How to Run a Small Business From Home When You Have Young Kids
In our five years as small business owners and three years as parents, David and I have learned just about every way not to keep both spheres of our lives running smoothly. That’s looked like all four of us crying before noon on a Monday or forgetting to take a day off for many weeks in a row or the whole family dog-piling in bed at 5:30am wondering how we’re going to make it through the day.
But! We’ve finally reached an equilibrium where we get to chase our kids in the yard while keeping our business viable and thriving. Here’s how we found our balance and what I wish I’d learned years ago:
1. Consider childcare an essential.
It’s easy (“easy” being a relative term) to snuggle a sleepy newborn in the crook of one arm while you bang out emails with your phone in your other hand. Once that baby learns to move, though, you’ll have to choose between answering clients in a timely manner and keeping your precious babe from performing small scale base jumping off your couch. Nobody wants to make that choice.
Set up childcare as early as you can, even if that’s so you can work in a corner of your bedroom while the baby and sitter play out front. For us, this has meant: calling in favors from whoever loves spending time with our kids, asking grandparents to amuse the little ones, and hiring a sitter to come by two days each week.
Childcare is (rightfully) expensive, so build it into your budget if you need to hire somebody. Your business needs your real attention to perform how you want it to, and your kids need an adult to keep them happy and safe—so consider this a necessary expenditure to keep your life running.
2. Learn how to transition smoothly between tasks.
This is the ultimate time efficiency hack. In my languid business-and-child-free days of yore, I needed ample time to direct my thoughts to the upcoming task, settle into a comfortable position in my chair, and ease my way into working.
I don’t have this luxury anymore, so I’ve learned to utilize any free minutes that come my way. If I’ve got ten minutes max before the babies are awake, I can use all 600 of those seconds to complete the next small step on a project. I do my best to tune out my internal chatter that stresses about how little time I have to work or imagines how much I could’ve accomplished pre-kids if I had only cultivated a fluff-free work ethic sooner.
3. Get out of the house.
Utilizing your spare small chunks of time is great, but there’s a limit to how much you can accomplish when your toddler waddles into your work space for the 30th time to tell you he’s not hungry. [I know this, because I was interrupted no less than one dozen times while writing this post.] Even if you could do all your work from home, get away from your familial interruptions at regular intervals. Giving myself the chance to get into a state of flow is worth the inconvenience of upending my workspace, putting on pants, and letting someone else tend to the small humans.
4. Create boundaries in your day.
Multitasking is a great skill to have. A necessary one, even. But when David and I tried to do a bit of everything all the time, all aspects of our lives suffered; we weren’t getting as much work done as we would’ve liked, and we weren’t being the patient, attentive parents our kids deserved. Once we created boundaries in our days—like clear days each week with zero work, or specific hours one of us is child-free and ready to brainstorm new projects—we were able to fully commit to whatever was in front of us without feeling burnt out, resentful, or scattered.
5. Be kind to yourself.
Running a business and raising babies take an exorbitant amount of time, dedication, and lack of sleep for everybody who takes on those tasks. I promise it’s not only you. In the early months of parenthood/business ownership, finding a balance might be out of reach as you figure out how to survive any way you can. That’s okay! For the first six months of our son’s life, David and I spent two days each week with him at a hospital two hours from home. We had imagined slowly reintegrating into work life world after he was born, but instead our focus remained on our kid for many months more than we originally expected. We weren’t meeting our entrepreneurial, financial, or personal goals for those months, but we did band together as a family to get through a difficult season in our lives. It happens. It won’t be this way forever.