"Mama, mama, MAMA, MAMAAAAAAA" Bam, bam, bam.
That was the sound of my then 1-year-old daughter screaming at the top of her lungs while pounding on the bedroom door I was hiding in. She had her mommy radar on and had found me. It was my first few months of starting my own business and I was talking to a potential client on the phone. I had made the mistake of thinking I could get away with it with my 1-year old in the vicinity. Who was I kidding?
Soon I found myself running down the hallway trying to escape the screaming of my daughter while trying to continue my conversation on the phone. Finally I took haven in a bedroom and managed to shut the door. I knew my daughter was safe as she was right there at the door, banging and screaming away.
I learned one of my first lessons in business being a mom of a child under 5 that day. Don't answer the phone until the area is secure from young children! My daughter is now about to turn 6 and much has changed. I can make phone calls with her around without being interrupted (most of the time!) As I transition into being a mom-business owner of a now school-aged child I look back on the last five years. I think about the biggest lessons I learned over that time trying to the juggle the responsibilities of caring for a toddler and running a business. These are the five big ones:
Lesson #1 Don't Answer The Phone
I wish I could say I learned my lesson from the experience above. It took a couple more times of hiding in rooms barricading myself from a screaming toddler until I finally came to my senses.
It isn't just about answering the phone. It is being realistic about what you can expect to do and achieve with your young children around. When I got clear on this, it decreased a lot of frustration, anxiety and stress in our house for both my daughter and I. There will always be times when you can't avoid these unforeseen conflicts. In business sometimes urgent things will come up. However, stick to doing tasks you don't mind being interrupted in when your kids are around. Leave the ones that require your full focus when they are in bed, napping or being cared for by someone else.
Lesson #2 Start The Right Business
One of the biggest pieces of advice I give moms taking the leap into their own business, particularly when they have young children at home, is to start the right business. How do you know what the right business is? It is creating a business model that will allow you the lifestyle you want for your family. For example, if you are starting a business because you want to stay at home more with your children then you won't feel happy if you end up creating a business that requires lots of travel.
The first business I started required a lot of weekend work, was seasonal in the summer and allowed time off during the week. This worked well when my daughter was younger. Now that she’s started school the model does not work so well as her time off is on the weekends and in the summer. We are looking at redesigning our business model to work better for our new family schedule. What does the lifestyle you want look like?
Lesson #3 There Is No Perfect
Starting a business as a mom, especially when our children are young, is very different than doing it before we had children and once our children are in school. Young children need us a lot. Pretty much ALL the time. And if one of the reasons we are starting a business is so we have the flexibility to spend more time with our children we may not want to put them in full time day care. Or it may simply not be in our budget.
The time we can spend on our business is often more limited. If we want to make things happen we have to get comfortable with being "good enough". If we get too focused on perfection it can actually hold our business back. There is always one more time we can read and edit the blog post we have written. There has to be a point we just put it out there. We still want to provide the best quality service and products we can. Just let go of the need for perfection. There really is no perfect.
Lesson #4 Success Is More Than The Business
There can be a lot of pressure when starting a business. Will it be successful? Will it bring in the income I want? What will people think about what I am doing? Is it good enough? Am I good enough? Starting a business brings up all our stuff. All those fears and self-doubts we might have. We start to measure our lives based on how successful or how much money our business brings in. Period. We lose sight of anything else.
What I have realized over the years is how too much of my sense of happiness, feeling of self-worth and success in my life has been directly related to how my business was doing. Or how it compared to other businesses. It's an exhausting cycle to be on. A mentor one day asked me "Is your business the only indicator of success in your life?" I realized my business was only part of a much bigger picture. My success was also based on being able to spend more time with my daughter, being able to provide great service and experiences to the clients I did have and finding the courage to finally follow my dream of starting a business.
Success in business may look very different for someone who is raising young children compared to someone with kids at school, off at college or don't have children. Learn to base success on your own personal circumstances, not what you think it "should" be or what others are doing. Don't forget you are also in the process of raising children in their most formative years. That in itself is pretty incredible!
Lesson #5 Take What You Can When You Can
This became a mantra that helped me get through the toddler years while starting a business. It didn't start like this. I am a person who likes structure and it's important for me to have a certain amount of time dedicated to focus on each task.
At first I tried to fight back the chaos of raising a young child and starting a business. I attempted to schedule every day down to the last minute. If it was interrupted (which it often was) I found myself frustrated and not much fun to be around. It defeated the whole purpose of why I was doing this — to have more fun and freedom with my family. So I learned to let go and to be better at going with the ebb and flow of doing business with a toddler. I got good at seizing opportunities when they presented themselves to get work done and at being as productive as possible during these times.
It wasn't always easy. I have to admit I love the new structure that came into my life now that my daughter has started school. However, I look back on these early years with happiness. Some of the incidents that seemed so stressful at the time are now funny stories. I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter, which I will never regret for one moment. She also experienced watching me pursue my dream. Every second of the chaos was worth it!
Are you running a business with small kids at home? I would love to hear some of your tips you have for other moms on how you do it?
This story was provided by our content partner, YourTango, a digital media company dedicated to love and relationships. No matter what love stage our users are in — single, taken, engaged, married, starting over, or complicated — we help them live their best love lives. Written by Karen Steele. Karen is a mom, entrepreneur and Founder of The Passion Shift.