The phrase “work-life balance” has always really annoyed me. It seems to be this mythical thing that you’re supposed to aim for but no-one really knows quite what it is or how to achieve it. It’s not like you say “How are you?” to a friend and they reply “My work-life balance is really great thanks!” before downing half a pint of Pinot Grigio.
Also, I have found that, since having kids, there’s really no such thing as work-life balance. It’s just life. I run my own business and when my first child came along, I had no way of balancing the different parts of my life – I had to look after a baby and squeeze work in when I could. It was the same with the second – everyone had to be fed, entertained (thank you telly), reasonably clean and not sat in their own wee – and again, I just had to fit work in around everything else.
But I don’t regret it. Why? Because running a business when you have kids has so many advantages over a proper job. Here are some.
1. You have ultimate flexibility
In a normal job, you have to put clothes on, go there from 9 to 5:30, and you aren’t allowed to skive off unless you fill in some boring form and hand it to the right person. And when you have a baby, you have a fixed amount of maternity leave – not all of it paid.
You can ditch all that when you run your own business. You can reply to emails at midnight if you like, when your baby has gone back to sleep but you’re still awake. You can sleep at 10 am if someone has pitched in and taken the sprog for a little walk. You can cuddle a baby in one arm and type with the other hand – or use the phone, or write notes, or eat a burrito (top tip – burritos are the best food for breastfeeding; they are the ultimate one-handed food).
Flexibility is possibly the biggest advantage for a self-employed mum. You can even work in your pants if you want!
2. Bringing the baby in actually helps
People love babies. I have conducted a conference call while my baby rolled around on his playmat in the office. I’ve breastfed while doing an interview with a glossy magazine. I’ve had tiny heads pop into view while I’m doing video calls. And people really seem to like it!
It’s not just the fact that your cute kid is gurgling or smiling or whatever. It’s the fact that you’re obviously crazy busy, have priorities that are above whoever you’re talking to, and you’re technically on maternity leave, but you still have found time in your batshit mental schedule to deal with whatever it is they need.
That makes them feel super special – as well it should!
3. No-one can fire you
We have heard of far too many women who have become pregnant then lost their job – often by being made “redundant”.
Having to find a new job while pregnant or on maternity leave is really difficult and super stressful. As well as the discrimination, mothers have the financial side to worry about. Babies are not cheap and many parents rely on two incomes. Having one suddenly vanish can be very difficult – and upsetting for a woman who wants to provide for her child.
If you run your own business, one of the downsides can be an unreliable income – but you also have a certain amount of control over it. You can’t be fired, you can’t be made redundant and you won’t have to leave because your boss is a prick.
4. You can use your kids in your work
I don’t post pictures of my kids all over Instagram because I am not one or more Kardashians. However, I do use them periodically in my work (my kids, not the Kardashians). For example, I might mention something they’ve done, or use an experience with them to inform a blog post.
I occasionally quote the things they say, if they’re funny. I might use the fact that I’m a mum to connect with someone on Twitter – particularly to ask their advice. I can also use my “status” as a parent to respond to relevant media requests too.
I also draw on experiences or activities that we’ve done together to advise others – for example, creating a packing list based on what I’ve found we need, or finding useful kit that I can recommend to others.
Also, being a mum is handy for keeping up with parenting trends, school rules and all kinds of things you don’t find out until you have kids – some of which I need to know for my job.
5. They can work for you
My eldest child is now 5 and does not get pocket money – he has to earn money if he wants it. So sometimes, I pay him to do office administration.
To be frank, he’s not the world’s greatest personal assistant – but he’s nowhere near the most useless person I’ve ever worked with. Not even top ten. And he’s cheap!
His main job in the office is to help me sort and file papers. Even though he can’t read much yet, he can sort them into horse (Lloyds Bank), the X (Halifax) and triangles (HSBC). I have found it really useful in helping me get started every time I need to tackle a pile of papers or post.
He can also help fetch and carry, which is useful if I’m working late and I want him to go and ask Daddy to get me some more wine.
So don’t feel that running a business and having kids is an either/or situation – you can definitely have both. The only balance you really need is that the one makes money faster than the other drains it!
If you need help running your business, whether or not you have kids, talk to me.