When I first started my business I thought I was busy, what a fool I was. Now I have an 11 month old, and I’m a walking zombie with a mum bun.
This is a stream of consciousness, from a 35 year old mum, still in PJs next to her sleeping child who thought 3:30am was a great time to wake up. She has slept for an hour, which means the crankyness will have subsided (IYKYK).
I’m half under a blanket, teetering on the edge of the sofa, writing this on my phone.
My back aches, a slight pain in my wrist (is that called mummy wrist?). I’m also nursing my second ulcer where my lovely child carelessly throws toys at my face.
I run my social media business from home. I recently saw a tweet about how to balance work and home life – wanting advice, but not from a 20-something who lives at home and doesn’t have kids.
So here is my take. It’s not exhaustive by any means. And I’m sure there are many more things I could say….but who has the time!
Be realistic and let stuff go
This is a hard one, and I’m still in the midst of feeling ok to let things go.
There will be days where you can’t ‘balance’, where you run from laptop to baby, back again, and just feel stupidly stressed.
Deadlines, quick tasks that you just want to tick off so you can feel better, client calls, blah blah blah….
You feel guilty, and you might feel guilty for ages.
If today isn’t going your way, and by trying to push things you’re feeling worse (and baby is responding to your stress). Just stop.
Push everything off your table.
You’ve got to be realistic.
There will be a time, when your baby no longer wants your complete attention. When they don’t want to breathe you in, and they can entertain themselves.
But if today is not that day, give yourself that space.
Shut off the laptop, make your apologies where you need to and just give in.
Give in to a nap. Give into baby cuddles.
You’re not slacking off, so ban that thought right now.
This is usually only temporary, and things change, so give yourself permission to operate how you need to.
Ask for help
When I was pregnant I was one of those people, “I want a few weeks of no visitors, just me, husband and baby”.
Within a few hours of being home, after a pretty traumatic hospital experience, I was on the phone with my mum.
We were prepared, but after a C section I couldn’t be moving a cot and set everything up for the baby.
It can make you feel incapable and like crap to ask people for help. Whether it’s with childcare, home care, self-care or in your business.
Whenever you can ask for help.
Whenever you can afford to, hire help.
Stop giving two hoots if people judge you, or what you SHOULD do.
Hire a cleaner, even if it’s only for a few weeks while you have a big work project on.
Book little one into childcare, if only to get some rest time.
Ask your family and friends to come over, and get them to bring food and make the tea!
And one more important point – sorry it’s shoved at the bottom, but get your mental health checked. My health visitor was great with me, and helped me self-refer for CBT for my anxiety. I had 6 amazing sessions that really helped me get my head in a better place.
Be clear and open with clients
Many women build businesses with a child on their lap. This was said to be by a very smart coach, and it rings in my ears all the time.
To be honest, I didn’t want to be the business owner with a baby. Coming from a corporate background, I felt negatively judged.
It sucks, knowing there are people who think you’re incapable because you’re working from home with a baby that needs your attention.
So here’s the thing, they’re not your people.
Setting realistic expectations for clients is key. When you book a call with me (which is rare because calls are frickin hard with a noisy kid!), I give you notice that there might be little voice in the background, or little one might be front and centre on the screen making a grab for the mouse.
I don’t hide away. The reality is I generally exist in one room in our home. It’s the office, the lounge, the playroom. Full of life, noise and chaos.
That’s just the way it is.
Set expectations when onboarding. Office hours, when emails will be responded to, lay it all out, it helps create an understanding between you and the client.
This means if it doesn’t suit a client, rather than it becoming stressful for you, trying to juggle their wants, you need to turn them away, or move them onto someone better suited.
It’s hard, but not as hard as trying to live by someone else’s rules.
Similar to setting expectations, boundaries are important. If you have set office hours, don’t communicate with clients outside these times.
Even if you fit in work when you can, schedule messages to go out during your office hours.
You need to create proper divides between work and home as much as possible. You’re not multitasking as well as you think.
When you work from home it can feel like you’re either always at work, or always at home (goodbye motivation). So having set times for work and home can help save your sanity a little.
I used to be really good at this, even with turning off my phone in the evening. But now I use my phone to stream Disney plus and as a clock. So it’s on all the time.
Sometimes things slip and that’s ok, but strive to create appropriate boundaries for yourself.
Treat yourself with things instead of time
So I never have time, waiting for time for yourself as a parent, working full time, it’s never going to happen.
Well, it does, sometimes, and then you’re in total shock on how to use the time.
Shall I do something for me?
Shall I tackle the to-do list?
So rather than waiting for that headache to praise yourself, treat yourself to things.
This doesn’t need to be buying stuff, although I won’t stop you.
It could be having a cup of tea and biscuit. Your favourite treat or lunch while little one shoves a rusk in their chops.
Don’t just get the scraps because you’re prioritising everyone else. You deserve a nice reward for all the things you do.
My last takeaway is if you can get a playpen – although be warned this may now become your cage. Once my daughter learned to crawl, she could cross the lounge in seconds. She was into everything, especially plugs and cables.
To keep her safe we invested in a playpen, it’s frickin huge! You can get a second-hand one for much cheaper and it’s been a lifesaver.
There are times when she will sit in there, watch Ms Rachel and read her books, she loves books.
But there are also times when she stands at the edge and shouts at me until I join her in there, unfortunately, the laptop won’t survive in there as she attacks it.
I can, however, manage tasks with my phone. I can still answer messages and stay connected to work if I wish.
So there you have it, I’d love to know your thoughts on working at home with a baby.
Maybe you’re laughing at my chaos because you’ve got it all worked out.
Maybe you feel like you’re drowning, it will get better, I promise.
But don’t forget to ask for help.