Small Business + Small Child = Big Trouble?

There are many challenges that come with running your own business. From the get-go, the success of your business rests with you and only you (or your partner, if you have one). Businesses are like babies: they need to be constantly nurtured if they are to grow. But what happens when you have an actual baby to look after, as well as a fledgling (or established) business? How can you fit in work around a small child’s demands? Can you speak to your clients when there’s a baby wailing to be fed in the background? Will you ever again have any time to yourself?

With rare exceptions, trying to run a business in the first three months of a baby’s life is verging on the impossible. If you’re the mother, you’ll be physically exhausted, recovering from the birth and the pregnancy, possibly breastfeeding. You’ll almost certainly have no energy to do anything other than keep yourself and your baby alive and happy. If you’re a father, you’ll no doubt be suffering from the endless sleepless nights and the relentless feed/clean/ sleep cycle. Obviously if you have paid or voluntary help, you may be able to find a little time here and there to do some work on the business but it’s fairly unlikely you’ll be able to work at anything like normal capacity. Besides, babies grow so fast: take time to make the most of your little bundle of joy – before you know it, they’ll be a rampaging, stroppy toddler. Clients come and go but you’ll never get this time back with your child, so make the most of it!

As your baby grows and (hopefully) begins to find their own routine, you may find yourself with a bit more time on your hands. If they have a regular nap or naps, you might be able to do some work while they sleep. If you can get your baby into a decent night time routine, you may find that you can work for a couple of hours after you’ve put them to bed.

As your children reach the mobile stage, you will find it almost impossible to do any work without some decent childcare. When you have an 18 month old determined to empty every cupboard in the house, climb the stairs and swallow the most dangerous thing they can get their hands on, you simply cannot be at your desk at the same time. There are a multitude of options; your partner (if you have one), the grandparents, a child-minder, a nursery, an au-pair or home help… the option/s that you choose will obviously depend on your financial situation, your child’s nature and your own preferences. Most nurseries offer half days so if you’re working from home that may be an option. Some parents opt to do most of their work at night while their children are asleep – this may be possible in some businesses but in others you’re going to have to be available during normal office hours.

With school age children, things may be easier in that you’ve got more time to devote to the business, but you may find setting boundaries between work and home difficult. Sometimes you may feel pulled in seven different directions at once and feel guilty because you’re not giving 100% to anything. The trick is to stop trying to multi-task. When you’re at work, be at work – that means, if you work from home, that the door to the office is closed and that you are not at home to callers. Your children should know that if you are working, then you are not to be disturbed for anything other than a dire emergency. Similarly, when you’re with your children, give them your full and undivided attention – don’t be tapping out an email on your BlackBerry at the playground, or trying to make business calls while supervising homework. Most importantly, have a day when you do no work whatsoever. Designate one day a week – yes, a whole day – to not working. Do not check your emails or voicemails; do not enter the office; do not even allow the word ‘work’ to pass your lips. Dedicate the day to your family, to having fun, to catching up on sleep or with friends.

With organisation, a little help, a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, you’ll be able to carve out time for both your family and your business. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is, is it? Enjoy the journey!