Working mothers face many challenges. The desire to nurture your children while providing for the family have promoted many women to seek alternative employment outside the home.
Instead of working typical 9 to 5 jobs, women are turning toward entrepreneurship – owning their own small businesses and leveraging their skills from the corporate world into marketable opportunities.
Many women cite the flexibility of working for themselves as the main reason to seek non-traditional employment. Still others have the dream and vision to fill a niche with a product or service that helps them enrich the lives of other women and contribute to their communities.
Striking the right balance between work and life is uniquely challenging for enterprising mothers – here are some ways to make both a success…
Develop a Priority-Based Routine
When you are growing your small business and raising small children, it seems like every task is urgent. However, prioritizing your daily duties can help break down larger tasks into more manageable bites.
Take five minutes each morning to determine which tasks you must accomplish. Creating a routine where you complete the “urgent” tasks first starts a habit of making sure the greatest needs of both work and home are met.
For those balancing a busy entrepreneurship with motherhood, having some wiggle room in the “work part” of your day can be a lifesaver if there’s a parent-teacher conference, field trip, or doctor’s appointment. Your routine should include setting aside devoted time for work as well as focused time for family.
Set Daily Goals that Allow for Flexibility
You can categorize your work tasks into 4 boxes:
- Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.
- Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
- Things you want to do and actually need to do.
- Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
Your routine for the day can also include when you’ll set aside time for working -without interruptions – and when you set aside family time (mealtimes, playgroups with small children, homework supervision) – also without interruptions. The pieces in between you can use to take care of item number 4, while your “work only” times are for tasks two and three.
Have Realistic Expectations
You know that your business may not reach seven figures in the first year. Entrepreneurial moms should look at where in their market they fit, and take a careful look at how they can expect success to look. Understanding that starting a new business requires a long “ramp up” to be profitable is one thing most entrepreneurs stress to new business owners.
More importantly, make sure you are doing something you are truly passionate about and that you have a deep love for. Doing so will motivate you to jump out of bed every morning to work on your craft and continue scaling it out.
And finally, make sure you lay out a roadmap that outlines the milestones you plan to achieve with specifics to how you will measure success along the way, as well as the timeframe you plan to achieve these goals.
Create a Your Tribe
Beginning your own business means making a lot of connections – networking – and seeking out a market to launch your venture. Whether you’re a small bakery finding new clients or a custom clothing designer, putting your product on the market while raising children keeps you busy.
Many communities have networking mixers through the area Chamber of Commerce, as well as small-business oriented seminars, lunches, or outings. Attending these events can help you reach out to other “mompreneurs”, gaining you not only exposure to your market but valuable business connections as well.
Julie Aigner Clark, the founder of Baby Einstein, emphasizes the importance of building a team with those who have skills that complement yours. Ideally, as a team of entrepreneurial mothers, both business development and child-rearing can coincide.
Maybe you alternate babysitting duties when one or the other has important client meetings, a deadline, or simply needs a few hours of peace and quiet to focus on a project. Sometimes you’ll find someone with a skill set that dovetails into your business needs – a freelance web developer and a graphic designer, for example, can come together to offer a more complete package for new clients.
Reaching out to others not only helps new moms feel like they aren’t alone, but it can also help a new business grow faster – more hands and extra talent means less work.
Be Flexible Yet Mindful
One thing that many moms-turned-entrepreneurs have learned is how to roll with life’s punches. From a business meeting that turns into a phone conference due to a sick child to answering emails at soccer practice, being able to accommodate to the unexpected is what can make the difference between your business being a success – and not. Understanding your priorities can help make you a more flexible business owner.
Being mindful is another way that busy moms balance enterprise with motherhood. Many note that when they are playing with their children, they’re thinking about the business. When they’re working on their business from home, their thoughts are consumed with household tasks or worries about their child.
Opting to engage in mindfulness means that you’re living each moment in the present. When you’re with your child, mentally put business aside and engage in quality attentiveness. When you’re working, focus on your work and make each task count.
Whether you’re doing something for work or something for your family, dedicate all of your attention to that task. You’ll find that you are both a better parent and are more successful with your business.
Know Your Limits
Even the most flexible, mindful, scheduled mom/business owner has limitations. Realizing where you need to stop and when to take some of the pressure off a new business can easily consume every waking hour. Many business owners understand the value of persistence and the fact that hard work will beat talent, but the key point here is to also make time to enjoy the process as well as the journey.
Single mom and franchise business owner AmyKaye O’Brian notes that limiting when you are “at work” and when you’ve devoted time to your family can help avoid feeling overwhelmed. She also advises placing your own limits to avoid burnout, a common problem for those who work from home.
Don’t Neglect the CEO
You work hard, both building your business and building your family. When you have spare time, do you find yourself doing small work tasks, or squeezing in housework? The challenges of new motherhood and a new business are rated almost as stressful as the death of a close loved one or divorce!
Taking the time to practice self-care, whether time spent exercising, meditating, or unwinding with a peaceful hobby or good book can do wonders for your mental and emotional state. In fact, deliberately carving time out of your day – even 30 minutes – for alone time and self-care can make a world of difference in avoiding burn-out and preserving your enthusiasm for both your new business and your family life.
Running your own business and being a full-time parent has many challenges, but organization, perspective, and balance can make both of these a success. From making sure that you understand the priorities of your business to dedicating certain times that are “family only,” you too can be both Mom and CEO.
Lastly, know that defining what it means to “do it all” should be done by you. As Deloitte’s CEO, Cathy Engelbert, states: “You can do it all as defined by you. I didn’t think I could have it all, but when I defined what doing it all is, I said I can do this, I can juggle it.”