Lancaster Blog

Balancing Everything is Hard. Period.

March 26, 2012

‘Balancing Everything is Hard. Period.’

By Jasmine Grimm

There are plenty of incredible businesses in Lancaster County and during my time as editor of Connections magazine published by The Chamber, in partnership with Nxtbook Media, I’ve encountered numerous entrepreneurs who have impressed me with their vision.

Beth Cardwell is no exception.

For 16 years, Beth Cardwell was a full-time probation officer, part-time photographer, mother of three children, and a wife. Her life was so crazy she stopped sleeping. Instead, she’d catnap on her lunch break, plopping her head on her desk for 30 minutes a pop. Cardwell had gone beyond the point of exhaustion. As a mom, wife, full-time employee and moonlighter, she decided she needed to simplify by focusing on what she loved to do. 

“I had no time for myself. At all. Ever. Period. I was taking care of everything for everyone else. It was so hard to maintain it. It was so hard to muster the energy. I felt like I could barely do it,” said Cardwell.

To begin to remedy her situation, Cardwell looked at the market, and determined she could offer a service that would sell. After assessing her family’s financial situation and sitting down for an honest reflection, Cardwell realized she valued more time with her family, sleep and the desire to go after her passion more than she wanted job security.

So she quit her job and decided to become a “solopreneur” and opened Beth Cardwell Photography out of her home. After all, she’d never forgive herself for not trying.

Cardwell learned building a business isn’t glamorous or easy; and she, like so many working mothers, has a daily struggle to find time to balance it all.

“My life is not all sunshine and lollipops,” said Cardwell. “Rainbows are not falling from the sky all day long but I’m doing the best I can. Some days it’s going to get tough, but I’m just going to deal with it.”

Here’s how the working mom who never slept made the choice to keep her family her top priority while starting a home-based business in a poor economic climate, and still manages to sleep at night.  

If you have a problem with time management, maybe you, too, could learn from Cardwell.

Cardwell wakes up well before 5 a.m. and hits the ground running. Literally. She thinks she has a few pounds to lose, but she considers her morning run her alone time.

“It makes me a better businesswoman,” said Cardwell. “Sometimes I feel like I’m selfish when I take time to myself, but I realize I’m a VIP. It makes me a better businessperson, mother and wife.”

After her jog, she heads home to the office and her husband, Ted jets out the door to his full time job. She puts the kids on the bus, and after everyone whips out the door, she checks her e-mails and Facebook messages. Then she sits down to return phone calls, work on invoicing, and begin editing photographs. This consumes most of her morning.

“By 10 a.m., I take meetings and then I sit in front of the computer to make calls, edit photography sessions, and place orders,” said Cardwell. She works Sunday through Friday shooting, editing, ordering and marketing. Her office runs six days a week. All except for Saturday.

“It’s my family day. I hold it sacred,” said Cardwell.

During the week, once the kids come home, “I’m pretty much theirs unless there’s something I absolutely have to get done for work. By the time they get home, I’m cooking dinner,” said Cardwell. “I’m always there to give them a hug. In fact, I’m a 24/7 hugger. If I’m working on a business project when they ask for one, I tell them, ‘Mommy has busy hands right now, but as soon as I’m done I’ll all yours.’”

Then after tucking them into bed, she morphs from mamma to pajama careerist.

“I spend the evenings proofing and editing more photos and putting in a few more orders. Then, finally I go to bed,” said Cardwell. “Some days I have to kick myself. I just want to go to bed and I don’t want to be up working. But, I remind myself why I love this job and I stop being a wuss and I get back to work.”

The next morning, she rolls out of bed at 5 a.m. and hits the ground running.  Again.

Although she doesn’t feel like she spends an exorbitant amount of time with her family during the day, she said she thinks it’s more important to focus on the value of time, not the volume. Throughout the day she switches functions between M-o-m and C-E-O. She doesn’t like to take on both roles simultaneously because she knows if she pays too little attention to too many things, her outcome will be poor. She sharpens her focus to what really matters to her, and not only does her family notice, but also they laud her publicly for it.   

“I have three little business spokespeople who introduce me as, ‘My mommy, the photographer, Beth Cardwell,” said Cardwell. 

To read more, click here to read the issue in Connections magazine.

Check out Beth Cardwell Photography on 360Lancaster.