If you’re struggling to find a happy medium between running a business but also being present and constant for your family, this post could be for you. The struggle is a continuous one that you have to manage on a daily basis. I feel your pain. Here are the 6 Lessons I’ve learnt so far from balancing a family and a business. Maybe my experience can help you.
When the opportunity arose to partner up on a business venture and become my own boss along with two other partners, I was so excited. Until we started making enough money, I couldn’t leave my full-time job, so I worked part-time; evenings and weekends. We only had my teenager (my niece) then. At the time she spent a lot of time with her Nan which meant it didn’t impact on her too much.
Then I fell pregnant. With Mr O still earning a good salary, we decided that I not go back to work after having the baby but instead push on with the new business from home.
The idea of being able to stay at home with my kids and become a business owner seemed like all my dreams had come true. What I didn’t realise was how hard it would actually be.
The Struggle to Juggle
To juggle a family and a business is incredibly difficult (for me anyway). There have been many challenges along the way and I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to just throw the towel in.
It is definitely a juggling act, but I’m realising the longer I go on the easier it becomes. I’ve made so many mistakes (I still am) but I’ve also learnt so much.
If you’re just starting out with a new business and are struggling with the family/work balance, here are just some of the lessons I’ve learnt so far.
1) It’s bloody hard
Being a mum to a toddler and a teenager and trying to run my business is bloody hard work.
My business is new and it’s an industry I don’t have much knowledge of so I have to learn, a lot! Thankfully I have a business partner who has many years experience and is teaching me everything he knows. But, trying to learn a new trade from home with a hormonal teenager and a 2-year-old tornado running around is nigh on impossible.
The balance between being mum and working is a delicate one. Most of the time I feel like I’m walking a tight rope between the two with the potential to slip at any moment.
For example, I got distracted a couple of days ago when speaking with a customer on the phone and my little monster managed to pluck a pen from her arse (not literally, thank God) and draw all over my 6-month-old sofa.
You can read more about that disaster here.
But hopefully, you see my point.
2) I can do this
When I’ve had a particularly stressful or hectic day, I start to wonder if I’m capable of managing a business, a family and a home all at the same time. Is the stress and the hassle really worth it? When the cards fall and the shit hits the fan, it’s easy to fall into a self-deprecating state of mind. Quite often I have to have a word with myself and tell my self doubting brain that ‘I can do this’.
I doubt myself more often then I care to admit. But, I find the more I’m learning the easier it becomes. I realise now that there is a delicate balance which only comes with experience. I know once I’m up to speed with everything related to kitchen design & installation, things will get easier. The need to second guess everything I do or ask my business partner a million questions will fizzle out because I’ll already know through my own experience.
3) Write lists for everything
Working from home means I don’t have a separate office/workplace I can go to to really focus on what I’m doing. At least one of my kids are around most of the time which can be a real distraction. I could be completely engrossed in something and one of my kids will undoubtedly need something from me.
Because of this, I’ve learnt to not rely on my brain to remember every task I have to do. My memory wasn’t great before kids, it’s pretty much none existent now. Everything work-related – phone calls, meeting, emails, tasks that need doing all get written down in my trusty diary. Even home “things” go in there. Shopping lists, activities, appointments. It’s pretty much my life all jotted down in a neat little book.
I love this dairy from Amazon. It’s A5 so easily fits in my bag and it has a whole page dedicated to each day of the week, with a section for to-dos and appointments. It’s also really pretty and they come in lots of different designs. I don’t think this particular design is available anymore but there are plenty more to choose from.
4) Mum guilt will go into hyper-drive but it’s okay
There are times I have to palm my toddler off onto someone else (usually my mum or at nursery) because I have a meeting with a customer or a load of work to do at home. Or, when I haven’t been able to give my toddler my full attention because I just have to get that design done and sent off. Mum guilt can really kick my arse in those moments.
In the beginning, it used to leave me in tears. But, I’ve come to realise that for my toddler, it’s not so bad. Spending time with Nanny is great fun for her. In fact, my toddler probably prefers nanny to mummy.
The times when my mind is focused on getting something work-related done, I always make sure my little one is occupied with a game, or time it so she’s having lunch or a nap.
My teenager is at school most of the day so I try to get work tasks done during that time. When she gets home at 3.30 pm, I’m usually about to start tea, so I use that time to ask her about her day and help with any homework.
The way I try to see it is, if my kids see me working, with my own business, managing our everyday family life but also contributing financially, surely that can only help them to develop a good work ethic as they get older. Even if it helps them become less likely to sit on the arses for as long as they can is a bonus in my book.
I hoping to be someone they can look up to. Someone that works hard to give them a better future. And, someone who inspires them to always strive and work hard for what they want.
5) Trying to multi-task your kids and your business is pointless
When my baby came along, I spent a lot of time trying to sort her out and do work at the same time. In fact, for a while there, I just about managed it. Feeding her in her high-chair while responding to my work emails on my phone. Bouncing her in my arms while taking work calls.
After a while, I became more and more frustrated with trying to multi-task between work and my kids. A soon as I sat down at the laptop, it was like my baby knew and instantly needed my attention. As she got older, the more she needed my attention, the noisier she became and the less likely she was to sit still with a toy for 10 minutes at a time.
Over the last year, I’ve learnt to separate my work and my kids. I can’t manage them both at the same time anymore. Occasionally the two do cross over but I’m getting better. I try to carve out time for work when the kids are not around and get as much done as I can in that time. This is only difficult when we have a lot of work on and it’s those times I rely heavily on my mum. She will take my toddler off my hands for a few hours, two days a week, which is an absolute godsend for me and we also have a half day in nursery too.
6) Social Life takes a bit of a downturn
This may not be the case for everyone but it certainly is for me. Since becoming a ‘work from home’ mum, my social life grew wings and flew away – literally.
Honestly, I just don’t have time. I wish I did. I message back and forth with my close friends to make sure we keep in touch and up to date with each other’s lives. But sadly, I don’t see them very often. I try to get together with a friend who has a child a similar age to my toddler once every two weeks. But she’s started working full time so that get-together probably won’t happen as often.
To be fair, it’s not as if I had a buzzing social life before kids and a business. I can count my close friends on one hand but I’m okay with that.
What I do miss the most is workplace banter. Working from home means I don’t have any colleagues to ‘have the crack’ with. When working full time in an office environment, you have a laugh (as well as getting your work done, of course). You have other people to talk to, to moan to about something that might be happening at home or gossip with about world events. I don’t have that.
But, I have to weigh it up. Would I rather be working for someone else, putting money in an employers pocket or work for myself and hopefully build a business that I can be proud of?
The dream, is to make enough money to live a comfortable life, put my kids through uni (without struggling financially) and be able to do things like buy their first car.
That’s the Dream.
I’m sure there will be many more mistakes and lessons along the way but I’m looking forward to learning them.
Are you a business owner and a mum? Have you learnt any valuable lessons from balancing life between business and family? I would love to hear it.