They will be educated and go to college if they choose to. All the stress you put on yourself worrying will not help them.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on the latest coolest toy or gadget what a kid really wants is your undivided attention from time to time. And then in equal measure They need the space to be able to do things themselves to acquire the confidence to keep moving forward.
I’m sure products have changed since I needed them but in my day Dr. Brown’s bottles saved me from colic in a way that I will be forever grateful. One of my sons had colic straight for 16 weeks. I don’t think he stopped to take a breath from his crying in that entire time. When my daughter was born and started down the same path someone suggested I try these bottles and it worked the first time and she never cried again with colic.
Lastly, trust yourself. Trust your intuition as a mother. Trust your husband. You’ve got this. Enjoy the little moments that seem exhausting. I’d give anything for one more day holding those little pudgy fingers and Enjoying those little squishy hugs.
My husband Was a big help but I also had a network of friends that saw things in myself I couldn’t always see. Friends who built me up when I tried to tear myself down. Those are people you definitely want to surround yourself with.
I also have a strong faith life. Taking time to center myself in prayer Has been a big part of my support. It has kept my marriage and guided me as a mother and countless ways.
I had and have many mentors. Some who don’t even know they were mentoring me. When you see someone that has the spark you’re looking for bring them in to your life and learn from them. Don’t assume they have something that you can’t achieve. I almost made that mistake thinking I was not properly and professionally trained in the way I needed to be. When a dear friend who is wildly successful was honest with me by saying that he to had never had professional training. I never would have guessed. He allowed me to jump into a world I thought had a bar to entry.
As a working parent, I never expected _________would be so hard and _____would be so much easier.
As a parent working in a freelance position sometimes from home and sometimes and location I didn’t realize that prioritizing my time and space as legitimate work would be so hard and that working on location without the distractions of home would be so much easier. I actually love being home and having the flexibility that offers but it is much more difficult to create a work life balance.