Many years ago I worked as a freelance reporter. I loved the job because it allowed me to be home with my two preschoolers. The only challenge was finding uninterrupted time to perform interviews, so when I had an opportunity to speak with the director of a provincial park about environmental protection of the beach, I thought it was a great idea to let the kids play in the sand while I worked.
During the interview, as the director was explaining the importance of planting marram grass to combat beach erosion, I looked over her shoulder to see my two toddlers happily pulling rows of grass out of the sand. It was the first and last time they accompanied me on an interview, and when I established my current business, the structure was entirely different because I had learned from that experience.
Early attempts at combining children and entrepreneurship taught me that even the best laid plans can be thwarted when you’ve got young children who need attention. Mine will be leaving the nest soon and over the years I’ve learned a lot about successfully combining a home business and motherhood. Working from home while fulfilling your parental role is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either.
Here are 5 pieces of advice for mothers who run businesses from home:
- Evaluate your children’s schedules. Get a strong grasp of when your children are needy or independent. It doesn’t matter what age they are, they have cycles. Become aware of them and schedule your work around those cycles. If your kids get home from school at 3:30, take a break and possibly don’t go back until they’re in bed. You work for yourself now, YOU create your schedule. Just because the world works 9-5 doesn’t mean you have to.
- Create realistic goals for yourself. If you don’t take your children into account while goal setting in your business, you’ll find yourself constantly in a state of “I should be” and never enjoying the moment. Break your goals down until they’re small tasks with specific steps to complete daily, then revisit #1 and evaluate how much time per day you can commit to your business. Determine how many tasks you can successfully finish within that time and build it outwards (daily, weekly, monthly) until you have a realistic deadline set for each goal. Along with providing a sense of accomplishment, this technique alleviates the “I should be” guilt stress and lets you focus 100% on your family when you need to.
- Create realistic goals when working with clients. If you answer to clients in your business it’s important to be internally clear about #1 & #2. If you make a promise to your client, you must deliver, so understanding your limitations and capabilities before committing is of utmost importance.
- Ask for help when you need it. Set up a safety net of assistance before your situation becomes desperate. Help comes in a variety of forms and can include:
- a parent or spouse
- a childcare exchange with another mother
- hiring a virtual assistant
- hiring a cleaning service
- or using systems such as email automation to save time.
- Rule your business, don’t let it rule you. Decide what you want from your business and how you want it to fit within your family. This is THE most important goal you’ll set because it’s the standard by which you’ll measure every other business objective you establish. Unfortunately, it’s also most often overlooked because we mentally separate home and business. When you’re clear on how you want home and business to intersect, you’re less likely to be sidetracked by shiny objects or well intentioned advice.
The biggest benefit to being an entrepreneur is that your business can reflect exactly what you and your family needs, when it’s needed. You can gear your business up, down or adjust it to meet the demands of your changing family. Entrepreneurial mothers are incredibly lucky, we get the best of both worlds and using these tips will help you achieve success on your terms.