There’s no doubt that being a Mum and running your own business has its challenges. I’ve been talking to a number of women recently who are doing just that (myself included) and one of the issues we struggle with most is finding a balance between family and business without losing the fact that we ourselves are occasionally in need of some breathing space!
For many mums, the freedom of being able to work around the child/ren (as opposed to the children around the work) is a key factor in deciding to start a business in the first place. It’s no good, however, if the guilt you feel when working and not focusing on your child/ren is transferred to your business so you end up feeling guilty about not working on the business when you’re spending time with the family.
This balance of family and business is further challenged by the immediacy of technology resulting in emails, texts, and calls constantly vying for our attention. The key here is to have the willpower to switch OFF that Smartphone (yes, I said off, not just put on silent!) and resist the temptation when you’re sat in Pizza Express to quickly check on something using their free Wi-Fi (been there, done it, scanned the QR code!). Here are some more ideas to help Mums (and Dads) find a better balance and less guilt:
Set boundaries – boundaries are an important part of clearly communicating when you’re working and when you’re not. If you run your business from home, then a physical boundary such as a dedicated space (rather than the kitchen table) will really help. If you simply don’t have the space for that then check out the ‘Communicate’ idea below for making a chart. Don’t forget to set your ‘emotional’ boundaries either – by this I mean be clear in your head when you are ‘business person’ and when you are ‘mum’. Give yourself at least 15-20 minutes before you do the school run/they finish their nap/they return from grandparents (add/delete as appropriate) to clear your head of business things and get back in to ‘parent mode’.
Stay focused and work smarter – It’s easy to get distracted by social media, texts, emails, and calls. Put together a list each week (or each day if you prefer) of business and family related tasks you want to achieve. Allocate time for each and keep a note of how much time you are actually spending on them (you’ll be surprises). Prioritise and re-prioritise as often as you have to. There’s no need to be on social media all the time (or receive distracting ‘push notifications’ on your phone) that’s what systems like Hootsuite are designed for so you can schedule your tweets in across the day. Use the technology to get things done rather than distract you.
Communicate – this may seem obvious but it’s surprising how often we forget to let other members of the family and friends know what our working plans are. If you have an important call to make and you’re worried your child is going to shout out “mummy, I need a poo” in the background then let other members of your family know when this is scheduled and ask for their support in keeping little people occupied. If you don’t have a dedicated work space then a chart on the fridge indicating the times when Mum has the kitchen table for business will let everyone know when you’re working. Include information on this chart such as meetings and important calls too. If you’re a very tech-savvy family you could set up your own system on Outlook or Google to share plans!
Make some time for yourself – I know this is often easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to mean going away with your friends for a weekend! Making time for yourself, even if it’s going for a quick run, having a manicure, reading the next chapter of your current book or going for a swim, can give you some much needed time out. It’s not unusual to hear that whilst exercising thoughts and solutions to problems become clearer so there are business as well as health benefits to taking some time out if that helps you feel less guilty!
Involve the family – getting the family involved in your work is a great way for them to learn about running a business. From a young age, children can enjoy for example sticking labels on envelopes and going to the post office. As they get older you can get them more involved in tasks such as answering the telephone or monitoring spreadsheets. The more they understand the more likely they are to support you.
Being a parent means there are always going to be unplanned events such as little people becoming poorly very quickly or having an accident at school. Most people will understand your need to change business arrangements at short notice if there is no-one available to cover. Of course there will always be those that don’t understand, but perhaps it is time to reconsider those particular business relationships?
All the ideas here are equally applicable to Dads who are looking after children and running a business too, although you may want to substitute the manicure for a trip to the steam room or sauna!
If you’re a Mum or Dad running a business or freelancing, I can highly recommend the web site and magazine Work Your Way. It does what it says on the tin and is full of expert advice and support.