Moms Make it Work: Jessica | Part-Time, Work-at-Home Mom as a Photography Business Owner

Today we have Jessica posting for us, and she is a real-life friend of Sara--which is how she found me and the Moms Make it Work series. Jessica is mom to Julia (yay!) and Lana, lives in St. Louis, and owns her own photography business. She was previously working as a lady lawyer and now she calls herself a part-time, work from home mom as a photographer. I loved Jessica's post and know you will, too. Enjoy!


Thank you so much, Julia, for hosting this fantastic series and letting me be a part of it! I used to blog, but quit when my second was born (apparently I’ve been saving up all my words for this post!). For now, I can be found on Instagram @jesglunt, and posting about photography at

-What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

In college, I majored in biology and chemistry. I ended up going to law school, planning to do intellectual property law (patents and trademarks). Long story short, I was in law school for the wrong reasons, but by the time I figured out I wanted to bail, I was already neck-deep in debt, so I decided to stick it out. I got my masters degree in biology at night at the same time, which helped me keep one foot in the science world.

In my parallel personal life, I met my husband Robert a few weeks into our freshman year of college, and we were finally dating a few months before we graduated. I decided to attend law school here in St. Louis, conveniently where Robert grew up and where he had a job lined up after graduation. We got married in the summer between my first and second years of law school. We were such babies - just 23!
Photo Credit: Paul Dyer

After graduating law school, I got a job at one of the top firms in town. The projects were great and the people were great, but it wasn’t a great fit for me at the time. Still, the experience and salary were also great, so I stuck with it, hoping things would get better and paying down my loans in the mean time.

After about two years, we could financially swing me quitting in favor of a much less lucrative science job. Part of me wanted to go back to school for a PhD, but I was terrified of more debt and lukewarm on going back to school for so many years unless I was positive that’s what I wanted to do. So, I found a job doing genome research work to test the waters, and I loved it.

Then.... Pregnant!

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

We were thrilled, but the timing wasn’t great. I hadn’t been at the new job long enough to qualify for FMLA, my boss wasn’t especially supportive of the situation, and childcare costs would have entirely eaten up my newly-reduced salary. So, I quit.

Julia arrived in October 2010, and she was fantastic: bright-eyed and easygoing from the get-go.
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Photo Credit: Joel Marion Photography

When she was about six months old, I looked at Robert and said, “Kids are easy. Let’s do this again.” We decided to roll the dice. I was exclusively breastfeeding Julia, and I didn’t really expect to get pregnant right away, so.....

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

We ended up with two darling girls eighteen months apart when Lana was born in April 2012.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

After that, it was simply survival at our house. Lana was very decidedly NOT easygoing as a baby, so we had lots of drama, for a very long time.

When Lana was about eighteen months old, I finally felt like I could keep my head above water again. I had gotten a DSLR when Julia was very young, and I started taking photos of other children and families, just for experience. After doing that for awhile, to reach a comfort level with the workload and with photography itself, I launched an actual photography business. There’s still a lot of change and adjusting happening as I ramp things up, but I feel comfortable calling myself a part-time, work-at-home-mom.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

I do around four photo sessions a month, which are usually during the evening or on weekends, so Robert watches the girls during those. I edit photos and do business-related work during their nap and sometimes after they go to bed. But, I wouldn’t be able to swing this if I didn’t have either my mother-in-law or a babysitter watch the girls for a half day about once a week. When that doesn’t work out (which is more often than I’d like!), I find I fall really behind. Both girls will be in school at the same time for two whole mornings this fall, and I’m hoping that gives me some more time to work on the business.

-What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

I’m not a person who particularly loves staying home with her kids, but I love that I have stayed home. Whether it’s nature or nurture, the girls are just like Robert and me in that they love routine and calmness. Because I stay home, the household runs (relatively) smoothly: there’s always food to eat, someone to stay home with a sick child, and the bedtime routine happens the same way at the same time every day. We’re just not chaos people, and if I worked, we’d ALL have more chaotic lives than any of us would want.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

While there are certainly days when I think I’d be a better mom if I could just get a freaking break from children for a few hours - even if that break is at a paying job! - I think I’m a better mom overall because I stay home. I’m able to approach parenting with a clearer mind and a deliberateness that I wouldn’t be able to manage if I were working full time.

That said, the transition was really difficult for me. I’d always based a large chunk of my identity on school and work success, and to suddenly have that part of me go dormant was really tough, especially on my ego. Suddenly, I was alone with a toddler and a baby, and days could go by without me talking to another adult.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

While lots of my working friends were having babies around the same time, I can’t think of a single friend who also quit her job to stay home full time. Of course I know other SAHMs, but I was a rarity for quitting. Also, because my career path was in flux when I quit, a part of me felt like I just gave up at the working world, like staying home was a symptom of personal failure.


Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

Of course, I always came back around to the fact that Robert and I made this decision because we thought it was best for our family, but it still took me a really long time to come to terms with my new life.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

There’s been an unexpected side effect to me staying home: I’ve grown a lot as a person, and in particular, I’ve become much calmer. Despite hating chaos, I love the busy, GO-GO-GO life, and suddenly dropping off the hamster wheel has forced me to change some things about myself. I’ve had to learn internal validation (no more GPAs or fat paychecks to tell me whether I’m good at life!). I’ve had to learn to cope with stress and disappointment without a cocktail or three. I’ve had to find peace and joy in doing the seven thousand mundane tasks that I do every day - that are usually erased or reversed almost immediately - in service to my family.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

I’ve had to redefine what gives me value as a person. Basically, it’s been a really humbling time, and a time that’s forced me to get back to the basics of what’s important in life. It’s not a lesson I was particularly interested in learning, to be honest, but I’m also learning that I need to try to embrace, rather than control, what life throws at me.

-Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

I don’t know! I never had a firm 5-year-plan, so I’m not sure exactly where I was going, career-wise. Robert and I both had moms who stayed at home, though, so I think that was always in the back of our minds as the more comfortable option. I was never even set on having children, but I knew Robert wanted them when I married him. It was just always ... sometime in the future.
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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

If I could go back and give Young Jessica one piece of advice, it’d be to actually sit down and deliberately plan out our goals for growing a family and try to work a career around that.

-Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

You know, I had written a whole answer to this question, talking about where I’d like to be with my business and how I’d like to tweak the balance between work and family... And then I realized: of course I will always have changes I want to make, because hopefully I’ll always have goals and always be growing.


Photo Credit: Jodie Allen, Fresh Art Photography

And, in that sense, yes, this is my ideal situation. I don’t want it to always be exactly like this, but I love that I’m finally in a season of growth after what felt like a very long season of just barely getting by.

-Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

Like I said, I’m not especially in love with staying home full-time. Of course I love my little bugs immeasurably, and I treasure the moments we have, but child care is not and never will be my thing. I’m viewing these early years as taking one for the family team, and I do hope to make some changes in the next couple years as the girls work their way through preschool and into elementary school.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

But I don’t know what that looks like. It’s unnerving, but I’m trying to embrace the uncertainty. I had no idea, three years ago, that I’d be doing photography right now. I’ve considered everything from growing the photography business to going to medical school to finding another legal job. Everything has its pros and cons, and the decision will just have to be made in a few years when I know what variables we’re working with. I know it’s likely that I’ll always be the more hands-on parent as long as Robert is pulling in our main source of income, and I’m okay with that.

-Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

Just like many other posters have said, I could not do this without my husband. He’s a fantastic, incredibly hands-on father, and we are a 50/50 team. Sure, we divvy up the duties, but we’re both working in one capacity or another from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to whatever o’clock at night when we finally collapse on the couch together.
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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

We communicate a ton, perhaps a nauseating amount. And he has been such a huge support throughout all my transitions - from telling me that I’m a good mom when I desperately need to hear those words, to never once complaining about fielding the kiddos while I’m off taking pictures.
Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

And schedules! The girls are on a daily schedule. Lana’s sleep is still a little unpredictable, but generally, we have meals, nap, and bedtime at the same time, in the same way, each day. I’m not crazy rigid, I swear, but it has to be a pretty special occasion for me to blow off the schedule. Robert and I also sit down with our calendars every few days. We schedule everything - grocery shopping, trips to the gym, even sometimes a block of time to sit down and discuss a difficult topic.

-How do you handle mommy guilt?

Most of my mommy guilt is justified, and I use it to identify areas that I need to change (or motivate me to make those changes), like, “Aw my kids watch too much TV” so maybe I should cut out a show or two.

But my general mommy guilt has lessened as I’ve gotten more mature. I’ve been fortunate to watch many of my friends become mothers, and that’s taught me like nothing else could, how different people have different styles, different priorities, and different constraints, but everyone I know is trying as hard as they can. Parents only have finite resources and everyone is juggling too many balls with not enough arms (ok so metaphors are also not my thing), and as I cut other parents some slack, I do the same with myself. I try my best so I can sit down at the end of the day and find peace in that.
Photo Credit: Jessica Glunt, Emma Constance Photography

Suffering is part of the human condition; I cannot create a perfect life for my kids no matter how hard I try, nor should I want to. My job is to teach them to cope with the bad things, and it’s inevitable I will be the source of some of their sadness. I accept that, and I don’t even think it’s such a bad thing for them to learn that everyone - even their mom - has limits to their patience and time. We all smile when we see each other every morning, and I love them so fiercely. That’s what matters.

Photo Credit: Jessica Glunt, Emma Constance Photography

-Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

Figure out what’s right for you, stand behind it, and let it go. Anyone who gives you a hard time about your decisions is struggling with their own issues, and that has nothing to do with you. People who are secure don’t try to make other people feel insecure; don’t take on anyone else’s baggage.
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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

-How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

I handle 95% of the meals. After Robert and I sync our schedules for the week, I menu plan and do the big grocery shop and farmer’s market on the weekend. I also usually run out mid-week to stock up on perishables. I cook or prep dinner for Robert to grill almost every night of the week, then we eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. We’re in the process of trying to cut down on meals out on the weekends. It’s so nice to take a break from cooking and dishes, but it can get so expensive!

For those interested in minutiae: I usually get our protein in the crockpot either first thing in the morning or over nap. Veggies go in the crockpot too, or they’re prepped for the oven during nap. Carbs are usually combined with either the crockpot or the oven - although I’m not above throwing a box of crackers on the dinner table - and fruit is cut up as we’re setting the table. I’ve accumulated a bunch of great recipes over the past three years, just by trying to make one new recipe a week. Sometimes it’s a bust, but sometimes it’s a keeper, and if it is, it goes in the binder.

-How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

We have a cleaning lady who comes every other week, for deep cleaning, and I don’t know how I’d manage without that. I do very little vacuuming, dusting, etc., otherwise, but I clean the kitchen constantly and pick up the house at least nightly. I’m also constantly moving furniture around and reorganizing things, so something is usually getting deep-cleaned every week. I rotate the girls’ toys so we only have a few out at a time, which helps with pick-up. We also only store toys in our sunroom and our basement, so the main areas of the house stay pretty neat. It’s not perfect, but it works. And as much as I hate cleaning at 9:00 at night, it’s SO worth it to not wake up to a mess.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

If you’re still reading, thank you! And thank you so much, Julia, for letting me enter the “World’s Longest Guest Post” contest! Big hugs to everyone who’s participated, including the readers and commenters. It’s been such a pleasure reading all these posts, and I look forward to the rest of the series!

{Thank you, Jessica ! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. This is one of my favorite posts so far. I absolutely love your honesty, and even though I work full-time, I see myself in you, since I feel like that's just how I'd feel if I were to be a SAHM. I laughed when you said something about getting "a freaking break from children." Yes, everybody needs that.

    And I LOVED the part about suffering being part of the human condition, and that it's your job to teach your kids to cope with that, and that you accept that you will be the source of that suffering sometimes. And that's not necessarily a bad thing! Totally great point and perspective.

    Your girls are beautiful! Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Love this, Jessica! You already know how proud I am of you and all you've accomplished. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to give up a legal and science career for your kids, but you are amazing. You're one of my favorite mommy role models. So many days I wish I could do the same. I admire you for being such a great mom. Your girls love you tremendously and it's so wonderful spending time with you and your adorable family. Thanks for being so honest about the struggles. I see so many amazing things coming soon for you and your new photography career. Love you!

  3. Jessica, thank you so much for your wisdom on other's giving you a hard time about your decisions---I SO needed to hear this after some comments a friend of mine made about me working full time. It totally makes sense that she's just insecure about returning to work part-time herself, but I've been feeling unnecessarily guilty the past few days. Also, gorgeous photos!

  4. Loved this! Honesty is so important to each other and ourselves. Some great advice, even cook one new meal a week.

  5. I loved this post so much! I love the logical way you think about all of this, and the concept of "taking one for the team" by staying home - it is so true, and definitely how I would feel if I stayed home. I'm glad you found a scenario that works for your family, and love your take on mom guilt too!

  6. You guys, thank you so much! Your sweet comments mean so much to me. I'm honored to be a part of this series and humbled that a few things I said resonated with you readers! Thank you. :)

  7. Great post Jessica! I love your honesty about being home and taking one for the family team! I can defiantly relate to that! I love all the planning and scheduling you do -- it really makes a difference for us too. Bedtime routine is rule in our house too... it takes a lot to get me to move from it because we're all tired at that time of day. Thanks for sharing your story and your beautiful family!


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