As a Business-Owner Mom, What’s your Bliss?

1 February, 2012


As women in business we want to succeed as mothers and as entrepreneurs. We want to have the flexibility to spend time with our children and make good money at the same time. We want to fit some ‘me’ time in there too somewhere, which might include going to gym or art classes or tennis lessons, have our meetings, do our admin and be done by the time the children get home at 12 o clock, ready and smiling with a cooked lunch.

How many mothers out there started working for yourselves to:

  1. Have more flexibility
  2. Spend more time with your children?
  3. Earn more money?
  4. Go to work in your pyjamas?

How many of you have done that?

In my sample of 1, here’s the thing:

What I’ve described above is not a business, it’s a lifestyle. And you need to decide which one it is that you want. I can hear you say “but I want them both” and you can have them both, but the reality is, unless you have a wealthy husband to support you, probably not now.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers talks about 10 000 hours – the number of hours it takes to become successful. In his book he uses mainly sportsmen as his example, but the principle extends anywhere. And so the premise is, unless you spend a lot of time working in and on your business, you will only ever have the dream of a lifestyle.

Which is it going to be? What’s more important to you?

Some people’s favourite part of the Caramello bear is the head – the caramelly, gooey, sticky inside – other people’s favourite bit is the toes – the more solid, chocolaty bit.

So in this life of yours called the Caramello Bear, you have to decide which is your favourite bit – the work or the children – and invest your time accordingly. Because here’s the thing:

You will only be truly effective when you are living according to your highest values.

What I mean is that the only way to ensure success is if your motivation comes from within. It’s a well-known but little acknowledged fact of business – the carrot and the stick don’t work. The only motivational tool that works is internal desire, an internal willingness to succeed/achieve.

Let’s say that you have this; that you have the internal willingness to succeed. Let’s say for example that your internal motivation/value is equally balanced between work (you love what you do) and your children (you love what they do). Now what? Now comes the time to accept that there are 24 hours in a day. And how you manage those 24 hours becomes critical.

 Tip 1: Get organised

Save more time, get more work done, have more of a life. Don’t get sucked into the chaos of work clutter:

–       Create a default diary: plan your children’s events in your diary 12 months ahead and review them monthly. Once they’re in there, they’re like boulders in a river and nothing can move them. Because what does the water do when it gets to a boulder? It goes around. Your clients can do the same.

–       Organise your day to minimise context shifts. Cluster similar events together. Have important meetings on the same day. Schedule telephone calls together. Do strategic or thinking work in a cluster. It takes enormous energy and focus to shift between one contextual task and another, and time to get back to where you were before the interruption.

–       Live close to school.

 Tip 2: Focus on the things that count

–       Don’t over-communicate: do you really need that face-to-face meeting, or will a telephone call or skype meeting work equally well? Anyone who is in a meeting and who doesn’t need to be is killing productivity. By the same token, anyone who is copied on an email and doesn’t need to be is being distracted.

–       When working, get rid of distractions (dirty dishes, repairmen, husbands) – deal with them outside of working hours.

–       When with your children, unless you’re expecting something urgent, don’t read every mail that comes into your BB. Children know when you’re not really present and at best they start playing up – at worst they lose faith.

Tip 3: Teach people how to treat you

–       Teach your children when it’s acceptable to interrupt your work and when it isn’t, and then stick to it. Depending on their age, it might be a simple technique like closing the door to your workspace, which gives the signal – younger children might need to wave goodbye to you as you leave the house and then sneak back in again when they aren’t looking.

–       Unplug: I have a friend who has this message on their email autoresponder: “In the interests of creativity and productivity, I only check and respond to messages between 4 and 5pm daily. If you need me urgently, please call.” Very few people do. At the very least, put your alerts on silent so that you cannot be drawn into the conversation.

–       It’s ok to say no. 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. 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.

Tip 4: Fill your well

–       Every so often you need to do something you enjoy that has nothing to do with work or children.

–       Think of yourself as a well, and your children and your clients come with their little (or big) cups and sip, sip, sip from your well constantly. What happens when they get to the bottom of the well? The water becomes muddy and murky and unpleasant and they don’t get what they’ve paid for. Now everybody’s upset.

–       Take the time to do things that rejuvenate and revive you so that you have something to give back, and this includes sleep. Research has shown that lack of sleep has a dramatic impact on your productivity. You might think that you’re gaining hours, but the reality is that your pace slows and mistakes increase.

–       Learn about your product and your industry. Your clients pay you for your expertise – make sure you are one step ahead of them.


Tip 5: Don’t feel guilty

Working mothers deal with various types of guilt – mostly about not being where you are not and especially about choosing to work rather than being with your family. Well stop. There’s nothing wrong with eating your Carmello bear in the exactly the order you want to and savouring the bit you like.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.