The way we work is constantly changing. Online businesses, ‘e-workers’, or working remotely are some of the options made possible by high speed internet (here are 10 main changes happened in business in the last decade), and for women who want the flexibility of working from home while caring for young families, advancements in digital communications have opened up a number of entrepreneurial opportunities. But blending entrepreneurship with raising a family can have its unique challenges.
With a toddler and flourishing online business in tow, Tiffany Matthews and her husband packed up their Auckland home and moved to the Bay of Plenty 18 months ago. Apart from her in-laws, she didn’t know a soul. Not one to sit around waiting, she reached out to two local women for help – up went the Facebook page and out went the word to bring together women in her community who were blending entrepreneurship with motherhood. Within a few weeks of arriving in Tauranga Tiffany had made good friends with like-minded women and founded the ‘Blending the Motherload’ group – a networking group for women who were juggling pre-school or school-aged children with running their own businesses.
At first, some of the group started out sharing childcare to allow women a few precious hours to attend business meetings or smash out some uninterrupted work. Last year they began meeting once a month on a Friday evening to share issues, discuss ideas and hear about different strategies for juggling the busy workload.
Tiffany says sometimes talking through an issue helps to resolve it and that’s why this kind of networking works with women, because they talk.
“We draw on the skills of everyone in the group. One person hosts the evening and they talk briefly about their field of work or some insights about raising a family while running a business. The rest of the night is about sharing ideas and helping people with any challenges going on for them in business.”
Tiffany says women choose entrepreneurship for different reasons and many women who are also raising families want the flexibility of choosing when they work and the option of not having to pay someone else to raise their kids. Most of the women in the ‘Blend’ group have worked in professional careers before having their children and many have founded businesses to continue using their skills alongside mothering.
Healthy Wealthy Wonderful
Formerly a secondary teacher, Tiffany began her online business Healthy Wealthy Wonderful five years ago to help women learn to take care of their wellbeing and put themselves first. She began distributing nutritional supplements before adding online health programmes to the mix of resources available to women. The 5-day ‘Sugar Shake-off’ programme, and 4-week ‘Gutsy Mum’ programme, which focuses on gut health, are two examples.
“As mums we are notorious for not taking care of ourselves. We put everybody else before ourselves, we get burnt out and there’s nothing more to give. It’s not just one problem; there’s usually a whole range of things that need to be looked at, like sleep, nutrition, exercise, managing stress and so on. I found that women had better results when they used supplements in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, which is where the inspiration for the online video programmes came from.”
Her online business continues to grow, offering practical, valuable, healthy living advice to women around the world. At the beginning though, after first child Franklin arrived, she struggled to blend her two roles.
“I didn’t understand what it meant to be a mum. It felt like I was this business woman who was on full-time babysitting duty, and that caused a lot of stress because he wouldn’t behave the way I wanted him to. I had to ask myself, ‘What is my role here?’, and realised that as a mum, life would be different.
“I set up the ‘Blend’ group because I wanted to be around other women who were in a similar situation and who could empathise. Everyone experiences the same kinds of issues and there is lots of collaboration and sharing of ideas.”
With her second child, five-month-old Luca, Tiffany is much more relaxed about blending her two roles, but credits her networking group for helping to resolve the challenges, especially when things can, and do, suddenly turn to custard!
Balancing time and other challenges
Blending a business with raising a family can be a finely tuned juggling act, especially for women with pre-schoolers. Tiffany says many women in the group face these kinds of issues:
- Balancing work time and mum time and not being ‘present’ in either zone – often we might be playing with the kids and thinking about work at the same time, or vice-versa.
- Interruptions – it can be tricky to find uninterrupted time to get into the flow of work.
- Fatigue – you might have made time for a solid few hours’ work, but what you actually need is a nap. (Mum tip: take the nap – give your body what it needs.)
- Neglect of self – when women put their family first and their business second, they leave little time for their own wellbeing. Meeting monthly as a group goes some way to resolving that.
Tiffany’s tips for blending entrepreneurship with motherhood
- Get clear on your priorities – it wasn’t until I acknowledged my first priority was being a mum and my business came second that things flowed more easily and the stress went away. I created boundaries around when I was available and if clients couldn’t work within those times, then I had to accept they weren’t the right clients for me.
- Believe in abundance – you may have to say ‘no’ to potential work, but you have to believe there is enough out there for everyone and you’re not going to miss out.
- Believe in yourself – who hasn’t heard that annoying voice in their head: ‘who are you to be doing this/providing this service…’ when we’re starting up a new business? Alleviate this by reading personal development books, getting a business coach or a mentor, and investing in yourself. You have to keep working on those limiting beliefs and that critic in your head.
- Encourage ‘co-opertition’ (blending co-operation and competition) – if we co-operate with others in business, even the same type of business or within the same industry, we can achieve more.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable – it’s going to get uncomfortable at times, especially when you start out, but don’t use housework and kids as an excuse not to take action.
- Know why you’re in business – be clear about your reason for doing this – besides money – because when things get tough, you’ll need your passions to pull you through. If money is your main priority and you’re not making enough, then it’s hard to stay motivated and stick with the business during hard times.
- Get your partner on board – it’s so much easier if your partner wholeheartedly supports your decision to operate a business, with all its pros and cons.
- Accept things will sometimes turn to custard – when the baby gets sick and you can’t attend that meeting, have a support network you can call on to help.
- Find tenacity – when something goes wrong in your business, will you be able to pick yourself up again and keep going, or will it destroy you? You need to find your resolve and work your way through the challenges a business can throw at you.
- Schedule in downtime – take control of your diary and plan for breaks and holidays. Sometimes it can be hard to stop during weekends, so accept you will have busy periods, and that it won’t be forever. Ask for help when you need it.
Blending the Motherload
Blending the Motherload is a networking support group open to all Bay of Plenty women who are running their own businesses while raising young families. The group meets on the first Friday of the month in various locations around Tauranga and details of events can be found via the Blending the Motherload Facebook group. Once women join via Facebook, Tiffany encourages them to take an active role and come along to meet ups.
Words Millie Freeman | Images Supplied