People, especially fellow mums often ask me, ‘how do you do it? How do you juggle the demands of looking after a small baby alongside launching and running a business?’
To be honest I ask myself the same questions every day because there is no magic formula; I do what I need to do and before I know it months have passed and I look back wondering what really got us through?
We started ACAI Activewear when I was 5 months pregnant with the goal to fulfil a lifelong ambition of being able to offer women an activewear brand that is stylish, feminine and yet fully able to meet the technical requirements of their sports. On a personal level we were also passionate about owning our own business and creating an incredible lifestyle and future for our children.
The catalyst for action was my husband’s very unexpected redundancy and the termination of a ‘secure, long term’ contract, which changed our future within 30 minutes. We were in a very comfortable position, so it was a big wake up call to the fact that things can turn upside down when you least expect it. It was a hugely difficult time for us, yet it was our defining moment because from that point on we made the decision that we would be in control of our future destiny.
Launching the business was a daunting task, made even more so by the pregnancy hormones coursing through my body! However I was extremely lucky to have had two amazing role models growing up as I watched my parents juggle their own businesses whilst looking after 3 children. This gave me a great foundation of knowing what’s possible along with the insights, strategies and coping mechanisms involved in balancing a very hectic life. I strongly believe that showing your children hard work, instilling a strong work ethic and the appreciation that success doesn’t come easy, gives them the best start in life and a necessary understanding of the big bad world out there!
I am not going to lie, being a mum and a businesswoman is tough. It’s a constant juggling act, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I have made mistakes and learnt a lot from them, I have been challenged beyond what I could have imagined and spent many a late night questioning what on earth we were doing! However, I have never quit on my dreams and strongly believe that if you have the passion and drive to strive for something more than the standard 9-5 job you CAN and WILL make it happen.
For those of you who are thinking about embarking on your own business venture here are my 5 top tips to guide you through the quagmire of balancing a business with the needs of your baby:
1. ROUTINE: I cannot emphasise this enough. As soon as a baby is born the idea of a ‘routine’ often feels like some sort of exotic treasure buried in the past! However, I quickly understood that it was going to be the key to getting stuff done! For the first 11 months of my baby’s life I refused to leave him in a nursery (which was good because we couldn’t afford one anyway!) so I had to find a way of working with what precious time I could find. Establishing a routine meant that I could expect when my baby would nap and as soon as he was asleep I went straight into my office and got on with running the business – strategically avoiding any washing, ironing and tidying up. I have never been this efficient in my entire life but it’s so true what they say: the less time you have the more you can get done!
2. MAKE ‘TO-DO-‘LISTS’ AND PRIORITISE: There is a difference between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Make lists and prioritise them in order of what is most urgent. Identify the tasks that simply have to be done that day to drive your business forward whether it be posting and scheduling social media content, completing work to deadline, generating invoices or brokering a new partnership. If you start your day by completing the urgent tasks you can be confident that you will have done something that day to grow your business. If your baby wakes up sooner than expected then your non-urgent tasks can be done later. Being this disciplined and organised has never be my strong point and it was something that I had to learn in order to keep on top of my daily tasks.
3. CREATE YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK: As new mums this is something that is vital to our emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. Having the support of those closest to you – family, friends or people in a similar situation to you - is essential. As much as it can be hard to admit that you need help it is often the best solution. Nobody wants to see you struggle and the people who truly care about you will be the ones who will want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask. One day you will be in the position to return the favour - mutual support is one of the most important aspects of life.
4. DON’T FORGET TO REST: This is tough one as there is so little time and so much to do that we often put our personal wellbeing at the bottom of a pile of socks! However, if you don’t rest you will suffer – something that I found out to my own detriment. Fortunately I learnt that resting is not a weakness but in fact a crucial part to your success: if you are not well you can guarantee that your business will also start to ail. There is a reason why you must put your own oxygen mask on first in an emergency; the same rules apply to your baby and your business. The next time you find yourself drowning in your to do list just STOP, take an hour or two to get out in nature, meditate, have a cup of tea, phone a friend or simply curl up in bed and sleep. A bit of time out can increase your productivity, creativity and patience, which in turn improves your ability to cope with everything.
5. DIVIDE YOUR TIME BETWEEN BEING A MUM AND A BUSINESSWOMAN: Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a working mum is feeling like you are two different people in one body. On the one hand you are a caring mother, organising play dates, going to mum groups and discussing the transition from breast milk to solids and on the other you are required to be a laser sharp business woman making tough decisions and pushing projects forward. Try to block out specific chunks of time when you are either focussed on your baby or focussed on your business. This may include getting up early before your baby wakes up, working for a couple of hours during their nap time and if you still have the energy and focus perhaps a couple of hours after their bed time. One of the things that I constantly struggled with was the feeling of guilt. When I was with my baby I felt guilty because I wasn’t working, when I was working I felt guilty that I was denying my baby precious bonding time. By pre planning and blocking my time equally between both I was able to give 100% of my energy and focus on what needed to be done at that specific time and I also found it lessened my guilt. We all have 24 hours in our day but it’s how we use them that determines our results.
I sincerely hope my experience and top tips have been useful for you. As I said earlier, there is no magic formula and different things work for different people but whatever your strategy please be kind to yourself. Whether your day has been an utter triumph or a complete disaster, know and trust that you are doing the best you can.
Good luck to you wonderful mummies and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to share your experience of balancing motherhood and your career. We would love to hear from you!
The creator of the ACAI brand