We’ve been looking at why running your own business is ideal for when you want to start a young family; how to set up your business so that it works for your family; and how to specifically prepare for maternity leave. Now, what about when that first baby actually arrives? Your life will change forever, you will reimagine success more dramatically than you have ever done before, and you will find yourself with very different priorities suddenly to what you had pre-baby. So how do you actually manage your business with a baby in tow?
There will be plenty of people around you who are more than happy to provide you with advice, including the classic, “sleep when the baby is sleeping” – or, more appropriately when it’s about your business, “work when the baby is sleeping” – but your reality will be very individual to you. I know people who missed work so much that they wanted to pick up again after just a few weeks, and others who haven’t worked in years. How you think and feel once the baby comes will determine how much work you want to do and when.
There are some things, though, that I think apply to everyone. Here are five aspects to consider once you come to the point of getting back to work and managing your business with a baby…
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1. Remember your “why” and get clear on your priorities
I always say ‘define success’ and we’ve been doing that for the past few weeks, whether it’s in the broader sense of your life and career goals or more specifically when it comes to how you want to show up as both a parent and a business owner. Now that your baby is here, and you’re about to start working again, it’s important to remind yourself of that bigger purpose or ‘why’.
After taking that time completely off following the birth of your baby, when you do start getting back into the swing of things and checking your emails and social channels, you may quickly get caught up in the day-to-day pressures of running your business. When each minute that you spend on your business means a minute away from your baby (and your partner), it’s so essential that you are clear on what is important and why. It may be that things that seemed critical before fade into insignificance now and you get a much clearer perspective on what really matters when it comes to driving your business. Use that newfound clarity to define your top priorities and then focus on those – and let go of the rest.
2. Set boundaries and learn to say “no”
One of the reasons why you’ve chosen to run your own business alongside your family is precisely because it gives you more freedom and flexibility– but that also means that the lines between work and family time can get blurred. With those priorities from #1 in mind, you’re going to need to decide what you’re going to work on and when; and, equally important, what you’re NOT going to work on and when you’re NOT going to be working. What are your non-negotiable parameters and where might you compromise? Make those boundaries clear to yourself, to your partner, and to your clients.
Once you have the boundaries clearly defined, you have to actually stick to them! That means doing things like closing the door to your home office, shutting down your laptop or turning off the notifications on your phone when you’re not ‘supposed to’ be working. It also means learning to say “no” to professional projects and clients that conflict with your priorities and working times, as well as potentially saying “no” to your extended family and friends when their requests intrude on your most important priorities that you’ve identified. It may sound ruthless, but you only have a certain number of hours available each day – now, less than ever! – and so it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to spend that time.
3. Prioritise self-care and your wellbeing
It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Even before having children, taking care of yourself means taking care of your business (your business will not survive if you crash and burn!). Now, more than ever, you need to make sure that you’re fit and healthy so that you can take care of your family. Remember what the flight attendants say in their safety briefing: put your own oxygen mask on first, before you help anyone else.
Sleep deprivation is inevitable in the first weeks and months after giving birth and the focus of the limited energy you do have has to be on taking care of that little newborn who is entirely dependent on you. You need to rest whenever you can and make sure that you’re eating properly, especially if you’re breastfeeding. When you start working, you need to find ways to still take care of yourself – whether that means getting food delivered to save time on shopping, or listening to podcasts while you go for walks with your baby sleeping in the pram, or sometimes having a nap and postponing that blog post you had to write because you need to catch up on sleep.
4. Ask for help
Speaking of getting food delivered, there are so many solutions available now to you to make your life easier. Women especially tend to think (or perhaps we’re told) that we need to do everything ourselves – be that perfect domestic goddess while also hustling away in the business – but it’s by no means a sign of weakness to ask for help. If you want to ‘have it all’ then you’re going to need to get some help to do so.
‘Help’ can mean talking to your partner about how you’re going to divide the chores now at home, getting friends and family involved where possible, and paying for external help where needed – whether that be a cleaner to take housekeeping off your to-do list, a nanny to take care of your baby for the day, or a business coach to help you make sure that you’re focusing on the right priorities in your business.
5. Show yourself some compassion and understanding
After all this planning to set yourself up for success, clarifying your priorities, and getting the help you need, the truth is that things are still going to go ‘wrong’. Expect the unexpected, be ready to throw your plan out the window, and try to laugh it off when chaos ensues. Your children aren’t going to conform perfectly to the boundaries that you’ve set, they may not sleep when they’re ‘supposed to’ or they may get ill, and your business will always have some element of unpredictability as well. Try to roll with it, take each day as it comes, and don’t take it personally when you inevitably experience those personal and professional ups and downs.
Above all, know that you’re doing your best and be kind and compassionate with yourself. Again, remind yourself of your ‘why’ in #1 – what really, REALLY, matters – and get help as we said in #4. Know that some balls are going to drop and, as someone once said to me, make sure you know which balls are made of rubber and will bounce right back when you drop them, and which balls are made of crystal and will break into a million pieces. Your Instagram channel (and even your business!) will probably survive if you don’t post for a few days, while your health, as well as your relationship with your partner and your child, may not be quite so robust if you neglect them!
Are you coming up to the end of your parental leave and thinking about how you’re going to manage your business alongside the new addition(s) to your family? Or have you already juggled a business and a baby? I’d love to hear about your own experiences and any questions you might have – comment below!
Next week, we’ll look at the lessons we learn from becoming parents that we can apply to running a business.
If you’re striving for a better balance between work and family and want to make sure you’re focusing on the right things in your business to really get the results you’re after, then get in touch to book a free consultation with me. We’ll look at where you are today in your business and your family situation, where you can make some shifts, and how I can support you in creating better business results AND more time for your family.