It’s been a long time since I have posted a truly personal blog post and I am a little nervous to say the least, so I do hope that these proves to be helpful for business owning parents out there.
Ever since I started Whimsical Wonderland Weddings I have been a parent. I was a full time mummy to A, who was 6 months old at the time I set up the blog, which was 9 and a half years ago now. I was planning our wedding (which incidentally didn’t go ahead) with much aplomb, in fact anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t do things half heartedly. So in my typical way, off I went to the internet for ideas, inspiration and community. I think I felt there was some kind of yearning in me to find connections outside of being a mum and being the first of my friends to have a baby, a lack of self confidence and my own health issues, I didn’t really get out much. The internet was waiting, with it’s online wedding offering still fairly in its infancy, but I was enthralled, excited and hooked from the get go. So much so, that I began Whimsical Wonderland Weddings on a bit of a whim, to start blogging about the wedding plans we were making and the lovely things I was finding. Then I started to make online mates and began featuring real weddings. From there WWW grew and blossomed into a business, which was all kinds of crazy wonderful, unexpected and busy!
Whether or not timing wise it was ideal to start a business with a baby, I cannot tell you. Quite frankly I don’t know anything else, but what was a few spare hours a week sat on my laptop I had whilst my baby napped and my now husband G was working, exploded into a lot more time being needed to spend online and devote my time to WWW. The business was very much new, which meant that I wasn’t earning a proper wage to say the least and committing so much time to something that wasn’t a business at the time felt like a sacrifice. Would it be worth it in the end? Should I be spending more time with my baby? But you know what, I just loved it. I felt like me and my confidence grew so much over the years, that I never looked back.
As I found my feet, a routine and childcare, my career was forming. My business was growing and my love for weddings was certainly not waning, even though we were no longer planning our own wedding day. However it is and was not all a walk in the park. Juggling parenting and any kind of career is not simple, both in terms of practicalities and emotionally. I find the guilt real, I just know if I didn’t work, I’d feel guilty and often I have done, or sometimes even now I still do feel guilty when I do work. I think I had a vision of parenting and being a business owner, but perhaps those visions didn’t quite collide until they actually happened.
Then just to add another dimension into the mix, we decided to have W 5 years later. This time I was working full time on WWW and needed a plan, but having no proper maternity leave took it’s toll on me and quite possibly was one of the things I feel I sacrificed the most in my parenting/business owning journey. Boy did I feel the guilt too, sometimes I look back and feel sad I didn’t have maternity leave with W and then I think about what WWW achieved in that time and since, and I know providing for my family was really key for me too. Without G and myself working, we wouldn’t have the house we worked and saved so hard for. A place to call home for our family for the long term. Ultimately that was our goal and we achieved it. OK so we’re not quite finished with the renovations, but fingers crossed we’ll get there eventually. Anyway I digress, I think what I am trying to say is I have come to realise I just can’t have it all. G and I have both been working, when sometimes we just want to be with our little ones, perhaps at that school assembly or for fun times in the school holidays. But I hope that the time I do spend with the boys is all the more precious and appreciated because I have missed other stuff sometimes.
This year I have really tried to bring more balance to my life before I work myself into the ground. I am a perfectionist much to my own detriment and I need to remember always, that perfect just doesn’t exist. If I am happy then I can be a great mum to my children. So I have ensured that I have given myself more down time over the past couple of months, as a breather during school term time and for more time with the boys in the holidays.
Here are some of the things I do to maximise my time and ensure that I can both be a parent and a business owner successfully. These are just some of the things I do and I thought I’d share just in case they are helpful to anyone out there trying to juggle work and home life.
I have always been a stickler for routine, both for my boys and my work flow. For the boys I try and do meal times and sleep times at a similar time every day, as they have gotten older this has relaxed a little mind due. I also work pretty much the same days and hours each week, it’s true it’s a great benefit of working for yourself to be flexible with your working hours. However for me it just wasn’t working, I try not to work evenings, but I do set hours, usually school hours, to ensure more balance and normality for us as a family. I then know the tasks I do during those hours, so on set days I do particular tasks and have a routine each day. For example I always start with emails and then get working on a blog post. I also have strict phone checking times, I have no notifications on my phone for work and try my best to keep work in my office, on the PC where possible.
We have a lot of different commitments now such as after school clubs and homework and I have a big family wall planner with everything on it so we can all see each morning what’s going on. If the boys know what to expect from the day they are a lot happier and we all feel organised. I do love a list and we have one on the wall and I also have lists for my to dos in my notes section of my phone. I keep everything business related separate though, so as not to confuse and to ensure down time really is down time.
With the business I have a desk planner where I write my weekly to do list, I also use dropbox paper to coordinate everything with blog assistant Rachel, google calender for all scheduling and google spreadsheets for admin. I also use online accountancy software to keep everything organised and simple. All of my go to places online are saved on my browser toolbar, I utilise canned responses for emails that I can personalise and dropbox for images to all save time. It’s also great having a lot of your business tools in the cloud as you can log on from your different devices and still find everything where you need it. All of these things really help me with my productivity too.
Now delegation is definitely something I struggle with. But it’s something I have certainly reaped rewards from and has significantly improved my quality of life. When I was pregnant with W and I didn’t feel like I could get help with the business or have maternity leave so I decided to get help with the cleaning at home, this is something we still do now and it frees up a lot of time and energy for me. Plus it means more time with my boys. I also decided a while ago now to bring in a team member to assist and it’s been a great decision, for both the business and my work life balance. It feels like a big step, but if you are strapped for time and think you can afford it, definitely consider delegating tasks that can be completed by others. We’ve been so lucky over the years to have had a lot of help from our families with the boys too in terms of childcare and G used to work shifts so was around at unusual hours, which allowed me to focus on work. Even though I work from home, I don’t feel comfortable working with them at home with me. It isn’t great for them and I can’t concentrate well at all when I know they are here and G isn’t. That’s not to say I haven’t worked with them at home, but I always try to ensure it’s a rare occurrence.
This year I have finally implemented more balance as I mentioned above. I am taking more time off during the week for me. In the evenings I am just too exhausted to go out and working from home means I am at home… a lot! I also realised I didn’t do anything for myself any more, so I now go to a pilates class every week which I love, I have started doing more photography again and am looking for a new crochet or craft project to make my heart sing. I have been jogging once a week for years and find it’s always good for my soul and the anxiety issues I have suffered from. Overall, these things have made me a happier and more refreshed version of me, which hopefully in turn translates into being a better parent and business owner too.
I really hope that this has proved useful to some of you out there that are parenting business owners. I know I am always interested to hear how other business owners juggle being a parent too. I know I haven’t perfected things by any means, but as things grow, change and evolve I hope I can adapt to be the best parent I can xo Lou