I have definitely had my fair share of combining being a mother with running a business. This summer has been the first time I worked from home on a full-time basis. So, I was pretty much thrown into the deep end of things, with 3 children and a business to run. I learnt very quickly that without balance, I wasn't getting anywhere in a hurry. Before this summer, I was very uncomfortable with making business calls with my children playing in the background, but safe to say that fear is firmly out the window.
I know it's not easy, so I curated my top tips 3 on how mothers can juggle the two. Then I thought why not include other Mumpreneurs to share their top tips for an even greater boost of mummy power.
Here are our top tips:
If you're like me and you have a 5 month old, it may be hard to do this, but work on getting up as early as you can; get your coffee in and start the day before they get out of bed. Learn to go with the flow of things, I strongly believe that having a strict schedule when the kids are at home can be more of a hindrance than anything else. Talk to them, so they know that you have something important to do for a little while, as young as they are children are incredibly intelligent and tend to understand when I have some things to tick off my little list.
Plus, it won't hurt one bit to take a little time out of your day to play trains and solve puzzles on the floor. In fact, it's good fun for you to take a break. Lastly, and this one was tough for me; eat lunch at the same time they do. You need to refuel and they will love nothing more than to spend time with mummy.
Charlotte Jamme, Founder of Mia Tui
For me it's important to set boundaries between family and work commitments. I make sure that we have a few hours a day in which screen time is forbidden. This is more for me than my kids as it helps me to be present when I am spending time when them instead of checking emails.
Listen to your children. It's so easy to get wrapped up in work that you start just going through the motions with your family. 'How's your day? Was school good?' If you go through the motions with them without really engaging you'll start missing things and before you know it you’ll lose track of what's happening in their lives.
Let them be a-part of your venture. My girls are really into styling, whether it be their bedroom or a play tent they have make in the garden. Even though they are children I encourage this and allow them to express their opinions on new colours and styles for the next seasoning Mia Tui bags. I may not always take their opinion but I do encourage their interests and makes them feel involved with what I am doing.
Penny Wilson, founder of Born Gifted
Work in the evenings when the kids are in bed, I can achieve so much after supper without disturbances and it doesn’t interfere with being a mum.
Explain to your children about what you do, even involve them if you can, they are more likely to understand your strange/long working hours that way!
Don’ t try and do everything yourself, get some help, delegate and make sure you have some quality down time with your family. Your business can cope a few hours without you and if not then you need to become an employer.
Julia Minchin, Founder of Hippychick Ltd
Fully research the market before you invest any serious time or money. Be sure that it hasn’t been done before or if it has, that you are doing it better. We have seen many people spend a lot of precious time and money on something that is really unlikely to work.
Never underestimate the amount of time and hard work it takes to set up and run a business. It sounds obvious but the more you put into something the more you get out of it.
Never be arrogant and assume you know it all. Business is a continual learning curve. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. Everyone does. But the trick is not to make the same mistake twice.
Always spend enough time with your children. All too quickly, mine are growing up but I feel good that I have tried my best to never sacrifice them for the sake of the business. It’s probably just taken a little longer to get the business to where I wanted it to be, which has been the compromise.
Lucy Hargreaves, owner and managing director of Spiral Cellars
I try to be super organized so that I can remain calm and focused when I’m in ‘mum’ mode or ‘business’ mode, and not worry about the other mode! The danger is to always think about what I should be doing at work whilst I’m with the kids, and visa versa. By partitioning my time I focus my attention, and I don’t feel like a headless chicken!
I have a nanny – she is wonderful. Her brief is to do all the things that I would do if I were at home being Mum. In fact I call her my ‘wife’!
So to be organized I…Note everything in Evernote. I am the queen of lists! I have separate notes for each manager in my team, so that I can remember what they are working on. I review these weekly. Notes for personal things to do. Notes of ideas for easy weekday meals… I’m pretty anal with lists!! I have a timetable on the children’s bedroom noticeboards so that we know what kit to pack for school each morning, afterschool activities, play dates booked etc.
I do a weekly meal plan, and then ocado order. The nanny knows what to cook the kids, and any prep for the family evening meal. I do the school run every morning to keep contact with the school and other parents and pick up 2 or 3 times a week so that I can spend some time helping with homework. After kids bedtime – back to emails and prepping my to do list for the day after. Then switch off time with my husband on the sofa!
In terms of running the business..
Talk to everyone each morning when I get in. Find out how they are, what’s new both business-wise and personally. Keep communication strong and show that I care about them. Delegate. Check on their progress regularly. Let them make mistakes that they will learn from.
Keep sharing the vision.. the plan for the future..keep up the excitement!
Anne Davies, owner of Room to Grow
Don't try and do everything! If you don't know how to do something or it's not one of your strengths then find the right people who do. I bought an on-line business 5 years ago with very little experience of e-commerce (other than being an avid on-line shopper!). I had limited knowledge of Google and how it worked, so I made sure I had a committed local SEO and PPC specialist, who could focus on this area of the business and help drive it forward.
There are always so many things to do and you feel like you are being pulled in all directions. Focus on certain projects that are going to give your business the lift it needs. Prioritise your tasks and don't move onto something else until it's completed.
You will find so many people..... friends, family, suppliers, competitors, customers and staff ... all have comments and advice which they will readily give you. Listen to them all (you'd be silly not to) but you know your business best and where you want to take it. Believe in yourself, stay focused and keep your head down.
It is very hard not to keep checking emails and answering calls when the children are around, particularly in the early days, but try and designate certain times when you can just spend time with the kids. I make sure once I collect my daughter from after-school club at 5.30pm that it is our time and all phones and devices are off until she's tucked up in bed. When we're on holiday I allocate an hour a day to work and she understands that once I have cleared emailed and answered any urgent calls, our time is then ours.
Fiona Chow, founder of Goadi Consulting
It's easy to put being a mum into the "after work" category but when you combine work and motherhood you need to think about work- life blend rather than work-life balance (which implies to two are distinct and separate). Work is easier than motherhood in some ways with defined objectives and deadlines to meet, children are a little more complex! You need to be as strict with yourself about mummy-time as you might be with client deadlines so I block out time in my diary for this and treat it as if it's another client so I don't send emails, take calls for other "clients" during this time - i.e. mealtimes, bedtime stories etc.
I also have strict 30 minute email "diet" during family holidays - 15 minutes at the start and end of the day to handle anything urgent and the rest of the time I try to switch off and focus on spending time with my son.
Catherine, founder of Pink Spaghetti PA Services
Working from home can be distracting with chores that need to be done. I pretend that once I return from the school run that I am in an external office. Anything not done first thing in the morning has to wait until I am back from work so to speak, this helps keep me focused on my job and helps to separate work and home life.
Plan your days. I need to know where I need to be and when I need to carry out certain work tasks so planning is key, whilst an on line calendar is great I also love a paper copy on my office wall for a quick visual!!
I try not to check my phone/emails between the hours of collecting the kids from school and bedtime so that they know that time is for them. If it means working a couple of hours in the evening then so be it but that child mother time is important.
Kirsty Henshaw Founder and MD of Kirsty’s and Kids Kitchen
Running your own business means that your hours can be very varied and need to fit around a number of things whether home life, school diaries or meetings with business partners and key suppliers so you need to be organised.
My day tends to start pretty early as I like to get up and get organised for the day ahead. I also love being involved in my son’s life and even enjoy the school run, but to fit it all in I often find myself working outside of the traditional ‘9-5’ to make up the time or complete tasks that need to be done.
My business is now at a stage where I can employ a small team of people who support the business as well as an extended team who bring specialist support where needed.
Work out what your skills are and focus on that. Where you may not have the skills find someone who does and employ them whether part or full time. There are plenty of mums out there who have the skills and are keen to get back into business and they are often a good starting point. Also put a value ion your time as it’s not always cost effective to do everything yourself.
If you have an idea back yourself! The first step is often the hardest one to take, but once you have made the commitment stick at it and be confident.
Last year alone more than 600,000 businesses were started in the UK, a figure that is growing each year but in every case someone must have taken the decision to launch and get going. There’s nothing more frustrating that looking back and wishing you’d tried that…?!
Cat Gazzoli, Founder of Piccolo
Every morning my daughter and I start our day with ‘what will have for dinner tonight’? At the toddler age, inclusion in the decision making empowers them. We talk through what we had the day before, what we are in the mood for, and who is coming over for dinner that evening. It's an activity, deciding what we will be making dinner, and then helping me do so that evening that gives her also assurance on quality time with me.
I cannot say I always follow this rule, but I should. No screen items close to bedtime and in my child’s room. A 100% focus on interactive reading with all of my focus. I can check emails after.
A special little unplanned and spontaneous activity which is somewhat regular that is fun for both of you. We both love music so when I want us both to relax and connect, which can be challenging as a founder your mind is always on about your business, I turn on very loudly our Piccolo playlist or Italian 60s songs and we dance it out!
This just shows that although we are all mothers we choose a routine that works for us. There is no one glove that fits all when it comes to being a mother and certainly not when business comes into play. It is possible to run a household and create a successful business at the same time. So whether you start off from home or go straight into an office outside of home the balance of the two is still important and however you do it, just remember how important you are and how much of an impact you are making not only in business, but in the lives of your beautiful children.