I began my business when my first born was about six months old. At the time, I worked from home while she napped; which, as you know with newborns, is quite often.
At that time, money was flowing in pretty well.
Then I got pregnant again.
While I was able to continue working while pregnant with my second daughter, once she was born, things came to a halt of sorts. I realized that I had only so many hours in a day to eat, sleep, care for two young children, and work. Something had to give: oftentimes that something was work.
I was okay with that. I felt family came first, and then my business came after. I still believe this, and it is something that I have noticed when speaking with other mothers about owning a company.
Oftentimes mothers start a home based business because they have young children at home, they want to follow a passion of theirs, and it is a good time to explore those options without having to quit a paying job.
Lisa Tener, author and book coach who helps others publish their books, started a company when she was the mother of one; but when baby number two came along, she wasn’t sure that she could sustain what she had started.
Says Tener, it worked, ” . . . and I learned some lessons along the way.”
As children grow, they become more involved in outside activities, such as school, sports and activities like dance or karate. It is during this time the mother is able to let go of the child care to some extent and begin once again exploring her own interests. In business ownership, this is a great time to focus on expanding a company.
Kim Shanahan of Book Bouquet did this. I recently interviewed Shanahan for an article about small business ownership and she stated that when she started the business her children were young, and so she kept the business managable in size so she had extra time to spend with the family.
Now her children are older and Shanahan has more time to devote to business. Her goal is now to increase the size of her company and expand.
Stephanie Stober, founder of Flax USA, has been in business for herself for many years, in one form or another. The mother of three children, she has first hand experience with running a company and caring for the kids. Though they are now mostly grown, with her youngest a junior in high school, Stober went through her own issues with being a mother/owner of a company and says, “You have to have the desire to do both – family and work. Though there’s the pressure of continuing to bring in income, it’s really important to be self driven.”
I have found that being flexible in scheduling is really critical when owning a company and having young children. Nap times change, kids get sick, clients become overbearing at times, and life goes on. Each day will bring a new set of challenges. If you try to completely live by the, “I will work only when children are asleep,” rule, you might find that you burn yourself out, or your children don’t sleep so you don’t get anything done. Go into it knowing you must be flexible. Make a schedule, but you might not always be able to stick to it – and be okay with that.
Tener agrees that you must remain flexible, but she goes one step further. “Look for flexible clients.” Tener would tell her clients that she might need to nurse on a call, and most were okay with that. “I can try to accommodate and evening client or an afternoon one after my babysitter leaves (if my now-almost-three-year-old is napping), but they need to know those times when I don’t have coverage, it’s not written in stone.”
I, too, often tell people my situation – that I design web sites from my home and at times the children are here (as my oldest is now, explaining her latest art project and trying to tickle me). Sometimes conference calls come when I’m otherwise busy, taking care of children or coloring pictures or playing Barbies. I try to schedule as best I can so that the two don’t interfere with one another, but I have to be realistic and understand sometimes they do – and I explain this to my clients as well.
Growing a company through the infancy years – both the company’s and your child’s – is possible. Many women do it and become quite successful. It just may take some juggling, some scheduling, some tears and some adjustments to make it happen.
I’d love to hear your comments if you are a working mother involved in growing a company.