With our kids and their day to day demands on our minds, it’s natural and expected that we do a lot of thinking about how to successfully manage the balance between being there for them and running a successful business. It is even more difficult if you are a work-from-home mum. From the outside, it might appear easy peazy for those of us who seem to have ‘a way’ around it, but believe me I’ve had to leave unfinished work behind and cancel meetings to attend to ‘urgent’ and unexpected needs of my kids many times (I’ve even lost count), with no one to stand in for me, am sure you have been there too. After all a mum is got to do what a mum is got to do, right?
When you work from home, business suffers most times because it is somewhat connected with the home, and sometimes seen as an extension of the home. How can you explain to someone that you left your sick child unattended to for a business meeting? That is more pardonable for a mum on a regular job, but not a for work-from-home mum who is ‘her own boss’!
When you are at work, kids just ‘stroll’ right into your ‘work space’ seeking your attention and causing some ‘serious distractions,’ yet you have so much work to do in the shortest possible time. So how can you effectively deal with that?
I have come up with some rules and processes to make sure both components of our lives get the attention they deserve. I found that putting some rules in place and following them strictly can help us find a better balance. So, here are my rules:
Rule #1: Focus on only one of them at a time
We can’t give our businesses our all if we’re at work yet thinking and worrying about our kids. Likewise, we can’t give our kids 100 percent of our attention if a work-related problem or challenge is topmost on our minds when we are at home. We have to make a choice, always. During work periods, ‘shelve’ the parenting part of your life and save it for later, so you can focus on being the best CEO you can be. Come 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock or whatever time suits you, you switch roles and just be the best mum ever.
It is easier to achieve this when the kids are having a nap, engaged in their own fun or learning activities or are in school. School time is the most productive time for me, but when my kids are around at weekends or holiday and I need to concentrate, what I do is simply announce: “Time to work! Everyone get your books.” We all agree on how many hours they will read or do some activity before snack and Tv time. They keep their part of the agreement because they badly want snack and Tv! That works for me at their current age. So what can you put in place to keep your kids positively engaged during your work period?
Rule #2: Focus on neither one sometimes (for your sanity)
You must have heard this mantra, “If mommy isn’t happy, no one else is.” Also, if mommy isn’t well taken care of, no one else will be! I once read the story of a mum who had a serious panic attack that brought about a change in the way she saw everything, including her business. How so often we run ourselves ragged worrying about a business problem, a child’s health and the family budget all at the same time. We have to learn to let go, de-stress, and take care of ourselves so that we could do our two jobs better. Taking care of ourselves could mean leaving work behind a little earlier one day in a week to get a massage, a nice long bath, to go for a walk or just play and share stories with our kids. Whatever your go-to is to recharge your battery, make sure that’s part of your routine so that you’ll have better balance in all aspects of your life.
Rule #3: Make your kids part of your team
Your kids have a lot of energy and are very curious; wanting to know everything you’re doing, why you are doing them and who you are talking to on the phone! That energy and curiosity can be put into good use for you and your business. I was so fascinated one morning watching a mum of five who does food business engage her three young children in packing and organizing already prepared food, and the bigger ones in loading them in her car in readiness for delivery to her client, and she proudly said, “They are my team!” Absolutely! Making them part of her team saves her a lot of time and energy, and at the same time she gets her work done and her business going. My children often serve as extra pair of eyes for my work, I seek their opinion on most things, from colour selection to choice of fonts when I’m working on a website, designing a book cover or even choosing a title for my write up! Your kids are ready (and often very willing) to add value to your work and business; why not let that work for you?
Rule #4: Be flexible in your schedule
For many, 8 to 5 is the normal workday. But not for us work-from-home mums, especially if working the “norm” means you’ll miss out on valuable moments with your family. Work, for us can come up anytime we find the quietness and the energy to get something meaningful done. You may choose to get up early and spend an hour or two checking and responding to emails before waking up the rest of the family and getting your kids ready for school, or sneak in a few hours of work after their bedtime. That way you get to maximize your time for your kids, attend to needs around the house, and still keep your work/business going. If you’re like me, that’s one of the reasons you became a mumpreneur in the first place: to have a flexible lifestyle and more time with your kids.
Rule #5: Take time off
It is true that entrepreneurs are simply too busy to take a vacation, but we do not have to buy into the idea. If you set up your systems such that a staff or your spouse can take over for you (or you clear your plate of work for a few days or weeks), no one will begrudge you for taking much-deserved time off, and you must not either!
Managing and excelling at this balancing act isn’t easy for anyone, but if you figure out what rules you need to succeed and follow them strictly, it’s absolutely possible.
So, what rules are currently working for you?