So I followed my heart, and quit my job

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I did it, I really did it. I quit my day job. Excuse me while I take a moment to appreciate how big of a deal it is to me to write that down. Because it's a big deal.

I haven't talked much about my day job much online over the years, because it doesn't have much relevance to all the other things that I share here. I've also always been a bit nervous about the crossover. My employers knew I had a lot of other interested outside of my job, and also that I would occasionally take on some photography or teaching work on the evenings and weekends. They also knew about my blog, followed me on social media and so I was careful to assume that anything I put out on the internet was read by them. I worked hard at my job, but also at my own side projects and I was always conscious of not giving the wrong impression of myself or upsetting the people who paid my wages. I enjoyed my job, loved my colleagues, and knew how fortunate I was to get to work from home. But there was always something missing for me. It was just a job, not a career. Not something I felt wholeheartedly passionate about, nor something that was going to fit for me forever. On one side I had my office day job (as a Sales Manager/Tour Booker for a theatre company), but on the other I desperately wanted to pursue my dream of being a freelance photographer. I felt like I couldn't talk honestly about either of those things online, or that I even really knew what I was working towards sometimes. In truth, working from home was a great lifestyle that suited me a lot and I think it kept me from really going for what I wanted. It was a nice, quiet life without too much pressure or stress and I was good at what I did. I had a lot of freedom, worked with colleagues I really liked and didn't have to commute. And in this city, a job with no commute is the holy grail.

When I got pregnant with Rory in April 2015, I knew that having a baby and going on maternity leave would be the best chance I'd have to make a go of working for myself. Otherwise, the future for me was to either become a full time mother and lose myself to raising kids, or to return to work and balance my day job with a family. Neither option left me with any space to pursue my passions. Either give them up for my family, or retreat to the safety of a familiar career path and a monthly wage. I decided that what scared me most was regret, and that my dreams were not going to be collateral damage in the process of starting a family. However hard it would be to make it work, I was going to do it. Because how I could I raise my daughter and tell her to follow her dreams if I was too afraid to follow mine?

Without much of a plan (because that's sort of my M.O) I hired a business coach to help me figure out what working for myself was going to look like. We talked about branding, how to find my dream clients, writing better content, ways to market myself, and a whole lot about just believing in myself and putting the work in to get where I wanted to go. It was a smart move, and set me up with the right mindset to go on maternity leave. It felt like it was the start of a new life for me, not a year on pause while I had a baby. When Rory was born in January, I took every spare moment I could to keep things ticking over. I completely re-designed my photography website in the first three months, working over her while she slept on my lap after feeds. I kept up with emails, blogging and social media as much as I could. In hindsight, I regret not taking more time to rest and soak up those newborn days. They pass so quickly, working on my business could have waited. It probably should have waited. That said, I do think my desire to keep busy helped me not feel like I was losing myself to breastfeeding and nappy changing. Because some days, some weeks, you can feel like that's all you do when you have a very small baby to care for.

For much of the year, Rory didn't sleep for long periods of time. She rarely went longer than two hours without waking up needing to be fed or soothed, all while we had building work going on to convert our attic. Don't get me wrong, two very nice problems to have and I count my blessings daily, but I was exhausted. It wasn't the vision I'd had for my maternity leave, and I felt the pressure I'd put on myself to build a business and clients while taking care of a small baby. I talked to Gav one night over the summer about how I was feeling, and a few days later he came back to me with a plan. We were going to re-work our finances, and put find a childminder for Rory for one day a week from the September. It would give her a chance to settle in, and me time to build a business and clients. If by the end of the year I felt like I needed to go back to work then I would, but I didn't need to make a decision until then. I could have space, and time, and the knowledge that Gav believed in me and what I was doing.

For almost three months now, Rory has been going to a childminder every Monday. I miss her like hell, but I know with every fibre of my being that it's the right thing for both of us. She is happy to be there, and even happier to be back home with me. I have been working on my business, and it has been going better than I ever could have expected. So well, that I quit my job. I quit my job! I'm yelling that from the rooftops, can you tell? Until a few weeks ago, I was still trying to do the maths about going back to work. How much would I earn per month if I factored in childcare? Running every scenario through my head and trying to make one feel like it fit, when in truth, there was only one scenario that felt right. Having Rory has changed everything, and changed me in ways I never expected. I want to move forward with her, change with her and show her that I have the courage to follow my dreams like I will teach her to follow hers. I listened to my heart, and I knew there was only one decision that I could make.

And so, here I am. Freelance photographer. Knitting teacher. Working mama. Building a business alongside my family and figuring it all out as I go along. I'll leave you with this quote that I am chanting like a mantra...

"Onward ever, backward never" - Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.

52 project - october

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week 40 - getting stronger on her feet each day. She's happiest when you hold her hands, let her stand up and walk her around the living room.


week 41 - my little performer. She knows exactly what to do to make you smile, laugh and cheer for her. She claps, sings and makes fishy faces on demand.


week 42 - wearing the new hat I knitted her for Winter. It's a bit too small because even though she's measuring in the ninth percentile for body size, her head is measuring in the fiftieth. I love that big old head of hers.


week 43 - every shot is an action shot these days, Rory doesn't like to stay in one place for too long. I have to take a hundred photos of her just to get one useable one, she's a blur. I loved watching her crawl around in the leaves, something so good about little ones scrubbing around in the dirt.

I totally cheated with this month's photos because I only took photos of her with my DSLR on two occasions this month, not every week. But it's good enough. Note to self, take more photos of Rory with my camera!

simple, beautiful, natural with Lafafa

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Since having Rory, I've noticed a shift in my attitude towards many areas of my life. Every day is now so full on, caring for a very mobile nine month old who is into everything and anything. It's so easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of cooking, cleaning, washing and feeding that happens constantly on a daily basis that I find myself craving calm and simplicity wherever I can get it. Suddenly so much of the 'stuff' in our home has become yet another thing to clean, move out of the baby's way, or to clutter up space that we desperately need for more important things.


I've started to question the way I do almost everything, because suddenly there is only time and space for what is essential. I want good quality, for my things to last, to be made ethically and without nasty chemicals, and in general I want less of all of it. Simple, natural, beautiful, ethical, sustainable - these are the things I want in my life. I want to support small businesses, run by people who care about these things too and who work hard to make things better for all of us. I don't want to buy from big multi-national corporations who violate human rights, destroy the environment and don't pay their taxes. Living simpler and more naturally is something I really want to write a lot more about on here at some point, but for now I want to tell you about this wonderful company 'Lafafa' who got in touch with me last year about working together.



Agata and Marcin are the Glasgow based couple behind Lafafa, a sustainable lifestyle company selling soaps, linen towels, wooden combs and a few other items. Everything is made from 100% natural materials and ingredients, their packaging is beautiful and I just love that all their products say 'made on earth'.  They very kindly sent me a wooden comb, a kids' soap, an energising 'Razzle Dazzle Them' soap with coffee and cocoa and a linen tote bag to try out.



The soaps smell as good as they look, really natural and are handmade by Agata and Marcin. The comb is one of my favourite things, because I've looked everywhere for one and not been able to find anything nearly as nice. It has immediately replaced my old plastic one, part of a slow process in our home to switch up everything plastic with natural materials. I'm not throwing out everything plastic at once, just being conscious of new purchases and trying to replace items slowly, making sure I recycle or donate old things where I can.


Lafafa's linen tote bag is so strong and sturdy, a great size for groceries or of course, to store all your yarn. Another great item to help me switch out some plastics for natural materials. I always carry a small tote with me in my backpack in case I need it, and I do my best not to use carrier bags - but I do have a few bags for life that are plastic, and if I forget my tote then I'll buy one and re-use it. It's not perfect, but having a good quality, sturdy tote does go a long way to helping you cut out plastic bags.


I was initially just going to share a photograph of what Lafafa sent me on my Instagram, but when I received the parcel and the note they sent with it I really felt that I wanted to put as much love and kindness into this post as they put into their products and their email exchanges with me. I haven't been paid to do this, just sent some beautiful products by some good people that I want to share with you because I know you will love them too. I think the world needs more kind hearted people who reach out to others with no expectation for what they will get back. I have a lot of admiration for anyone who does that, because it goes against so much of what society teaches us.


Lafafa have very generously offered Bless the Weather readers a discount code for 25% off all items, using the code BLESSTHEWEATHER. There's no expiry date on the code, so you can make a conscious decision when and what to buy rather than feeling you need to impulse purchase to take advantage of the discount. Please do go check out their shop, give them some love on instagram (@lafafa.life) and share the word about their beautiful company and of course the discount code. Thanks Lafafa, for being so kind hearted and generous.

learn to knit - new class dates

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If you've been following my blog for a few years, you'll probably remember that I used to teach knitting classes at my flat every few months. I loved doing them but have had so much going on lately that using our flat as a venue hasn't been an option for a while. Teaching is one of my favourite things to do, and I always had such great people come along to my classes. I've really missed it.

When Rory was about six months old, I started teaching some classes at Tea and Crafting in Camden. It's a great venue that offers a huge range of craft-based classes, including a weaving one that I really want to try. Since then, I've picked up another venue in East Dulwich and am hoping to have another one in Brixton next year. I thought it was about time (a bit overdue actually) that I let you know the dates and locations of my classes so you can come along.

Tea & Crafting
30B Camden Lock Place, 2nd Floor, Camden, NW1 8AL
Click the links below to book.

Wednesday 26th October - Knit a Hat with Pom Pom (improver's class)
Thursday 27th October - Beginner's Knitting
Monday 5th December - Beginner's Knitting

Really Maria
15 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, SE22 8EW
Contact Maria directly via Facebook to book, or call Maria on 02035810909

Tuesday 25th October - Beginner's Knitting / 10am-12.30pm
Tuesday 25th October - Beginner's Knitting / 7-9.30pm
Thursday 10th November - Beginner's Knitting / 7-9.30pm
Tuesday 22nd November - Beginner's Knitting / 10am-12.30pm

These classes are run by the individual venues, so you get a different vibe at each one. All the info for each venue is on their website, just contact them directly with any questions or to book your place.

I'm hoping to start teaching my own classes again at some point soon, and have a found a perfect space in Brixton to use. It's just a matter of getting it together to choose dates and advertise them with the limited time I have right now. Anyone want to be my assistant? I'll pay you in tea and plant cuttings. If you'd like to learn to knit but can't make any of the dates above, do let me know and we might be able to coordinate dates.

Do sign up to my email newsletter as well for updates of new classes and everything else I've been working on. Hope to see you at one of my classes soon!

golden hour portraits / Lucy

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"When the light is this good, you make your friend go twirl around in it so you can take photos. Because to not do that feels like far too big of a waste. I want to say a million things about this picture, but all I'm going to say is this...sometimes, just sometimes, everything comes together between you and a subject - the light, the energy, the inspiration - and it feels like magic."

I posted one of these photos on my Instagram a few days ago with the caption above. It's taken me some time to let my feelings about this shoot and these images settle, and really get the words together to share a little bit of how I feel about them.

Both Lucy and I have been on a very similar journey this year. Our babies were born within a few months of each other, and we've both spent this year trying to figure out what life and work looks like for us now that we have children. How we can pursue our dreams, create work that we love and that fulfils us while also having enough time to nurture our families. We've become sounding boards for each other, cheerleaders, babysitters and business coaches. That perfect mix between dreaming big and getting shit done. Lucy is a pregnancy yoga teacher and is also training to be a doula (find her on instagram: @lu_ledoula, or check out her website). Although our work is different, there is a crossover with the kind of clients we are trying to attract, the way we are trying to build our businesses and the stage that we are both at in our lives and careers.

I shot these images with Rory on my back, while Lucy's little boy River played in the grass next to us. It's not always easy to work with your baby by your side - it's the dream but sometimes, much of the time it's a real disaster. But I love that it doesn't stop us trying. We work when the babies nap, we go to coffeeshops and hope they'll snooze in the pram and give us an hour to answer emails or write a blog post. I take Rory to shoots, and Lucy takes River to classes. Sometimes they play up and we have to admit defeat, and sometimes they're little angels and we get so much done we think we'll have six more babies.

When I look at these images, I feel proud. I'm proud of the work that I've put in this year, of how I keep going, keep getting up and out with my camera even when I've had no sleep and am tired and don't feel like it. To me, they represent what is out there if you just keep going and going and going. Ask for more of yourself, work harder, get better and keep trying. It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic (which if you haven't read it you absolutely must). - "if you show up for your work day after day, you might just get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom".

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that these images feel like they are my bursting right into bloom. Shooting pictures of my friend, twirling around in the fading autumn sun, our babies by our sides while we laughed our asses off. I think we kind of nailed it, and that's a feeling worth holding on to.

I'm trying to gauge interest in offering Golden Hour portrait sessions - just one hour around 4pm, and you'd get about 20 high res images. I'm still figuring out pricing, but email me and we'll chat. If you'd like a sunset shoot like this for yourself, please do get in touch and we'll go make some magic in the evening sun. Send me an email: siobhan.e.watts@gmail.com

52 project - september

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36/52 - we had a picnic by ourselves in the park on the last heat wave of the summer. Totally unplanned, and totally brilliant.


37/52 - I'm going to have to lower the cot base pretty soon, now that she can pull herself up to standing. Thankfully she's in a sleeping bag at night so she can't do this when she wakes up, but it's only a matter of time.


38/52 - bath time is her favourite. She splashes me and makes herself laugh, tips her head into the water to take a mouthful of bubbles and if you put her on her back she kicks like crazy because she's so happy.


39/52 - all of a sudden I have an almost nine month old baby that can stand up and is trying to walk. There's something amazing around every corner, and I can't wait to see what she has to show me next.

the last day of summer

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We had a heatwave in London last week, up to 30 degrees on one of the days and it was so hot. I love the Summer, but in the city things can get too humid and claustrophobic to bear it. I crave space on sunny days, anywhere you might catch a breeze and some leafy shade. I avoid buses, tubes and main roads at all costs because they are the absolute worst places to be in an inner city heatwave.

I called a few friends to see if they were free for a picnic in the park, but all my daytime buddies were busy. I almost had lunch in the house as normal, I almost wasted that very last day of summer by staying indoors. Instead I took Rory to the corner shop, bought everything I thought we should have for a picnic, filled a big basket of food and headed to the park. Just Rory, Elkie and I. Determined to have a mini adventure of our own, on that last day of summer.

I lay on my back under the tree with Rory on my belly. I told her all about the trees and how one day she would walk in that park with me asking questions about everything, and that I would tell her that eating your lunch outdoors is where it's at. I told her that although it's great to plan and to cook all your own food, invite your friends and make your meal look beautiful...that sometimes the best kind of lunch comes from the corner shop, eaten with your dog on a blanket in the park. When you haven't planned any of it at all.

 

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