Although there’s no secret recipe to balancing work and motherhood, there are thousands of women out there who have learned to do it successfully, women who’ve taken on this challenge before us and have come out on top.
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to interview many, many entrepreneurial moms.
And without fail, at some point during our conversation, they all say the same thing: “When I’m working, I feel like I should be with my kids. But when I’m with my kids, I feel like I should be working.” But that guilt doesn’t stop us from striving for success in both work and as a mother–we want to be able to do them both and do them both well. And if you ask any mom entrepreneur, they’ll probably tell you what they’re doing now is the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s worth it.
I know for a fact that any one solution won’t work for everyone. But I’ve found some common themes among the successful working moms that I know, and here are their tips for being both a terrific mom and business owner.
Get–and stay–organized. Your work time is precious and not as dependable as it would be if you worked in a traditional workplace. You can’t afford to waste time looking for files, sorting through junk mail or even finding a pen.
Keep everything clean and organized from the start. Have supplies available and in a place where you know you can immediately put your hands on them.
Have a plan. Some mompreneurs use paper organizers and some use tech gadgets, but all of them use some sort of planner to balance their work life with their family life Ideally, you should keep both personal and work appointments on the same calendar so you don’t overbook or double up.
And while it doesn’t always work, you need to set aside hours for when you’re going to get your work done. If you just wait for it to happen, it never will. Of course, you’ll have to be flexible as your child-care provider will inevitably cancel, your kids will get sick and your spouse may occasionally need to work late.
Work with your family, not against them . When your children are little, make sure your office is kid-proof. Get covers for your computer and child-safe drawers on your filing cabinet, and keep your paperwork out of reach if you don’t want your reports and invoices covered in crayon.
Some women I’ve spoken with set up a child’s office space within their office so that crayons, paper and activities are available to keep their kids busy. As your children get older, find ways to get them involved in your work. When they’re old enough, let them stamp envelopes, fold fliers or shred paper. Just never let them answer the phone!
Think nap to nap, not 9 to 5. Break out of the 9-to-5 office hours’ tradition. Your hours as a mompreneur might start before your family wakes up, continue during nap times and go on into the wee hours of the night.
Prioritize appointments that need to be accomplished in person during the traditional day time hours. But understand that e-mail, filing, reading, and a lot of your other office tasks can be done at any hour of the day or night.
Stay ahead of the game. By the time evening hits, yes, you’re exhausted. But take a few minutes to set out school clothes, set up the coffeepot, prepare lunches and clear your desk. You’ll be so grateful to have a less chaotic morning if you do all this the night before. You might also want to consider getting up a little before your family does so you can exercise, take a shower or get some work done.
Communication is Key
Proper communication helps everything in life and it’s no different in making this situation work. Whether it’s with a business partner (if you have one) or with a business relationship, some are very open and honest about work situation. This ties back into how you set up your schedule for the day, but there are only certain times during the day where willing to hop on the phone for an extended time, for example.
And even in arranging this situation from the beginning, think you have to be open with your business partner about how your daily schedule might look, but that everything can still get done – just possibly at different times of the day!
File this one under, “Sounds obvious but is actually a whole lot harder than it seems.” At the end of the day, you have to be very realistic and tolerant with yourself on what CAN actually be accomplished and what is unrealistic.
Obviously, you can’t be all things to all worlds at all times – there are honestly a lot of days where it feels like an awesome mom but a let-down to business.
And there are days where It feels feel like crushed business goals but been a disappointment on the mom side. It’s something still work through, but have redefined what consider “success” to look like at the end of day and then work towards it.
Before taking on current role, worked in an office environment doing the 8-5 thing, and think it’s fair to say that people who are in an office during the day still have periods where their productivity isn’t sky-high.
Consider the water-cooler talk or endless meetings that seem to go on forever. When compare day-to-day to that environment, genuinely don’t think productivity in this arrangement is significantly different. It might be more tiring, but it’s also more fulfilling. Think actually far more efficient during the day now than when was working in an office cubicle.
Know When to Bring in Help
Just because you want to have your child home with you during the day, doesn’t mean that you can’t EVER get a little help! There’s no reason you can’t have a babysitter come over a few hours a week OR certain times of the month when you know that your schedule is more demanding.
Maybe there’s a neighbour, a family member, or a student who could help you during the times you start to feel like you’re drowning a little bit.
Find a Support System
Like any situation in life, there’s going to be tough days and tough times. You can’t avoid it. But that doesn’t mean that your situation is broken, or something has to change. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you how good of a job you’re actually doing AND that this too shall pass!
There are times seriously feel that disappointing everyone, and depend on support system to highlight all the things that have gone well! That’s usually enough to re-inspire faith and get back to it the next day!