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I'm Elizabeth, and simply put, I design brands and websites. I mix in marketing strategy, personality galore, and tons of fun to create custom brands, custom websites, and website templates. These designs convert lookers into buyers and take the headache out of the design process. I believe your brand should be a knockout. I'll help you create a captivating + profitable online presence! Join me, won't you?!

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Juggling too much? 4 Keys to Maintaining Your Sanity as a Mom and Business Owner with Ashley Freehan

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Feeling like it is getting harder to maintain your sanity as a mom and a business owner? This episode is for the mama’s out there who sometimes feel that balancing business life with mom life is harder than you signed up for. I’m raising my hand here too. Today on the podcast, we have Ashley Freehan, a brand photographer and a productivity and motherhood coach for mom photographers. She’s also a fellow podcaster, a wife, and a home-schooling mom of two! She’s passionate about helping moms confidently step into the role of CEO in their businesses so that they can manage their limited time with efficiency, intention, and joy without sacrificing their family or their sanity. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Today, Ashley is walking us through 4 keys to maintaining your sanity as a business owner and a mom. We talked about things like:

  • Self-care as moms (in a practical sense for us moms)
  • Setting boundaries with your kids so you can take care of yourself
  • Why working in “small pockets of time” probably isn’t working for you (and what to do instead!)
  • How to be more present (and on your phone less!)
  • How Ashley is currently using social media in her business
  • What your children really need from you as their mom
  • How to focus on what moves the needle

And so much more. Seriously, you are going to love this week’s episode with Ashley Freehan.


Subscribe & download the episode to your device:  Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |   YouTube  |  iHeartRadio

Search for episode 208!

I would love to start by hearing more about what your work schedule is like as a mom. What does the average day look like? What does childcare look like? How are you making it all work? 

I only work about 12 to 15 hours a week, so I have to be very strategic about how I spend that time. It's actually been a real blessing for me to get rid of all the fluff and all the extras and all the time wasters. However, it's been hard to figure out what those are (and I'm still learning every single day).


Planning an Ideal Week

I’m a huge proponent of having an ideal week. Basically, how this works is: you set aside your time blocks for things that are absolutely set in stone, right? Think of things like meetings or anything that has a specific working time or deadline. Then, I love putting my personal stuff in first so that my business fits around my personal life and my homeschooling journey with my kiddos. 

On Mondays, I have childcare in the afternoon for just three hours, where my mom watches my kids. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are kind of “hit or miss” as far as if I get a work block in or not, so I don't count on that. We have a “gym membership” at a local trampoline place, so often we will go there, and I can sit in the food court while the kids jump for a couple of hours. So I might get some work done then, but it’s not really “focused work”. I usually get a lot of the more admin-type stuff done during that time.

Then I do have childcare on Fridays when my kids go to an enrichment program for homeschooled kiddos from 8:15am to 3:10pm. That’s really when I get the bulk of my work done. Finally, on the weekend, I usually will also have a 2-4 hour work block when my husband watches the kids!


getting organized to maintain your sanity as a mom and a business owner


There are a lot of moving parts there between work and your personal life! How are you managing your calendar?

For work, I use Asana, and I literally don't know how I lived without it. I used to use Trello, and it was really hard for me to see all of my tasks in one place. Plus, it was so pretty that I got really caught up in making it pretty instead of just getting stuff done. With Asana, I just go straight into Asana and immediately know what tasks I have for the day and knock those out.

As far as my husband and I, we share a calendar on Cozi Calendar. In there, we both add places we have to be, and when I have photoshoots - that kind of stuff. It’s also where I add on the weekends when my work blocks are going to be. I have a standing appointment that I call my CEO date, so he knows that I have work scheduled during that time.


It sounds like you get most of your work done on Monday, Friday, and the weekend. Do you find any challenges not working more of the days “most people” are working?

I forgot to talk a little more about Wednesdays! They are kind of my “flex day”. In my group coaching program, we do our coaching calls on Wednesday mornings. On weeks we don’t have a call, we have “adventure days” or a “field trip day” where for the kids if we want to go out and do something, we can. 

The nice thing about being an entrepreneur and a homeschooler is that I can change our schedule any time I want to. 

So this “ideal week” that I have, it's in place for the majority of the time, right? But I can always move things around. On top of that, my mother-in-law is retired, and so she will take care of my kids for me as well sometimes.


I love the ideal week concept. How frequently does your ideal week change? Because, for example, your kids are a bit older than my son, who is a toddler. How has the ideal week changed?

It has changed a lot (and I have learned a lot). I so wish I would have known about this concept when I was raising my little ones. But I would say beforehand, my schedule was really limited. I was always working in pockets of time, like when my kids would take a nap or if I had like a friend that could come over and swap babysitting with me. It was more haphazard. And honestly? I prioritized my motherhood and I just didn't prioritize my business at all. 


Stop working in the pockets of time

If I had advice for people who have young ones, I would absolutely still recommend creating an ideal week, but I wouldn't count on nap times. Nap times would be a bonus. Instead, I would find other ways to get that protected childcare time because something that I see a lot of educators teaching is “glorifying working in the cracks”. It’s kind of like, “Oh, we're just moms. We work in the pockets of time”. 

But honestly, it doesn't work that way. You're always going to be feeling overwhelmed. I remember that feeling. I remember even feeling resentful towards my kids because I had to work, and of course, they just don't understand. It wasn't from a need of “desperation” like I needed the money either. It was more like, “I need an escape outside of motherhood. I need something for myself. I have a purpose outside of just cleaning up noses and changing diapers.”

I want to encourage all these mamas that are reading or anyone listening that it is so important that you have protected time so that you can be a mom when you're in mom mode. Separation is going to be what really helps to decrease overwhelm and also increase your efficiency in both areas. So to answer your original question, I would say it's changed a lot. I started from the chaos that felt like, “oh, I have a few minutes; okay, quick, let me do something”. But there was no plan/intention, and it was always reactive. Definitely not what I recommend.


I can relate to so much of that - especially during the 6-12 month age when we did not have any significant child care help. I was always working in the “pockets of time” or when my husband was watching Colin (but his work schedule is more set in stone). I love what you said about nap time being a bonus. It’s hard to account for nap time because you might be looking at one or two naps a day and then sometimes they are 45 mins, and other times they are an hour and a half. It can be really overwhelming if that’s your everyday experience.


Read More: My Top 4 Productive Mom Hacks for Running a Successful Business with a Baby or Toddler


4 keys to maintaining your sanity as a mom and a business owner


Ashley Freehan shares 4 keys to maintain your sanity as a mom


1. Prioritize Self Care

What does self-care really look like as a mom?

I know that like a lot of people don't want to hear this because they know that they need to work on it, right? I ask moms, “what do you do to take care of yourself?” and they're like, “what?” Then, their eyes glaze over and they're like, “I eat” or something like that. 

I always say: If you do not prioritize your self care, no one else will.

Personally, I hit a really low point probably like four or five years ago where I remember crying in my closet and asking myself, “who is going to take care of me? I have needs too, right?”. And I remember feeling like, I don't want this life. I don't want to stay at home. I felt almost stuck - like I had to stay at home because someone had to take care of the kids. right? But I also just got to a point where I was like, I don't want to only be a mom.

I just felt God speak to me at that moment that say, “You have to take care of yourself. I will sustain, I will support you, I will be there. But you have to take steps too.”

And I was like - oh yeah, I don't know why I forgot that, right? But when you have kids, it just feels like their needs take over. And so I finally was like, okay, what does it look like to prioritize my self-care? And self-care goes beyond going to get your nails done and getting a massage. Those are bonuses. The things that are going to sustain you are things like creating a self-care routine that fills you up in the morning before the day starts. Or maybe your self-care routine does take place during nap time, or maybe it's at night. Whenever you have that time, you have to protect it. It's not something that you're ever going to have left over.


Read More: Self Care, Boundaries, Burnout, And Living Intentionally As An Entrepreneur With Callie Ammons

Wake up Boundaries

Adding to that, I have a wake-up boundary with my kids. My self-care time is in the morning, so if they wake up at 6 am, they're not allowed to come bug me until 7:30 am. And of course, you think “they are older and that’s probably really easy for them,” but I have to say, it’s not. It doesn't matter what age your kiddos are. It's not easy for your kids to entertain themselves unless they've been trained to entertain themselves. 

With that said, of course, the boundary has looked different. Maybe when you have a younger toddler, they're going to need you more. But you have to set that expectation and let your children know that they are important, yes, but so are you. You are important because if you're not functioning properly, you can't be the mom you want to be. You can't be the spouse and the wife you want to be. You can't be the friend. You can't be the business owner. A lot of moms are running on caffeine and a prayer, and they're just hoping they can get through the day to survive. That's not what I want for you guys. I want you to thrive in your motherhood. And it starts with taking care of yourself.


So true. I even told Adam about your morning boundary thing because I heard it on your podcast and I told him we have to start working toward something like that. I think too, we bring that “business owner” energy into motherhood and we want to please people. It’s easy to self-sacrifice and feel like you don't get anything because “my kid needs this”. Like, yeah, I’m trying to eat in peace but he wants to nurse now even though we just nursed thirty minutes ago. It’s hard to say no.

maintaining your sanity as a mom


What are some ways that you see moms neglecting their self-care? How do we make self-care a priority?

I think the basics of self-care are going to be based on what you need. So it could be, “I just need 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning so I can drink my coffee” or it could be “I need 30 minutes where I can read”. Or maybe you want to study your bible or do a workout or not cook dinner every night.

Sometimes you also don't really know what you need until you are in the middle of it either. So, for example, if you are making dinner and you're getting frustrated and suddenly feel like, “Why do I always have to make dinner? Why is this falling on my shoulders?” then maybe a self-care boundary for you is going to be something around not being in charge of dinner all by yourself anymore. And ask yourself: how can I include my kids in the process? My kids are eight and eleven, and they can help with the meal plan. I’ve told my husband that making the meal plan for the whole family is stressful because everybody likes something different, and I need everyone's input. We make meal planning a family thing, so it doesn’t just fall on my shoulders.

When I think of self-care, it really can be anything that you need that's not being met. I've said this a lot on my podcast, but self-care is not selfish, right? I think a lot of people feel guilty because “they just want to go out with their friends,” and it’s like, why? You should be able to go out with your friends. Not every night, of course, but leaving your spouse to take care of the kids one night is not selfish. Ask your partner what they need for self-care too.


Giving kids self-care time 

My kids have their own self-care time (which we call quiet time), but it took the place of their nap when they phased out of nap time. Now, it's just time that they can spend by themselves in quiet doing whatever they want to do. I also use the word “self-care” with my kids often too.


I think we all have a tendency to be reactive as mothers, and then you realize it isn't working because we've been doing all the things. So instead of trying to take more control, we can just step back and say “maybe I don’t want to cook dinner every night,” or “maybe I will go out with friends tonight”. I love the practicalness of that.


2. Give Your Kids What They Need First

This one surprises people (especially after we talk about prioritizing self-care). Here's what I mean by this: kids need a few basic things outside of food and shelter. Really, they need:

  1. Attention
  2. Control
  3. Present Parents


Your Kids Need Attention When They Are Annoying You

When your kiddos are annoying you, and you feel that agitation when they're like tapping you on the shoulder and saying “mommy, mommy, watch me, watch me, look, look, mom”, that’s when you know they need your attention. Attention is huge. Kids will look for attention even if it's negative. 


mom gif


Your Kids Need Control When They Are Defying You

If you're starting to feel really mad at your kids, that's when you know they need more control. Elizabeth, as your little one is getting into the two year old stage (which I like to call terrific twos), it is really hard. I really like that they have autonomy, but that’s also when they start to defy. And it gets a huge reaction, right?


Lastly, Your Kids Need Present Parents

Lastly, you don’t always want to be shooing your kids away, and you want to make sure that you're inviting them to be a part of what you're doing. With my daughter the other day, we were talking about how I'm launching this brand-new coaching program. I was talking to her about my masterclass ideas and she wanted to help brainstorm with me. I just hosted an in-person meeting last night and she asked, “mom how did your meeting go?”. 


So I really do think it’s important to invite your kiddos along to be present with you along your journey because it just makes life so much more enjoyable. Your kids want to be a part of what you're doing and I know it's easier to just shoo them away sometimes and say “oh, you wouldn't understand” or “it's too grown up for you” but honestly our kids can learn so much from us if we're just to be present, put our phones down, shut our laptops when they're talking to us, and just get on their level, look them in the eye, and give them the time of day. 


Giving your kids what they need first

So just to summarize what I mean when I say give your kids what they need first, I mean that giving your kids the positive attention they need upfront at the beginning of the day is going to be a game changer in their attitude and in their willingness to comply for the rest of the day. When you notice that your kids are being defiant, give them more choices. Throughout the day, keep your kiddos involved. When I’m preparing gifts for the speakers at my summit, for example, I love to send them a gift and my kids help me pack the boxes and tape the labels. They think it’s fun.


3. Get Organized

As a motherhood coach, what is the third thing we need to do to maintain our sanity as a mom and business owners?

I mentioned earlier that I only work 15 hours a week and in order to maintain that schedule, I have to be organized. And that's just something that doesn't come naturally to a lot of creative people (myself included). I did not use to be organized. I used to be very overwhelmed with all the things I had to do. I used to fly by the seat of my pants. I wanted to be “spontaneous”, and I didn't want to plan out everything. But what I eventually realized was that living in that chaotic state was not good for my stress level. And it definitely was not good for my productivity level because I was always frazzled.

So now, I always encourage people to know the specific things they need to work on, and make a plan for when those things are getting done. Personally, I always had a huge never ending to do list, but I never had any strategy or idea for how I was actually going to execute it all. So even if you are like me, and you aren’t “naturally” organized, it really is important for maintaining your sanity as a mom and a business owner. 


I love that. I know I feel like I'm a pretty organized person, but then having a child made me have to be WAY more organized. It like requires a different level of planning when you have less time to work. 

When we have limited time, what are some things we should consider cutting? How can we evaluate what’s really not moving the needle in our business?

First, I think we can all work on our social media consumption and creation. I know that took so much of my time (from thinking about what I wanted to post, creating content, and just an overwhelming amount of time feeling like I needed to be on the platform all the time). So when I say social media consumption, I’m talking about how much time you are spending consuming it, but also how much time you are on it for your business. 

For fellow photographers: I also lost a lot of time to the post-production of editing. I feel like I was so fixated on how it had to be perfect. Even if you are not a photographer I’m sure you can relate if you struggle with perfectionism. I would find myself feeling like I need to go do it again at least three more times because it’s not perfect. Now, I don’t have time. 

Perfect is not an option. Perfect is not even available to anyone. I don't know why I was always striving for it. Sometimes you need to be okay with “B work”. Done is better than perfect.


I totally agree and I think we all can struggle with that at times but I do find encouragement in the idea that you can do “B work” and have it still be absolutely amazing for your clients and customers.


Read More: Don’t Mom Alone: How These Working Moms Have Help Inside the Home (and Their Top Tips for Getting Help with Your Kids, Business, and Household)


How do you stop yourself from being on your phone too much (especially around your kids)?

I think you guys can probably all relate to this, but I feel like Instagram has this weird power over me where when I open my phone my hand just gravitates to the app no matter where I put it. And then as I’m scrolling on Instagram, I’m also comparing myself to every other photographer out there. For me, I think it was worse when my kids were little because I would look at all these other photographers and business owners who were so successful and I would compare myself to them but they also didn't have kids, right? So it’s hard. Kids change everything. You don’t know how much your life changes until you have kids. 


Deleting Instagram Off Your Phone

Recently, I decided to experiment and delete the app for four weeks from my phone. And it was actually really glorious. I loved not having the pressure of getting on the app every day. But even still, I feel this pressure of “you have to be on there - you're a business owner”. But I really do feel like God is working into my heart and I need to let go of that.

If deleting Instagram seems too extreme, another thing that I did to help limit my own consumption was charging my phone in another room at night. That way, I wasn't going to bed on my phone and I also wasn't waking up on my phone. I've seen my screen time decrease just because of that. I also try to just put my phone down in our charging drawer when I’m not trying to be on it because I will find myself grabbing it for no reason. It’s insane.


When you were off social media for those four weeks, were you literally not posting from anywhere or were you just not using it on your phone?

I'm trying to use Facebook more honestly.  I feel like people are going on Instagram to be entertained. Their attention span is so short on Instagram. I'm noticing lately that like 90% of my conversions are coming from Facebook. So I decided to focus there, especially in local Facebook groups. It feels like I’m cultivating relationships with my local community instead of on Instagram where it often feels like I’m competing with a lot of noise. 

Now, I really only go on Instagram on my desktop to check messages and post the latest episode on my podcast. 


4. Be Realistic

The fourth key to maintaining your sanity as a mom and business owner is to be realistic. I can't tell you what my capacity used to be before having kids, but I can tell you it was greater. I had so much more energy. I got so much more done. Obviously, there were fewer distractions and I was so much more productive. With that said, since having kids, I really do think I’ve become more efficient. 

There is a huge difference between being productive and being efficient. Being productive means you're getting a lot of stuff done, but being efficient means you are getting a lot of the RIGHT stuff done. 

This changes too. Like for you, Elizabeth, what you can handle now with an 18-month-old is going to be very different than what you can handle when your child is eight years old. You have to take into consideration your season and give yourself grace knowing that just because you can’t get everything done now, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get it done in the future.

Beyond seasons, I also think this is really important even when you're just talking about a time block. I used to sit down and time block my schedule and be like, “okay, I'm going to batch all my tasks in this time block”. And then I would look at the tasks and realize, there's absolutely no way I can get six things done in three hours. Why would I think that was possible? I also recommend people track their time so they can get better at being realistic with their time.


Read More: Try These 5 Strategies to Get More Done with Your Limited Time in the 1st Year of Motherhood and Business. 


What do you use for tracking your time?

I use toggl. I know it has an Asana integration but I personally haven’t tried it yet.


How do you wrestle with not feeling like all of your free time needs to go to your work when work time feels so limited? 

I think it comes back to the idea of an ideal week again. In your ideal week, there should be margin, there should be time for your self-care, and there should be time for all of those other fundamental needs, right? Your work needs to only fit into the containers that you have set aside for work. If your work is exceeding the amount of time you have to give to it, then you need to pare down your work. That's my thought process and honestly, it has really given me back freedom. I know when I have time to do household things or go out with my friends. I have it scheduled.

The key to this is to regularly assess. If you're seeing that you are adding a lot of tasks and a lot of tasks are getting bumped, then you need to go assess again. Ask yourself, “What do I need to change? Because clearly, I can't have 18 tasks due today”. Ask yourself: Do you need to delegate? Do you need to let go of something (or things)? 


I love that. And I love how you create a lot of structure to avoid letting work slip in. I know for me, I feel like time scares me sometimes, even when it doesn’t exist. From the moment nap time starts I’m like, “okay, what am I going to do now?”. And sometimes I think the best thing I can do is nothing. 

maintain your sanity as a mom and a business owner by scheduling time for fun


As a motherhood coach, what would you say to the mom feeling really burnt out right now?

First of all, you're not alone. We all feel like that. Every mom that has a business, if they tell you that they don't feel like work-life balance is impossible some days, they're lying. It’s so hard. Some days I'm crying and I'm like, “why am I doing this?”. And the next day I'm feeling like this is amazing. It's just a roller coaster ride and you have to have people on your side that understand what you're going through. That's actually why I started my in-person community. I needed to know that there were other moms that were ambitious, that were killing it in business, and that they also struggle sometimes. 

I think there is beauty and hope in knowing that you're not alone and that it's not easy. It's not for the faint of heart to do both. It's hard work, but it's worth it. 


Read More: If Being a Mom and a Business Owner Feels Really Hard, Listen to This with Joy Michelle


Rapid Fire Questions with Motherhood Coach Ashley Freehan

What's a purchase that is $100 or less that has positively impacted your life in the last six months? 

I have two! First, a portable laptop charger. It’s technically $113 but it's so good. Now when I'm at a Starbucks and I can't reach the plug or when I’m at the park with my kids, I always have power. Second, I have a time cube from Amazon. It was about $18 and it helps me be more productive because not only does it have a clock that helps keep you on time, it also has a quick timer you can start for 5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes.

What is a bad recommendation that you hear in the motherhood space that you would say to a newer mom listening “hey, you should probably ignore that advice”.

That moms should just work in the pockets of time, anywhere, and everywhere. I think it's really important that you identify your work blocks first. If you feel like you have no time, ask yourself: What time can you create? How can you get creative with your child care? For example, you can have co-working play dates with a fellow mom business owner, where you'll both work and then just kind of tag team taking care of the kids.

bad advice for moms


What's a book you wish you could give to everyone listening because it's that good? 

I have two again! First, is Atomic Habits for a more business-related book. As for a personal recommendation, I also loved Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. Those are both my absolute favorites.

Connect with Ashley Freehan

I am hosting a summit starting in two weeks called Focused Mom Photographer Summit. It's going to be four incredible days with 19 different speakers, all about how to really own the role of CEO in your business, streamline your processes, skyrocket your marketing, and then really increase your profitability. It's really going to help moms get clear and focused on what they should be working on in their photography business. 

Then, my podcast is called The Purpose Gathering podcast. It's a great place for encouragement, tips, and strategies, and is again, all about motherhood, business, and photography, and it's such a fun place. You can also find me on Instagram @thepurposegathering too! We will see how much longer I hang out there!

A personal recommendation from Elizabeth: I adore The Purpose Gathering podcast. , I've gotten a lot out of it as a non photographer. So for people who are listening, who aren't photographers, still check it out. If you're a mom who wants to learn from another mom who's doing the business thing in limited hours, I think you’ll love it!


Trying to Maintain Your Sanity as a Mom + Also Need a New Website?

I hope you’ve seen in this episode that your time matters now more than ever. You may be under the impression that a new website has to be expensive, time-consuming, or cause you a lot of headache. Maybe that’s even been your experience in the past but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be. My Elizabeth McCravy shop templates give you a completely custom website feel at a template price tag. 

They are also really easy to set up - most of my template customers get their new website up in less than two months WHILE working their job and just working on their website on the side. I’ve had a ton of people who have had a little more time to dedicate to it get their website up in less than two weeks. You also get a ton of support from my team and I even include a Showit blueprint course to help walk you through it from start to finish.

This week, I’ve also launched a BRAND NEW website template (her name is Carrie) and she’s sleek, bold, and sophisticated. If you have loved my templates in the past but are hoping for a more neutral and darker color palette, this one might just be for you. Check it out here!

Website Template Sale!

All of my Showit templates are 27% off right now in celebration of my 7 year business anniversary! This flash sale ends Wednesday, 4/5 at 11:59 pm CST. So, shop now, my friend!  Just use the code “BIZBIRTHDAY” to get that discount! It applies to all templates (including the NEW  Carrie template ) and all payment plans.

Links Mentioned:

NEW! Shop the Carrie website template

Shop all of the Elizabeth McCravy Shop templates

Sign Up For the Focused Mom Photographer Summit

Connect with Elizabeth on Instagram

Connect with Ashley on Instagram

Check Out Ashley’s Website

Listen to The Purpose Gathering Podcast

Watch the Interview on Youtube

Grab a Copy of Atomic Habits by James Clear 

Grab a Copy of Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

April 4, 2023

Explore more categories:  Business, Entrepreneurship, Interviews, Motherhood, Podcast

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I'm Elizabeth, and simply put, I design brands and websites. I mix in marketing strategy, personality galore, and tons of fun to create custom brands, custom websites, and website templates. These designs convert lookers into buyers and take the headache out of the design process. I believe your brand should be a knockout. I'll help you create a captivating + profitable online presence! Join me, won't you?!

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