“How do you do it all?”
As a business owner and mum of two pre-schoolers, I get asked this all the time.
And the answer? I don’t!
But in an effort to shine a little light on how I’m stumbling my way through this season of life and to help others in a similar situation, I’ve put together some notes on how I manage.
Let’s be clear though, what I am about to describe below is the ideal.
This is when everything is working as it “should”. When everyone is well. When there aren’t tantrums about what colour socks they want to wear. When I am the right level of self-motivated.
Normally, it doesn’t go smoothly but if we at least average an effectiveness of 50% that’s still a pass for that day!
So please take this as a very rough outline.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
For context here is where things stand right now as at November, 2018:
- My daughter is 4 years old and has been going to pre-kindy 2 days a week this year. Next year will be normal kindergarten with a 5 day fortnight.
- My son is 2 years old. Thankfully he still naps at least 2 hours a day.
- I don’t have any formal childcare arrangements apart from the pre-kindy and help from my Mum
- Hubby works FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) which means he is typically away 3 weeks at a time and then home for 1. But he just did a 5 week stint – which I admit pushed my limits a bit!
With all of that going on, fitting in a business is tricky! But I am so grateful that I can create my own hours and be flexible with when I am there with the kids and when I am working. With hubby working away, it simply wasn’t a good fit for us or for me to return to the workplace full-time.
Currently, I get 2 days a week where I have mum and/or kindy having the kids. This is the time I spend having client appointments, doing training calls in the Amplify Academy & Amplified Marketing Method and when I get the bulk of client work done. Needless to say, these days are like gold-dust.
The other work (content creation, social media, emails, admin and projects) needs to fall in the stolen moments on the other days of the week.
This is why I have had to build strategies to help me get some work done while keeping the kids entertained. And hopefully, alleviate the mum-guilt in the process!
Here is how I squeeze that and my sanity/self-care time amongst that schedule. Here is what these “non-work” days look like.
There is this magical time in the morning where ABC Kids has one show after another that my kids really enjoy. I’m talking Fireman Sam, Peppa Pig, Bluey and Hey Duggee. And if I’m lucky they’ll extend their watching through another full hour until after PlaySchool finishes.
I used to feel guilty about doing work first thing in the morning (after they are fed & dressed). But now I have realised it is just the best time to do it.
Firstly, I’m typically a morning person so that’s when I feel most motivated and energised. And I can’t do nights after they go to bed. Writing an email or scrolling through social media is all I’m good for by that time.
So morning it is. I choose the biggest priority to work on and I (try to) start on that before getting caught up in the distractions of the day. Sometimes it’s writing. Sometimes it’s a project I’m working on. Sometimes it’s admin. Sometimes it’s doing my social media posts and emails at the last minute.
As long as it is a task that can be interrupted for all those small requests that come through.
By 9/9.30 I’ve achieved something and can move on with our day. I can then take them out to whatever activity we have planned for that morning.
Additional things I do to help with this process:
- I have a toy rotation system in place where I bring out a new tub of toys (along a theme like “Zoo”, “Transport” or “People & Places”). I set that all up before I begin the work session so they have some fresh toys to entertain them.
- I pre-prepare a snack for them so that when they start interrupting, I can quickly distract them with food.
AFTERNOON NAP TIME
During the afternoon, my 2 year old has a good nap. After my morning work session and taking the kids out, I’m beginning to fade by this point so really this isn’t a time when I can do work that requires a lot of concentration.
My 4 year old doesn’t nap so after I’ve snuck in some lunch, I’ll sit with her for 20 minutes doing some reading, numbers and letters. I’ll then leave her with Netflix or a DVD and some form of activity that’s not suitable for my youngest (Cutting/Gluing, Slime, Small Lego or Craft activities).
This then becomes an optional session for me. Sometimes I’ll feel highly motivated to write. Other times I’ll zone out with Netflix myself.
Typically it’s the time I find to do research and learning, whether it’s listening to podcasts, reading blogs or watching a video training.
I can’t do that sort of thing in the morning as I just get too many ideas and get distracted doing things that aren’t a priority. At this stage, even if an idea excites me at least I’ve done my focused work for that day.
My goal for this time is to multi-task the learning with doing some much needed exercise, but I haven’t got there yet.
LATE AFTERNOON / EVENING
In the afternoons, I’m back to mum mode.
We don’t tend to head out anywhere unless I need to do a trip to the shops or we didn’t get out in the morning so we head to the park up the road.
Weather permitting, I get the kids outside for as long as possible. We have a great fenced in area out the front which also means many afternoons we get visits from neighbours with kids of similar ages.
I also have some form of sensory play up my sleeve to roll out if I need to buy 10 minutes. Favourites here are water beads, “snow” and kinetic sand full of creepy crawlies.
Meanwhile, this is when I do the cooking, putting away the washing and other housework. In summer, I’ll also water the garden which means kids covered in sand and mud before bath time.
By the time we’ve spent a 2 hours doing that it’s time for dinner, bath, dishes and tidy up. If they do all of that quickly enough they get another half hour to hour of TV before bed.
All going well, the kids get down to bed by 7.30pm and I get 2 hours to relax before my bedtime (9.30). As mentioned above, I’m normally too brain dead to do any work – and really this becomes the only time that I get for me. So I spend it watching my latest streaming TV show obsession.
The only work that gets in at this time of night is if there are any outstanding emails or social media posts I need to respond to. The rest becomes a bit of a mindless scroll.
OTHER WAYS I TRY TO SIMPLIFY THINGS
- We have the same breakfast every day. The kids have weet-bix and I have a smoothie. Having eggs is a splurge.
- When hubby is away, I only actually cook dinner every 2nd night. On night 2 we have leftovers from the previous night.
- I don’t go fancy with lunches. Once a week I’ll try to batch something for my lunches like a frittata or soup. The kids normally have sandwiches or eggs, unless it’s a week we’ve gotten around to pizza scrolls. I’ve tried savoury muffins, zucchini slice and quiche etc with them but they just won’t have them. So simple it is!
- I try to only do one food shopping trip a week (after pre-kindy pickup)
- One load of washing a day (we do cloth nappies so it adds up!)
- Majority of cleaning/cooking is done when the kids are up. The quiet time is just too precious for housework.
- I always have some sort of new activity up my sleeve to bring out. For me it’s the toy rotation boxes, craft activities and sensory play. And snacks. Lots of snacks at the ready.
THE UPS AND DOWNS
Mental self-care is a big priority for me. I’m prone to anxiety and have had burnout & depression in the past. So I’m very self conscious of the signs and try to ensure I give myself the space I need.
I’ve learnt that on my work days I can’t just jump from work mode to mum mode. If I do, I’m cranky so I try to “knock off” at least 30 minutes before I need to collect the kids. This gives me time to be lazy or go for a walk. Once or twice a month I’ll sneak in a massage or a pedicure.
One day a week I try to allow myself lazy day. Normally Sundays. On these days I feel no obligation to do much of anything. The kids also really need a down day so we watch movies, play around the house, read and just chill out.
Exercise beyond child-wrangling and walking the dog doesn’t happen. I used to be such a gym-junkie or go out for a run but I find it so hard to exercise at home. This has been one of the bigger challenges of being a FIFO wife because I can’t just go out to exercise without the kids unless I eat into my already short work time. I have ideas in my head of beginning to do this at afternoon nap time while listening to podcasts, etc but it hasn’t happened yet.
WHEN HUBBY COMES HOME
Something that isn’t often talked about with FIFO life are the challenges when hubby does come home. It goes from a situation where I am in charge to a democracy. It’s also from full time not having help to having an extra person there most of the time.
Admittedly, I have it pretty good. When he is home I get extra time to work and he does all the shopping and cooking (#blessed).
But then there are the compromises and the checking in before you do something.
It’s like we are constantly going through two modes.
I used to try to schedule less business stuff in on his weeks off but I have found if I have client appointments it’s much easier to get that extra child minding time than if it’s to do some writing or project work!
DEALING WITH GUILT
This is the big one!
When I’m with the kids, I feel like I should be doing business stuff.
When I’m working, I feel like I should be with the kids.
No matter which one I am focusing on at any given moment I feel guilty.
I don’t have any major advice here except to say that I give myself as much grace as possible. I’ve accepted that “guilt” is just part of it and that it is normal to feel that way. And by acknowledging that it hums a little quieter in the background.
Mixing mum life and business is downright hard sometimes. There are no two ways about it.
The path isn’t easy. One moment I feel like I’m nailing it. The next minute I’m in tears.
However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It didn’t take me long to realise that having a business is what keeps me sane amongst the craziness that is raising pre-schoolers. It keeps the mind active. It gets me motivated. And it helps me feel more like “me” when it’s easy to only ever be known as mum.
So I keep trying. I show up every day and do my best.
And it’s my hope that from reading this you have a few more ideas about how you can juggle it all a little better.
Or, more importantly, you give yourself a little bit more grace about finding “balance”. Because really, I think that might just be a bit of a farce.
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