Running a business around kids is a juggle we all know well. I never thought I’d feel nostalgia for the days I could sit at my desk for 9 hours, smashing my to-do list, eating a Pret sandwich without someone putting their fingers in my mouth.
I absolutely love being my own boss, and the creativity, flexibility, and freedom it gives me is something I am enormously grateful for. But of course, it’s not without challenges and I am often found answering emails while pushing a swing, writing while breastfeeding, or putting the kids in front of Hey Duggee so I can make an important call.
The mum-guilt is strong, but I’ve yet to meet a mum with her own business who doesn’t regularly feel torn between her work and her family. Here are my 5 tips for coping with mum-guilt.
1. Accept you can’t give everything 100% all of the time.
That tension of being present enough for my kids, while fitting work into every free minute, is one I have struggled with a lot. In the newborn days it’s quite easy to combine work and parenting, but once my kids were on the move it was a totally different story.
At one stage I was putting my baby on one side of the room, dashing to my laptop to write an email in the 30 seconds it would take her to crawl over and start climbing my leg. I felt like a terrible mother and overwhelmed by work.
The fact is, you simply can’t give both work and kids all of your attention at the same time, so avoid combining the two if you can. Once you start to say “this is kid time” and “this is work time” you give yourself permission to not be both. You are one person, and you’re doing the best you can.
2. Batch work
Ever feel like you’re working your arse off but things aren’t really moving forward? Chances are you’re chipping away but not completing tasks. Being busy is not the same as being productive, and batching tasks together helps you from feeling overwhelmed .
Instead of replying to emails as they come in, check them once or twice a day. Allocate a couple of hours a week to write posts and get ahead of your social media. Block out one morning a month for admin tasks. Batching tasks minimises distractions too, so when you remember “Oh I really must send that invoice” you know it can wait when you’ve already set some aside time for it.
3. Have a “5 minutes or less” task list
Sometimes the things we put off the longest, are the things that take the least amount of time to do. Replying to emails, tracking expenses, updating testimonials, cleaning your desk, closing all those unread tabs, connecting with people in your industry.
If you’re having one of those unexpected days where your focus is being pulled from your work, do a couple of the smallest tasks just to keep things going.
4. Take some time for yourself
I know it sounds counter-productive. You already feel torn between family and work, so how on earth can you make time for yourself? Downtime allows you to re-energise, to rest, to allow your thoughts to fall into place. After all, boredom breeds creativity. Small amounts of time alone give you the energy you need to keep at it, and keep burnout at bay.
If it seems unfathomable, start with just 5 minutes and work up from there. Can you take 20 minutes for a walk by yourself. What would it be like if you could take a couple of hours? I often go for a coffee by myself on Saturday mornings and I come back feeling like a whole new woman.
5. Release guilt as soon as you feel it
I’m telling you right now, that you are amazing. You are raising kids, and running a business, and probably a whole lot more on top. Working mums contribute to the economy, the childcare you pay for supports staff in your local community, it’s great for kids to see mums doing work they love. You are allowed to have a life that is fulfilling on your terms.
When the feelings of guilt creep in, notice them, accept them, release them, and remind yourself of the impact you are making in the world. Let that negative energy go, use your power to move you forward, and don’t let guilt hold you back.
About the author
Holly June Smith is a life coach, a wedding celebrant, and a mum of two girls aged 1 and 2.5. She is obsessed with planning, productivity, and living a life filled with intention. You can find her on Instagram @hollyjunesmith or at www.hollyjunesmith.co.uk.
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