Me stuff - Juggling self employment, family life, health and trying to find that elusive work life balance
I was lying in bed this morning, procrastinating, putting off getting up to write this blog post because I just wasn't in the mood for the subject I'd scheduled for myself. I gave my self a kick, got up and turned on the computer, but instead of opening Word, opened my emails to delay the task a little longer.
This is a section of the first email I read. It is from a Marie Forleo newsletter. Many of your probaby haven't head or her, I honestly can't reommend her enough. She is a life/business coach, who just talks so much sense. She posts weekly short videos and it's uncanny how frequently her timing gives me a well timed reality check.
" There is simply no goal, no win, no amount of money or success that can top quality time with people you love and admire. Most importantly, no level of achievement matters unless you have others to share it with.
So hold those you love close. Make time to hear their stories, understand their dreams and let them know how much they mean to you.
At times, modern live can feel impossibly full.
Everyone's (understandably) tryin to get ahead. With the non-stop hustle, it's easy to slip into a false narrative that says that everything you do has to be "productive" or, in a business sense, have some sort of "ROI" attached to it. But that's just narrow-minded
Taking care of our relationships and each other is the most important work we can do in this world. In the end, it's what makes life worth living."
I’d planned to write a personal post in a couple of weeks time about juggling life, but reading this, and sadly often being guilty of that "narrow-minded" approach, I decided today was the day.
I was mulling over my role as a self employed business woman, wife and mother. Working out of a home studio, the lines can be blurred. If I had to write a job description for my life these would probably be the key skills and requirements. (I’ll list the work ones first, not because they are more important than my family, but because you are reading this on my business blog)
Designer & maker
Receptionist & administrator
Strategic planner, business manager & accountant
Sales manager & saleswoman
Marketing manager & marketer
Social media guru
Web designer & SEO (yes I built my own website)
Blogger (still a new hat but one I'm enjoying wearing)
Procurement & stock control
Packing & delivery
Press, PR, photoshoot co-ordinator
Chief cook and bottle washer
Laundry and ironing service
Diary keeper and social secretary
Fancy dress supplier
Nurse & agony aunt.
I’m sure there's plenty I’ve missed but from what is already listed, those of you running businesses yourselves will undoubtably relate to the frequent overwhelm.
This isn’t a sympathy plea, this is the life I chose 11 years ago when I left my full time job, and I would never go back. I love the flexibility I have with my family, but each time I’m “flexible” the task delayed isn’t picked up by someone else, it needs fitting in later.
This year we've GCSEs and A level selection for my son, and, year 6 SATS and a transition to secondry school and leaving a close set of friends for my daughter, all on top of lifes daily trials and tribulations so being able to be at home when they get in from school has been precious time.
This world today with it’s constantly spewing feed of social media updates, is full of people purporting to live perfect Instagram lives, have amazing businesses, action packed family downtime and fabulous social lives. It’s important to see through the false veneer this deceptive perspective provides. I don’t sit at a picture perfect white desk, in a dappled sunlight white washed room, with a fresh cut peony and scented candle (ok I sometimes have a candle) and with a beautifully curated noticeboard of memes and tropical sunset photographs. Mine currently has a gymnastics club note, electricity bill, party invitation, netball league dates, "Post its" from the kids reminding me of things I need to do, etc. and, the reality of what is on my desk is typical of real life, not Instagram worthy. Spot the difference!
There is an expectation amongst many clients now, that, because your business is internet based, you should be available 7 days a week 24 hours a day. It isn’t uncommon for an email to arrive at 8pm and have a chaser by 7.30am the next day, checking for a response. I’ve had a call at 3am when the lady wanted to talk about a fascinator she wanted to order (she was in the UK). I’m not sure what is acceptable for people to expect but for my own sanity and my family life, I’m trying to keep emails within business hours, unless they are essential .
The reality is that life is a juggling game. Sometimes balls don’t always end up where you want them to (my husband will no doubt chuckle at this analogy as I can't throw or catch for toffee, whereas he seems unable to miss). As time has passed and I’ve gained experience and some perspective I’m trying to step back and work a smarter, organise better, and make time to plan for the future development of the business rather than simply drowning in the day to day. I’m allocating time to work on different business areas bit by bit, alongside the daily making, and whilst it certainly isn’t at warp speed, I can now feel progress and I’m retaking the reigns.
Most importantly, I'm learning to say "No". I'm inherently a people pleaser and my inability to say no to anyone got me into such knots. I hate letting anyone down or seeing them struggle and I used to find myself offering to take extra things on to help when in reality, I simply didn't have the time. I've taken a step back from things like PTA duties, I served 6 years. Learning to use the "N" word more often is liberating.
In the midst of all this, “me time” is a rareity but a month ago I came to a crunch point, I couldn’t carry on neglecting myself, unless something changed I couldn’t keep looking after my family and business and clients in the way I want and need to. I signed up with a personal trainer on a healthy eating and fitness plan on a 5 week challenge, the end of next week will reveal how successful it’s been, but weight and measurements aside, the exercise has started to reinvigorate me. I’m building more energy and starting to feel more motivated to get things done.
My kids and husband are generally hugely tolerant and supportive, I’m not always very good at telling them. I’m trying to cut down the hours that my work cuts into family time as this is time I can’t get back. I don’t always succeed, and they may not always see it, but I am trying. We are fortunate and have a good life, (not without it's ups and downs) and sometimes it's important just to take time to appreciate and enjoy it, the ironing can wait!
In answer to the frequently asked question “ How do you manage to do everything?”, the honest answer is, I don’t but I try my best, and with always will try to.
Well time to get on with tea, emails and another order to finish!
ps Did you spot that brilliant Ally Byroms work again?