I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Church and State

When I started the business, I did everything from home. My laundry was filled with boxes and boxes of cake tins and piping bags, I'd take business calls on my personal mobile, and my kids knew that any cake sitting on a bench somewhere was never, ever to be touched unless they got express permission to do so.

As the business grew, my laundry room got even more filled up with cake tools, the cakes on the benches numbered more than one, and my business cards (cheap, nasty, had an ugly pic of a pie on there and I don't bake pies) still had my personal number on there.

Then the business grew some more, enough to get me a commercial kitchen (and an empty laundry room), buy me decent business cards, get a phone number which wasn't my personal mobile - but I still operated from the home office for admin purposes.

Then the business grew some more, and I got office space next to my kitchen space, ordered by second batch of decent business cards, hired some bodies to help me with all the madness, and still had a phone number which wasn't my personal mobile. My home office was abandoned, and I reached the point where my home life and my work life were mostly physically separated.

Then one night when I found myself emailing a client at midnight (from home...again), I thought ...ENOUGH. Just...enough of all this. I'm not going to do this anymore. That was a couple of years ago, when I realised that my home life needed to be my home life and my work needed to be my work life. One is a place of comfort, solace, love and (mostly) quiet. The other, a place of ambition, excitement, labour and also love but of a different sort. It's a real trap that small business owners fall into, that every moment needs to be spent working on or in their business. That if you don't read that email *right now* you will somehow miss out on an opportunity to bake a cake for Oprah. That if you don't answer your phone *right now* (never mind that it's 6pm on a Sunday) you will miss out on the biggest order of the year. It's a total trap, and it's one that I've spent a lot of time fighting to get the hell out of.

I suppose I just came to the conclusion that the solace of home was what I need most of all, and that my kids and husband needed me to be here with them both physically and mentally. Just being here physically (with eyes glued to a screen, of course) wasn't good enough for them and more importantly, wasn't good enough for me. I began a very disciplined approach to this. I now won't answer my mobile after 5pm or on Sundays unless it's a number I recognise. I won't respond to work emails after 5pm - hell, I won't even log onto my work email at all during the evening hours. If a personal friend calls me with a cake request, I will politely stop them and ask them to email me their order, or call me during business hours to discuss it. The gist of it is this - when I'm home, I need to be well and truly HOME in so many ways.

I do fail at this sometimes - like the tag line above says, sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed, and mostly it's a work in progress - but I can't tell you what a difference the separation between Church and State has made to my sanity and to my relationship with my family. I love knowing that once it's 5pm, my time belongs to ME. I love knowing that I don't have to scramble to write down an order on the back of an envelope on a Sunday night, when I'd rather be watching TV with my kids. I love that if I need to take weekday time off to go to a school function, I can allow myself to put the phone to voice mail without one skerrick of guilt or worry.

Have I lost opportunities, annoyed clients, missed out on big orders as a result? Oh, hell yes, I've done ALL of those by choosing to not be available to my business 24/7 - but you know what? More opportunities, understanding clients, and big orders are always going to come my way at some point. Not being there for my kids - when I've got ONE SHOT at this parenting gig - well, that's never going to come around again. Learning to prioritize my family has been a huge learning curve for me...it would be so easy to just be married to the business and devote all my waking (and some of my sleeping) hours to it. I've done that - for years and years and years - and I'm just not going to do it anymore. I won't allow the business to rob me of my life.

Whenever I feel the slightest amount of guilt about that (and sometimes I do, I'm human and ambitious after all), I'm reminded of that old saying - "Nobody lays on their death bed wishing they had spent more time at the office."

...and that, my friends, is why you can't order a cake after 5pm. Trust me, I'll happily take your order, but I'll do it tomorrow.

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