As a mother of three, listening to this Being Boss podcast episode on how to manage your business with children was… frustrating. It’s not their fault. The transition from no kids to one is a huge change and can be challenging. That wasn't the case for me. My oldest napped at the same time every single day and I could work during that time because I had no other kids.
Now that I have three, it's a real juggling act between work, kids, and my writing.
If you have a child (or several) and are building a creative business, writing or otherwise, there are some steps you’ll want to take to ensure your success while preventing burnout.
I listened to that podcast and realized a lot of what they were saying would not work for me, but rather than accepting my fate and deciding to give up on trying to find work/life boundaries I started working through the problem. Here’s what I learned through that process and by talking to other successful entrepreneurs with multiple children.
You can’t schedule a child to fit into your workday but you can find time to work.
One of the big things I always hear as an entrepreneur is “Schedule everything!” and “Then Stick to your schedule!” As a mother and business woman, I have never become more frustrated or burned out faster than when I was trying to schedule my work around three kids. When you have one baby, this is totally doable. You know they nap around the same time every day and when they outgrow naps you can teach them to have quiet time and then they go to school. Totally workable. Even with two kids, I was pretty much able to do this. My boys are two years and two months apart in age and life was pure bliss.
Then I had my daughter. A four and a half year age gap between her and my youngest son meant life hit the fan big time and there was no such thing as a “schedule”. There were three schedules and the baby’s schedule tends to change because sometimes she likes to sleep in until 9 or 10 and other days she’s up with the sun. This was the most difficult thing for me to work around but I did it.
Here’s what I do
I get up at 5 am to write. I need uninterrupted time to be creative and this is the only way I can get it. (staying up late is not an option for me as my brain checks out around 6 pm) My middle child gets up by 6 so this was literally the only way I could find the time. I should get up at 4 but I can’t make myself do it.
But I didn’t just start getting up at 5 either. I tried and each time I just turned the alarm off and went back to bed (I really love my sleep). So instead I paid attention to when I usually woke up naturally and started setting the alarm for thirty minutes earlier. Then when I started waking up naturally at that time I moved the alarm time again. It took me several weeks but I got there. And the earlier I got up, the easier it was to go to bed a little earlier.
Next, I start time blocking my day, thanks Being Boss for the awesome webinar, I put in everything. When I wake up, making breakfast, my walk with the baby, everything.
I blocked out time for whatever needed to get done. If I was able. Between my morning walk and lunch, if I have time because the kids are playing nicely or whatever, I work on business things. If not, we have the freedom to pivot.
My writing was done in the morning so it’s more administrative tasks like working on SEO for Raven's Quill Publishing or researching keywords and phrases for our next release. Then after lunch, if I have time, I use it to do work around the house. I use this system from the Organized Mum Blog to keep the house clean and it's literally changed my life.
Make it fit your life
If you just had a baby, sleep is probably the only thing on your mind and the idea of giving it up might bring a tear to your eye. That’s OK. You might just decide during baby’s first nap you’ll focus on writing and on his second you’ll take a nap on Mondays. Then focus on marketing a different day during nap time. The beauty of this is that you can take the idea and mold it into whatever works for YOU and YOUR family.
Find a nanny or send your kid to daycare
This might be a stretch if you’re just starting out or if you’re a stay-at-home parent because you want to stay home with your kids like me. Still, it’s so important for a business owner to have time to dedicate to their business. Even if it’s just a couple, half days a week. I’m a stay-at-home mom because I want to be here with my kids. But starting a business with multiple kids in your hair 24/7 is like hopping on the fast track to Burnoutville. My husband just had surgery, so I’ve been struggling with my responsibilities and his. Normally, I’m lucky in that my husband works second shift and helped me with the kids two days a week.
We homeschool our boys, so they were all here all the time. As a result, I was always stressed out and grumpy, which is no way to spend your life. As my husband heals and I launch my new book marketing business. If you can manage it, a nanny is a great way to go. I ended up waiting it out until my husband was well enough to keep the kids three days a week. But look at the cost of a nanny as an investment in your business. Not everyone has the scheduling we do and if we had a different situation, we'd have made different choices.
To do list
Once you find the time to work or write the next thing to do is make sure you don't waste it. I use Mark Foster’s Auto Focus System. What you do is take an ordinary notebook and start your to-do list. Put everything on it. Every task you can think of. Break larger projects into pieces. Then you put an X in the top corner of the page (more about why in a minute). Now once you’ve filled out one piece of paper you turn the page and keep going. (put another X in the corner).
Once you’ve crossed out everything on a page you circle the X so you know that page is done. Now, when you find time to get to work, take out this notebook and read over the things on the list. Pick one to complete and go! As you think of more tasks add them to the end of the list. You can look at any page of the list before choosing a task. Time-sensitive tasks should be done first but the whole point of this is to give yourself permission to choose and not feel guilty. For recurring tasks like dishes, just add them to the end of the list every time you cross it out. Here’s a link where Marks shows you how to use it.
This helped me tremendously! I no longer waste time trying to figure out what I need to be working on. I’ve taken this method a step further by assigning specific tasks to specific days of my week. Also, by giving myself one thing to get done in each area of my life, I avoid overwhelm. Once that task is complete if I have more time, go to the list or tackle the assignment for the next day. Avoiding burnout is really important and this is probably the number one way I’ve pushed through fatigue but also avoided it.
Ask for help from your partner around the house
Your spouse or partner works hard all day and should have to help out in the home. That's right, they should be helping. You work hard all day building your business and keeping your littles alive, they can help with housework. My husband watches the kids two days a week in the mornings and does the laundry. For us, splitting the main chores, laundry and dishes. While he isn't working overtime at work, he cleans the house on Monday's and Thursdays. Now his version of clean isn't quite mine but I can get in there and deep clean in half the time because of what he does. We’re a team. You need time to work just like a team does. It’s not ridiculous to ask for help. Also, they live there too, they can help. If your husband is working a lot of overtime or schedules don't allow, hiring a housekeeper to maintain your home is also an option. So that’s an option too. But for those of you just starting out, definitely ask for help from the people you live with. Kids can help with chores. My twelve-year-old takes care of the lizards, my ten-year-old takes care of the quails and dogs, and my six-year-old helps my husband on cleaning days as well as helps me cook dinner. Everyone helps.
Write down your why
This might sound hockey and stupid but dammit, just do it! Write it out! What do you want to do? How will your life change when you do it? How will you feel about yourself when you accomplish it? And then put it up on your wall where you work or in your bedroom. Somewhere where you’ll see it every day.
When you’re struggling and wondering why you’re even doing this, look at it. Read it and know it’s all going to be worth it. When the kids are sick and you haven’t slept in 72 hours and you smell like puke and you’re supposed to write the next chapter or work through edits (don’t work through edits on no sleep it’s a bad idea, says the lady who's worked through edits on no sleep several times and always regrets it) look at your why. It should motivate you to stay up late and get up early.
I’ve told you how I twisted other people's advice to fit my life and situation, now it’s your turn!
Do you have tips for working with children? Share them in the comments!