We are in the third week of school and the guilt is already knotting my stomach and bringing on sudden tears.

Here is my life.

I shoot an average 2-4 sessions per week. Maybe 1-2 during the winter months and more like 4-6+ in the fall. That means lots of editing and sneak peeks and galleries to load. Orders to place, receipts to gather for my business manager, marketing plans to create and potentially put into action plus taxes to pay, bills to pay, the studio and on and on and on. We are currently working to FINALLY get a sign designed and hung outside the studio, I joined the Webster Groves Chamber and we are revamping ALL of our packaging. The emails. Oh the emails. And phone calls and texts. Facebook and the blog and updating the website and coming up with new and innovative ideas for shoots. Coordinating with vendors and finding new locations.

When you own a small photography business you juggle. A lot. And just ask Amy, my amazing and wonderful studio manager, just how many balls I drop on a weekly basis. Too many to count.

Then there is my dear husband. He teaches high school, is the head coach of girls soccer in the spring, assistant coach of boys soccer at a different school in the fall, just took on coaching a swim team in the winter and coaches a sixth grade select soccer team an hour away on the side (not the head coach, more like a skills trainer or something). That’s three sports plus a weekend job every other week or so out of town. Not to mention open house and conferences and IEP meetings at the crack of dawn. Pre-season workouts, out of town tournaments, camps and summer leagues. He also plays softball and soccer. The gist? He’s gone. A lot.

And my children. Ages 6, 7 and 9. Homework and reading help and snacks. Four soccer teams for three kids this fall. Lunches to pack and clothes to wash and new shoes to buy. Brownies and church choir and Sunday school. Birthday parties and teacher gifts and permission forms. Playdates and friend drama and coordinating carpool. The endless chatter and the forgotten chores and the messy rooms.

Of course, in this beautiful crazy mess it’s just that – beautiful. We have three amazing kids that love us and one another. They listen well, do their best in school, have good friends and love the Lord. They love to play together and honestly rarely argue. They are good good kids and we are in constant awe that we have it so easy. Chris and I are happy together – coming up on our 10th anniversary. We still laugh together. A lot. And make time for dates and nights out with friends. We support one another and cheer each other on. And oh my gosh do I feel blessed with Fresh Art. Business is good which means we can almost afford those 4 soccer teams. I’m busy with sweet and loyal clients whose kids bring me joy every day I’m shooting. And even all the hours I sit alone at my desk are joyful. My introverted heart loves that my job allows so much alone time.

It’s all good. Seriously all GOOD.

And then it’s not.

Does your busy and full and beautiful life just smack you in the face sometimes?

Parker brought home a permission form so she can have extra reading help at school like she did last year. She brought it to me to sign as I was making dinner and blow drying my hair (I was running back and forth NOT doing them in the same room) so I was distracted. I am ALWAYS distracted. I signed it and I asked her if she liked her reading teacher to which she replied that she did but, well, she doesn’t like that when she leaves the classroom she knows she’s not as smart as everyone else.  Ugh.

Grayson got punched in the face today at recess which he told me as I was picking up the girls who insisted on walking at least part of the way home today in the 110 degree heat which reminded me that I had meant to email his teacher about who he’s hanging out with in KINDERGARTEN because so far he’s been pushed every day. And now apparently punched in the lip. He said it hurt worse than when the kid punched his arm. Great.

Bailey made up a dance to It’s All About the Bass today after school after dancing to Zumba videos on YouTube and came in to tell me that she had made up words to cover the “shit” and “bitches” in the song. That song is on repeat around here with me singing right along and I had totally forgotten I don’t have toddlers anymore and bad words don’t just fly over their heads. Awesome.

I fed my kids a frozen pizza tonight, turned on the tv and went to my office to edit a gallery. They ate by themselves which they do quite often.

I read with Gray for 5 minutes before bed, told Parker we would read tomorrow night and didn’t even attempt to read with Bailey. Work was waiting for me at my desk.

I didn’t follow up Parker’s really sad statement with a conversation assuring her she’s smart and loved and that it’s ok. I didn’t sit and read with her to help her at home like the school asks me to do every night. I didn’t show any interest in the fact that Bailey was choreographing dances tonight and didn’t have one real conversation with her. I forgot to email Gray’s teacher again and didn’t talk to him about how to make better friends or even make sure he’s not hitting too. Honestly, I didn’t even look at his lip.

Every night I go to bed wishing I could have been a better mom, gotten more work done, spent more time talking to Chris, called a friend or cleaned my house (don’t even mention the laundry). I wonder if what I do is ever enough?

When you have three kids under three you spend years at home cleaning up messes and changing diapers and coming up with activities to get you through the long days. You don’t sleep at all so you walk around in a semi-haze but that’s ok because you could literally spend a week in your jammies at home and no one would know. Life feels so crazy and hectic but really you’re just sleep deprived because once your kids are all in grade school you realize that those slow days were wonderful and amazing. And even though you get a ton more sleep now you’re somehow still exhausted all the time. You miss being home all day as you drive your kids all over the place living your life in your used minivan. You miss laying on the floor and stacking blocks while babies crawl over your back and grab your hair and giggle when they all fall down. You miss the innocence of a babbled conversation while you tell your nine year old, officially, how babies are made. You miss the messy art projects at the kitchen table as you bang your head on the table during homework time. You miss baby food jars and breast feeding as you realize your kids have eaten all the groceries you just bought two days ago.

But back then? Oh MAN was it hard! Being a mom to three kids in diapers is impossibly hard! And now I miss it!

So I have perspective. I know that this too shall pass. And I also know to not wish it away because I will blink and be in the midst of teenage angst and drama. Slammed doors and eye rolls. Borrowed cars and curfew. I know that’s all coming soon. And I also know that me choosing work over dinner with the kids is not something they will always remember. I know we will make it through Kindergarten boys and reading help and the 4th grade. I know we will laugh a lot and cry too but love constantly. I know this.

But wow it’s hard isn’t it? Being a mom? The jack of all trades. The juggler of life. The cooker and the cleaner and the homework helper and the income earner and the partner and the friend. The mom. It’s tough.

I move between intense and crippling guilt over the things I’m not doing good enough and giving myself grace. And I can go between those two feelings in a matter of minutes.

Our life is busy and Chris and I work a lot to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We are constantly running and I am never doing anything perfectly. Maybe I never will. Last night I joked on Facebook that everyone should hug a tired photographer this fall but now I think we should all just grab a mom and hug her! Tell her she’s doing awesome even when she clearly doesn’t think she’s doing anything right. ESPECIALLY when she doesn’t think she’s doing anything right!

I’m not sure why I wanted to write all of this tonight but I guess I feel like I can’t be alone. And that no matter which stage of motherhood you’re in, it’s tough. But you’re not alone, because I’m not alone. And I guess, in the midst of feeling like a massive failure tonight I wanted to remind myself that I’m doing my best. And if my best isn’t great one day but my kids went to bed with hugs and kisses I’m going to call the day a success. Or at least a semi-success!

Much love to all my mom friends who are in the trenches with me.