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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This past week I took an order from a client who asked me how I came up with the name for my business. I told her, and she let out a huge dramatic sigh and said, "Great. Now I feel *really* inadequate." I just laughed it off and told her that not everyone needs to have as many screws loose as I do.  She then went on to tell me she has only one child, and does not own a business...and cannot for the life of her understand how one might fit in kids and a business and just, you know, life.

So - when you've got kids (regardless of quantity) AND you're an entrepreneur, how on earth do you manage it all?

The truth is, you don't. Or rather, you DO, but to a level of chaos you are comfortable with. You make different choices, make compromises, learn to prioritise, learn to multi-task, rely on the kindness of family, friends, and sometimes strangers...and you just muddle along like the rest of the world does.

The biggest struggle for parents in business seems to be devoting enough quality time to their business AND enough quality time to their kids. It's hard to feel as though you are giving either of those things 100% when you are so tired you can barely muster the energy to brush your teeth. It's hard to feel like you are a good parent when you are only half-listening to your little darlings prattle on while you're checking your email on your smartphone. It's hard to feel like you are a good business owner when your energy bill has a hastily-scribbled supermarket list on the back of it...and that bill was due two weeks ago. Make no mistake, there is NOTHING which is easy or simple about being a business owner and a parent. I'd even say that you are in many ways running TWO businesses - each with their own financial and emotional demands, each with challenges, daily changes which need managing, and each which need more time than you actually have to give.

I really struggled with this whole work/life thing for a very long time and I've chronicled it here many, many times.  I've written about various ways I've found to cope, but I've also read myriad articles and blog posts about 'how to have it all,' 'how to be supermom,' 'why the supermom is a myth,' 'how to outsource your life and be a better parent' and so on and so forth. There is no 'one size fits all' answer to this dilemma because each family dynamic is different, each business is different, and each person has their own internal list of things which are important to them.

For me the solution to the age old question of the family/work life balance is a two step process. Depending on your personality, one or the other of these will be damn hard to do. Actually, if you're like me, they are BOTH a lot of hard work.

Step 1) Accept that you'll never be all things to all people. The sooner you accept this, the easier the balance will be. You're going to lose some clients because you are not available 24/7, you're going to upset your kids if you can't sit through all 4 hours of their recital, you're going to annoy your partner by not being a vixen in bed every night, you're going to have a messy house, you're going to probably still need to lose those 10 kilos you've been carrying around. Shit happens. Best to realise that now.

Step 2) Make a decision about what things are not negotiable, and live to that decision. In EVERYTHING you do as it relates to your family and your business. So if for you the 'not negotiable' item is being able to pick up your kids at school every day, then your business hours officially end at 3pm, Mon-Fri. Not negotiable. Maybe it's getting to the gym 3 mornings a week - so your business hours on those days don't start till 9am. Messy house not an option? Either build time into your diary specifically for cleaning, or hire a cleaner. Homemade dinner on the table every night? Learn to cook and freeze. Making millions by the time you're 25? The kids' recitals will just have to be recorded. There is NO shame in choosing you or your business time over time with your kids - but OWN that decision, and live to it. This step requires an enormous amount of discipline, but since in Step One you already know you're going to screw it up sometimes, well...maybe that's not so daunting any more. Decide on the important stuff and then make that important stuff actually HAPPEN.

Of course nothing at all in life is as black and white as the above paragraph would have you believe. All I am really saying is - if you spend a bit of time to decide what's *really* important to you, and then take steps to make sure that at minimum those things are taken care of - well, anything above and beyond that is just a bonus. If you're going to spend all your time worrying about the little stuff, and getting everything only half done...well, all you're going to end up is frustrated, guilt ridden and burnt out. Decide on what's truly essential to your happiness, make those things actually HAPPEN, and suddenly you'll find yourself just that little bit calmer. Have you ever heard that expression, "If you want something done, ask a busy person"? That pretty much encapsulates my philosophy of the work/life balance. We ask the busy people to do things because it's the busy people who have things organised in such a way as to make MOST of what they want to achieve happen. The busy people have time - or can carve out time - because they know their time is precious and limited and therefore needs to be managed well in order for them to succeed at it.

I know you're thinking this all sounds terribly simplistic, right?

(insert wry grin and sarcastic laugh)

Let me share with you a little bit about my life. Mondays in particular.

Monday - first I have to get out of bed (I hate that bit.) Usually one or more kids has begged me one or more times to get up before I actually DO get up. In the morning I do my usual morning stuff (teeth, whatever) - I'll also do DD2's hair, try to make sure my kids have all done their morning ablutions and have all their stuff sorted out, get them out the door and eventually I get to the gym. I come home from the gym, and on my way to the shower will throw in a load of laundry, put away dishes, etc. I then make my way to work and do work-stuff for most of the day (you know, all that romantic entrepreneurial stuff.) I'm also highly likely to pay household bills, make some household related phone calls, try not to eat too much chocolate, and berate myself a bit for not getting more done (because I still struggle with this.) Come 4:20pm, I look up in shock and horror that it's that time already, so I quickly shove all my crap into my bag, and fly out the door to the bus stop to get the kids. Between 4:20-5:19, I make 3 lunches, clean up the kitchen, put the wet laundry into the dryer, make a decent start on dinner, remind the kids to do their chores, help with homework, and whizz around like a crazy lady. At 5:20 I take DS and DD1 out - DD1 gets dropped at Girl Scouts, then I drive DS to basketball. He and I shoot hoops for about 5-10 mins, then I sit and watch him practice. I have to leave practice 10 minutes before it ends to drive back and get DD1. She and I then drive back to basketball to pick up DS. We then all make it home, where we finish the dinner making, greet my friend who comes over for dinner every Monday, and try to get ourselves organised for the evening. So that means sorting out the rest of homework help if needed, finishing any unfinished jobs, starting a new load of laundry, washing dishes which need washing, getting the dog fed and so on and so forth. We all have a nice night together, sort out any crises of the "I have no clean uniforms" variety, and eventually the kids go to bed and my friend leaves. At which point I'll answer work emails, talk to DH a bit, facebook a bit, or clean up some more (post dinner dishes, random crap strewn about the place, etc.) At some point I will decide I need to get to bed and will get there around 11-ish - where I pretend to read (but really I'm asleep with my eyes open) and fall asleep with my bedside lamp on and my book falling out of my hand - only to wake up (or be nudged to wake up) about 7 hours later. 

I'm exhausted just writing all that, and I'm sure I've forgotten some bits - but it's all  done with a very helpful and supportive DH and kids who actually help out around the house a fair bit. If you think that the other days of the week are any different, let me assure you that they're not - with the notable exception that Mondays are generally the quietest day of the week for me  You might also be reading that and thinking, "I don't get it. That kinda looks like she *is* doing it all. Which bits has she prioritised there? Which bits are non-negotiable?" 

For me, there is only ONE bit which is not negotiable - and that's the quality of my life. As soon as doing any or all of the things I do mean that my general happiness and satisfaction with my life are compromised - ALL of them would fly right out the window. The ONLY not negotiable thing for me - as selfish as it might sound - is my happiness, and by extension, the happiness of my family. Once I figured that out, I worked out the actual day-to-day things which make me happy, and those include my health (eg the gym going), my kids' enjoyment (eg the activities I take them to), food (eg a home cooked meal every single night) and so on.

It's chaotic, it's busy, and sometimes it's exhausting - but I'm grateful every single day for the happiness my life brings me, and for now anyway it seems to be working for me. Basically, if Mama's not happy, NOBODY is happy.

If you got this far and you're still not sure what I'm trying to say, here is the Cliff Notes version: You can absolutely "have it all" - as long as you're willing to take the time to figure out what undeniably essential things are required to make your life work for you.

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