Let’s face it, one of the top challenges we face as parents and business owners is what to do with the kids while we work. With child care costs on the rise, it’s even more pertinent that we create a strategy that will work for us and our family. The number one benefit of running your own business is that you are the boss. You get to set the hours you work and when you work. It’s about creating a business that fits around your lifestyle as well as that of your family. Anything other than that and you are creating yourself a job.
It’s about creating a business that fits around your lifestyle as well as that of your family. Anything other than that and you are creating yourself a job
Now that’s easier said than done, particularly when you are starting your business from scratch and potentially bootstrapping it too. Everyone’s situation is going to be different because everyone is different and the needs of your family are different too. I will share with you what works for me so you can see an example of how you can create your own business-family strategy.
Planning is key. Every Sunday I sit down and plan the week out. I look at what business commitments I have, what I want to achieve for the week as well as my to do list so I can structure my work week. I also look at what personal activities and commitments my daughter and I have. I have a magnetic calendar on the fridge that shows me my whole week in detail and every time I open the fridge (if there is chocolate in there that can be often!) I get reminded of what I have going on.
Even if you work from home, you need some sort of help so you can get what I call the “focused work” done. As a solo mum, I am very fortunate and grateful to have the help of my parents when it comes to looking after my daughter. That being said, I am also conscious of not taking advantage of that gift! I structure my week so that I do my focused work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday when my parents take care of my daughter. On those days I drop my little one off at 9.30am and collect her at 4.30pm. The time in between is completely focused on my businesses. I try to structure my day around whatever meetings I have and create chunks of non interrupt-able time when I get those tasks you really need focus for done.
The rest of the time I work around my daughter’s needs, after all I am running my own businesses with one of the primary goals being to spend more time with her. That means making the most of her day time naps and evening sleeps to get any additional work done. The day time sleeps can vary in duration so I use this time doing things that can be interrupted at short notice like responding to emails, etc. Evenings are when I do most of my article writing.
I think it’s important to set expectations with people that I work with on a regular basis so they are aware of the best times to catch me on the phone or that I may take a little longer to respond to emails on the days I am spending with my daughter. After all, there is nothing like trying to be professional on the phone while your child is having a melt down in the background!
As business owners we are often the person responsible for all tasks in the business, many of the tasks are not areas we are skilled at so they take a lot longer to get done or don’t get done as we procrastinate over them. If you can afford to outsource, I totally recommend it. If you don’t have the budget to outsource, you could also try and do a deal with other business owners where you trade your skill and help with their business for help from them in return. I have recently started outsourcing some of the tasks that are not my forte or that don’t fire me up as well as other tasks that don’t require me to actually do them. It gives me time to focus on what I shine at and also to work on my business rather than in it. I can tell you it is hard to let go, and does take a bit of work to establish, but you have to ask for help. Remember we can have it all but we don’t need to do it all!
As mums in business we have multiple roles to play. As well as running a thriving business there is still a household to run – meals to be cooked, washing to be done, bills to be paid. We often feel the need to be super mum but we need to be realistic with what we can achieve each day. In the past I have been a multi-tasker but it doesn’t work. You end up going around in circles. If you set your priorities for the day then focus on one thing, tick the box and move on to the next, you will be surprised at just how much more productive you can be. It’s all about getting better at managing our workday. Remember it is about progress not perfection.
When you are not working set 9 to 5 hours in addition to working from home, it is easy to get into the trap of working all the time or at least feeling like there is never any off time. Don’t forget to take time for yourself because all work and no play can make for an unhappy mumma. I aim to hop into bed most nights at 9.30pm and do some reading because I know a sleep deprived mum is going to be a cranky one! I also let myself take nights off and do something just for me…that might be watching a movie or doing some personal development work.
It’s also important to create a support network of business mums. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what it is like to be a mum in business for herself can be a relief when you have a partner or family who don’t get your frustrations. You can turn to these people for advice and see how they are dealing with it.
Life is messy, unplanned things pop up like a sick child. You need to have buffers in place so that you can have the down time you need to deal with unplanned things. For example, I like to write and schedule articles a week in advance so I know its done for the week and I am not chasing my tail trying to get them done should something pop up and divert my attention. Working ahead of schedule and completing tasks in advance prepares you for the uncertainty that comes with having children. Instead of stressing out or having to work late into the evening to make up for lost time, simply enjoy time with them knowledge that you are ahead with your work.
Running business and raising children at the same time are not easy things to do but you know I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world. Different strokes for different folks so find the solutions that best suits you and your family. At the end of the day our children are only young once so make the most of it.