Being a Mom and running a business is like having two full-time jobs. We asked women who do it for their advice on how to juggle running a family while building a business.
Katherine Reynolds Lewis juggles a demanding career with raising three daughters -- ages 3, 6 and 17 -- and being a wife. She is the founder of Washington, DC-based CurrentMom.com for women entrepreneurs and the About.com guide to working moms. Lewis founded CurrentMom.com specifically for entrepreneurial mothers to share their wisdom and find community, support, energy, inspiration and new ideas. Inc.com Senior Producer Tiffany Black asked Lewis and other busy MEOs (Mom Executive Officers) to share their advice for balancing family and business.
1. Set aside some time for yourself
More than one Mom offered this piece of advice. When you are running a business and taking care of a family it's easy to forget about taking care of you. "As a psychologist, I know that everyone needs regular rejuvenation," said Lynda Ariella owner of Porch Light Psychology Services in La Mesa, California. "I take one day off every week; on that day, I don't answer the phone, I don't do work, and I try not to worry about things that usually bother me. I suggest that my patients do the same."
You say no to your kids all the time but you find it harder to say no when it comes to your business. "It's mandatory to say no," said Lewis. "If you said yes to every request or opportunity or avenue of work you would be busy 24-7 with no time for your family." No doesn't always mean no. No could mean not today or not this week but some other time that works for everyone.
"If you can afford it, outsource as much of the household work as possible so you can spend your home and family time focusing on your children and spouse or significant other, or dating life and activities that relax you and enrich your non-worklife," advises Karen Cornelius, mother of two and president of KLC Associates, an organization and management consultant company with offices in Chicago, New York, London, and Köln, Germany.
"Setting up boundaries for work and motherhood to be separate fosters efficiency in both arenas," said Kristin D. O'Connell, co-owner at Mama Goddess Retreats in Nosara, Costa Rica. "When you are working you give your entire focus to your business, and when you are with your children your entire focus is them." Lewis agreed that your kids know when you aren't tuned in to them. "Kids know when you are secretly checking your BlackBerry in the parking lot of their school," said Lewis. "It means something to them when you are 100 percent focused on them."
You delegate at work but find it hard to delegate at home. If you have a spouse or significant other talk to them about how to divide the load for household needs and child-caring. "When our children were small and ill a lot, we tried to take turns staying home with them, but also would check with each other to see who had the most critical work-related meetings or events on our calendar," said Cornelius.
A search on LinkedIn for "working moms" pulls up over 60 groups for Moms. You can also meet and bond with other Moms through your child's day care or play group. Also, groups devoted to Women's leadership might have resources devoted to supporting Moms.
Moms have to be ready for anything, and you can't take care of your family if you don't take care of yourself. "A regular exercise routines is a lifesaver," said Debbie Kane, public relations consultant and owner of Exeter, New Hampshire-based Kane Communications. "I plan my workouts for early morning before the kids go to school or during my lunch hour so that I have energy to carry me through my day."
When you have to go in to an office every day you have specific goals and come up with a plan to meet those goals. The same rule applies when you work at home. "Set a schedule and goals just like you would if you were reporting to a workplace," said Julia Wright, an independent contractor at The Wright Family in Bellingham, Washington. "If you have errands to do, calendar that in."
Kids gets sick unexpectanty but you can plan for when they do. "Each morning I write down the top three things I must accomplish that day," said Lewis. "I tackle them first, because you never know when a call to pick up a sick child might quash the rest of the day's work."
Working Moms deal with various types of guilt; the guilt of choosing to work to feeling guilty for taking some time out for themselves and everything in between. "There is nothing wrong with contributing to the financial support and stability of your family – and the college fund," said Lewis. Ariella adds, "It's hard to take time for ourselves without feeling guilty, especially when children need our attention, but a rested parent is more effective than an overwhelmed parent."