This interview is a part of a career profile series we are doing to support and encourage each other as moms in many different seasons and walks of life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How many children do you have? What is your favorite part of being a mother?
Hi, I’m Melanie Reyes! I’m a wife and mother of four children, ages 9 to 15 years old.
As a mom, it has been so awe-inspiring to get to know my children — to learn their individual intricacies, what makes them tick, what brings them JOY. Each and every one of our children has their gifts, strengths, and of course weaknesses, and it’s like a lifelong puzzle to discover them.
Motherhood can be full of all of these monotonous, mundane, sometimes thankless tasks, but when we step back to see the whole picture, and the whole child, a beautiful purpose is revealed.
I love helping my children know who they are, and guide them as they discover how to use those gifts for good in the world (alongside my husband, the best teammate). Being a mom is the absolute greatest joy of my life, an amazing gift that I am so grateful to have received four times over.
How did you become a photographer and how did you start your own business? What inspired you to pursue this career?
Twelve years ago, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. We had a 2.5-year-old and a 1-year-old at the time, and it had been a tough few months — my husband got a new job and we moved across the country. I was overwhelmed.
I remember one day my two children and I walked to a local library with my full belly, and I found books on photography. I dove in head first. I had been looking for something I could learn and pursue while being a mom of young children.
As I explored the world of photography, I felt so alive and blessed to be able to do so right alongside my children, on the floor playing with them, while capturing their fun adventures. While they slept, I read and read and scoured the Internet for advice on photography, how to use my cameras, how to shoot in manual, all the ins and outs of photography.
Within the year, I was asked to do photography sessions. As a young mom, I knew that for me, photography was either going to be a personal hobby to capture my own family, or that I could start my own business and create an income to help support my family. I knew I couldn’t afford to leave my family just for a hobby.
Now, here I am twelve years later with my own business (Melanie Reyes Photography), and I’m so grateful to still be doing this.
Photography has helped me to truly see and appreciate life’s moments, the beautiful world around us, and the incredible human spirit. I’ve been honored to photograph the beginning and the end of life. I’ve witnessed people in intense moments of joy, anxiety, and sadness. I constantly think of the historical value of an image: “if I weren’t here, this moment or person or event wouldn’t be preserved.” That’s a real privilege.
I started learning about photography because it brought joy and creativity to the overwhelming tasks of being a young mom, and I can earnestly say it still brings me immense joy.
How are you making your job work for you as a mom?
Owning my own business has allowed me to be home with my children more, although the logistics of how I work and how I am a mom have changed many times over the years.
I think it’s helpful to continually re-evaluate if your work/life balance is on track or if you need to change things.
For example, when I started my business I was not at all working full-time. I really couldn’t have! When I had young babies at home, it was very hard to find the time to squeeze in my business. I spent many late nights editing or worked during naps. I was exhausted most of the time (although, what mom of babies isn’t?).
Back then, it made sense for me to work mostly on weekends because it allowed us not to have to hire childcare (thank you, hubby!). It was tense and stressful and I found myself often divided, trying to be a great business owner while also excelling at being a mom.
I know a lot of you mamas feel that stress. I still do at times. How can I be kind to myself, give all encompassing support to my husband and children, and not drop any balls while working? It’s tough stuff.
Mamas of little ones, I encourage you.
Life is so much different now that my children are older. All four of my children are in school full-time. My weekdays are quiet. I get to the gym a few mornings a week, and can have lunch dates with friends. I try really hard to be “just” a mom from 3:00 p.m. (when I get my children at school) until they’re all settled, which now is sometimes 10:00 p.m. or later.
I’ve traded those endless days at home changing diapers to driving teenagers around — and worrying about whether we are preparing them for all these life challenges they face.
I’m grateful to be able to drive my children to school and pick them up afterwards, take them to sports and be around when they wrestle with homework. These small things have created beautiful routines and rhythms in our family life.
Things change, and it’s always good to change with them: in this stage of our lives I’ve been seeking out ways to do a little less weekend work, because now, I have endless opportunities to be an active, involved parent on the weekends, and it’s hard to miss those!
Last year, I opened up a second business called Love Lundi. We photograph entrepreneurs, local shops, nonprofit organizations and schools to infuse them with professional photographs that capture their mission or brand. My goal with launching this business is to find a balance with my wedding and portrait business (that I still love!) and Love Lundi, where I can shoot during the week while my kids are in school.
Is it a perfect balance? No, but nothing is! As life often goes, my work/life balance ebbs and flows, and we find what works best in that moment.
Last year I photographed 28 weddings, 5 bar/bat mitzvahs, 118 portrait sessions and 40 sessions for Love Lundi. In this season of our family life, I’m able to work this much.
I also have amazing support around me, namely my husband who supports me and cheers me on, and is so involved in our children’s activities when I cannot be. Also, my mother-in-law lives with us and supports both of us. We could not do this without each other.
I find my work very fulfilling. It energizes me and I find that it makes me a happier person, wife, and mother. And when I walk into the house after a long, 10-hour wedding day, having poured my energy and heart into my work, I walk through the door eager to reconnect with my family.
But I can easily slip into working too much, or always saying “yes” to the jobs that are presented. It takes immense intentionality to protect my time with my family. It has taken a lot of practice to learn how to say NO when I really shouldn’t take on one more thing, or stay at a job one hour later. I haven’t always done that well, but learning to set boundaries has helped.
What advice would you have for other working mothers who are trying to achieve a balance between working and serving their families at the same time?
Making room for motherhood takes time, patience, and constant re-evaluation. I think it’s important for all women to remember that YOUR journey is only your own. And comparing with other moms on how much they work vs. how much they are at home, or how they create space for work or for motherhood, could sometimes give you some ideas, but the answers need to come from your own heart and your family’s needs.
Of course we’d all love a job that pays well, is completely flexible, allows us to be home when we’re needed, etc. But those jobs are few and far in between.
Rather than hold women to impossible standards, I think we need to applaud women who are making their jobs work for their own, unique family — whether as a sacrifice because her family needs it, or because she simply loves her work, and feels more alive when she has time to pursue it.
As women, we should support one another in our own journeys, and realize that being a healthy, loving parent looks different for each person. We all need support, as mothers!
So: that mom you’ve been thinking about lately? Text her and let her know that she’s doing a great job. We are all in motherhood together, and it’s much easier with extra encouragement, support, and community.
Article feature photo by Avenue Creative.
You may also like: