The truth of being a self-employed Mum.
Let’s start with an introduction: I am Kim, Mum to a nearly 3-year-old little girl and wife to an amazingly, supportive husband. We live in West Sussex and all have our little roles to play in my self-employed business, KJF-From Scratch.
I wanted to give you a little insight today to my experience as a self-employed Mum. I set up my business creating new-born hampers and blankets two years ago whilst on maternity leave from my teaching role. My business has evolved over the two years into the ethical, social enterprise it is today. I make and sell organic children’s clothing mainly these days, with matching items being our favourite purchases from our loyal customers.
Being a self-employed Mum is a balancing act. Everyday feels like a steady walk along a tightrope. Being a mum without a business to run is enough of a balance, with children to feed, care for, places to be, family to give attention to, houses to run etc. Add a business into the mix and it has the chance to tip the delicate balance of family life, if left unchecked.
When I chose not to return to my previous job and instead to set up my own business, it wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy teaching, in fact I loved it. I wanted to do something I was really passionate about. I wanted the chance to use all the skills I’d gained in the workplace as well as being creative. I wanted to use both sides of my brain! But by pursuing my dream to run my own, sustainable business, there was always the danger to get swept up in the excitement and loose the delicate balance of family/ work life. If I’m honest, I have fallen off the tightrope a few times over these past two years. As business has grown and new opportunities have come up, I’ve said yes to things that I shouldn’t have, it’s so easy to do!
I’ve come up with 5 top tips for how to keep the balance when life pulls you in multiple directions, whether you are a self-employed mum like me, or whether you are a person with lots of different plates to juggle, unsure how to keep them all balanced without smashing them:
Planning is essential when you have lots of different roles to balance. I found without good planning, dominant areas of your life end up draining more of your time than they should and other important areas get neglected. I’ve always used a diary or calendar to schedule all our activities as a family. Pen and paper is sufficient, or an electronic calendar app works too. We actually use both in our house. My Hubby and I have synced online calendars but I also have a paper calendar in our kitchen, with all the kids activities, holidays and family plans on, which also doubles up as a meal planner.
My meal planner has been a life saver for me during busy periods. When the orders are piling up alongside the laundry, housework and accounts, trying to decide what to cook from an empty fridge is not inviting. Having planned the week’s meals in advance I don’t need to think about it on the day, I look it up and I cook. Therefor my advice is to plan in the mundane activities to give you the freedom to give your attention to the important people and activities in your life.
2. Learn to say no
This can often be a difficult one to learn, especially in society today. Saying NO is actually essential for peace of mind and balance! By saying no to people and activities that don’t match your priorities (I will cover those in a moment) you are giving yourself space to dedicate time, skills, energy and resource to the areas of your life and business most important to you. It also gives the opportunity for the right person to say yes to that thing.
I used to think my life reflected my priorities but someone reminded me that often our busy lives don’t actually reflect what we think our priorities are. So I made a list of what I treasure in my heart, the things I really did want to prioritise in my life. Then I compared this to my calendar. Where time spent didn’t match up with my priorities I made some changes, some small, some radical.
I keep coming back to this when I’m feeling certain areas of my life are no longer aligning with my priorities. It is a necessary activity to keep the balance between family and work.
I have found it essential to delegate as business has grown and I have been pulled in many different directions. During a recent meeting with some business mentors I was reminded that I have a limited capacity, we all do. We also all have strengths and weaknesses. It is helpful to identify those areas in your life you can hand over to someone else. Other people may have strengths different to yours and vice versa. This builds on ‘prioritising’ and leads nicely into ‘finding your tribe’. What areas are taking up time, are not your strengths or most important to you and who can help take some of the load?
5. Find your tribe
We were never intended to live in solitude. To thrive we need a tribe!
They say to raise a child it takes a village, but a lot of us have moved away from the
physical village environment. Neither my husband or I have family nearby, but we have found our tribe amongst friends, church family and acquaintances. Each of us needs a group of people we can rely upon for support, emotionally and practically. That special group will look different for each of us, we’re all different after all! Get down to your local baby group, join your local networking group, strike up a conversation at the school gate, invite your neighbours for a coffee. Do whatever you need to do to surround yourself with people who with build you up and encourage you to be the best you, you can be!
Finally it’s essential through all this busy-ness to remember to self-care. Always prioritise some quality time for you to recharge, a clear head will help you to make clear, thoughtful choices. I hope you’ve found some of this helpful. I am by no means an expert, I am a mum, like you, learning every day how to function best for my family and business. I still make mistakes and will continue to do so until the day I die, but that’s ok. We’re all on a journey, lets enjoy it and celebrate, encourage and do the best we can with what we have been given.
If you want to get in touch about anything in this blog, or if you want to learn a bit more about my ethical clothing business, please head over to my website www.kjf-fromscratch.co.uk
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