“MOMPRENEURS” – a Balancing Act
By Sarah Billimore.
The shift to working from home may have meant the end of the 9-to-5 slog but will ultimately unveil a new time-keeping device: the 24-hour clock.
For parents running small businesses from home, the mix becomes infinitely more complex. How best to cope? Like all things entrepreneurial, it begins with a plan.
When it comes to balancing parenthood and entrepreneurship, we went straight to the source! Home Business magazine is thrilled to introduce our Mompreneur ambassadors, Durban-based Deborah Andrews, driving force behind the website MomsMatter.co.za, and Wendy Hinson of Cape Town, who developed the hugely popular KidsForAfrica.co.za web-based directory.
In this issue we put the most obvious question to Deborah, Wendy and a number of those subscribed to their respective platforms: How do you balance working from home with all the other obligations that come with being a parent?
“With a business that I enjoy and three children who need my attention, there are times when I drop the ball,” admits mompreneur, Deborah Andrews.
“In a perfect world, the children would go to school in the morning and I would get all my work done in time for the school run.” But, as any parent juggling their own venture from home while raising a family will tell you, this is often easier said than done.
“A parent who works from home faces issues that childless home business owners don’t face, and the biggest of all of them is ‘Mommy Guilt’,” Deborah explains.
To try and find some sort of balance, she has “bucked the general trend” that says to separate her work space from the kids’ space. “In fact I have created a corner in here just for them littered with brightly coloured boxes full of crayons and craft activities. The kids are quite comfortable asking me to print off a page to colour in or activity from the internet and, because my work is web-based, I can even carry on a basic conversation with them while I type.”
On whether she’s winning the battle for balance, Deborah laments: “I absolutely love what I do, it’s my passion and I know that I am a much better person and mom for the satisfaction I get from the success of www.MomsMatter.co.za but I’m not perfect and, to be honest, the balance is completely out of whack, but I’m trying!”
For Wendy Hinson, the very idea behind her business was born from her personal experience of juggling her responsibilities as a parent and work.
“KidsForAfrica was born out of my frustration at not being able to find what I needed when it came to my son. I was holding down a full-time job and was mother to a seven-week premature baby and I didn’t know how to find the balance. I was sure there were many other parents out there sharing my frustration and if I could make their lives a little easier - then I could help them to find some balance whilst I was finding mine too,” she explains.
For Wendy, balancing KidsForAfrica, her job as office manager to an author in the mornings, being a mother, a wife, a home-based executive, an accountant and more is still a journey she’s learning to walk with baby steps.
“I find that I get so excited by what I am doing with KidsForAfrica that hours can go by in a flash. The most important priorities in my life are my son Zack and husband, Paul - followed very closely by friends and family. They definitely make the balance happen for me. Zack and I spend an hour together reading or playing games in the afternoon before I make dinner and Paul and I share bath and bedtime duties. Inevitably, I then do more work in the evenings.”
Kelley Robertson, President of the Robertson Training Group and author of Stop, Ask & Listen, suggests drawing up a To Do list to help maintain momentum to complete the tasks at hand. “Having a list of what you need to accomplish each day can help keep you focused; otherwise, it becomes too easy to do other things around the house. If you know that you need to finish a certain number of tasks by the end of the day, it will prevent you from getting distracted,” says Robertson.
“One of the challenges with home work is that household duties or running errands are actually more enjoyable than some of the work we have to do. However, I have found that once I get involved in my task, the desire to do something else fades.”
Self-employed mother and founder of Christian Work at Home Moms (www.CWAHM.com) Jill Hart, reiterates how important planning becomes if you are ever going to run an efficient home-based business. “It's important to map out not only what needs to be accomplished during the time that you have allotted each day, but also what things are the most important ones to deal with,” she says. "Adding a few extra fields to your To Do list may help you to become even more productive," she says. “Make a list of all the tasks you must accomplish, and then rank them according to deadline, desire to complete, and so on.”
Just because you can see me, that does not mean I’m here…
While older children can often be left to their own devices, explaining that mom or dad is “unavailable” to a younger child can be challenging and will almost certainly need to be repeated.
“If you don't have space to create an office, find somewhere in your house that has the least amount of traffic and the fewest opportunities for distraction,” suggests Robertson.
He says that setting specific business hours can also help carve out some distraction-free time. “This is particularly important if you have young children. It can be very difficult for children to understand that they can't disturb us while we're working. If you have an office, close your door and place a Do Not Disturb sign on the handle. This is particularly important if you are making client calls, because it prevents family members from inadvertently barging in while you are making an important call.”
Jill Hart has some suggestions on balancing work and family. “Whenever possible,” she suggests, “delegate tasks you feel that others can be trusted to do satisfactorily. Have your kids stuff envelopes, hubby can print business cards for you or let your virtual assistant (VA) do some of the online work or phone calls for you.”
Finding the balance
Many owners of new businesses feel that their increasing workload is justified, and can believe that taking time off from work is akin to leaving the new baby alone for the weekend.
In truth, too much time away from the office can be detrimental, especially if you are a one-man show, but take an occasional well-timed breather rather than eventually be forced into taking some kind of rest period by your family or physician.
“Because we are building our own businesses, we feel that we will not succeed unless we're working - or at least thinking about work - twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” says Jill Hart. “This simply isn't true, because taking care of yourself is one of the best things that you can do for your business.”
Author and businessman John Mehrmann reminds us all to take stock of our lives and our priorities: "Creating a proper perspective on priorities comes from recognising all of your responsibilities, and giving the proper portion of your life to those people who cherish it the most."
And if you notice that you've begun to find reasons to avoid keeping going, Robertson suggests repeating three simple words to yourself: "Do it now!" This, he says, is a great way to prevent yourself from getting distracted by other things you might prefer to be doing.