An Energetic and Joyful Motherhood Photography Session in a Seattle Studio | Seattle Family Photographer
Jessie’s Seattle Studio Motherhood Photo Session and interview | SEattle Family Photographer
I am bringing you another mother interview! Jessie won a session around Christmastime, and I photographed her family early in the new year. I now follow her on Instagram and ask for parenting tips constantly (actually, now that I am really thinking about it, I might be obnoxious). She is at home with her THREE kids full time and seems so content and like she has her shit together!
I know that if I have said it once, I have said it one hundred times, but the bonus aspect of being a family and motherhood photographer here in Seattle, is that I meet and learn from so many amazing parents. Every single person I meet helps me feel a little more grounded or changes my perspective. Watching Jessie in her session and through Instagram has reminded me to give more responsibility to Rufus (she talks about this below) and to find the positive. She is really a wonder. I also love the reminder that baby blues can pop up at any time. I was a delirious and very tired new mom after Rufus was born, but I loved it. This past year of Ru age 2-3.5 has been the time I find myself questioning everything and feeling overwhelmed and like a failure all of the time. He will be miraculously over threatening to bite me and will listen to all the directions I give him as soon as he turns 4, right? ;)
Side note- to get photos like this out of your photo photography session, the important thing to remember is to keep interacting and moving. I would place Jessie where I wanted her and bring the kids into position, but then let them giggle or cuddle and really fall into themselves. I placed hands where I wanted them and put them in the light, but encouraged tickling, laughing, relaxing, spinning and gazing and the momentum and interactions are what is giving life to these pics.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your upbringing?
I’m born and raised right here in the PNW! My parents still live in our childhood home which is so fun to now see my kids play at! I have two younger brothers and grew up playing tons of sports, involved at church, and close to my family. Honestly just a typical suburban family upbringing with the best parents I could have ever asked for.
Tell us about your family, where you live now, and how you spend your days:
Now, me and my husband (who is THE best and hot if I may add :) ) live in Monroe with our three kiddos! Hudson, Maeve, and our little Rosalie. Someday we want to live on a big piece of property and let our kids run around and be free but for now we are in a house similar to the one I grew up in with a neighborhood bursting with young kids also! Our house backs up to a park which has been a literal godsend for us. Most days we can be found struggling to get out of the house, because, helllllo children. We do tons of playdates, trips to target, and you better believe we make sure to go to Costco at 11am when the samples begin. I have always been someone who can’t stay home for very long without getting cabin fever so even with three I try and get out of the house at least 6 days a week and save one day to just relax at home! It’s not always a big ordeal but fresh air is REALLL good for the soul!
I know that you have overcome immense personal struggles to get where you are today- would you share a little with us?
Sure :) I’m all sorts of messed up but aren’t we all?! I have had some pretty intense anxiety over the years leading to some tough times of not going to school when I was in 3rd grade and then again as I transitioned to high school. Towards the end of high school the anxiety was replaced with bad body image which many girls struggle with but mine morphed into something deeper and darker. Bad self talk turned into purging, calorie counting, and the obsession with working out as I entered college. But I was always ‘healthy’ never getting too skinny or having to worry about someone finding out what was really going on behind closed doors. Everything came crashing down when I was a junior when my intense insomnia led to me getting really sick and finally having to admit to my loved ones what was going on. It’s a whole long story but at my darkest moment it truly was God to help save me. My faith has always been important to me but it wasn’t truly until I hit rock bottom where I should have died that I fully understood grace and Jesus’s love for me. He surrounded me by the best boyfriend (now husband), counselors, family and friends to hold me accountable and walk alongside me as I began a messy road to recovery.
Did you always want to be a mother?
YES! But it felt so far off and I didn’t know when it would actually happen. I wanted to go to medical school and was studying in college to get me there but then I started dating Brandon and honestly my priorities just shifted. I realized I didn’t want to be in school forever and that I wanted to be married and have a family someday. We were just talking about how perfectly timed out everything ended up the other day! We got married and had said we wouldn’t talk about having kids until a year into marriage. Well, I was nannying and doing personal styling and home organization and not tied down to anything. Around six months I could NOT shake feelings that it was time to have a kid. Brandon was not on board when I first told him and we went around in circles about how we ‘should’ wait a year…because that’s just what you’re supposed to do, right?! But the nudge continued and I truly felt like having kids was what God wanted for me. Brandon had the same nudge and 9 months into marriage we found out we were pregnant with our first kiddo and SO thrilled about it! Here we are four years later with 3 kids and so happy!
There is such an identity shift after having a child- in what ways did becoming a mother change the way you see yourself?
I personally adjusted easily. I am hesitant even saying that because I know how hard it is for so many women after they have their first kid. And trust me, I’m in the middle of a pretty hard adjustment right now but for some reason after Hudson was born I felt like I just stepped into the identity God always intended for me to have. I immediately became more confident, less anxious, and felt this deep sense of love and belonging that is indescribable. Motherhood is hard, and it has humbled me in more ways than I can count but this crazy roller coaster that we call motherhood is truly the best thing I have ever experienced. As I’ll share later becoming a mother has had it’s ups and downs in terms of body image but it’s also caused me to be more intentional with my words, more loving in the thoughts and things I tell myself because how can I love my kiddos to the best of my ability if I don’t first work on loving myself?
What excites you the most about being a mother?
Just seeing these little people see the world. The joy and wonder that my kids have in their eyes when the experience even the most simple of things has literally knocked the breath out of me at different times. I have been brought to tears watching them giggle and play with each other, make-believe in the backyard, or have the biggest smile on their faces when they wake up and squeal for mommy or daddy. It’s truly a miracle watching them see life with such innocence.
What keeps you up at night?
Ha! You mean besides the nursing baby, and kid who needs just one more drink, or one more cuddle, or the husband that wants ‘marriage time’ without clueing in to the fact I was just up nursing…again?! Hmm. What is life going to look like in 5 years? Are we going to have another kid? Will my body ever be back in shape and what I want it to be? Am I good enough, smart enough, successful enough? I think we all ask the same questions it’s just a matter of when we ask them.
Do you have a good support system?
Community is everything. As a pastor’s wife it’s a little bit different…I would normally find a church and find people and make friends but there’s an added dynamic now of having church be work. It’s been a hard adjustment and something that I honestly have had a really difficult time with but we have managed to find amazing friends in similar stages of life as us and that sort of deep community where we don’t just play but also pray and go through struggles together has been huge for me. I also have great friends from college and a couple from high school that I am still close to! And of course my parents and in-laws! We are blessed to have both of our families nearby to help us and to spend time with whenever we want!
We both own our own photography businesses, which I struggle to do with one kid and you are doing with THREE! Not only are you doing it, you seem so thoughtful with your parenting and present with your children. Is it as easy as it looks? What are your tried and true tricks?
I’ve only been pursuing photography professionally for about 2 years now and it’s been HARD! It’s a ton of work to make the time to market yourself and then to get out and actually shoot and find time to edit. BUT it’s something I love and makes me feel like me. Mom life is all day every day and to not lose the core of who I am as a woman it’s been essential for me to just make the time for it. I constantly have to remind myself that taking time for myself, whether it’s for photography or going to the gym, or even a girls night is making me a better mom in the long run. Having creative, spiritual and physical outlets in my opinion are absolutely essential. The closest thing I have to a trick isn’t a trick at all but it’s just giving myself grace. There’s no perfect balance and that’s okay. Tv is not the devil, I am not above bribery and we do what works for US, not what works for everyone else. My kiddos know that I love them and we play a ton but that every once in awhile I need a little bit of mommy time! OH! ANNNND my number one goal as a mother (slight exaggeration) was to have my children nap at the same time every day so that I could have a breather. For the most part it has worked so I get most of my editing done during nap time or after bedtime!
How would you describe you and your husband's parenting style:
Imperfect, ha! More than anything we want our children to know that they are loved by God and therefore to love others. That they are unique and wonderful but also broken and need God to help them get through life. We don’t want them to just be good for the sake of it but to teach them goodness stems from love. So our parenting ideally surrounds those thoughts. We don’t use any formula but do try and teach them natural consequences and the whys behind why we have do act certain ways. Somedays it feels like all I am doing is breaking up fights or negotiating with little terrorists but we try and just be consistent. We have some non-negotiable behaviors that result in immediate consequences (hitting, biting, disrespect, etc.) but if the moment allows we try to get them to voice why they are upset (HUNGRY, TIRED, LONELY are the reasons for most children)
I know that when we took these photos, Rosalie was still less than three months old- SO many women struggle with their body image, and you are in recovery from an eating disorder- but you still got in the frame! First of all, congrats! Secondly, as a mother and a photographer, why do you value getting into the photos with your family and how do you get past the hold ups?
I’ve come a long way! There’s this sweet spot for me postpartum where my body isn’t fully recovered and I am okay with that. I now that my body grew this perfect little baby and that it takes awhile to get back in shape. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or that I don’t look at photos and wish that things were a little different but I really love and appreciate my babies more than I ever would love a six pack. Again, lots of grace!
The biggest hold up for me for family photos has been less about what I look like and more about money and energy! It’s a TON of work to get yourself and family ready for pictures I know but it’s so worth it! And the funny part is that when I look back at different photoshoots we have done my favorite pictures and my clients favorite photos are Never the ones where everyone is looking at the camera perfectly. The favorites are always the ones where the kids are holding their favorite stuffy they didn’t want to let go of, or when its seemingly chaotic but the photographer managed to capture the messiness perfectly and beautifully! There’s nothing better than having those baby thighs, and toddler squats, or tickle fights captured to look back on. It’s the BEST investment ever!
What have you found to be the biggest difference between your expectations for motherhood and the reality?
I wouldn’t say I had a ton of expectations but something that has caught me off guard is how mundane motherhood can be and feel. It’s a lot of the same thing over and over but if you slow down enough and look closely enough you see the beauty in it. The piles of laundry turn into great piles to jump in or hide under, the dishes in the sink turn into moments where I get to clean and listen to them reading stories with daddy. The toys that are always left out are reminders of the playing that happened earlier. It’s not always easy to see if but I TRY and see these little blessings when it feels like I can’t make it through one more day of having to cook three meals!
What advice would you give a mother about to have her first child?
Do you. Not in a flippant way, but in a way that gives yourself *surprise* grace! What works for that lady on instagram or your friend, is not going to be the same thing that works for you. Find a routine that works for you and stay consistent to it. Give your children credit. They are so much more capable than we think most of the time. They can help around the house, they can clean up their messes, and they can develop amazing character traits at such a young age. Love yourself. This sounds so fluffy and trust me I struggle with this one a ton, BUT find the things that fill you up and give you energy so that you can turn around and pour out love to your kids.
Just a side note… mom life is not for the faint of heart. It wrecks me daily. I choose to post pretty pictures and I choose to find the good parts but I am far from perfect at it. Life is messy, marriage is hard, cleaning and maintaining a household is a full time job and we don’t have the time to do all the time. My kids are never going to look back and wish that I played with them less and cleaned more. They are never going to look back and think gosh I wish my mom’s arms and booty were more toned. These answers are reminders for myself! I am currently struggling with baby blues because transitioning from 0-1 or 1-2 or even 5-6 is HARD! You don’t have a certain amount of kids and have it all figured out, all seasons are hard! Be encouraged that you aren’t alone!