Late 1999. I was 32, a brand-new first time mom with a successful career and a baby I couldn’t bear to put in daycare. Vic tells me he has an opportunity to move to Atlanta with GE. With the move, we would downsize and I’d be able to be a stay-at-home mom. Since we both came from homes with moms at home, we jumped at it.
The stay-at-home mom thing? Yeah, that lasted about 6 months. I was young, restless, never one to be able to SIT. I ended up President of my local Mom’s Club chapter (surprise!) – let me tell you, we had some NICE agendas for the meetings. And I made the house my job – with a daily schedule posted on the fridge in 30 minute increments (9:30 a.m. laundry, 10:00 a.m. snack for aidan, 10:30 a.m. vacuum). I probably had the cleanest house in Georgia.
By 2001, Vic told me I needed a hobby. FAST.
I’d always been into photography, so I decided to join the neighborhood scrapbooking group. Me, crafty?!? Gah. But hey, it was something to do. That led me to an online community where I met some amazing friends. We met up at a Creating Keepsakes convention in Phoenix where I won 2nd place in the page layout contest. That led to a cover opportunity and making the 2003 CK Hall of Fame (which may be a joke now, but back in the day it was A BIG DEAL). Vic converted our sitting room into a scrapbook room (
affectionately referred to as “Lisa’s Cave”), into which I would disappear for hours at a time making pages.
I was a restless SAHM and when every page selected by a magazine for publication meant a $75 check in the mail and feeling like you’d won a contest – it was like crack, lemme tell you.
Fast forward to a job with Autumn Leaves as a designer and project lead. Member of the design teams at 2Peas in a bucket, Hero Arts, and others I can’t even remember. Traveling to conventions to mingle & teach and working the Autumn Leaves booth at trade shows. Funny note: We decided (via phone) to go ahead with our 3-egg IVF cycle while I was standing in the AL booth at the CHA convention in Atlanta in February 2004.
Then we had Ava, the scrapbooking world got nasty – let me tell you, women-centric industries can be evil. Very. I’d had enough.
After a LONG maternity leave, I was ready to move on. So in late 2006 – at the urging of family and friends – I hung my photography shingle. I shot 50 sessions in 2007, 98 in 2008 and and 99 in 2009. But here’s the problem: When you own your own business there is ALWAYS SOMETHING that needs to be done. Always. Editing, archiving, taxes, bookkeeping, marketing, filing, packaging, shipping, loading online, blogging, website updating, ordering…I laugh when people get into photography thinking it’s a great way to make money “on the side.” Take it from me – if you want to be successful, there is no “on the side.” I probably worked 80+ hours a week. Pushing the little black button? About 1/10 of what needs to be done.
And what got pushed aside while I pursued my successful career? Ava, Aidan, Vic, laundry, cooking, cleaning, friends…ummm…. When you’re obsessive like me, there is no such thing as ‘balance.’ You’re either all in…or all out. No halfway. I wish it wasn’t that way…but it is. I loved my job, but my regrets are many. MANY. I missed so much. Trust me, a little piece of your heart breaks off when your child brings home a school assignment about what your parents do, and his says “My mom is on the computer all day.” Seriously.
Which brings us to late 2010 and a move to Erie, PA. A fresh start. We had to give up my income regardless, since it was location-specific, so what to do? And – as all of my friends can attest – I’ve been fence-sitting for months. God bless them for their patience. And my dear husband, who always just says “Whatever makes you happy, makes me happy.” How he puts up with me, I’ll never know. I don’t deserve him.
In the 6 months I’ve been here, I’ve made friendships (real ones, where you can SEE the person!). I’ve remembered how much I love to cook…do laundry (yes, do laundry!)…take pictures of MY kids…read…exercise…relax. Playing games, driving to their sports and watching. Hanging with Vic without complaining about how much work I have to get done. And you know what – I’m ready now. I wasn’t at 32…but at 44? I’m *so* ready.
So the portrait business is closed. Officially. Done. Finally making the decision feels akin to having a boulder lifted from your shoulders. My first creative love was art photography, so I’m going to continue to pursue that. The business is still registered, but Lisa Russo Photography is now an etsy shop only. I’ve found a renewed joy in LOOKING for things to photograph. Finding art in the everyday. But that will be during free time – not all the time. I’ve had 3 very successful careers, and now I’m ready to just love my family. Best career of all. I’m finally ready to realize how freaking LUCKY I am to have that opportunity. Again…I kinda won the lottery in the husband department.
Yesterday, Ava asked me to sharpen a colored pencil for her, and I got up and did it. 3 years ago, I would have told her no, or to find another color, or later, or to get Aidan to do it. I have a lot (!) of time to make up for. And I can’t wait.