Let’s face it, whilst we love our kids to the moon and back (most of the time), achieving anything else when you have them can be astonishingly complicated and bloody hard work. The difficulties are different depending on how old they are, whether it’s sleep times and sleepless nights, term times and parent evenings, or late nights, exams and hormones.
And your own business can feel like “your baby” too – it takes just as much time, effort, hard work and love to make it succeed. And it can be just as rewarding. And it doesn’t usually answer back. Or leave a trail of devastation wherever it’s been.
So I asked our members who are all pretty adept at living the dream of juggling both motherhood and running their business what their Numero Uno Top Tip for making it all work is. Here’s how they responded…
Tip 1 | Be present
When you’re at work, BE at work, and when you’re with your kids, BE with your kids. Don’t mix the two but be fully present in whatever you’re doing and focus on the task in hand. It does take practice though! This was a popular tip coming from both Melinda King Brecheisen of Anchor to your Strengths and Sophie Playford of Sophie Playford Reflexology.
Tip 2 | Work around your kids – they take priority
Remember why you started your business in the first place? There’s a fair chance it was probably so that you could be around to be more involved in your children’s lives as they grow up, and to have the flexibility to alter your working hours as needed. It’s very easy to forget that though sometimes. So interior designer Nicky Percival‘s tip is to give them your full attention when they’re there, and your work your full attention when they’re at school / in bed etc. Sounds easy enough in theory doesn’t it, but the reality can be tricky. So here’s some ideas for how to do that…
Tip 3 | Create clear boundaries
Fleur McCrone of Fine Styling finds it’s vital to create really clear boundaries around work time and home time, especially if you work a lot from home. Otherwise it can start to feel like you are working all the time and not really giving your family as much attention as you’d like to, or vice versa getting frustrated when you are trying to work and the children need you.
Tip 4 | Have dedicated working hours
Do any of us have enough hours in the day? Almost certainly not! But just as you would do if you were employed, it’s important to define what your working hours are. Obviously there needs to be flexibility around this sometimes, but it makes a difference if you at least know what your working hours should be.
Your working hours will almost certainly depend on the ages of your children and what stages they’re at, and that will change as your children grow up. For example, Becky Randall of Health & Wellbeing Live has older children so she works during the day when they’re at school but finds that school holidays can present a problem. To manage that she blocks out days out and organises trips to spend quality time with them, then works late into the evening to make up the time.
Alex Thurman of Feed the Brood has younger children and said don’t underestimate the power of evenings – working a couple of hours in the evening 3 nights a week is the equivalent to a short day!
Tip 5 | Structure your day
Lots of people find it really helps if they structure their day, but used different ways to do that. Here are some examples:
- 45/15 Kizzie Nicholson of Social Fireworks uses a 45-minutes-on-15-minutes-off rule when it comes to work and using an alarm clock to do it. So she spends 45 minutes of focused working time, then 15 minutes doing something completely different e.g. wash, tidy. This not only helps her get stuff done, but it clears her head too. I find that the great ideas and flashes of inspiration often come when I’m having “down time” and doing something totally unrelated.
- Monthly view Naomi Buff of Naomi’s Kitchen prints out a monthly view of the month ahead and finds it a great visual tool. She starts by crossing through school holidays and events, then schedules self care (exercise, food shopping/food prep/time with friends or family/personal appointments) leaving her with a clear picture of unstressed work time.
- Get up an hour earlier Christie Fogden of Woolly Pebbles has got into the habit of getting up an hour earlier than I used. This helps her get the time she needs to prepare for the day, do yoga, have some quiet time, catch up on emails etc. all before the girls get up. Then she feels focused and has worked out what each part of the day will be used for.
- Half day blocks Philippa Porter of The Cooking Apple splits her time into half-day blocks as she finds that it’s unrealistic to have a whole work day without other chores or the need/want to put the children first. She sets aside tasks that can be completed in that time and schedules what she’ll do with the next block, working backwards from her deadline. She also says she’s tried hard to give up ‘faffing time’ (social media included) as it was a killer!
Tip 6 | Set aside a daily time just to be with your children
Christine Sharman of Babyprints Tunbridge Wells commented that when you’re working from home it’s so easy to be busy doing something all the time, so to at least try to stop working for half an hour when they come home from school to connect and ask about their day. Dr Christine Or also makes a point of giving them some one on one time after dinner.
Tip 7 | Reset yourself
Janet Penny of Hushabye Photography said that she heard a great piece of advice from a fellow mum, who said, take a moment to breath and reset your brain when transitioning from a mum task to a work task.
Tip 8 | Have a dedicated workspace
Most of us work from home and it’s all too easy to “just check emails” or “quickly finish something”, and all of a sudden an hour has passed and you’re back at work. Having a dedicated workspace is not always possible but really helps with those boundaries and means you can shut the door when you’re not “at work”. If you don’t have a separate room, at least try and have a desk in a corner somewhere and even put a pretty tablecloth over the top of everything when you’re closed if you need to. And don’t forget to leave your phone in there too out of working hours.
Another idea is to use a workspace outside the home – whether that’s a cafe with great wifi or a dedicated shared workspace or hotdesk centre. For example Fego in Sevenoaks has a part of their restaurant set aside for business owners to use during the daytime.
Tip 9 | Use support where it’s available
Having family around to help out is obviously a huge bonus as it means you can be a bit more flexible and don’t always need to fit in all of your business activities between school or nursery hours. However, not all of us are lucky enough to have family living locally (which, personally speaking was my own fault for moving away before the benefit of hindsight!). Claire Williamson of Little Olives Photography suggested making full use of the facilities that are available e.g. before and after school club helps. Of course, having a support network of friends/relatives/other mums that you can call on and reciprocate with is irreplaceable and can help take the stress off those days when you just need to be somewhere else. And if all else fails, get a nanny! (Hazel of Eastgreen Childcare can help you with that).
Yoga instructor Lucy Holland recommends giving your older kids and teenagers responsibilities. They are perfectly capable of taking public transport, cooking, laundry, dog care etc. Their independence helps them and gives you more time for business and self-care.
Tip 10 | Use tech and tools to make life easier
Fran Boorman recommended getting an amazing hands free kit so you can make calls whilst emptying the dishwasher! And Kizzie Nicholson of Social Fireworks suggested using Google Assistant to help get tasks done via mobile – calls, texts, emails.
Tip 11 | Plan plan plan and then plan some more
Use whatever tool works for you, whether that’s Google Assistant or a bullet journal. Alex of Feed the Brood says to remember to plan the non-work things too – meal planning for the week ahead helps you plan in advance for the the busier and quieter days and means you’re less likely to feed your kids pizza and beans on toast, avoiding mama-guilt too.
Tip 12 | Take care of yourself
You’ve heard the saying “you can’t pour from an empty pot” – it’s true you know! Hypnotherapist Anne Bayati reminded us that it’s so easy when running a business and a home/family to put your own personal quality time after everything else. You may not even let yourself have any time just for you. But to be able to be at your best, as a business woman and mum, you need to schedule in some self care.
Create a morning ritual which includes gratitude as this is also proven to increase productivity.
Tip 13 | And finally… Ditch the guilt and remember that you’re setting your kids an amazing example
Guilt often plays a big part in being a working mum but you have to remember what a great example you’re showing your children – an independent, hard working, innovative entrepreneur is a great role model . Thanks for the reminder Janet Penny of Hushabye Photography!
I hope you enjoyed our little pearls of wisdom. If you’d like to find out more about S+TW Mums in Business and maybe come along to one of our events please click here. New faces are very welcome and we’d really love to have you there.