I am one of those women who feels compelled to try and do it all.
I want to build and scale a business that I am proud of, all while being home during the day and raising my toddler. It’s an unconventional set-up – probably most likely one that is popular with women in MLM circles. But in the day and age of e-commerce and social media, it seems to me it could be more and more appealing to a multitude of women aspiring to have all different kinds of businesses.
Here’s my story: five years ago, my sister and I decided to start a clothing company specifically for the needs of tall women. I knew I wanted to find a way to be home with my daughter during the day without giving up any of my career aspirations. For a multitude of reasons, childcare during the day wasn’t the right fit for our family, and I was convinced I could find a way to balance it all.
But after giving birth to her, it was pretty mind-boggling to me the feedback that I received from a lot women about my decision to keep her with me during the workday. It ran the gamut of everything from, “Ummm, that’s going to a lot harder than you think,” to “Hahaha! Okay, well I’ll be interested to see how that goes!”
Suffice it to say, people thought I was crazy OR would eventually admit defeat and decide one of the two things would have to change. But here we are, nearly three years later and I’m still making my set-up work. It’s not perfect and it really is dang hard, but I would never change it for the world. Here are the five things that have been most helpful for me to make this arrangement work.
Compartmentalize the Day
I’m going to be honest ….. this is maybe the BIGGEST key to not just surviving, but actually thriving in your day! I start by assessing everything that needs to be done during the day. Then, be very honest about what you can actually accomplish while your child is awake and with you, and what is best done when they are asleep or napping, and schedule your tasks accordingly.
I try to wake up about two hours before my daughter every morning to knock out things that aren’t possible to do while she’s awake. Whether that’s designing a marketing email for our customers, writing blog articles, or developing other creative content, I know I’ll be at my best when I’m not interrupted.
Then, there are some tasks that can be done while she’s awake and we’re playing. You have to really embrace your multi-tasking abilities, but it can be done. You wouldn’t believe how many times my sister and I have had brainstorming sessions or worked through the fit of a sample garment all while playing catch with a ball, dancing to music, or running laps around my kitchen table. Then once my daughter goes down for a nap, it’s the perfect time to schedule a lot of phone calls to contacts or even do a photo shoot!
Communication is Key
Proper communication helps everything in life and it’s no different in making this situation work. Whether it’s with a business partner (if you have one) or with a business relationship, I’m very open and honest about my work situation. This ties back into how you set up your schedule for the day, but there are only certain times during the day where I am willing to hop on the phone for an extended time, for example.
And even in arranging this situation from the beginning, I think you have to be open with your business partner about how your daily schedule might look, but that everything can still get done – just possibly at different times of the day!
File this one under, “Sounds obvious but is actually a whole lot harder than it seems.” At the end of the day, you have to be very realistic and tolerant with yourself on what CAN actually be accomplished and what is unrealistic.
Obviously, you can’t be all things to all worlds at all times – there are honestly a lot of days where I feel like an awesome mom but a let-down to my business. And there are days where I feel like I’ve crushed my business goals but been a disappointment on the mom side. It’s something I still work through, but I have redefined what I consider “success” to look like at the end of my day and then work towards it.
Before taking on my current role, I worked in an office environment doing the 8-5 thing, and I think it’s fair to say that people who are in an office during the day still have periods where their productivity isn’t sky-high. Consider the water-cooler talk or endless meetings that seem to go on forever. When I compare my day-to-day to that environment, I genuinely don’t think my productivity in this arrangement is significantly different. It might be more tiring, but it’s also more fulfilling to me. I think I’m actually far more efficient during the day now than when I was working in an office cubicle.
Know When to Bring in Help
Just because you want to have your child home with you during the day, doesn’t mean that you can’t EVER get a little help! There’s no reason you can’t have a babysitter come over a few hours a week OR certain times of the month when you know that your schedule is more demanding.
Maybe there’s a neighbor, a family member, or a student who could help you during the times you start to feel like you’re drowning a little bit. This summer I found an amazing high school student to play with my daughter a few extra hours during the week and we have both benefited from this arrangement!
Find a Support System
Like any situation in life, there’s going to be tough days and tough times. You can’t avoid it. But that doesn’t mean that your situation is broken, or something has to change. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you how good of a job you’re actually doing AND that this too shall pass!
There are times I seriously feel that I’m disappointing everyone, and I depend on my support system to highlight all the things that have gone well! That’s usually enough to re-inspire faith and get back to it the next day!