Lots of mums are choosing to work from home or even set up their own businesses these days. It allows greater flexibility around their family commitments, which is a massive plus, but does it really work?
I've recently stepped into the 'mumpreneur' world by setting up my own business. I had to find a few hours a week for 3 months last year to study and qualify to teach pre and postnatal exercise and then took time to develop my initial concept into a practical business and do some market research. Once the practical side was sorted I embarked on yet another learning curve, to design my own website.
I have to admit, when you don't really know what you are doing to start with it's very time consuming and I'm glad I have some great friends who helped me get the design and content right. I've found it invaluable to ask friends and family for their input along the way to make sure I'm heading in the right direction. There's no point in designing a business and website that you like but noone else does! If I had had the money I probably would have had a professional website built but as I'm a one-woman-band teaching a handful of classes I couldn't justify the expense at the outset. In my mind that money has been better spent on getting posters and flyers printed to get out into the local community.
Website and printing done, it was time to start building relationships and getting myself known out there. I began a social networking campaign on Facebook and Twitter, which I'm still maintaining. Evenings are a good time to sit down for an hour or two and catch up on posts, blogs, tweets and email shout outs. I find it almost impossible to dedicate any time to this during the day when the kids are around as the interruptions stop me from focusing on giving a coherent, consistent message. Noone likes to receive poorly worded messages, lots of repeats or irrelevant content so I do my best to minimise that.
Of course, with 2 under 3's at home most of the time I've had to do all of this setup and admin in the odd hours my children are napping or of an evening. Working piece-meal isn't ideal and takes longer than it would under normal circumstances. It's also a case of balancing the children's needs against keeping up with emails and phone calls, which can be quite challenging at times.
Finally, in the Spring, I was able to begin teaching my classes, which, after all, was the aim of setting up the business. I currently teach 3 times a week and I'm still finding that the admin takes longer than actually running the sessions but I believe it's worth it as I can now do something that I'm passionate about. The hours I'm spending on the laptop or tablet instead of relaxing are hopefully going to give me a strong brand, good client relationships and a successful business in the long-run. I consider this to be a worthwhile investment of my time as it's for me and my family, with the bonus of helping other mums-to-be and new mums too. I also like to think I'm being a good role-model for my children and demonstrating that they can follow their dreams and passions in the future.
So, does working from home work? Well, it does for me but it's certainly not without its pitfalls. I have to be really careful not to let my work take over from my children. It's very easy to get sucked into Facebook, Twitter and emails and keep saying "in a minute" to the kids, but somehow that minute never happens. As soon as I identified that this was happening I made sure I didn't do it anymore. I don't want to neglect my children in order to run my business. It's all about managing a very complicated juggling act and making sure you don't drop any balls.
The other side of working from home is the stress you have to deal with. You have the expected professional stress around running your business but you also still have the stress of looking after the children, doing the housework, doing the food shopping, cooking... It's no mean feat to handle all of that every day and not be able to get away from it like you can when you walk out of an office at the end of a day.
I have to watch that I don't let my stress impact on the patience I have for my children. It's not fair to get cross with them when really it's something else I'm mad at. You might also be feeling guilty for not giving your children 100% of your time and attention. I make up for that by ensuring we have good quality time together every day and I'm always there to read stories and tuck them into bed no matter what.
Now I've been doing this 'working from home' thing for a while, we've all settled into it and my nearly 3 year old even tries to help me when I'm dancing around the lounge practising exercise routines for my classes! Moments like that definitely make it all worthwhile.
My top tips for working from home are:
1. Plan your day in advance so you know where your windows of time for working are.
It's better to have blocks of time rather than a few minutes here and there.
2. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day/week.
3. Take a step back every now and then to make sure you're not ignoring your children.
4. Remember to separate work stress from home.
5. If your kids are old enough, explain what you are doing so they understand why you're not
spending all your time with them. Make sure you have quality time.
If you have any experiences or comments you'd like to share, please let me know. I'd love to hear from you.
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