This post is authored by my friend Rachel Hamada, who has just set up her second small business, and who is one of the most productive Mums I know!
Every job has a particular skillset that comes with it. Few are extreme as being a ‘mumpreneur’. Fancy trying to negotiate a contract over the phone while someone sinks their teeth into your arm? Trying to post insightful tweets about complex political situations while rustling up a fishfinger sandwich and run a bath? Trying to make thoughtful notes while talking to the manager of a hotel you’re reviewing when all your mini-me wants to do is go straight to the pool? These are all some of the scenarios that have ensued in my career as a small business owner and mother of a little girl.
I have a four-year-old daughter. She gives me a lot of belly laughs and hugs, and in exchange I give her a lot of energy, patience and TLC. I also have two businesses – one is an online magazine for Zanzibar, Mambo magazine, which is aimed at travellers, locals and expats, and the other is WORDFUNDI, an editing, writing and social media business that also carries out branding work and web development. Like most people running a small business, I have to be careful about a) cashflow and b) time management. But with the extra demands that stem from having a child to look after, I have to be even more clever at juggling.
Here is one thing I have learnt.
You will always feel guilty about not being with your kid when you are working, and about not getting on with work when you are with your kid. Can it. You have enough to do without the useless emotion that is guilt. If your child is loved and safe, you are doing fine.
Otherwise, here are some other techniques that have helped me to manage both aspects of my life:
Sense of humour. Have fun with your kid when you are together, be spontaneous. This will feed your energy and creativity. If, like me, your job is partly creative, the weird angles on things that a child’s mind offers can really feed the ideas machine. A sense of humour is also one of the only things that will get you through the odd metaphysical car crash that comes from being a ‘mumpreneur’. If you like feeling in control, oops… wrong career. But exciting chaos suits me, and many others, more than boring order.
Routine. Having said the above, your kid might be one of those people who does crave security and repetition. So have an anchor point in the day that is the same on most days – such as a regular bedtime routine. We have a set dinner, bath, books routine that gives my daughter comfort when other things around us are in flux.
Lean on people. Ask for help – if you’re with a partner, share domestic responsibilities. If you have a cool extended family, get them to take your kid sometimes if they get on. Take turns with friends with kids to be the responsible adult. Carve out time to work. And carve out time to relax and let your brain cells and imagination recharge.
Be realistic about projects. If your business is clearly not working out, cut your losses. However, also be patient. If you believe in your business and there is a market for what you are doing, put in the work and don’t give up when you’re close to reaping the rewards. Most small businesses don’t turn a profit for the first few years.
Mentors – yes, please. If you know someone in your field who would be a good mentor, consider asking them for some time. They might be happy to hang out for a bit, offer their hard-earned knowledge and in the process help you cut some corners and save some time in getting to where you want to go. Time that you can spend bonding with your child and having fun.
Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, consider getting a staff job with a more steady income and set hours, as well as staff benefits such as sick leave and paid holidays. If you do enjoy it, and your kid is happy and healthy most of the time, then you can weather the little storms that will pass through your business and home lives once in a while.