This blog is specifically about being a business owner and a mother. In the photo above I am 6 mths pregnant with my now 2 year old boy enjoying dinner with my gorgeous daughters and family. I wouldn't presume to give universal parenting advice so these are reflections and learnings from my own experiences. This is very practical, sage stuff, and will perhaps seem “less spiritual” than my other posts, but trust me,
Mixing Business & Babies makes for really Rewarding Spiritual Growth!
I started my own Life Coaching business when I was 20 years old. A year later I got together with a wonderful man and 6 months later we got the best surprise anyone could hope for: our little baby girl was on her way. So I was 22 and running a successful and growing business, as well as trying to navigate a relatively new relationship and this surprise pregnancy. A baby was definitely on my vision board, but I definitely manifested that earlier than planned. More about vision boards in another post.
I was 1 year into business, half a year into this relationship and a few months into a pregnancy, and I was wondering how I would make it all work!
Within a few short years there was another baby girl on the way, and not only was I still managing my business, I was growing and running new businesses too! Naivety and youth are wonderful because you think you are invincible and can conquer anything, all of which is great for starting a business and having a baby.
Fast forward thirteen years, and I'm now a single mum with 10 and 13 year old daughters, and a 2 year old boy. I'm also been growing another business. Obviously a lot has happened, and so I wanted to share my
Top 7 tips for mixing Business & Babies
From what I have learnt: what worked, what didn't work, both personally and professionally; and what I've observed and learnt from the thousands of clients I have coached or had in my seminars over the years.
Number 1: There is never a “right” time to have a baby!
I was brought up Catholic, I loved going to church and embraced a lot of the values and ideals of that religion.
I was "supposed to": get Married, have a Baby and Live the Life with a White Picket Fence.
Being unwed and pregnant at 22 wasn’t part of my original plan, but I had a great supportive partner and we were planning to get married. I knew that he would be, and of course still, is a super dad. I had to let go of my Catholic fantasy/ Disney world version of how I thought life should be before having a baby.
When there’s a baby on the way, the best mind set is to Expect the Unexpected.
Forget your baby plan. Forget your business plan. Surrender to the unknown because the only one with the plan that’s going to happen is the baby!
Number 2: Make going back to work a choice
One of the most asked questions I get is, “Will I be able to go back to work 6 weeks after having the baby? Will I want to? What if I have to?" Or, "How do I juggle both baby and work, or business?”
9 out of 10 people who I've coached, or my friends who've had babies, end up spending much longer at home with their baby, because they loved being a mum and wanted to spend more time with their bub!
Sure, have a plan to return to your job in 6 weeks if that is what is best for you and your baby, but also be prepared to not be able to, or not to want to! Baby’s are a blessing and they change your world for the better. So if you want to head back, you can, but if you dont want to, for whatever reason, try to be flexible about it when planning you return to work. You don't want to be in a situation where you'd love to stay home longer with your baby, but you can't because of the way you setup your return to the office. Personally, I was firstly crushed then pleasantly surprised about being back at work, after spending less time at home with my first baby than I had planned. For one, I was using my brain doing what I love: life coaching and personal development seminars, and training life and business coaches, which is very different to being at home full time with a little one; and two: it was actually a break compared to being home! Being a fulltime mum or dad is really hard but rewarding work. I could actually have a warm cup of tea in peace. Also, I’m adamant that
Doing what I love, running my business, made me a Better Happier Mum, and Loving Being a Mum made me a Better Happier Business Woman and a Better Coach!
Number 3: Mother guilt is common and it does not help you in any way
My partner was a super busy senior executive at a big firm working long hours and doing everything he could to be a great dad, like sitting in the hallway at 2am with the dryer on trying to get Coco to sleep in the middle of the night so I could get some rest. From the start he also contributed to cooking and cleaning, and he was, and is, a very hands on dad, thank god!! When my baby girl Coco was 4 months old the people who were managing my business during my maternity leave decided to move on to their next journey, leaving me in a bit of a pickle. I was very happy and supportive of them moving on to follow their purpose and it was not long after this that my then-partner quit his job and starting running the business, which was the best thing for our family at the time. When mixing business and partners/ spouses, be mindful of both income sources coming from the one place: as we found out it can be a little tricky as our staff were always paid but from time-to-time we did not bring home any income for ourselves!
I had to go back to my business much earlier than I'd planned or wanted to.
I went from having intended, and wanting to, stay home with my baby for a year to having to go back to lead my business in order for it to continue thriving. I was crushed by this sudden disruption to my plan. To make things more difficult, expressing milk was not an option for me and I was starting to feel very guilty about the whole thing. I didn't want to put Coco into daycare at 4 months so my mum started looking after her for a few days a week and I drove back and forth for every feed, and then worked for a couple of hours in between. I was lucky that my mum was close enough to my work so that I could feed my child in between running a business. So the message is:
It's not about your Resources it's about your Resourcefulness! We are all doing the Best we can with what we have: Forget Feeling Guilty!
For the mums who feel guilty for taking their bubs to day care: don’t! Obviously you want to find a good care centre that matches your values, budget and location. But look, these beautiful people really do take very good care of your child! Just a heads up: childcare spots are very sought-after especially the really good ones (and even the not so good ones!) so put your name down at every single care center in your area, so that if you decide to go back to work, you actually have a place for your child. If you're thinking about childcare, another way might be to share a nanny with a group of mothers, or get a live-in au pair, who can help you with the daily household grind. Or you might swap babysitting sessions with a friend who has a baby of a similar age.
There are Many ways to share the Workload at Home and at Work there is absolutely no need to feel guilty about Wanting or Needing help!
Speaking of help, you absolutely need and must have a “last minute” team: emergency support with the baby or the business who you can contact at the last minute when the proverbial hits the fan! Make sure your team at work are totally inspired and committed to your company vision, and your family too, so everyone feels they have a vested interest in your success both at home and at work.
Number 4: A newborn baby is a 24/7 job. A new business is a 24/7 job.
Plan your time with your Baby, Partner and family 1st then work your business around your family 🙂
The great thing about owning your business is that you probably have the flexibility to change work plans to tend to the needs of your child, or if you've been up all night, or if your child is sick or school holidays. For that very reason some people will try to set up a business and have a baby at the same time because they want this autonomy and flexibility. However:
Think long and hard before you Start up a Business and have a Baby at the Same Time!
Sure, I did, but you have to have the capacity to be very fluid and flexible, and incredibly resourceful. So if you are used to being an employee and suddenly decide to mix business and baby, you may be very far out of your comfort zone. Before doing this,
Know Thy Self and Your Risk Ratio or Stress Ratio.
This can only be worked out through pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and learning what you limits are. If you are an employee a suggestion could be for you return to work through job share. If you are already a business owner try these tips: work from home for a while or take bub into to work with you; clear your schedule; delegate, delegate, delegate; and delegate. When bubs are small they sleep a lot (if you are lucky to get a sleeper, my first two girls did not sleep... for a year), so you might be able to bring them with you to your (home) office and make their sleep time your productive time. I used to bring my small daughters to work when I needed to be in the office or if I was running a seminar. That way they were close to mum and dad (as we worked together), they were also supervised by one of our trusted team at the time, and my parents were doing the catering so it was a perfect fit for us all!! Of course, some people do business and baby simultaneously very successfully, but I’m trying to flag this for people who might be under the illusion that it would be easy! Whether a business owner or an employee you will go through the experience of being less productive at work, but most productive as a parent:
Productivity Becomes about Quality Rather than Quantity with your Business or your Job.
You will not be as productive as a worker without a child, but that’s ok, you’re doing the most important job as a Mum! You simply won't be able to do your ten to twelve hour working days anymore. I have found that the mums who I have employed in my businesses get more done in a day: they know they have no time for chit-chat and they simply need to get their job done efficiently and get home in time for their Bub. Therefore, I always employ mums with babies because they are hard workers and are very efficient, and they also need some flexibility and autonomy which is a win/win for everyone.
You need to Un-Workaholic Yourself.
You need to take time to rest. Take time to heal. Take rest to produce milk, or if you use a bottle, that’s fine and takes lots of energy too. This goes for both mum and dad: mum needs to get some rest and dad needs to be your wingman. Most dads in the early stages of fatherhood feel useless because they don't have the milkbar!! If you are a single mum reach out to your friends and family.
To be an Amazing Mum and Amazing Business Woman you have to Take Care of Yourself.
You know the saying: “Happy Wife Happy Life”? Well another one is “If Mum’s ok, Everyone is ok”. If you are falling in a heap from putting everyone's needs before your own, you're not any good to anyone. On the plane they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your baby: this is how you need to operate to be of any use to your baby or your business. Growing a baby takes a lot of energy, Having the baby takes energy, and taking care of the baby takes a lot of energy.
You Simply Need to Rest Heal and put your feet up as much as you can.
Number 5: Every first time parent is a little (or completely) neurotic.
I would not allow Coco, my first child, to have any sugar for the first couple of years of her life. She ate organic food and was supposed to have breast milk for as long as possible. I knew what I wanted and what I wanted was perfection!
I wanted to be the Perfect Mum, and I put incredible pressure on myself to be one.
I did eventually learn to be less pragmatic and I learnt that you can’t be a perfect mum. It’s not possible for your children to live up to being perfect kids, and if you are modelling "trying to be perfect" you are setting yourself and your kids up for certain failure. None of us will ever live up to or want to live up to this impossible ideal. You certainly don't want to be neglectful, but reaching for perfection is ridiculously tiring! Each day the goal needs to be: a balance between the two... good enough.
Never neglectful, Not Perfect, but Good Enough is an attainable goal each day.
Number 6: I want a natural birth
One of my mentors asked me: “Christy, if you went to the dentist to get a tooth pulled out, would you ask for pain relief?” “Of course!” I said, at which point he added, “Then why wouldn't you have it for childbirth?”
Make the best choices for you and your baby. Everyone is different, so don't compare yourself to other mums, and your children to other children!
I've had two natural births and a caesarean. The whole caesarean versus natural birth debate about who is stronger, better, or whatever... forget all of that!! Have your baby any which way you want and don't buy into any of the judgements about women who choose an epidural, caesarean or pain relief. If you need pain relief, take it! If you can relax and not need pain relief, that’s great. The only goal is to have a healthy baby and a healthy mum, and whatever experience you have, it is perfect and exactly as it's meant to be.
The baby’s coming out one way or another... be open to whatever needs to happen to have a healthy baby.
What does this have to do with business? Well you are the "you" in your business and you need to be making solid, healthy and guilt-free decisions about you and your baby, because:
Baby is now a Very Important Associate and Co-director at Mum Inc.
Number 7: The super mum myth
As your children get older, continue to organise your business around your family.
If you think this sounds old fashioned or conservative or pre-Second Wave Feminism, I'm merely sharing with you what I love and what most of us value most in life: Our family, my children and family make me happy so I place them in the center of my life (see previous post about investing in what makes you happy) In terms of earning money, the rule of thumb is that if you can earn more money per-hour at your day job or in your business than you would pay a cleaner or housekeeper per-hour to do the cleaning, washing or whatever else needs to be done, then:
Go to your paid job or business, hire a housekeeper and spend your spare time with your family!
There are thousands of families out there who pick their clothes out of a pile in the laundry that never gets sorted or folded! Know that what you imagine other women’s perfect households to look like is probably a myth. They probably have unwashed dishes, unwashed laundry and dust bunnies under their fridges too from time to time!
Say to yourself: I give myself permission to have be less organised at home, or less than what I have maintained pre-baby.
I give myself permission to be tired and grumpy sometimes. I give myself permission to order take away or serve toast on occasions rather than cook dinner when I'm exhausted. I give myself permission to sit and relax rather than scrub the floors at the end of the day. I choose to read to my baby and cuddle them to sleep rather than clean... the cleaning can wait.
Make your Priority to be the BEST mum You can be each day rather than the BEST cook/cleaner/maid.
I personally did not have to get used to a mildly disorganised house because I was always ok with a little bit of organised chaos, but I did have to really adjust to how much work a baby is: the washing and cleaning load is huge! But I know some people who cannot (will not) spend time with their family until everything is spic, span and sparkling!. To these people I say: try to let go a bit! Try to put the "OCD" 🙂 aside and enjoy your loved ones. Know that Messy and Dirty are different things: messy sometimes is aiming for "good enough", and dirty is neglectful. Aim for good enough to maintain a healthy balance in your family and business. There will come a time when your routine will settle back to a balance that you are more comfortable with. Until then either get a housekeeper, cleaner or enlist a family member to help with the load. Obviously we all feel better when everything is organised at home and everything runs smoother and there is less stress.
If people offer to help you, always say: Yes! Yes, Yes, Yes!
Learn to say yes and learn to let people into your life. Reach out to friends, family and other mums for help. Other mums are your go-to people, and don't be scared, they are probably a bit self-conscious too and you all need to relax and realise that. Let friends bring your prepared dinners, let your mother-in-law clean the house. I remember calling my mother-in-law to come hold Coco when she would not stop crying, just so I could go have a shower!! Don't be ashamed, you are not alone. As mums and dads we understand... reach out to people. In the tribe of mums: we get it! Call on your tribe to help, and then pay it forward whenever you can!
There is no book-perfect baby!
Plan to not have it all. The first couple of years with a new baby will feel like bare survival. You're sleep deprived, you've got baby brain, you're not earning as much money as you used to, and you've got drool and food on your clothes and in your hair!
Babies are only small for the shortest time: they get big so quickly!
Do your best to set up your life in a way that allows you to just enjoy this precious time. There’s a season for sowing and a season for reaping, and they don't both happen in the same season.
Your business might just have to take a back seat: your baby’s demands will be louder and more important.
Or to be more precise, because there are now plenty of stay-at-home-Dads, someone's work or career will have to take a back seat to make it work, unless you are hiring full time help. The reality is that the pre-baby conversation of whose career/business is going to be put on hold, or be less vital, will need to be worked out because baby is number 1.
I have three children and I've always run businesses and I couldn't be happier with these aspects of my life. Whether you're a step-mum, or you've adopted a child, or you're a foster or guardian for a child we're all parents: no parent is any more or less of a parent.
Deciding to mix Business and Babies can be a hair-raising experience
and is definitely not for the faint hearted! Plan ahead, plan your meals, get your shopping delivered because it's quicker. Have a planner on the wall so everyone knows where they are meant to be and at what time. Planning your home and work life in advance makes everything run much smoother, and the kids can see and know everything is under control. Children and babies love routine and structure so make sure they know what the routine and the structure is. They want to know: when will dad be home, when will mum be home, who is picking me up, who is dropping me off? Keep to a routine and you will make it work.
If business and entrepreneurialism are in your life-blood then you will make it work with a baby in tow; if you are used to being an employee and are considering setting up your own business and having a baby, I suggest you time them separately if you can. If you are an employee and wish to remain one and are having a baby, or have a small child, I recommend returning to working life via job share or part-time at a time that suits the needs of you and your child.