Juggling work and parenting for small and creative businesses - the struggle is real

 

I KNOW I'm not the only one feeling this. Sometimes, it's just... super hard to do it all, isn't it? Not in a superhero unrealistic way, but just getting to the end of the day unscathed with half the jobs ticked off your to-do list. Sometimes, doing that is really bloody difficult.

I know because that's how I feel at the end of most days; slightly dazed and endlessly regretful about the billion and one things I didn't do, while not focusing enough on the things I did manage to achieve. And I know I'm not the only mum running a small business, and I know I'm not alone in this. While we all have a nice scream into a cushion and a cup of tea, other childless folks are wondering how best to organise the shoe rack or whether they should repaint the downstairs hall.

In the past few days I've had so many conversations with other amazing small businesses online and the same themes come up again from the ones with children: Not enough time. Guilt. Comparing. Struggling not to get swamped with all the competing tasks each day.

So I started thinking, isn’t it disingenuous to pretend we are all merrily multitasking away? Because in actual fact sometimes it is a massive struggle to manage the workload of being a parent alongside anything else at all, let alone running your own business. Social media is dangerous in this way, and I know this has been said a lot but it bears repeating. It’s easy to compare ourselves and always find our lives wanting, lacking the necessary sparkle of those on Pinterest and Instagram. Which reminds me of the wise saying, "Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside." At the same time, we can help each other out by being a bit more real and vulnerable about the challenges of parenting and trying to run a business. It is hard, man.

Anyone who has spent any time at all with children will know that caring for them is a full time occupation that doesn’t leave any room for anything else. It’s not a time consideration as much as a mental space consideration: looking after kids makes you feel emptied out, with no room for other things like hobbies, getting your head immersed in business accounts or, well - anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love my child more than life itself, but being a parent is so mindless at times that it leaves me feeling like a chewed up husk with very little to offer. To then try and build a business from home, often around day-to-day mundane tasks can feel like a herculean effort.

Sometimes I get down and think how much further along I’d be if I had some clear time to sit down and work each day. Stopping and starting is very disjointed and prevents that lovely feeling of ‘flow’ which is so wonderful when you tap into it. Flow doesn’t happen when you are braced, actually physically tensing as they approach and you know you’re about to be interrupted and lose everything that was in your head. Argh!

Building a business under these circumstances is the hardest and yet also the most satisfying thing I have ever tried to do. I don’t talk about this a lot on my social media but I am a single home educating mum, so at home it’s just me making the dinner and trying to keep all my crap together. No husband bringing home the bacon and providing the buffer of a second income and someone to pay the mortgage. Just me, trying to carve out a living little by little. And, no mortgage.

What that means though is that it’s doubly valuable when I do achieve something in my business, it’s so hard won that each small victory feels like another brick placed carefully on the slowly growing wall of my mini-empire. The first time someone bought something from my website just because they had found me via Google I felt so elated I almost cried. It was worth all the snatched minutes of concentration, budgeting and borrowing. The nights spent worrying and staring at the ceiling thinking ’How the hell can you do this?’ and ‘Can you really build a business from nothing with no capital and make it a success? Is it this hard for everyone else trying to do this?’ Is there a way this could be less hard?’

In 2019 I would like to tell my son ‘I am busy’ much less often, and I would also like to be kinder to myself and celebrate my achievements in business. Yes, it’s hard but it’s absolutely worth it and I utterly love my job. Being self employed is scary, tremendous, wonderful and a rollercoaster of other different emotions. Doing all that while having a kid? Well, heck, lets all pour ourselves another cup of tea shall we? We've earned it.

Anyone doing this is my flipping hero. Yes, you. YOU are my hero!

 


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