So you’ve got a catnapping baby on your hands. And now you need to figure out how to be productive with a baby who catnaps.
I know how frustrating it can be…
Your baby finally goes down for a nap after a half-hour battle. But you won so now it’s time to enjoy your much-needed break…by working! (Hey, it sounds worse than it is – we’re mom entrepreneurs so we LIKE work, right?)
You pour your steaming hot coffee that’s been waiting for you in the coffee maker for an hour and that you’ve been looking forward to since 7am.
You climb up the stairs and settle in at your desk.
You begin emptying your email inbox before you really dive in because you know you can’t get real quality work done knowing there are unanswered emails waiting for you.
Alright! Emails are answered. Inbox is empty. Now you check your schedule and refer to your TO-DO list to figure out what work needs to be done and you make a plan for yourself.
Now you’re really feeling productive. You’re starting to get work done. You feel good. You’re in the zone. Everything is flowing beautifully.
You literally jump out of your seat as your blaring baby monitor reveals the worst: baby is awake.
A record breaking 40 minute nap.
Are you kidding me????
WHY Does My Baby Catnap?
This is an important question. Before you can truly accept the fact that you’ve been blessed (excuse me, cursed!) with a catnapper, you need to understand the reasons behind short naps. Setting aside the long list of things that so many other resources state you might be doing “wrong” (ignore most of this shit because there’s no wrong way to be a good mama) such as poor scheduling, sleep associations, clothing, lighting, the way you put your baby down, blah, blah, blah…there’s an important fact that you may or may not be aware of:
An average baby’s sleep cycle lasts 30 to 50 minutes.
Notice the correlation between this and the quick catnap example above? Baby woke up because babies do wake up between each sleep cycle. The question is, will they go back to sleep or call it quits? (A little more info on babies and sleep cycles.)
Once I learned this very important fact, I instantly felt at least a little better. Another thing to keep in mind as you battle your way through the catnaps is that this is likely just a phase. Most babies naturally transition from short catnaps to longer, more substantial naps on their own. Be patient. Have a little faith. Give your baby some time to grow up.
3 Simple Things to Extend Your Baby’s Catnaps
In the meantime, here’s a little extra motivation: between 0 and 5 months or so, my little guy was a pro star catnapper. Not only that, but it would take me 30 minutes just to get him down and then 30-45 minutes later (on the dot!) he’d be up and ready to party again. It was ridiculously frustrating.
By about 6 months, he started taking longer naps. And no, I didn’t “sleep train” him to do this. Of course I tried a lot of atmosphere type things such as a fan for white noise, experimented with extra padding on his mattress, lighting and so on.
But the final list of extended sleep must haves are right here:
I can say with complete honesty that I don’t know whether his naps extended because of these three things, or because of him, or because of a combination of the two. In any case, you’re probably just as desperate as I was so these three easy things are worth a shot!
How Productive Are You? Really?
You might think that you’re being productive because as soon as your baby goes to sleep, you’re sitting at your desk, plugging away at your keyboard and, well, “working”.
But what are you really doing?
Are you taking a few minutes to catch your bearings? Are you easing into your workload? Are you checking the news first? Looking at your social media stats? Checking your site’s traffic?
While these are all tasks that have merit, are they really where you need to be spending your VALUABLE time? Things are different now. You can’t take an hour to get into the zone. Your baby may have already woken up and had a full feed in that amount of time.
And so if life is different, then you need to be different in it.
Get better at working with what you have.
5 Ways to be Productive with a Baby Who Catnaps
Keep to-do lists and set schedule reminders. Without this step, you can’t do anything that follows. Before you can actually be productive, you have to know what you need to be productive doing. If you’re scattered and disorganized, there’s no hope in hell. Organization is the very first step to productivity. Especially with a baby who’s totally turned your life upside down! Use Apple Notes, get Evernote or take advantage of any other note-taking, to-do-list app out there to jot things down wherever you are – at your computer, on your phone, on the move… Then sort these random notes and to-dos into priorities by day. Figure out what you need to do tonight, tomorrow, the next day and so on. Know what’s coming up. Be aware of your responsibilities to clients and colleagues. Map out your day, week, month. And what’s the cardinal rule? Don’t ever say to yourself, “No need for a reminder, I’ll remember that.” No, no. Those days have passed, Mama. Even the things that you feel certain you’ll remember, like a best friend’s birthday or an appointment you’re looking forward to – you might just forget. To prevent that from happening, set reminders in your calendar. Get those alerts chiming at you all day long if you have to. No shame! You’ve got baby brain now. (Yes, it’s a real thing.) Knowing you’ve got everything set up and scheduled will help you keep your sanity, trust me.
Get all the administrative BS out of the way beforehand. You know what I’m talking about…the menial, basic stuff you need to do. And although it’s work, it isn’t work work. Use the precious silent, uninterrupted time while your baby is sleeping to get some real, valuable, feel-good work done. At some other time of the day when you manage to get a few minutes, throw your baby in a sling, set her up with a toy beside your desk, or let him pull all the books off the shelf while you quickly check your email, sort the papers on your desk, draft an invoice or record a payment. Then, when you finally get that little catnapper down for a rest, you can dive in to actual work.
Transform your mindset. Getting quality work done has a lot to do with your frame of mind. Are you focused? Motivated? Into it? Or is your head still in baby lala land? If your little one is anything like mine, it takes a lot more than a couple of minutes to get him down (he’s a sleep fighter, doesn’t want to miss a beat!) and sometimes this is actually quite helpful. While I stroke his back and ease him into his nap, I’m able to take 5 minutes or so to think about the work I’m about to complete. This works wonders once I actually sit down at my desk and get going. Because I’m already in it.
Have everything ready. You probably need a few documents on your desk, websites open, phone numbers handy and a steaming hot cup of coffee. So, have it all there ahead of time. If you don’t, this could eat up 5 minutes of your precious timeslot. I’m a mama who really believes strongly in giving my little prince maximum, undivided attention when we’re together – as much as humanly possible that is, I mean, I’m still trying to run a business and raise a baby. But what I mean is, instead of trying to always get everything ready while your little one just wants to play and be with you, take 5 minutes the night before to look at your schedule. Check your deadlines. See what’s up for you the next day. Then prep it all for a serious productivity hoedown mañana.
FOCUS. Sounds simple. But it might not be. Even when you know that you only have 40 minutes to get something done, your mind may just not be in it. Shit, a few months ago, you would have had all day to get your ass in gear if you needed it. Ahh, those were the days. Maybe a personal thing is consuming your mind. Maybe you’re tired. Maybe something in the news caught your attention and distracted you. Whatever it is, you need to block it out. Hone in on the task at hand. When your mind wanders, bring it back. Practice being in the moment. Force yourself to get down to it. You’ll feel so much better afterwards, knowing you fought through the all-too-tempting distractions. And of course, you’ll have your work done!
Laurel Douglas, CEO of B.C.’s Women’s Enterprise Centre, says that for women who start businesses, it isn’t money that’s the primary motivator, it’s flexibility.
A self employed mom is one who has total control over her schedule. She can care for her kids and manage her household – on her time.
At Home vs. Outside the Home
When you work at home, everything about your day is more efficient. You maximize work time because you don’t have to commute anywhere. You maximize quality time with your kids because even if you have a quick work task to complete, it’s just a flight of stairs away. You maximize money because you’re not spending on gas, transit, parking, etc.
And who doesn’t want to work in their sweats anyway?!
Steps to Start a Business
I’m going to walk you through a series of steps to start your very own business so you can become the work at home mom you’ve always wanted to be. These are actually the steps I took so I can tell you with confidence that they work. And I’ve got 6+ years of successful at-home, entrepreneurial, self-employed work under my belt so far. I hope it continues because I can’t imagine my life any other way…
Do Something About It
The first step to start your own business is action.
Make a move.
Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year…right now.
It might be something small such as researching about your interests or seeing how many other companies like the one you want to start already exist. Or it might be something larger like brainstorming a company name or registering a domain online. In this early stage, what’s most important is momentum. Even if you only allot 10 minutes every day to your new endeavor, commit to that. Don’t stray from it. And to make sure you never say, “Oh, it’s late, I’ll just do it tomorrow”, make sure your timeslot is early in the day.
1 – Define Your Business
What is it?
What do you want to do?
How do you want to do it?
Are you selling a product or a service?
Does it already exist or is this a brand new concept?
Where will you offer your product or service?
When will your business operate? Year round? Seasonal? Now? In a year?
Is it something you will make or do personally or will you need to hire a team?
What makes your business different? (This might be THE single most important question you need to answer so take your time on this one!)
Why do you want to do this? (Another extremely important question. In today’s business landscape, you need to connect with your customers on the why factor. Have purpose. Have direction. Have a story. Have a deeper meaning behind your business. And communicate this to your target audience.)
Check this out:
What value will you provide?
Are you solving a problem?
Will you provide advice?
Will you be cheaper or more expensive than your competitors?
Will you focus on quality, or efficiency, or saving people money, or getting people to do something differently than the way they do it right now?
DEFINE your business. (Think of every aspect of every part – it all needs to be defined.)
2 – Name Your Business
I used to think that a company name was just that – a name. It doesn’t dictate success. It doesn’t make or break your business. And it doesn’t really matter what it is because a) people will grow into it and b) what you do with it is what counts.
But my take on business names and domain names has changed drastically.
My husband recently renamed and rebranded one of his companies. He spent the better part of a year (yes a year!) coming up with a new name. And in our house that means a year of thinking about it, debating it, brainstorming it and talking about it – to death! Needless to say, I learned a lot about naming – or renaming – a business.
I’m now here to tell you that your business name IS important. And it’s important on two sides of the spectrum:
It’s important internally. (For you and your staff.)
Your business name needs to be something you and your partners, employees and contractors can get behind. It should be something you and your team can resonate with and relate to. Parents spend months (likely 9) coming up with the perfect name for their child, so it makes sense that business owners should also spend ample time making the right choice for their companies. After all, as entrepreneurs, aren’t our businesses our babies? And if you choose wisely, you’ll never have to go through the hassle and cost of rebranding.
If you’re passionate about your business name, I’m going to argue that it might just positively affect your performance. I’m not saying it’s everything, but it’s something. Once my husband’s new brand was launched, things started to happen – from the very first week. New leads rolled in, projects were closed, motivations were sky-high. There were a lot of factors at play here, but just from a personal standpoint, right down to how he answered the phone with the new brand name, he oozed confidence and authority. There was a change in demeanor. And it was damn good. Don’t underestimate the power of the psychology behind a solid brand. It might just make YOU perform better, and therefore, contribute to greater success down the road.
It’s important externally. (For everyone else.)
What will leads, customers, competitors, colleagues and the media think of your business name? Does it make sense? Is it meaningful? Do you think it’ll make your target audience say, “Hey, I want to buy from them”? Just like anything else, a business has a chance to make a first impression, and oftentimes, this starts with the name. It could be through an email, in online search results or on a store sign. Bottom line: when people see or hear it, what’s their immediate reaction?
These days, it isn’t quite as easy as simply coming up with a good name. You’re going to want a website for your new business (obviously). And what do you need to put up a website? A domain name! Well guess what? The very first domain name was registered on March 15th, 1985. By 1992, fewer than 15,000 .com domains had been registered. As of January 2015, according to the Web Server Survey, 876,812,666 websites were in existence. Point is, not only is it difficult to come up with an excellent business name, but also one that isn’t yet taken online! Another thing my husband’s rebranding initiative has taught me is that web real estate is valuable. It’s worth money. So if you find the perfect business and domain name, don’t be afraid to pay for it. (These are called premium domains and you can learn a little more about them here: https://ca.godaddy.com/help/what-are-premium-domain-names-2878). Thinking of, finding and/or purchasing the perfect domain name is a challenge to say the least, but one very well worth the time investment to get it right.
So what makes a good business name?
It’s short. Too lengthy and people won’t remember it.
It’s easy to spell and pronounce. Imagine every time you tell someone your business name they answer with “huh?” or “say that again”. If you need to spell it out every single time, then it isn’t simple enough and you’ve overcomplicated things. You should be able to say it and instantaneously people know what you’ve said – no questions, no confusion.
It makes sense. While some big brand names are totally meaningless such as Kodak, Amazon and Google, for us smaller fish in the sea, it’s best to stick with something that has meaning in your industry so you can be memorable right from the get-go. Take my writing business for example: Striking Content Inc. I think you’ll agree that I’ve got the two points above down pat AND this name makes perfect sense in my industry. In fact, I’ve had a lot of compliments about my business name from clients, and people I work with often make it into a pun by saying something like, “Katie, I need you to write striking content for my website.” Yeah!
It’s comprised of real words. Notice how the three examples I gave above are all made up words? These are remarkably successful brands but again, for branding success on a smaller scale, you want to make it easy for people. Stick to words or combinations of words that already exist. Examples of big brands that have done it this way: Apple, Facebook, Evernote, Twitter.
3 – Register Your Business and Secure Your Domain Name
Enough planning! Now it’s time to solidify your decision. Wherever you’re located in the world, there’s a way to register your business.
To prevent any issues down the road, you might want to consider consulting with a lawyer about your business name. Make sure you’re not in conflict with other business names in your industry. Before you spend money registering your company, you want to know that everything is legit.
So you’ve got your business name. You’ve legally registered your business with whatever governing body is applicable to your location. Maybe you purchased your domain name first or maybe it’s your final step but whatever the case, make sure you can buy the domain name that is EXACTLY what your business name is. Don’t fall into the trap of “Oh, strikingcontent.com isn’t available so I’ll just get the domain contentthatisstriking.com”. No, no. Bad decision.
4 – Choose Your Business Structure … And DON’T Incorporate too Soon!
Are you on your own?
Do you have a partner?
What kind of liabilities or risks is your business subject to?
How much money do you expect to make in your first year? Or two? Or three?
Given your current business situation, think about what structure is best. Just a quick word of advice: don’t rush into incorporating. Yes, there is a certain stature and permanence that comes along with the “Inc.” tacked on to the end of your business name but incorporation is at least a little bit about timing.
Remember that an incorporated business costs more to set up, more to manage and more to file taxes on an annual basis. Plus, you need to know all the right ways to pay yourself (which often comes with more headaches too). It’s a common misconception that corporations give their owners tax breaks. Yes, this is true. But only if you know exactly how to legally take advantage of those opportunities and you usually need to make enough money so that you can leave some of it INSIDE the business. If you’re just pulling everything out, it often defeats the purpose. The decision to incorporate is multifaceted and it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Reasons for or against incorporation at any stage in your business have to do with liability, financial, personal and so many more.
All I’m saying is don’t automatically assume you need to incorporate. To start, see if you can operate as a sole proprietorship. Minimize your upfront costs so you can evaluate whether or not your business is actually going to fly before you invest money into incorporating.
5 – Start Online
Self employment and entrepreneurship aren’t what they used to be. A hundred years ago, aspiring entrepreneurs didn’t have the Internet to just give things a whirl! They had to find a space, set up shop and deal with a whack load of overhead expenses right from the beginning.
But your situation is different. Sure, you could choose to rent a retail space, invest in inventory, buy all kinds of store supplies and décor and start your new business much the same way as your counterparts from the past.
You could take advantage of a powerful (and cheap!) tool at your disposal:
Again, minimize your upfront costs.
Not only is it important to minimize your upfront costs to avoid unnecessary debts but also to give yourself some breathing room. If you’re sitting on thousands racked up in loans and credit cards, how do you think you’re going to run your new business? Like a stress ball! And when you’re stressed out in business, your vision gets clouded. You can’t give your new company the gusto it needs to take off. You’re reluctant to really go for it because you feel way too much pressure to get that next sale or solidify that new client. When you’re coasting along comfortably, you know you’ve got nothing to lose. And that gives you the mindful freedom you need to perform better.
6 – Build a Website
The way I see it, there are three ways to go about designing and building a website for your new business:
Buy a template and customize it.
Many years ago, “the thing to do” was to create a website using custom code. This is how my original websites were built for my businesses. Back then, the word “template” was forbidden – you’d be shunned if you used a template.
Things are different.
Have you seen the latest templates you can purchase online? Check these out. These are the most popular WordPress themes. Click “Live Preview” for any in this list and you’ll get a real eye opener into the calibre of the once-dreaded template marketplace. If you’re just starting your business and you’re new to the whole online world, this is great news for you! Because it means you can purchase a template for dirt cheap and then customize it any way you like.
My top recommendation of where to purchase templates today: www.themeforest.net. Sort by code type, website type, popularity, industry and more.
*Quick Warning*: Although these templates claim that you can literally customize any aspect of the design without any coding experience, be careful. I know a teency, weency, tiny bit about coding and I definitely couldn’t customize any of my previously used templates on my own. If you find yourself in the same boat, it’s time to hire a developer to help you. See how and where to do this in point number 2.
Hire a web designer and web developer to run the project from start to finish.
If you want to take a little more of a hands-off approach, this option is better for you. Typically, you want to find a freelance designer and a freelance developer. This is the most economical way for you to do this, since if you find a larger company that has both designers and developers on staff, you’re already in another price category. And this post is all about saving you money as you embark on your new, uber-exciting endeavour remember?
So here’s what I recommend…
Create an account on any of the major freelancer websites you prefer. I started out on Elance.com (which is now actually just Upwork). Guru and Freelancer are also worth looking into. Once you’re signed up, follow the super simple process to post a project and then watch eagerly as tons of freelancers “bid” on the work. Then you can chat, speak with, drill and vet all those freelancers until you’re comfortable hiring the right one for your project. If you have a location preference, you can specify it. Or, you can let ’er rip and accept bids from freelancers all over the world.
A little side note here: when it comes to design exclusively, check out 99designs. If you have the time and you’re ready to have some serious fun, this site lets you run a design “contest” and then receive multiple submissions from designers on a global scale. Obviously, the cool thing here is that you get to SEE the designs before you award a winner. It takes time to go through all the submissions and then give feedback to keep the process rolling, but there’s something awesome about viewing several designers’ interpretations of what your website should look like. And ultimately, you’re the judge.
Use an online website builder and pay a small monthly fee to maintain and run your site.
There are lots of website builders online, but I recommend GoDaddy: https://www.godaddy.com/hosting/website-builder.aspx. If you’re a total newbie to the online world and you don’t know the first thing about building a website, hosting that website and setting up a proper business email (and more importantly, you don’t want to learn how to do these things because you’d rather focus on your business), then this is the option for you.
There are three different packages you can choose, ranging from $2.99 to $14.99 a month. Big whoop! You don’t need to know any coding, no technical skills are required, there are lots of design templates to choose from and GoDaddy sets you up with your domain, hosting and business email.
7 – Get a Business Phone Line
Don’t make the mistake of using your cell phone and always picking up the phone saying “Hello?” Or even worse: “Yo?” Invest in a virtual phone number (VoIP) or a cloud based PBX. It’s a minimal monthly cost that’s well worth every dollar. When a business call comes through to your smartphone, you know it’s a business call, and so, you can answer professionally. The last thing you want potential customers to say when you pick up the phone is, “Oh, have I reached the right place?”
The top 3 VoIP services of 2015 are RingCentral, Grasshopper and eVoice. As a matter of fact, I can personally vouch for RingCentral, which is the virtual phone system I’ve been using since the beginning. Now that I think of it, there may have been one other company I used first but for so little time that I can’t even remember the name.
8 – Create Marketing Collateral
Okay, so you’ve got the idea, the business name, the domain, the website, the phone line…you’re all set up.
So what’s next?
It’s time to prepare to market your business. Naturally, before you just dive in and start spending a ton of money on marketing materials you’ll never use, it’s important that you think it through. Research it. Plan it. Wrap your head around it. Remember, it’s alllll new so take your time.
What form of marketing tends to be most successful in your industry?
How can you minimize costs upfront?
Is there a way to spend less money on production?
Use trial and error to figure out what’s working and what’s not.
Invest where the results are!
You might be in the type of business that screams social media success. Your marketing focus might be strictly digital. Or perhaps yours is an industry that still calls for business cards and print materials. Whatever it is, figure it out. Research the hell out of it. Make a solid plan so you can create and spend money only on what you need.
Take advantage of the online world! Don’t get fooled into thinking that you MUST have a business card “just because”. When I first started my company, I made the mistake of designing a beautiful business card and printing a thousand of them that I thought I’d rip through in no time. Well guess what? About 800 of them are still sitting in my closet:
Run pay-per-click (PPC) ads in the major search engines – or at the very least, Google.
Design your site to be SEO friendly.
Figure out what people are typing in to find businesses like yours.
Create social media accounts and get active on them.
Write as much fresh content as you can and add it to your site on a regular basis.
9 – Get Out There (in other words…market your business)
“If you build it they will come.”
Is this what you’re thinking? Think again!
One of the biggest reasons entrepreneurs fail is because of their lack of marketing strategy, spending, drive and general know-how. Successful entrepreneurs are so special because they have skills on both sides of the equation: they’re really good at whatever it is they actually do, but they’re also really good at business – and more specifically, driving business.
Here are a few good-read articles that discuss some of biggest causes of small business startup failures:
Of course, there isn’t just one reason. There are many. But have a look. Notice the common thread?
Ineffective marketing or a lack of marketing altogether.
Without marketing, you ain’t gonna go far. No matter how good your idea is.
Once again get online (you’ve probably noticed by now that I simply cannot stress this enough)! Particularly in the beginning, you can’t beat the costs of online marketing in relation to the number of TARGETED customers you’re able to reach with your efforts.
It gives you the ability to reach a huge target audience.
It supplies you with invaluable data that can help you tweak and customize your campaigns to continually improve things like click-through-rate (CTR), engagement and conversions.
It has global scope.
It’s a marketing medium available to customers 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
10 – Hustle and Bustle, Mama!
We all need a little kick in the ass every now and then. For some of us, it might be every morning (ahem, hem…coffee please!). For others, it’s a weekly or monthly need when we start to feel run down.
Whenever you need it, make sure you do everything in your power to stay motivated and on track. You’ve chosen your path. Now it’s up to you to make it happen.
Need a little motivation right now? Watch this:
Make no mistake…
This is the rockier road. It’s the uphill climb. It’s the swim against the current.
Entrepreneurship is the most rewarding career you’ll ever have. But with rewards come challenges. Big challenges. Challenges that will make you want to quit a thousand times over. So you’ll need some firepower beneath that sexy ass of yours…
A support network you can turn to.
Colleagues you can bounce ideas off of.
Motivational activities you can do on a daily basis.
Friends you can call on for a good distraction when you’ve just got to get away.
Most importantly, you’ll need that DRIVE within you. That determined little voice in your head that always keeps you moving forward even on days when the only thing you want to do is curl into a ball and give up. And it’s this tiny, yet all-powerful voice that will give you the hustle and bustle attitude you need to stay true to your vision. To keep your focus. To push for what you want. And to never, ever, ever, EVER give up.
I’m a mom.
I’m an entrepreneur.
I’m a business owner.
And sometimes it downright sucks.
My little prince is almost 8 months old so I’m still within the first year of his life where other employed moms are relishing in maternity leaves that give them 12 months off work – with pay!
On many an occasion I find myself thinking…
“It would it be so nice to leave the laptop in sleep mode today…to play with my son without thinking about everything I still need to do before nighttime…to forget all about my clients, my deadlines and my responsibilities…to get paid for doing NO WORK…and to feel good about it because I DESERVE IT.”
1 – There’s NO break.
I’ve said it before, being a mom is a full time job. That means there’s really no opportunity to do any other kind of actual work unless you really get creative. Which I do. If you’re a working mom, then you’ve really gotta do everything you can to stay committed. Motivated. Driven. Dedicated to your work.
And that means sacrifices in other areas.
More so than losing a bit of personal time or quality time with your partner and friends, those sacrifices sometimes involve distractedness when you’re with your kid. Read point 3 below.
2 – I feel like I’m getting cheated.
Sometimes I want to scream at the top of my lungs in shameful envy of all the lucky ass moms out there with mat leaves. While I’ve been building my businesses and working happily for myself for the past 6 years, they’ve been “working for the man” in positions that I’ve always thought I wanted nothing to do with!
As I evaluate the full package of what they bring, those tedious, unchallenging and unsatisfying desk jobs are looking pretty damn nice.
3 – I can’t give my son my undivided attention.
This is a big one. Our little ones are only at home with us for such a short time and yet as moms – and working moms – we have so much to do on any given day to keep life rolling. On top of baby duties like diaper changes, nursing and play time, we’ve also got household stuff like laundry, groceries and meal prep. What about all the miscellaneous tasks that usually fall in our laps (because we’re women, we care and we’re hardwired for these things) like buying gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, making sure the house is stocked with essentials like toilet paper and paper towel, answering texts and emails so you don’t totally lose touch with people, or making plans with friends you haven’t seen in forever…
And then you want to add WORK on top of it all?!
Needless to say, this means that no matter how hard you try, there are going to be moments throughout the day when your little one is content with a toy and you’re scrambling to whip up a salad, make a quick phone call or throw a load of laundry on. Even though I know it’s actually a good thing to let your baby have a little independent play time, I can’t help but feel guilty that I’m not always giving my little guy my undivided attention. And that pisses me off.
4 – Life feels like one big rush.
As a working mom, the second I’ve got a spare minute because the little prince is napping or because my husband’s spending time with him or because one of the doting grandparents is over for a visit, I rush to squeeze in every possible task I can complete. Life feels like one big blur. Granted, the time stress is something I definitely put on myself. No one else is rushing me. I am. But I can’t help it. I feel like I’m always chasing that feeling of total relaxation…I fool myself into thinking that if I just complete this one thing, then I’ll be able to fully relax. But guess what happens when I’m done that one thing? Another thing pops up.
C’est la vie.
5 – I just want to play with my son. All day. Every day.
Maybe it’s the new mommy coming out in me. Maybe it’s the realization that time is going by waaaaay too fast. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m becoming more and more attached to my son as each day passes.
I used to be the hardest worker. 10, 12, 15 hour days. Whatever. I loved it.
Even though I LOVE what I do, I often find myself wishing I could just drop it all to be with my son. Ever since he came along it’s become clear to me that when I really take a hard, long look at life, he’s all that matters. Real happiness, real value comes from spending time with the people you love.
When we’re six feet under, we’re not going to look back at life with fond, loving feelings for our money. We’re going to be proud of the kind of kids we raised. At the relationships we built. At the awesome experiences we had.
As I spend time with my son, who by the way becomes more and more fun every single day, that goofy, comical and lighthearted side of me comes out. I laugh till my jaw hurts and I do things that make my son smile from ear to ear. What we do together is so small, so silly and so seemingly insignificant. But it’s anything but. These are the times that I’ll always cherish. These are the times when I feel my absolute best. These are the times I’ll never, ever forget.
So, can you blame me that there are some days when I just don’t want to work at all?
Sorry for being a Bitter Betty today. Stay in Bittersville with me for now (I need the company) but stay tuned for the flipside. Yeah, there are positives too. Gotta see the silver lining, right?
A Few Tips to Get You By…
Before I give you a big boost and post all the reasons why being a working mom is awesome, here are a few tips that have helped me squeeze my way out of Bittersville when I really need a pick-me-up:
The challenge of perfectly balancing work and baby time is what makes both tasks so rewarding.
Knowing yourself, if there was no work to do for a full year, you’d probably be miserable and bored out of your mind.
Because you’re working and raising your baby, you’re able to feel uber productive no matter what you’re doing – all day, every day.
You haven’t lost your career or even had to put it on hold.
Working moms are super moms. Straight up.
But until next time, leave a venting comment about why being a working mom SUCKS!
Imagine this question were asked fifty years ago? Crazy how times have changed. And for many of you, this may still sound like an absurd question to ask. But if both you and your partner are entrepreneurs without mat and pat leaves, working from home, well then this is a valid – and albeit important – conversation.
Who makes more money?
No entrepreneur (particularly those of the male gender) want to admit that they’re revenues are lacking, that they’re profits are dwindling or that their beloved business isn’t pulling in as much as expected. But for an entrepreneurial husband and wife team who just brought baby into the mix, this is the first and most logical question that must be answered.
Now, on top of being busy, driven entrepreneurs who work crazy hours to make sure their businesses thrive…you’ve got a baby to care for! In other words, you can’t work the way you used to AND be a good parent. Something’s gotta give. SomeONE’s gotta give. And logically speaking, it should be the one who makes less money.
But wait, there’s more.
“There is a ridiculous amount of sh*t to do around here!”
Sound familiar? I swear my husband and I say this a hundred times a day. It’s as if each new day that passes brings with it a host of new “chores” that must be done.
What’s funny is that you thought you were busy before. But you had no idea what busy even meant before your little one came along. Now there’s caring for yourself, caring for your house, caring for your husband and caring for your baby. There is an infinitely greater number of things to do now than there were before. Everything that you and your partner already “figured out” when you moved in together has to get revisited and reworked.
Who’s gonna do what?
What are your roles?
Where can each of you provide the most value?
Who’d rather deal with fresh poopy diapers and who’d rather empty the Diaper Genie?
Which one of you is going to be the baby’s primary caregiver?
How is everything gonna get done?
Time is money. As entrepreneurs we know and understand this. Intimately.
And there’s always a tradeoff. If you work less, you make less money (unless you’re running a business that totally runs itself, in which case this article is not for you). If you work more, you make more money … but you can’t be with your little one as much. And for a new mama who’s embracing all that motherhood (and motherly bizin’) really is, THIS. IS. NOT. AN. OPTION.
So, you struggle to find some kind of biz-motherly balance. And a big part of what makes that possible is what you “figure out” with your partner.
Now back to the money question.
Let’s say YOU make more money. You may decide that this means your partner works less (to care for your baby) and you work more.
But let’s get down to the crux of the matter. It’s not only about your work time versus your baby time. It’s about allllll the other house b*tchin’ stuff you have to do! I’m talking about the food prep, the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming…this is where it really all adds up.
How about hiring help?
Even if you already have a cleaning service that comes every couple weeks, all the daily house b*itchin’ chores take up a whack load of time. Once your baby is in the 4, 5, 6 month plus range, you can sit them with you in the kitchen while you slave away, or run to put the load of laundry on while they’re doing a little tummy time in the next room. And now add up all of these little things you do all day long and then ask yourself, how much quality, focused, undivided attention time are you actually giving your kid?!
Yeah, exactly. It’s an eye-opener isn’t it?
There’s another way.
Maybe it’s a part time nanny, maybe it’s a full time nanny. I hate that term “nanny” – it’s so dated and there are so many negative connotations that come along with it. So let’s just call it HELP.
Personally, I HATE the idea.
I’m not the “nanny” type! Here’s why…
I despise the idea of being “waited on”.
It makes me feel like a stuffy, uppity, too-good-for-other-people kind of woman.
I don’t want someone in my house – in my space – allllll the time.
I go about my business and daily activities freely, quickly, efficiently and on my time. I’m afraid this person will be in my way, and even worse, I’m afraid that I’ll feel the need to make conversation every time we cross paths! (I mean, I like to gab just as much as the next person, but all day every day? No way, José.)
We need a bigger house for this!
Why it makes sense.
Ever have a conversation with your loved one and by the end of it you say to yourself, “Damn! This guy is making way too much sense.” In other words, you’ve got zilch when it comes to arguing your side!
This is where my husband and I stand with the HELP conversation.
Here’s how that clever mensch broke it down for me:
We spend hours – yes, hours PLURAL – house b*tchin’ (that’s what he calls anything and everything to do with taking care of ourselves, our house and our little guy).
These are hours that we can’t spend working, being with each other or hanging with our baby.
All of these chores prevent us from giving our little prince our undivided attention when he’s awake.
We can hire someone to do these things for us for X amount of dollars an hour.
We can each make more than X amount of dollars an hour when we’re working.
If only I had a record of everything I’ve ever typed into that all-too-familiar text bar. From emerging problems to changing life phases to bidding curiosities, Google knows a hell of a lot about me!
I’ve discovered that especially when it comes to new mommyhood, most people I talk to tell me that the absolute worst thing I can do is Google my questions.
I disagree strongly.
Googling Means You Have DRIVE
In this day and age, if you’re lost, if you don’t have the answers, if you don’t know how to do something, if you want to know something … there’s no excuse for not using what we all have at our disposal!
Picture the world 50 years ago.
When our parents and grandparents had questions, curiosities, problems – there was only one place to go: the library. They’d have to look things up in databases, references and encyclopedias. Wow. Imagine telling today’s impatient, demanding, go-getter-type Millennials that in order to get an answer to one of their questions they’d have to drive (or walk, or take public transit) to the nearest library and look it up using a paper, alphabetical filing system?
Ha! They’d laugh in your face.
And when we think of it this way, we must take advantage of what we have. It takes seconds to Google something. But as simple and convenient as it is, if you do it, it shows you have DRIVE. You want the answer to that question. You need to find out how to do something. You crave access to a world of information at your fingertips.
And that’s a very good thing.
Googling Means You’re RESOURCEFUL
At one of my regular waxing appointments a couple of months ago, I was spilling the beans to my esthetician about my breastfeeding woes. I told her about my lactation consultant. About my little guy’s tongue tie, lip tie and tight jaw. About our visits to the breastfeeding clinic and the osteopath. About it all.
You know what she said?
Good for you for being so resourceful. And I thought to myself, huh. I hadn’t realized that’s what I was doing. When it came to my breastfeeding problems, the only thing going through my mind was, “I am determined to breastfeed my son. I am in excruciating pain. I must fix this and figure it out.”
Where do you think I began the process?
I tapped into the resources at my disposal to find information, to find answers, to find help.
Googling Provides You With INFORMATION
We can’t make good decisions without good information. Now, granted, everything that pops up in Google’s search results isn’t accurate, valuable and reliable. But it’s information nonetheless. It’s up to you to sift through the clutter, to decide what’s usable and what’s not, and to take everything you come across with a grain of salt.
No one said you have to listen to everything you find through Google. On the contrary. But more information is better than less information. The more informed and educated you are about a particular topic, the better able you’ll be to solve your issues, to figure out the best answers for you and your life, and to put good solutions into action.
Googling Gives You PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes you’ve gotta see what’s out there so you can put any given situation into a little perspective.
“My business is having a dead month.” Googling tells you that January is, in fact, usually a much slower month in your industry. Now, you stop worrying.
“My six month old doesn’t like to nap.” Googling tells you that so many other parents have babies who not only don’t like to nap, but sleep only a couple hours at night! Now, instead of feeling annoyed, you feel lucky.
“I need help with my new CRM software system.” Googling helps you find a website that walks you step-by-step through the exact issues you’re facing. Now, you understand.
“I don’t want to feed my baby rice cereal as a first food.” Googling tells you that other moms feel the same way and actually feed their babies a host of other foods (arguably better foods) before ever introducing rice cereal. Now, you discover the world of “superfoods” for your baby.
Ahhh. That feels better. Google put my concerns into perspective.
So You’re a Googler … And That’s a Very Good Thing
Especially if you’re a mom.
Or an entrepreneur.
A Googler is a good mom because…
She puts in the effort.
She has a thirst to learn.
She finds answers to her questions.
She takes it upon herself to research and gather ideas.
She understands that motherhood is a constantly evolving process.
She’s determined to do what’s best for her child.
She acknowledges the fact that the only way for her to make the best decisions is to make sure she’s well informed.
She’s not afraid to expand her horizons and challenge the norm.
She doesn’t say, “I don’t know” but rather, “Here’s what I know”.
A Googler is a good entrepreneur because…
She’s anything but lazy.
She enjoys learning and expanding her knowledge base.
She is fast and efficient.
She remembers that much of what she’s accomplished has been self-taught.
She understands that entrepreneurship is about continuous personal development.
She invests her time in education – in herself.
She acknowledges the fact that her business, her industry, her world is constantly changing.
She doesn’t say, “That’s something I’ve been meaning to do…” but rather, “I’m in the process of completing that task”.
Are you Google obsessed?
Good for you, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
How does it make you a better mom and entrepreneur?
Think about this statement for a minute. Take as long as you need to come to the realization that this is truly f*cked up.
I think this is an “illness” that comes part and parcel with being an entrepreneur. Maybe it also has something to do with our North American, work-obsessed, money-hungry mentality.
It’s no secret that…
We thrive on work.
We push ourselves to (unhealthy) limits.
We think that the only way to succeed – to really “make it” – is to burn out.
We feel guilty when we’re not working!
Being Employed is Different from Running Your Own Show
Entrepreneurs have it a little different from those who are employed. In most positions of employment, people have a set schedule they’re committed to – 9 to 5, 8 to 4, shift work… Whatever that schedule is, employees have the opportunity, and the ability, to disengage. To unplug. To decompress.
But as entrepreneurs we literally live and breathe our work. Even when we’re not working, we’re working. Particularly those of us who work from home may find it difficult to separate work from personal life. Because it’s all connected and intertwined. Our office is just steps away from where we cook meals, watch movies and go to sleep at night. Part of us associates everything we do at work with everything we do at home.
Why I Feel Guilty When I’m Not Working
I think there are a few reasons for this.
No one’s given me a mat leave. Although this doesn’t mean I don’t deserve one, it certainly feels as though I’m not entitled. I chose my self-employed, entrepreneurial career path and with that comes an obligation to work even when most people don’t have to.
My mind is always coming up with new ideas. Whether I’m breastfeeding, about to go to sleep at night, pedalling on the bike at the gym or waking from a midday slumber, I’m constantly thinking, brainstorming and planning. About how I can grow my businesses. About how I can generate more income. About how I can better serve my clients. It doesn’t end. So how can I expect to feel at peace when I’m not doing something to put my ideas into motion?
I’m committed to my business. I want my business to succeed. The thought of being thrown back into the corporate world scares the living bejesus out of me! And the only way for me to ensure that my business can and will continue to thrive is to work at it.
I always want to progress forward. I think the hardest part about partially letting go of the businesses I’ve worked so hard to build is that it feels like a step back. Before my little guy came along, every year I earned more than the year before. Business was thriving and companies were growing. Now, my pay cut feels like a stab in the back.
Why It’s Bullsh*t
The reasons for my guilt sound pretty sensible don’t they? While I could spend hours justifying this, and making a damn good case for myself, my reasoning fails to take one very important concept into account: the profound significance of raising a child.
Getting pregnant, giving birth to a healthy baby and growing a family is incredible. It’s priceless. It’s a gift. It’s so special that there are no words to describe it. (Only fellow mothers will truly understand.) It dawned on me recently, as I thoroughly enjoyed a play session with my little prince, that this – my motherly work – trumps all else.
And you know what? It pays better in the long run.
How to Nip Your Pesky (and Unwarranted) Guilt in the Butt!
Your guilt stems from a lifelong habit. Like any other, it takes time to break.
You feel guilty because you’re motivated, hardworking and dedicated. This is a good thing.
Give yourself time to refocus and readjust.
You have your whole life to work.
Your baby will only be a baby once.
Soon, your child won’t need you as much – and you’ll hate it and miss the days when they did.
The mom job has legacy.
Not working – or working less – is only temporary if that’s what you want.
When you’re old, it won’t be the times when you were working that you’ll treasure the most.
Remember that being a good mom is the most important job in the world. So don’t slack!
Whether something is decided to be a benefit or a disadvantage is relative. What we think to be positive or negative has everything to do with our outlook, our point of view…our perspective. One person’s drawback is another person’s triumph. What one person perceives to be a problem, another person thinks is their greatest advantage.
The Right Mindset Will Get You Everywhere
A number of years back, after university, before I became self-employed and when I felt generally lost in life, I began to read Eckhart Tolle books, I created a dream board and I familiarized myself with the law of attraction. Through these personal teachings, I grew self aware of the debilitating capacity of my own thoughts and understood that my unhappiness was, simply put, MY FAULT.
It was an empowering realization.
Because this meant that I could control my state of mind. That I could choose to see the good in every situation. That even though I knew I wanted to make big changes in my life, that my happiness wasn’t the byproduct of my surroundings.
It was me.
“My Baby Takes Up All My Time!”
The first words that come to mind for a suitable response are…
Like I said before, raising a baby is a FULL TIME JOB. Not part time, not contract…FULL time. For new moms like me, it’s certainly an adjustment and I’ve learned what it feels like to be robbed of my personal time.
Feel like writing a blog post? (ahem, hem) Better postpone that inspiration for the next time your baby decides to take a nap.
Dying to go to the gym? That’ll need to be timed impeccably around feedings, naps and babysitters.
BUT…I’m Now a Much More Efficient Person
The fact that the amount of time I have in a day to complete my to-do list has been cut by 75% is actually a huge benefit. You see, I now have less time to do more. And so I’ve become highly efficient at everything I do.
Let me give you a few examples:
I make to-do lists in order of priority. Thought you were forgetful during pregnancy? Just wait. But these lists (thank goodness for Evernote) don’t only help me remember what I need to do, but they also serve a second, very important, function: The moment my personal time kicks in, I’m ready to maximize it.
When my little prince goes down for a nap, I move like a bat out of hell! As I’m bouncing, dancing, swinging and cajoling my son to sleep, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do when it’s lights out.
Every time I get a few minutes throughout the day, I break a sweat knocking items off my list. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in 10 minutes when you have no idea when the next 10 is coming.
I’ve become a GREAT multi-tasker. My little guy has officially entered the phase where he loves to see and explore the world around him. So, I’ll often kill two birds with one stone carrying him around the house and doing the odd (one-handed) job here and there. Everybody wins!
I’ve become an even better uni-tasker. When I had all the time in the world to get things done, it wouldn’t really matter how long it took me, or how I did it, or whether or not I got distracted while doing it. Now, I’ve learned that in many scenarios, being a uni-tasker is far better than being a multi-tasker. Sit down, concentrate and get ’er done. Then move on to the next task.
When I work, I’m more focused. Knowing very well that I have a limited amount of time has worked wonders in my business life. When the prince is fed, happy and sleeping, it’s my time to be productive. So I bear down and get to it. No messing around. And it feels great!
Adaptation is Key
You’ve got free reigns to sit there and complain about the fact that your new baby leaves you with little to no time for yourself. Or, you can chalk it up to an albeit different interpretation but one that actually has great benefit.
While I’ll admit that at first it certainly didn’t feel like a benefit, after a couple months whizzed by, I began to notice that my efficiency is sky high!
Fellow new mothers, I swear, my baby makes me more efficient!
What about you? Has your baby given you a new superpower? Do tell.
Letting go of your business (even just a little) friggin’ hurts!
I’m an entrepreneur, yes. But not the kind who’s built a business that now has a hundred employees and runs itself. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m the kind who’s in professional services – I’m a copywriter who works directly with my clients. I’m heavily involved and working hard on a daily basis.
In other words, no maternity leave for moi.
I’ve Been a Working Mother Since Day One
The thought of letting my inbox accumulate for more than a day makes me a little jittery. To me, sifting through the crap and answering any legitimate messages isn’t work. It’s just something I do. Customer service is ridiculously important to me. Make my clients wait more than a few hours to hear back from me? Never.
So, naturally, one of the items on my hospital packing list prior to my son’s birth was my laptop.
About an hour before we left the hospital, we were waiting for one more test (the hearing test) and had a few minutes to kill. My husband was enjoying time with the little guy so, in my mind, it only made sense for me to take this opportunity to check my emails.
If you’re self employed, if you’re dedicated to your work, if you don’t have a mat leave or if you’re just generally a woman who’s always “connected” I know you get it. If you don’t fall into one of these categories, you might think this is downright crazy!
Let me explain something: emptying my email inbox at the hospital makes me smart, not crazy. It was a small yet significant task that demonstrates one key fact about me…
I’m a productivity addict.
No matter what I’m doing, no matter who I’m with, no matter what the setting, productivity is key. And you know what? It’s part of what makes me a good worker, a good business owner and a good mother!
Dealing with Unfinished Work
About a week before I gave birth, I turned off my ad campaign. All my regular and existing clients were fully informed of my situation months before my due date, knowing very well that projects might get interrupted, depending on when exactly my little one decided to make an appearance.
Apparently he couldn’t wait because I delivered two weeks early. Needless to say, that meant unfinished work and projects on hold. Something that didn’t sit too well with me.
You see, I’m anything but a procrastinator. I like having first drafts of all copy that I write to be complete significantly in advance of any final deadline so I can ponder it, let it simmer and then revisit it multiple times before my clients ever see the work once.
If you’ve got kids you know that in the first couple of weeks after you give birth life is mayhem! You’re trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing, you’re discovering who your baby is, you’re treasuring those first few precious moments, and you’re establishing some kind of routine with your partner as you do your best to raise the next kid genius.
There ain’t no time for work!
This was the start of my “letting go” process.
Accepting the Fact that I Have to Let Go
It didn’t take me long to realize a few very important things:
You only get the first day, of the first week, of the first month, with your first child, once.
There’ll always be work to do.
You have the rest of your life to work and make money.
Taking a break doesn’t make you any less of a business owner.
If you don’t give your baby all of you, you’re not only cheating yourself but your baby too.
You made a choice to become a mom – so be one!
Saying “No” to Business Isn’t in My DNA
Even though I turned off my ad campaign, doesn’t mean I wasn’t getting new leads. In fact, I worked my ass off for years to make sure that all my new business wasn’t only coming from paid online advertising. My sites are search engine optimized too.
Potential clients were still knocking at my door.
In the first couple of weeks I made the mistake of accepting new projects, thinking that as long as I extended my deadlines, I’d be able to manage.
I quickly realized that caring for a newborn is a full-time job. And when you tack on doctor’s appointments, specialist consultations, unexpected procedures and unforeseen treatments (all to try and fix my painful latching issues with breastfeeding), there really is NO TIME for work.
So I had to say “no”.
And then sit back and try to calmly deal with the knots in my stomach as I realized it’s just not in my makeup to turn away business.
Benefits of Being a Working Mom
I’m happy to say that it really does get easier. It’s been three and a half months and I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t say “yes!” to every single project. But, I can to some. I’m a happy, thriving and PRODUCTIVE working mom. And I’ve learned that, in fact, I’m glad I don’t have a mat leave.
When you’re a working mom, you:
Maximize your time
Become more efficient (I’ll explain my theory behind this in my next post)
Make excellent use of your time when Baby is asleep
Watch less TV
Get the intellectual stimulation you need to still feel like yourself
Are always productive
Feel good about yourself
Get the best of both worlds
Are you a working mother? What have you learned? Do you love your work time or do you envy your mat leave friends?