About 3 and a half years ago I was 35 weeks pregnant, happily sitting at my desk working on my business which I’d made my full time gig about 4 months earlier. I had been to the gym that morning, had a lovely Skype session with a client and was generally feeling awesome. However, that Friday night everything changed when I started getting contractions and ended up giving birth the next day.
My precious bundle of joy arrived 5 weeks early. Thankfully my labour and birth we’re fine, but what followed was an absolute shit show – the first week we were in hospital due to his jaundice, the following week A&E followed by an ambulance ride to another hospital when we discovered Finley had a serious life threatening heart defect, and basically the following 9 weeks leading up to when Finley had his open heart surgery were horrific and looking back I can see I had postnatal depression and a form of PTSD. The time I thought I’d have to wind down my business obviously disappeared, and I was right in the middle of writing Grains as Mains and had a number of active clients!
It was the ultimate trial by fire when it comes to balancing motherhood and running my business, one which I didn’t achieve especially well in those first few months, however, it was that extreme experience that has taught me more about myself, how to balance running a business and self care than anything else.
So many women want to create an online business so they can make a living doing something they love that pays the bills (and some) and allows them some balance with their family life and role as a mother. That was exactly what lead me to where I am now, and although I’m not perfect most days I feel like I’ve nailed that motherhood business balance for us. Because that’s my first bit of advice – every child, mother and business is different and you need to figure out what’s going to work for your unique situation.
I can remember when I blogged about Finley starting nursery at 6 months and someone commented about why I was doing that when clearly I could have him at home with me. Well fuck me, if she’d seen what it’s like to try and work with a 6 month old Finley she’d have realised why! I also breastfed Finley right up until he was 2 and a half which is another conversation in itself.
Here’s the thing, my business isn’t just a way I make a living (and FYI I’m the main bread winner in this family so I didn’t / don’t have the option of not working) it’s also the way I express myself and the way that I get to be creative. In so many ways my business is an extension of my own self care because it’s so fulfilling.
With that in mind my biggest issue when Finley was born was that I wanted to work because it was how I got to feel like myself again, my challenge was not burning myself out in the process. I blogged Finley’s birth story and all of his heart defect journey and it was incredibly cathartic – was it ‘work’? This is where the boundaries can get blurred when you run a business that you’re a huge part of.
So I had Finley, still worked in my business but rearranged the deadline for the recipe book and had to cancel and refund some clients. I still blogged though, and even recorded podcasts with Finley asleep in the sling. I also had a community project I had to deliver so I returned to that (which was a couple of hours a week) when he was 4 months old and my Mam looked after him. I found that it wasn’t too bad up until then because most little ones sleep a lot during the day. I should have been sleeping too though!
When Finley was about 4 months I soon found out I couldn’t work and be a present Mum, and that’s been the fact which has guided me ever since – I can’t multi task, Finley isn’t the the kind of baby or child who will happily watch TV or play, he needs that interaction. Whenever I’ve tried to do both it never ends well. I just found that I would get stressed out because I was doing neither motherhood or running a business especially well!
At 6 months he started nursery 2 days a week with 1 day a week with my Mam and from that point onwards things have worked really well for us. At 2 years old he started an extra day at nursery, so we have one extra day off together a week. As I said this is what works for us, I still love the flexibility I have to have Fridays off, finish work early, start late, take a day off whenever etc – but I still know plenty of Mums who run businesses with little to zero childcare too.
I really love this balance, but what I’ve found is that I have to be pretty firm with my own boundaries. I stopped taking on clients in the evenings and save any evening work for delivering webinars or live trainings etc (evenings got much easier once I weaned him off the boob and James could put him to bed)
So to boil that down to some key tips:
- You, your baby / child and business are unique. Don’t worry if your business motherhood balance looks different to someone else’s.
- If it fits with your situation, childcare can be the most amazing thing ever. I’ve never regretted Finley being in nursery, he’s a brighter more confident child because of it.
- Have some boundaries in place and discuss these with your partner so they can support you.
- Business wise, having a baby or child in the mix is a great way to get super specific on what’s working in your business – you won’t have time for anything that’s just fluff!
- Remember why you chose this option – why did you want to start a business in the first place? Of course there were days when I missed Finley and felt like a shitty mother for taking him to nursery. Reminding myself why I was doing it this way really helped with the Mum guilt.
- Maternity leave when they’re really little can be a good opportunity for learning time (as long as it feels good to you) I loved listening to podcasts on walks with Finley in the pram so when I really got back to it I was raring to go.
- Remember that by running your own business you’re modelling some fantastic behaviour for your children!
- Your wellbeing comes first – the first few months as a mother especially can be very hard. Screw the business if your wellbeing is being effected – I wish I’d been kinder to myself back then.
This post has ended up being a bit longer than I expected but I hope it helps!
If you’re a Mum running your own business (I salute you!) what does balance look like for you? If you’re thinking of starting your own business to create that family life balance has this post given you some ideas?