Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Mums in Business - Can you have it all?

It's been some time since I blogged (embarrassingly so in fact) and it prompted me to think about why this was.

I mean, best laid plans and all that, I had over 30 topics at the start of September I planned to write about yet I've managed only six posts since August?

I put it down to the transition of settling into my new role running my own business whilst trying to spend quality time with my family. The whole driver behind becoming a Virtual Assistant and setting up The Intelligent VA Company was to be able to spend more time with my husband and four year old daughter Ella before she started school
I'm not going to lie, setting up a new business is hard work and can be a scary prospect but it is by far the best choice I ever made. It has allowed me to do what I previously hadn't managed in my old role, maintain a Work/Life Balance

I'm from a family of hard workers. It was never an option for me not to be working in some capacity and I always wanted to demonstrate an example to Ella. I wanted her to understand that if we wanted to go on holiday, throw her a birthday party, buy her that favourite toy for being good that we could do so because we went out there and worked for a living. 

That being said, I also wanted to be there as her mum. I wanted to be able to drop her off at school and pick her up. I wanted to be able to bake cakes with her, teach her to write her name, do silly dancing in the living room and read her all the stories I loved as a child. 

But could I do both? Could I be a good mum and run a business? 

The answer to that question is Yes - You Can. I'm not saying it's been easy but it is possible and i'm going to go through how I made it work for me
  • Set your boundaries early on. - Set the time you are going to not work at all and spend it being a mum. This is my time to do all the things with my family I couldn't previously do working in my old job. I wasn't prepared to compromise that and I have stuck to it.
  • Set your work space and your family space - My office is where I work. As far as Ella is concerned all the boring stuff goes on in there and she knows to leave me to it. 
  • What's driving you? - I've been lucky enough to generate some great new contracts and lots of interest. However taking on lots and lots of contracts would jeopordise my time with Ella. Sure, they'll make the business more money but I lose that time with her. I said at the top of the blog what drove me to start this business, I always keep focus on that. 
  • Manage your time - If you take your work in blocks of time it is easy to schedule contracts in. Be realistic about how long a job will take and if it is going to compromise your allotted, important family time then think carefully about it's worth. 
  • Delegate Dad - If you're lucky enough to have a partner ask for their help. My husband is incredibly supportive but we talked at the start and began dividing household tasks and childcare so everyone knew what they were responsible for. 
  • There are 24 hours in a day - Many contracts may not need to be completed in the conventional 9-5 workday. Utilise evenings, early mornings, nap times. Again if you plan contracts as blocks of time and be realistic you could create extra working time for yourself
  • Plan, plan, plan - You can't plan for everything, especially with children but you can do your best. What happens if you are sick or your child is unwell? I always end the previous week with a list of the bare minimum tasks which need to be completed the following week. If you are struck with illness try to stick to that list
  • Keep your promises - If you do have to work at times you planned to be with the family set a limit and stick to it. If you promise something because you're working that bit longer at times make sure you stick to it. Kids are like elephants...they never forget!
  • Talk to your children about your job - I've always told Ella from the word go what I was doing and why. If she is asked why I changed my job her immediate answer is 'To spend more time with me' and she's right. It makes it easier to explain when I am a little busier when i'm at home sometimes and why it will be worth it
  • When it's family time, be present - On more than one occasion I have been caught on my phone and not giving Ella my whole focus. This is a tough one as you do have a business to run but will it really matter if you don't answer that email there and then? Always put your Out-Of-Office on if you are away for more than a day or so and set aside an hour in the evening to return anything pressing. It really doesn't need to be done while you're at the park with your little one
  • Stay Healthy - No more 'sick days' any more! You need to try and stay as healthy as possible. I take vitamins, eat healthily and exercise for at least 20 minutes every day. Anything I can do to try and keep me healthy to be able to make the most of every spare hour
  • Set aside some 'You' time - Being a mum can feel like a full time occupation anyway. Combine this with actually running a business and times can get quite stressful. Setting aside some time where you do neither is really beneficial. I like to get out and go to the gym, go for a run or a walk or just take a bath with a good book. And there is time..24 hours in a day, you only need one of those to get away from everything. 
So, in summary if you plan your time wisely and use it well you really can 'Have it all' and, whilst I can't promise it'll be the easiest thing in the world you'll ever do, I can promise it'll be worth it!