‘I would rather hear a baby in the background than a television.’ This is something one of my mentors said often as I apologized for a crying child or an emergency juice spill that forced me to put her on hold. She herself had seven children, no nanny, and managed to build a multi-million-dollar business from home without once ever using her children as an excuse. Her children were not an excuse, they were her why.
In that same business, with effort, juggling, and a tremendous amount of organization, I too made millions and in addition to the two children I had at home, had two more, and adopted one. My mantra to the parents I mentored became this, ‘we build with our family, not in spite of it.’
According to Gallup, 43% of employed Americans did some form of their work from home in 2016.
This number is rising. More companies are allowing employees flexibility and the number of people starting businesses that they can run from home is growing. It is enticing and it is also challenging. Working from home initially seem like a mini-vacation with less stress from a commute or dealing with office politics however what many people find is that it can also be filled with distraction and rife with the milieu of issues that arise when children perceive that our being home means that we are always available.
Prior to having a home-based business, I navigated kids and a full-time job. When my first child was born, I purchased a health club and negotiated the last part of the loan while in labor. Within two weeks, I had a newborn, a staff of over fifty, and a business that was open seven days per week. I brought the baby to work, I figured out how to create a schedule that would allow me to teach classes and have someone watch her, and I put a playpen behind the front desk; I figured it out. Yes, it was exhausting, stressful, and sometimes messy, however parenting and business often is. When it comes to having kids, and owning a business, we must strive for progress and not perfection.
After my health club closed, I took a job in management for the largest health club chain in the world at that time. Thankfully, they had a playroom that my daughter could use for a few hours at a time. I also enlisted help from family and again, we figured it out. When our son came along and we moved back to our small hometown, I worked for a charity, and enlisted the help of family. One thing that drove me to leave the traditional workforce was that I couldn’t stand giving someone else power over my ability to attend a dance recital, volunteer at my daughter’s school during the day, or take the day off if my child was sick. This is when I reached a tipping point and said, ‘never again.’ I made the decision to start a business from home and left my job when I reached five figures per month.
Working from home and having children, regardless of age, is noble. People can write about it, give their opinions, and teach on it, however until you have lived it, everything else is theory. There can be a tide of emotions vacillating from guilt to joy to the feeling of exhaustion and frustration. I can promise you however that it is unequivocally worth it. On those days that your child has a presentation at school and you do not need to take time off, or having the flexibility to take family vacations when the children do not have school without competing with other people in your office for the same time, or when you can simply schedule snuggle and reading time at ten in the morning because you want to – working from home is absolutely worth the occasional bout of pandemonium.
As someone who has successfully navigated these waters and continues to do so, here are 8 tips for remaining sane and continuing to create progress.
1. Be exceptionally organized.
Parents, who own businesses, and in some cases, have a full-time job, must be highly organized. Strategies such as planning all meals for the week on Sundays, keeping an up-to-date calendar, and scheduling in every little thing from kid’s appointments, to date nights, to admin time, time to work on your business, and time for yourself, is critical.
I personally keep one master schedule. I do not have separate planners for business and family. That is absurd. Inevitably something is going to get double booked and frankly, it creates chaos. There are many scheduling APP’s however I am big believer in keeping all things on one schedule.
Additionally, if you have a partner, it is critical to communicate and plan. Who is going to drop off the kids? Who is going to take a child to the dentist? Who is going to watch a child while the other one has a conference call? Chris and I are not always perfect however we do plan the week. He is the CFO of our companies and I oversee sales, marketing, creative development, and a host of other responsibilities. We make sure that the other person has the time they require to get things done.
2. Become time efficient
Repeat after me, ‘I do not have the same amount of time as people without children at home.’ Okay, now that we have cleared that up, let’s get real – you have got to become more time efficient. Things such as timing your calls, setting the timer for social media, taking on the tasks that will produce the greatest results while it is nap time, or the kids are at school, is going to be your top priority.
You do not have time to waste looking at your girlfriend’s 300 photo wedding album on Facebook. You do not have time to listen to your sister complain about her marriage for the fiftieth time. You do not have time to have people call you and lament their woes. Your time is valuable and every moment you waste takes away from the future well-being of your family.
3. Admit that you require help.
Let me be clear – you likely need help. In the beginning of the messy aspect of kids, a job, and a business, plus sitting on several boards, I enlisted the help of my in-laws to babysit. I also put my son in a great daycare a few days per week. As soon as I could afford it, I hired a housekeeper because that was not something that was ever going to make me more money.
My kids are fairly spread out and if you also have this luxury, you can assign tasks to older kids. They can learn responsibility from a very young age and tasks such as unloading the dishwasher, tidying up, organizing, feeding the pets, and a host of other things can be delegated to other children which will also free up more time.
If you are trying to balance it all, you will need help. There are amazing outsourcing companies, virtual assistants, and caregivers who can help part-time even if you are at home. Care.Com is an online company that matches caregivers to families. They also hire out assistants and other part-time helpers. You can hire a student, you can even swap playdates with a friend. There are numerous ways to get help that cost very little money.
4. Track what you do.
Let’s say you are working on something and get interrupted by a child. Once the crisis is averted, you go back to your work area and forget what you were doing. Mommy and Daddy brain is a real phenomenon, one I am convinced is real at least. To avoid this and also make it appear as though you have an epic memory, track what you do.
If you are in some form of sales, it is critical that you track your conversations, details about your prospects, and make a detailed list of what actions you accomplished that day.
There are going to be times when you do not feel productive, and logging your activities will not only keep you honest, it will also help you feel more accomplished.
5. Embrace ‘messy’
Attention perfectionists – having a business at home with kids is messy – both literally and figuratively. It is not going to be perfect. There will be times when your kids interrupt you on a conference no matter how well behaved they are. Let people know that your kids are at home. Do not be apologetic, be proud of it.
Furthermore, know that the part of you who love the vacuuming lines in the carpet or the pristine playroom that even Martha Stewart would drool over, will have to be silenced. Unless you are paid to clean your own house, you are going to have to let some things slide a bit while you are growing your business.
I had a client once who had five children and was attempting to grow a home-based business. She refused to let go of the notion that her children had to eat perfect gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She went to the store every day and by the time she cooked and cleaned up, she was spending over six hour in the kitchen alone. Needless to say, she did not grow a business.
Cleaning, cooking, and doing household chores can be a form of procrastination. It will not kill your family to have scrambled eggs one night if you have a very full day. It will not be the end of the world if the carpet is vacuumed once per week, or if you get your five-year-old to do it, because you are trying to achieve a sales goal. Get over your stress about messy and just embrace it.
6. Do not compare to people who do not have kids.
There is not much to say about this. People who do not have kids have different lives and are able to carve out swatches of time to pursue their goals that are uninterrupted by school runs, diaper changes, someone vomiting on the rug, or having to find child care. Comparing yourself to people without children, of at least people without children at home, would be like comparing the efforts required to make your first million with someone who had inherited theirs.
If you do not have kids, or your kids are grown, kudos to you. If you know someone who has young children who is trying to grow a business perhaps you can volunteer your time to take the kids to the park, come over and watch them for an hour, or some other form of support. It can make a massive difference.
7. Have clarity about your desired outcome.
You have got to remember why you are doing this. As I mentioned, it is going to be messy at times. We want to be in the position that we are working toward a specific outcome. Perhaps it is to leave your job. Maybe it is to make extra money for vacations or savings. Whatever your outcome is, it is essential that you stay focused. At times, it may be tempting to give up because of overwhelm. Give your head a shake and get re-connected with your why. Trust me – at the end of the day, it will be worth every wall kicking moment, tear, point of frustration, and instance of self-doubt. Creating a life where you can design it on your own terms is the best feeling of all. Stay strong and stay focused. My mentor used to say, ‘Susan – you’ve got this,’ and to you I say the same, ‘you have got this.’
8. Say ‘No’
Meghan Trainor’s catchy song, ‘No,’ is a favorite amongst my two youngest girls. In this song, Trainor suggests that ‘no’ is a mantra for independence; she could not be more right. There is only so much you can do in a day and frankly if baking ten dozen brownies for the school bake sale doesn’t sit well, do not do it out of guilt and obligation – say ‘no.’
Your success is directly related to what you say ‘no’ to as much as it is to what you say ‘yes’ to.
To achieve anything, you are going to have to let some things go and especially while you are working on a goal, ‘no’ should become your new favorite word.
I used to be a person who had a tough time saying ‘no.’ The result was that I was overcommitted and ineffective. I started to embrace saying ‘no’ to things that were not in alignment with my goals and especially to situations where I felt marginalized. In my book, Organize Your Life, I discuss the art of saying ‘no’ and candidly, it is quite liberating once you master it. When you are asked to do something, carefully contemplate whether, or not, this thing aligns with your values and your purpose. If not, then you know the answer.
Finally, understand that yes, you can balance kids, and a business from home. You can navigate the messiness and come out on the other side. I am the first person to tell you that it isn’t easy however I am also the first person to tell you that it is worth it.
If you are juggling a business and kids, please comment below. I do read all of your comments. If this article is helpful, please share it on social media. I am on a mission to help 100,000 small business owners, and entrepreneurs become more organized, productive, and lead a ridiculously fulfilling life.
Susan Sly is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, certified NLP practitioner, coach, and trauma recovery specialist. Susan specializes in helping people become more productive so they can lead ridiculously fulfilling lives. She is the mother of five and has been working in human potential for over two decades.
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