Q&A with Photographer Abigail Smith
BR: What do you love most about being a mom?
AS: This is hard to pick, but I suppose it would be getting hugs from my children, hearing their different names for me– “Mama, Mom, and Mem–” and watching them truly enjoy each other’s company. Even with the gap in years (11-year-old daughter, 8-year-old son, and one-year-old daughter), they have a special bond. When I see them playing together and treating each other with respect, I know my husband and I have done something right.
BR: What is the number way in which motherhood has changed you?
AS: Motherhood has made me flexible. (Figuratively more than physically, but physically too!) With the first baby, I had to learn to slow down and allow a tiny person to dictate the schedule: awake at three in the morning every night and then again at five-thirty for almost two years? OK, we’ll make it work. Then I quit my job before I got pregnant with my second child—another major change for us—so two tiny people began to call the shots, as far as how we would be spending our time. Kid number two hated going to my daughter’s activities, and while he was an angel at home, he’d make lots of noise and get a bit wild to the point I would almost lose it. So I just learned that I had to entertain him in an over-the-top way. I packed his entire Thomas the Train set and took it to my daughter’s play practice. I never thought I would be that kind of parent, but that’s the beauty of it—you never know what you’re going to get! (And once I figured that out about him, he was an angel once again.)
I am glad that I experienced all of it. I have become completely accommodating and tolerant of others as a result. Going to be late turning in a project? OK, we’ll make it work…
BR: Why did you choose to breast-feed each of your children?
AS: While I was definitely apprehensive about breastfeeding, I knew it was the right thing to do. I worried about allergies, which are prevalent in my husband’s family, and I wanted my kids to have higher IQs and healthier immune systems than formula-fed babies. Whether or not nursing actually contributed to it or not, my older daughter (now eleven) was sick only a handful of times between birth and age five!
I didn’t make it to the one-year mark with the first two, but with my youngest, we managed to hit that big milestone. I am thankful we were able to breastfeed successfully and that I could give them that special start to life.
BR: While breast-feeding, what was your day-to-day style? Did you ever wear maternity clothes during or after your pregnancy?
AS: I did wear maternity clothes, unfortunately. I wish Bu Ru had been around a decade ago! I gained a lot of weight with my first baby (55 pounds!), and I really didn’t have much choice. With my second and third pregnancies, I did a combination of traditional maternity clothing and regular clothing—those with forgiving waistlines and items tailored in the chest and arm areas only.
I confess I had a couple of super-comfy maternity leggings and stretch pants that I wore after pregnancy. My weight bounced back fairly quickly with all three kids, so I didn’t have to wear them for long!
I have never been a fan of clothing designed specifically for nursing. How unflattering it is to have flaps to lift for feeding!
BR: I know during the Shop Bu Ru photo shoot you took breaks to pump. How do you balance work and motherhood? What’s been a challenge? What’s been a breeze?
AS: I have been fortunate enough to work at places that understood (and were supportive) of motherhood. With my last baby, I worked in a small office comprised of only women. Everyone knew if the break room door was shut, I was pumping. All my co-workers were mothers, so it was very simple. Interestingly enough, when I quit my full-time job at the office to pursue a full-time work at home, balancing career and motherhood had been rough. I still haven’t achieved the perfect schedule. (I’m always working when my husband has a day off or the baby is sleeping—no matter what time of day—so it always feels like I’m plugged in.) Our nanny resigned this past summer to pursue a full-time teaching job, and we loved her so much we couldn’t find the right replacement. So without outside help, I guess you could say that’s been quite a challenge.
BR: I’ve read that you have three children, three rabbits, two cats, two birds, and countless fish and caterpillars. How do you and your husband manage work and home life?
AS: Well, I have to add to the list. We now have a Great Pyrenees puppy named Jane Austen and will be adding more animals to our little menagerie soon. We just bought six acres, bordered on three sides by a nature preserve. We have big plans for the place, including an outdoor photography studio. My husband and I are both crazy-busy almost all of the time. The keys to successfully balancing a wild work schedule and a happy home life are to be organized, have good time management, and remember to be thankful. While we haven’t completely mastered all three yet, we are constantly working on them. I think being thankful is the most important of the three. We are so lucky to have three happy and healthy children as well as careers we love. It’s not easy, but we have learned to enjoy whatever time we get together as a family, even if it’s just breakfast as a family in the morning or taking a walk on Sunday evenings. It is a blessing that I can be home, so even though my office hours reach full time, I don’t have to commute, and I can take a break if necessary to take care of whatever needs to be taken care of. We hope one day to slow down and have more down time together, but it might be a while, especially as we start this new journey in our lives.
BR: What are your five favorite pieces from Shop Bu Ru and how do they work into your mommy lifestyle?
AS: First let me say that I LOVE everything at Bu Ru. If I had the money, I would own one of everything. Now that I’ve moved to the country, I am extra appreciative of The Washable Collection. I especially love my Niki Biki leggings—a great price and very flattering—and my Yummie shaping tank. As a photographer I wear a ton of black and darker colors (like 75% of my wardrobe is black), and Bu Ru has plenty of options to fit that bill (my Sis Sis collarless blouse is perfect for photo sessions and looks great paired with a scarf or chunky jewelry). I’ve got my eye on a Zoa blouse (in black, of course) and I am totally in love with the Sam & Lavi black crepe crossover blouse with pants that match. All of those are just right for looking stylish while working, carting kids around to a zillion activities, toting around my youngest, and, of course, for nursing!
I love the dressier clothing too, although I don’t get much opportunity to glam it up these days. I ordered the Sweet Pea houndstooth wrap dress, and it’s adorable. I will be picking up something for the holiday season as well, and I might actually get something RED or brightly colored, as opposed to my usual black.
BR: What is a typical weekend like for you and your family?
AS: The kids are home from school, but my husband works Saturdays (he’s a fine-dining chef). I usually have photo sessions on Sundays, so our weekends are pretty hectic. But we give our kids plenty of down time on the weekends and make sure they get to their activities and to their friends’ houses, etc. Our family time centers around meals, and any additional time we can be together is a wonderful bonus—vacations, for example, are probably a thousand times more memorable to us because of the chance to be all together for a week or so is an absolute dream.
BR: I’ve read that you photograph an array of events. What is your favorite type of event and/or subject to shoot? Why?
AS: Honestly, from photographing restaurant menu items to elaborate weddings to theater performances to intimate family reunions, I haven’t had a job I didn’t like. When someone hires a photographer, for whatever reason, the event is important to that person. And I have this incredible chance to make people happy and to help them preserve a moment in time forever. I don’t think there are many careers that are as rewarding.
I will say that the Bu Ru fashion shoots were definitely near the top of my list of gigs I enjoyed. The amount of creativity and passion surrounding Morgan and Brett [Shop Bu Ru founders] was contagious. We worked extremely long hours, but I had a blast.
BR: In terms of nutrition, did you eat anything in particular while pregnant or while breast-feeding if you breast-fed? Was there anything you eliminated from your diet? Was there anything you craved but wouldn’t allow yourself to eat? Why did you make these changes to your diet?
AS: I never skipped a prenatal vitamin while pregnant and breastfeeding. Other than that, my diet varied with each child. Morning sickness dictated what I could (and could not) stand for almost half of each pregnancy, and for the second half, I always seemed to have trouble with my blood sugar level (finally getting gestational diabetes with the last baby) so I stuck to nutritious, lower-carb foods almost exclusively. I ate incredibly well with her, and it showed. My hair was extra shiny, my skin glowed, and I carried her out in front—all baby. It was a fantastic diet; I wish I had stuck with it!
BR: How did you stay in shape during and post-pregnancy?
AS: With my first pregnancy, I exercised religiously, watched every little thing I put into my mouth, indulged in ice cream only ONCE, and gained fifty-five pounds! With the other two, I didn’t gain as much (in fact half as much with the last one), but I really only walked to keep in shape. I didn’t change my routine much after I had my kids, either, just added a stroller.
BR: What is the one thing you wish you would have known before becoming a mom?
AS: I have had an amazing journey so far. I don’t think there’s anything that’s brought me down when it comes to parenting, unless you count homework. I’m not a fan of [having to help my kids with] homework.
Thank you so much, Abigail Smith!
Check out her work on Shop Bu Ru and on her website HERE.