It’s fun to look back on how much my business has grown and changed over the years, as well as how much *I* have grown and changed, too. I wrote this blog when my business was still in the toddler phase: like my real life toddler, my business very much depended on me for all the things, big and small. I’ve experienced three babies and business “maternity leaves,” and all have been very different- because my business was different, my family was different, and I was different.
One of my favorite quotes is by Greek philosopher Heraclitus:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Likewise, I believe no mom entrepreneur ever goes through the same maternity leave twice- for it is not the same business and she is not the same mom. We’re always evolving, and hopefully, we’re learning from one experience to make the next one even better.
I decided to keep this old blog here instead of completely updating it because it may be helpful for other moms juggling their first baby and business. Instead, I added some “updates” in italics throughout so you can see just how different my business experience is today compared to back then.
When I wrote this, I was focusing on growth for my business so that one day I could work very little and be at home when my children would be old enough to remember it.
That meant I had to make a lot of sacrifices. It meant my entire mindset was very different.
Today, I still believe many of these sacrifices and beliefs were necessary to accomplish what I did – after all, it worked!
And yet, there are other areas where I cringe a bit, sad that I had prioritized so much growth for my business instead of a much slower pace for home life.
I was home a lot and never had my children in full-time childcare, but the guilt still lingers! That’s when I remind myself… different river, different man.
If I could give you one piece of advice as a new mom juggling a business today, it’s this: be patient. Growth doesn’t have to come quickly, whether in business or at home. Have faith in the process and the plan God has for you, your family, and your business.
For a look further along my business journey, check out my blog when I celebrated 8 years, and when I made a significant change in 2020. This is also a good podcast I did when I was just realizing a critical point in my business- where I had reached the level of efficiency and success that I could spend more time at home, but had unknowingly trained myself to get stuck on the hamster wheel of success, hustle, and growth.
OK, onto the blog!
My PR firm, Richett Media, turns 3 next month! (Update: I rebranded to HAPPY PR in 2019.)
There’s so much to learn the first few years in business and right smack in the middle of my entrepreneurial journey, I gained the ultimate title of mom, too.
During my 15 months of balancing baby + business (read: a lot of trial and error, hormones, and emotions), I’ve discovered some specific tactics that helped me find enough balance to enjoy happiness at home while staying sane + profitable in business. And I hope this helps other mompreneurs, too!
1. Create boundaries
This is important in business in general, not just for moms. But I found that it took me becoming a mom to actually put my foot down and get real about boundaries in my business. Before having a baby, I was cool with being accessible to my clients around the clock.
I had the freedom to work at the drop of a hat if I needed to. After Jane was born, I tried to keep up with this pace and it was running me ragged and taking away from the precious time I wanted to dedicate to my family. It took me a while to realize that I was the problem.
Here’s the scenario: I would get Jane to sleep around 8 p.m. and think “awesome, great time to catch up on emails!” So, I’d shoot a couple emails over to clients, getting ahead of the next day’s work. How ambitious of me, right?
Wrong. By sending emails to clients during all hours of the day, I was sending the message that I was available at all hours.
When we do this, we only have ourselves to blame when clients call, text or email in the evenings and expect to hear back. After all, you just sent them an email last night after dinner. Or they know you’re just watching Scandal and eating ice cream because you posted a picture of it on Instagram.
With clients, you set the rules for your availability.
One of my favorite tools to help me create better boundaries is Boomerang. (Update! I have since used many different email add-on tools, like Mixmax, Gemilius, etc. This function is now just built into the Gmail platform… the tools are ever-changing but the benefit is still the same: use them to make a more efficient inbox! It’s like having an assistant in your inbox 24/7)
It allows you to write emails whenever you want (let’s face it, those hours while baby is sleeping can be valuable working hours!), and have them delivered at a set time- say, at 7 a.m. the next morning.
It has other cool features too, like reminding you when to follow up on an email that was sent but hasn’t been responded to yet.
So, the emails are written whenever you want and the client receives your communication first thing in the morning, which makes you look like a rock star.
FYI- I use the free version. Super easy.
2. Designate workspace
Other than the occasional email here and there, I don’t work from home a lot.
The dreamy picture above is how I wish working from home was like all the time- PJ’s, coffee, and a calm, adorable little assistant. Ah, my heart!
I had a few random weeks of this luxury here and there in the first six months or so, and now those days are long gone. But, a special thanks to my friend Julie of Riddle Road Photography for capturing the glory of these occasional lazy mornings so I can remember they used to exist!
I primarily worked from home the few months after Jane was born and I realized what a slippery slope it could be, easily resulting in a four-hour Netflix marathon on the couch. I’m not motivated to work at home and there are distractions *everywhere.*
“I’m going to grab a quick glass of water… oh, let me just put away a few dirty dishes…. while I’m at it, this cupboard is a mess… ”
And before you know it, I’m decluttering the spice rack.
Plus, I have to meet with clients and need a professional space. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a job that allows you to work from home all day in yoga pants + you can stay motivated to actually get it done, congrats!
Update: 7 years later and I work from home- usually in yoga pants, and sometimes decluttering the spice rack! Again, my business is very different today than it was back then. Working from home with a baby wouldn’t have worked for me back when I was focusing on growth. Do what works for the season you’re in!
For the rest of us, a designated workspace is a must. If you’re trying to make the switch from home to office, check out a local co-working space. This is how I started out and loved it.
It was a really affordable way to get out of the house, and I met like-minded entrepreneurs and made some rewarding connections. Eventually, you can upgrade to your own space when you’re ready.
And not just at work but at home too. Hire a cleaning service to come every 1-2 weeks. Use a meal delivery service like Plated or Blue Apron – or my favorite local grocery delivery service, Doorganics.
I know you might think it’s too expensive. But ask yourself, how much is your time worth?
How much do you charge a client for an hour of work? Chances are, your time is better spent doing what you do best (or what you love most!) than it is scrubbing the toilets or folding piles of laundry all day.
Update: You can’t prioritize growing your business and fully caring for a home. I believe you do have to decide what to delegate and where to get help. During this season, I was trying to build a sustainable business so I could eventually walk away and still earn money while being home full-time. I accomplished that. Now, I find it very rewarding to use my time to create a clean, comfortable home for my family- this includes preparing meals, grocery shopping, and even scrubbing toilets (sometimes!).
I think as women we struggle with valuing our time. Maybe it has to do with cultural norms and how women have historically been in charge of the household and getting dinner on the table. And it may feel like you’re cheating to outsource some of these motherly duties.
I get it- I feel guilty too sometimes for not making homemade meals as often as I’d like… but as working moms (or heck, just moms in general!), we need to give ourselves grace. We can’t do it all. If we try, we aren’t going to succeed and that isn’t doing our families or our businesses any favors.
So, delegate what you can and do so unapologetically.
Take a close look at how you’re spending your time working too.
What can you automate?
What can you outsource/delegate?
The general rule is that if you’re spending significant time doing something that someone else could easily do, then let someone else do it! Some good places to start are bookkeeping, customer service/email responses, scheduling, inventory (for product-based businesses), blog and website maintenance, and video editing.
4. Get focused on your goals.
I celebrated growth during the first two years in business and I was a little worried that having a baby might be a setback moving forward.
But I was determined to continue setting ambitious goals for sales, revenue, and projects. One of my mentors suggested that I create a simple excel spreadsheet that tracks all of my business and projected revenue for the entire year. I took it a step further and mapped out my previous two years of sales, by month, on the chart and added quarterly and year-end goals. It’s a really easy way to just check in throughout the year to see how I’m doing, compare previous months/years, and see if I’m on track.
The year Jane was born, I smashed my goals! This year, my biggest goal was to continue doing great work for my firm’s clients, to become more selective on the type of work we do, and to get my new business launched & running- so I’m already marking this year as a success even if I don’t quite hit that target number on my spreadsheet. I’ll let you know in a few months!
5. Create an intentional schedule. Stop the scroll.
Schedule hours to work and hours not to work.
Working for yourself and having a flexible schedule is nice but it can also make it difficult to create those important boundaries.
Literally put this time in your calendar.
My typical day looks like this:
6-7:30: morning routine/ Jane off to school
8 – 3 (or later depending on the day): work
3:30 – 7:30: Jane time! Walks, playing, adventures + dinner, bedtime routine
8-9:30: relaxing with my husband, watching shows (we love Shark Tank and our latest show, Gotham), or just catching up from the day
I also designate a night once every two weeks that is time just for me to catch up with friends, get a massage, or just hide away in a coffee shop and read.
You might notice I don’t have time carved out for housework or working out. I squeeze that in whenever I find extra time… so that means our floors have some extra crumbs (unless it’s cleaning service day- amen to delegating!) and my abs aren’t what they used to be. Something has to give and for now, this schedule works for me.
So step 1- schedule non-working time. Step 2- (the hard part) be fully present and not ‘mentally working’ or ‘scrolling’ during this time.
I have to remind myself to put away my phone after work when I’m hanging out with Jane. If it’s within sight, I will automatically grab it and start scrolling out of pure habit. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We are so connected in this world yet easily disconnected when it comes to living in the present.
One of my biggest goals as a mom and a wife is for my family to feel like they are my top priority- more than my phone, my work, and my Facebook feed. Time is the most precious resource we have and I think it’s worth figuring out how to make the most of it.
I hope some of these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me.
I don’t know if that elusive motherhood/life/work balance really exists but I feel better knowing I’m not alone in the struggle to achieve it.
Just remember, as working moms, we’re setting a wonderful example for our little ones. But it isn’t worth it if they have stressed-out, anxious mamas that aren’t fully present.
Share your tips for juggling motherhood & business in the comments below! Let’s help each other to become happier (and profitable!) mom bosses.