Since my orientation into this crazy place called motherhood I've engaged with some amazing women, Mums who all have a different story to tell about their journey before and after motherhood, and into the future. They have kindly agreed to share with me their story, thoughts and advice about navigating this new season of life.
Over the next two months I'll be sharing their stories with you in the hope that by showcasing this community of amazing women I can help to make valuable connections on some common ground and that we can share any lessons we've learned along the way with one another. Please join me in welcoming Cat Timms of Cat Timms Photography.
Cat is a homeschool mama to two darling ferals, a former teacher and family photographer. She spends her weekdays playing board games and bushwalking in between a million sports classes, and weekends pretending to be a cool adult capturing moments for families.
Hi Cat! Tell me, what did you do before you became a Mum?
I worked as a photographer for a studio for about five minutes when studying but I hated it (so posed, so boring!). I get bored easily, so after completing my Early Childhood degree I worked as a teacher both government and alternative, nanny both domestic and international and child care worker on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. I ran my own three year old kindy and occasionally I worked as a photographer, but only ever as a serious hobby!
Now I’m still surrounded by children (like All. The. Time. Haha/sob. Lucky I love them!). I quit teaching and I am way more serious about photography, except when I’m doing Baby Shark to make kids giggle, obvs.
That's a huge change, did it surprise you?
The homeschooling part was definitely a surprise! As a teacher, albeit always an alternative one, it never in a bajillion years occurred to me that I would homeschool my kids... and like it. In embracing the homeschooling lifestyle and the inherent freedom of it I could no longer work a nine to five, or nine to three as it were.
Removing myself from the rat race and working for myself is a lot, and luckily I don’t need to earn a full time income because my husband does, because I earn even less doing photography than I did teaching! But I’m so much happier, and have totally flexible working hours which is such a plus.
There must have been some trade-offs?
Honestly, I stepped away from what was sometimes a totally toxic working environment, into living a rich and varied life alongside my favourite humans. The only thing I gave up was some money, which I'm lucky enough to say is the least important thing. I feel regret I didn’t quit teaching years ago. I don't think I ever meant to get so boxed in by a nonsense set of government guidelines, and while I did try to change the broken parts of the system from the inside, sometimes it’s just not possible. It was a hard realisation for me, actually.
What does a typical day in the Timms house look like?
Very loud and large children wake me up in the 5am’s, which should obviously be illegal since I often work until midnight. Hubs buggers off at 6am to avoid aforementioned spawn (he gets home super early tho!). I refuse to get out of bed and be an actual person until 7am. Kids play or do educational apps before 7am while I attempt to human and check emails and allllll the socials.
We do breakfast and then around 8am we do a morning session where we come together and the kids work on their stuff (at the moment that’s reading, handwriting, maths and writing) for a while. We play a lot of games (hashtag gameschooling... It’s a thing.) We read a LOT of books and do a LOT of art, because books and art are amazing.
Most days we have something on (coop group, nature club, sports, playdates, excursions) so we head off to that.
Homeschool life is complete freedom where you can set your own pace and rhythm, so I am available on my phone and reply to emails and PMs, and take phone calls as I need too. Later in the day I might get some actual desk time but it’s unlikely. I am mama Monday to Friday until 7pm. I tend to clock off around 7pm and hubs does bedtime and I get to sit in blissful silence in my office and waste time on Insta, I mean work! Like edit photos and do all the computery photog things!
Occasionally I have an evening shoot during the week, but mostly I do shoots on weekends, and I split my weekends between dedicated family time, and work time. I try to post on Facebook four times a week, and reply to emails within 24 hours. I send galleries out within a few days of the session, cos waiting for photos is the absolute worst!
So, what’s next on this big adventure?
The best part of this season of life is the freedom to live alongside my small humans and learn with them and experience life, while still working at something that is fulfilling but not pressured. I honestly have zero career moves planned. I am not ambitious, and I don't enter competitions... I mean I don’t even use business Instagram haha.
I like taking photos, capturing people and showing them how I see them and their family love. That is important enough for me.
Probably to the detriment of my business, I’m not after any notoriety and dislike the photography community on Instagram, so do not engage with it. I have enough work for my lifestyle currently without doing anything and that’s enough for me. It comes to me fairly organically and so feels very natural and will progress on its own. Or it won’t, and I’m fine with that too.
As a previous client I've got to say your work is so authentic and natural. You seem very comfortable in your practice, but were there times you questioned yourself?
To be uncharacteristically serious for a moment, I quite often don’t feel good enough to call myself a photographer. While I’ve been doing it on and off for 20 years, I’m completely self-taught and don’t even use photoshop (who wants to sign up for a 5 part series about how heavily photoshopped digital art isn’t an actual photograph?!). I do light editing on my work, so require the work to be good in the first place which can add a little pressure in tough situations. Another reason I don’t do weddings!
I’ve had some challenging feedback from a friend which knocked my confidence, and I avoid comparing myself with others (while still trying to grow artistically). Comparison truly is the thief of joy. I will occasionally have a challenging session and think whyyyyyyyyyy?! But I always come back to it cos ultimately I just love the creative expression and having something for me outside of my family which contributes to our life.
If we had a time machine, what would you tell pre-Mum Cat?
Oooohhh #beforeiwasyourmum I would tell her to take all the naps, have all the fun, do all the travel and just relax a lot, cos there is no more relaxing with spawn. Life is wonderful in a different way, but it’s basically never relaxing haha.
Also, and look this may sound suss given what I do, but seriously, get photos done! Don’t wait to lose weight or have better skin or whatever, just do it! We have so few photos with me in them, and capturing joyful motherhood is now something I’m really passionate about; I’ve done a whole blog post on it!
You're with your little ones all the time, how do you take care of yourself?
This is something I love to talk about! First and foremost, and the thing I think a lot of people miss when discussing self-care, is this: I have created a life that doesn’t require me to do a lot of active self-care... pause for effect. I don’t need to take weekends away (have never) or have expensive spa days (have done a few but it’s not a regular thing). I have created a life that operates slower than most Mums of two primary age kids.
We start slow. There is no rush for shoes and school hats and drink bottles. If we stay in bed and watch documentaries till 9am then cool. If I don’t get a clients gallery sent out then fine. If I need a Netflix night then awesome. I set the pace for everyone here, and I realise I am very lucky because I’m not the main breadwinner funding this family-centred lifestyle.
Secondly, I do love Netflix and junk food and I do love going to the movies with my hubs, and the beach is the like the best place ever. I love a good bath, with excellent snacks (obvs), and I love a slow lazy Sunday lying around with my loves not getting off the floor and ordering pizza. But not having a super stressful life in the first place means that stuff just isn’t as important.
The homeschooling lifestyle is just a totally different mindset. You don’t’ think of “my time” vs “ time with the kids.” They’re always there. You learn to all live and learn together in a way that meets everyone's needs, yes including mine! Sometimes that means they have a TV arvo while I work a few hours or read a book if I need some time for me (rare). Mostly it means not over committing myself in the first place.
Any final tips for Mums embarking on a similar journey?
Quitting a stable, steady, secure job and income to work for yourself is HARD. It’s worrying and stressful. I could only do it thanks to my husband's income. My advice is set your own pace. There are no prizes, and you will always feel like you could be doing more no matter what you do, so be kind to yourself. Make sure that the work you do either contributes financially in a decent way, or is very fulfilling for you as a human being. If it’s neither of those things, time to rethink! What is the point?
As for homeschooling, if you’ve been thinking about it, just do it. School will always be there and if you can embrace the freedom of homeschooling, you will never send them back. It’s just too much fun, and too wonderful to watch them blossom up close.
You can find Cat over at Cat Timms Photography and on Facebook or Instagram. If you are ever looking for authentic, real images of your imperfectly beautiful life, Cat is the photographer for you. She aims to capture you just as you are, on this messy, amazing journey of life and also strongly believes that being able to access beautiful imagery has become quite privileged, and so offers mini sessions at a price everyone can afford every few months. Images from my own mini session are featured throughout this site and are not sponsored in any way.
If you would like to share your story about before you became a Mum and your journey to now I would love to hear from you. Head on over on my Instagram or Facebook comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is a part of the Before She Was A Mum Series.