Balancing entrepreneurship and family is tricky business
April 7, 2013
April 7, 2013
My experience of staying at home with my kids, while running two expanding companies, has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. Getting back to work when my second child was only five days old was pretty hard compared to seven months of maternity leave, but the sacrifice of certain times over the years has certainly been worth it. (Especially when our family is enjoying the benefits of having the extra income.)
I own Mommy Connections, as well as an Edmonton-based business network called Women Entrepreneurs Connecting and Networking (WECAN). I am often asked if WECAN hosts workshops on work-life balance. The best advice I can give on work-life balance is to simply be flexible, or “bendy” as my friend Natasha Chiam says.
Over the last four years, I have learned a lot. Truthfully, some days are more stressful than others, but these points have definitely made entrepreneur-life easier!
Every morning, I start working before the kids wake up. I can get a lot done in two to three hours of totally uninterrupted work time and this way, I don’t feel like I am being pulled back into the office all day, while my kids are also demanding my attention. It is hard to get up early the first few times, but the feeling of being up to speed on the majority of my work makes for a much, less stressful day and a much, more loving mommy!
I try and do everything that my kids don’t mind doing with me, such as cleaning the house, running errands and cooking, when they are awake. It takes longer, but we have fun and do it together. When they are napping (or at preschool, now), I focus on work and NOTHING pulls me away. It takes discipline not to want to head to the grocery store with just one kiddo or pop into a mall, but it is worth it!
If you’re used to working in an office, you will be AMAZED at how much more work you get done when you don’t have co-workers around. I find that I don’t need nearly as many office hours to get the same things accomplished now that I am on my own.
Use your time wisely with these smartphone tips.
I am a morning person and I am too tired by the end of the day. At night, I like to tidy things up, get ready for the following day and just enjoy time with my family. This is also precious spouse time! I try hard not to work at night, and if I do, I have a set a certain amount of time, while my husband puts the kids to bed.
I know a lot of women that always work late and don’t start working until late in the evening. They wake up exhausted from lack of sleep and get into a constant cycle of sleepiness and lack of energy. The few hours that I have after my kids go to bed is usually the only time I get to spend with my husband, so I make that time a priority.
I have to be careful about planning coffee or lunch dates and events. As an employee, it is easy to schedule lots of client meetings or three-hour networking lunches. As someone who is self employed, time is WAY TOO VALUABLE and these outings have to be very carefully chosen. I always set time limits on any meetings and I am very clear about my time before we get into the meeting.
I set boundaries for my office during the day when my kids are with me. If I am always being pulled back into the office for an email or phone call, they start to get annoyed and act up. It is way better for me to put everything on hold, until I know I have a block of time to sit and get a bit of solid work done. Stay-at-home, working moms can easily get into the habit of turning on the TV and encouraging the kids to zone out for hours at a time while mom works. It is okay sometimes, but all the time is a problem!
Keep any promises you make to your kids, such as “One phone call and an email, then I am done.” The same goes for working deadlines. Don’t promise a deadine to your client if it’s impossible to complete it. When I first started my businesses, I wasn’t always truthful with my work from home situation. Now, I am upfront and most people that I work with are very sympathetic to time restraints.
I have a virtual EA that helps me greatly with my workload. I also had a university student coming in two to three times a week when Madelyn was a toddler so there was less self-entertaining during the day. It was great to have someone take her on a walk for a few hours while I got work done.
I enjoy cleaning my own home, but if this is something that you hate doing and gets in the way of work or play – get help! I have a working mom friend who finds laundry her biggest time suck. She has a friend who enjoys doing laundry (and the extra money each week!), who comes over one evening a week and does her laundry. Do whatever works!
While I sometimes struggle with the overwhelming responsibility that I am my kids full-time caregiver and the head of two expanding companies, I also get to decide on a whim whether we will go out for the afternoon to a mid-week movie or have lunch out. It was really hard only having about a week off when my second child was first born, but the benefit is that I am home working with him. I don’t face the challenge of entering the workplace again and I am home if my kids are sick. I am there for them anytime!
I have travelled more in the last four years of owning my own business. Some of my trips are for work, but I also make sure that I am treating my family – this is after all, why I do what I do.
Being at home and working with your kids teaches them immeasurable life lessons – dedication, work ethic, business sense, organization, patience and more. Having an entrepreneurial parent can be a true gift for a child. There is so much to be learned from working parents that are balancing life, love and work!
Lastly, embrace the idea of being “unemployable”! That is my greatest gift I have received from my entrepreneurial journey!
Carol, Mommy Connections President & Founder