Why focusing on your career is A-OK

by Terry Fletcher

Starting your own company is very much like having a baby; You begin with the seed of an idea and labor to bring it into reality, then dedicate yourself to nurturing your creation and helping it grow and flourish. The energy and dedication required to be a successful entrepreneur can be extraordinary.

But what happens when you are trying to launch and grow a business at the same time as raising your children?

Sometimes it simply requires a bit more creativity. Do not let social norms dictate your position.

Balance family life and running a business

As a business founder and mother, I’ve found myself in this position many times, trying to balance my entrepreneurial ventures with my efforts to create a warm and loving environment for my husband and daughter. I won’t lie, I have struggled to find harmony and balance between these two roles, and more than once one part of my life has been momentarily overshadowed by the demands of the other.

With practice, however, I learned some lessons that make it easier to create symmetry in my life between these two roles. Whether you are thinking of starting your own company (or becoming a mother!), or you’re already deep in the trenches of motherhood, here are some tips to balance career and parenting that can help you make the most of both roles – and maintain your own sanity in the process.

Enlist deputies at work and at home

One of the first notions that you have to rid yourself of as either a business owner and career woman and mother is the idea that you have to do everything yourself. The belief that you have to have your hand in everything is often as embedded in the concept of being an entrepreneur, but attempting to tackle everything on the job and at home guarantees that things will fall through the cracks.

I fell victim to this misguided theory when I first launched my business. Now that my business is booming and taken on a second life, I have asked for help. I found the right people to surround me with that support.

Even if that person is just there to be a sounding board, that makes all the difference when you need to bounce ideas off someone and get feedback. Ask. Ask friends, family, and even trusted acquaintances. You’d be surprised how willing people are to help, you just have to ask.

Create a routine for yourself (but allow for flexibility)

Now in saying that, between my company, my daughter (who even as an adult now seems to want mom’s attention more and more), my husband, plus friends and extended family, every second of my day is filled. Without establishing a routine, it is easy to lose track of what I am doing in the middle of doing it, wasting time, and leaving me feeling stressed and unaccomplished for the day.

Even worse, without a plan, one role can easily overwhelm the other.

Establishing a weekly routine with time (although not as much as I’d like) set aside solely for my business and my family alike helps me stay on top of things and be more effective. Flexibility is key, otherwise, that unexpected doctor’s appointment or last-minute client request can throw a wrench in your whole week.

Set goals on a daily basis

The smaller the day-to-day goals are will lead me towards fulfilling these ambitions. Setting aside 15 minutes each morning; that means I get up 20 minutes earlier to do this (I need my coffee), for a personal goal-setting session, has helped me enormously.

First, it allows me to see more clearly if I’m forgetting something important, and second, the action of checking off a completed daily goal, no matter how small,  is a victory that gives me a sense of satisfaction that helps nurture my own mental well-being. Write it down! And just make sure the immediate goals are realistic because even the best-laid plans are going to fail from time to time. But accept it, move on and recalibrate.

Be mindful

Multitasking seems like it was designed for those of us balancing careers and kids but trying to do both roles at once can easily result in doing neither role well.

Before I figured this out, I definitely had times when I short-changed my daughter, by attempting to answer work email while talking to her or playing with her. I didn’t do my clients any favors either by missing an important question while trying to pick out a daily outfit with my daughter.

Whether you’re doing something for work or something for your family, dedicate all of your attention to that task. Being mindful can actually end up saving you time.

Make family meals a priority

I have heard people say this for the longest time. And honestly, I have rolled my eyes at the thought of a 15-30 minute table time dinner that took me over an hour to prepare and even more, time cleaning up.

But carving out time dedicated solely to your family can be tough and it is easy to let the dreamy idea of a family meal together fall to the side in favor of a quick drive-thru or last-minute sandwich in the kitchen while on your phone with the other hand.

I try for at least one breakfast a week with the family; at least with my daughter or husband. Not only is everyone awake, but I kind of like the idea of hearing about what they have planned for the day or even the week, instead of the pitfalls of the day.

Dinner time meals aren’t always about the happy encounters of the day but how you got through it. Breakfast seems to be a bit more about our hope for a good day, and I like to add to that positive vibe. (Not to mention I prefer breakfast food over any other meal: a win-win for mom!)

Don’t forget self-care

Now I am not a “hit the gym everyday” gal in the least. But in balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship, forgetting to take care of yourself is easy. We are the glue that holds everything together. I have found that neglecting my own health, physical and mental can lead to bad performance and easy burnout.

Between sleep, some form of exercise, and unplugging mentally, finding time to fulfill my own needs and recharge makes me more effective in everything I do.

Taking a 6 am short walk, or swim, going down to the beach to reflect for an hour, or reading my book club book, are things I force myself to take the time to do because my role as an entrepreneurial career woman and mother first starts with finding balance in yourself.