Society’s expectations of women have changed hugely over the years. Being a mum and running a business are both full-time jobs, so doing both at the same time (not to mention possibly a third job of Home CEO?) can feel overwhelming. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. But of course it can also be incredibly rewarding. It’s a challenge that many women face, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone in the juggle.
You might feel that everyone else is swimming gracefully. But just because other people might not be talking about the challenge of trying to balance all elements of life, doesn’t mean they’re finding it easy.
Everyone is different. Every child is different. Every business is different. Remember, swans glide above water and paddle furiously below. So whilst there is no perfect answer, the more we talk about the realities of juggling busy lives, the more support and understanding we can offer each other.
I’m Emma, I run my own Personal Branding Photography business, based in Cheltenham, where I help female businesses and brands elevate and grow their businesses. I’m also a mum and a wife, and I’ve been running my own business since my little boy was born in 2017. So I am well versed in the juggle!
I’ll be honest and say that the balance is an ongoing exercise! I’m by no means an expert but I’ve learnt some lessons along the way. So here are a few things that have helped me manage the balancing act of motherhood and business.
A good place to start is to identify your priorities. You need to understand what’s most important in both your personal and professional life. You only have a certain number of hours in a day so it’s essential to ensure that you’re spending your valuable time and energy on the things that matter most.
Your personal priorities are the things that are most important to you in life. They could include your health and well-being, nurturing your children, your relationships with family and friends or life experiences.
In your business, hone in on your business goals. What are the needle movers? What are the key activities that will get you closer to your big goals? Work backwards and break down those goals to understand how you’ll get there.
Once you know your priorities, you can start to set realistic expectations for yourself and your business. This means being honest about how much time and energy you have available, and not trying to do too much. It’s likely that your personal resources such as time and energy will be more limited if you have a young family, and you won’t be able to dedicate so much of yourself to nurturing the business. And that’s ok. It’s an adjustment from your previous child-free life, so don’t expect to be able to do it all perfectly. There will be times when you have to let things go, ask for help or outsource. Just do your best and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Learn to delegate
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people who are willing to help you, whether it’s your partner, family, friends, or even a professional. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks so that you can focus on the things that are most important.
A little example, we encourage our little boy to help with simple tasks around the home. After some initial resistance he is learning that we all help at home. We felt that helping him to understand this from a fairly young age was important. As he grows his responsibilities and contributions will too. We are a team at home and everybody works together!
Within the business, notice the time that various tasks require. Are those time-heavy tasks worth your time? Or could it be worth outsourcing some of them? Yes this comes with a financial cost, but what is the cost of your time that you’re ploughing into these tasks? Outsourcing could free you up to focus on the things which you do brilliantly and which bring you satisfaction. For example I invest in a CRM system that automates a lot of my routine workflow, keeps me on track and doesn’t let me drop any client balls. Before I had this I was constantly terrified of missing something and letting a client down. Now that I’ve invested the time in setting it up, it helps me run my business smoothly and deliver the high standards and client experience that are important to me.
The next piece of the puzzle is to manage your time effectively. You need to make the most of the time you have, whether it’s during business hours, taking advantage of after school clubs or after your children are in bed.
This goes back to having identified your priorities and finding a way to help you to focus on the things that matter most. Strategies might look like creating a schedule or to-do list, using time-blocking techniques, or using a focus app on your phone to remove unwanted distractions during certain hours. Be flexible and adaptable when unexpected events occur, and adjust your schedule as needed.
Taking care of yourself is crucial when you’re juggling motherhood and running a business. It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of your business and your family and find you’ve left yourself last on the list. But neglecting your own needs can lead to burnout and exhaustion (as I learnt from experience!).
Self-care doesn’t have to look like spa days and pedicures (although that would be nice!). Activities that you enjoy and which help nourish you might be going for a run, reading, or a relaxing bath. It’s important to take breaks, both for yourself and for your children. Make sure you are getting enough sleep to help you recharge.
I really want to stress that taking care of yourself is not selfish or indulgent – it’s necessary for your well-being, for that of your family’s, and for the success of your business. If you’re not ok, the rest of your world will not be ok. It’s also healthy for children to learn the importance of prioritising your mental and physical health. And you can role model that for them.
If I could give past Emma one piece of advice, it would be to find your business tribe! Finding a support network is so important when you’re juggling motherhood and running a business. Connecting with fellow business buddies who understand the ups and downs of managing a business at the same time as a household has been a real sanity saver for me!
Being outdoors is really good for my mental health, and I’ve always liked the idea of a Netwalking group, where you can enjoy walks outside and chat with other like-minded business women. But I couldn’t find many that were quite what I wanted. So I recently created my own informal monthly Netwalking group for Cotswold female business owners, as a great way to connect with other women who are facing similar challenges. You’d be very welcome to come along and join us on a walk!
Wherever you find your people, remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it – you don’t have to – and can’t – do it all alone.
Balancing motherhood and running a business can absolutely be challenging and all consuming. But with the right strategies and support, and with realistic expectations, it’s possible to feel happy in both areas.
Remember to set priorities, manage your time effectively, take care of yourself, and build a support network. Above all, be kind to yourself, celebrate your successes however small, and remember that you’re doing the best you can.
If you would like to join me on a Netwalk, I would love to meet you! There are no 60 second pitches, just some friendly faces walking and talking, and there’s always the option of cake at the end! 🙂 Come and say hello on Instagram or drop me an email.
I offer personal branding photography and films for female creatives and business owners across the Cotswolds. If you’re looking for some tips on the types of shots you need for your business, whether you’re upping your iPhone game or planning your next shoot, my free guide to 9 Essential Shots for Every Brand might be for you!
The Motherhood Library is nothing without your stories. There is such power and solidarity to be found from sharing your experiences. If you would like to share your story about motherhood, sisterhood or womanhood, we would love to publish it so that others may find comfort, inspiration and strength.