If you're a mom and a business owner, you've felt it. You've been up at the crack of dawn powering through emails and cups of coffee. You're trying to get as much done before that little voice starts chanting from the other room. But then you hear it. The kids are up. But you've got 3 more emails to reply to, so you sit on the floor of the playroom while they drop toys next to you and reach for the keyboard. They're like little adorable vultures, aren't they? If you ever stop and look around at a moment like that, there's another monster lurking in the room, and its name is Mommy Guilt. And it's the worst. The juxtaposition of wanting to be present with your kids, but also needing to get work done so you can pay the bills. Maybe you answer emails while you're nursing. Maybe you're sketching out a logo with crayons while your toddler has moved on to the living room walls. And I'm sure all of us have uttered the 30-minute guarantee: "Want to watch a show?" Sit here and watch Mickey with a bowl of Cheerios while Mommy calls a client!
We've all done the juggling act, and we all feel the mommy guilt. Today I've brought on 3 other experienced mompreneurs to share how they deal with the guilt that creeps in while they're balancing mom life and work life. No matter how many years you've been running your show, mommy guilt is most likely a daily battle, and not easily won. It takes being intentional with your time and allowing yourself some grace now and then. We all struggle with it, and it kind of just comes with the territory. Here's how me and a few others are trying to tame the beast... keyword, trying.
1. Designate your work time from your mom time. Cara McGrady wrangles two adorable boys all while managing her Etsy shop and blog – no small task! But she's figured out a great system of clearly dividing work time from mommy time to help keep the guilt under control.
Hey, Paper + Oats readers! I'm Cara McGrady, the gal behind One Swell Studio. I'm also a momma to two sweet, rambunctious boys. Hudson is five and Coleman is three.
Those two keep me hopping from the moment their little eyes pop open at 7AM until bedtime at 9PM. In between those hours, a lot has to get done around here. I have orders to complete, emails to answer, and an Etsy shop to manage--along with taking care of the house and the kiddos.
Typically, it's just the boys & me here through the day. I am able to get a bulk of my work done after my husband gets home from work — or after everyone else is asleep. But there are many, many days that I have to focus my attention on my business while taking care of my boys. Some days, I really have it together. Our days go super smoothly and I'm able to get a TON of work accomplished. Ahem. Let me tell you... days like that occur maybe twice a month. The rest of the month is usually a lot more exhausting. Any time I feel pulled between getting something work-related accomplished, and spending more time with my kiddos, there it is: mommy guilt.
The thing that no one really told me about owning a small business, is that at some point it becomes your baby. And when that baby is competing for your time and affection against your actual babies? Nobody's happy about that.
One thing that has definitely been helpful is scheduling my day so that I spend a few big chunks of time just with the boys — reading with them, taking them out to lunch, or playing together. During "our time," I try really hard not to even look at anything work-related. It can be hard! I have customers awaiting my replies, orders that need to go out, & deadlines creeping up on me. But we play. When it's time to transition to my "work time" I make sure the boys have an activity that they can do independently (Legos, ImagiNext, ABCmouse.com, Play-Doh, or sometimes a favorite movie if it's a bigger task that I need to tackle). They do pretty well with the transition, especially knowing that they'll always get their "Momma Time."
Sure, there are still interruptions. But I'm able to work from home doing what I love and still be just a few steps away from my little guys. Worth it!
written by Cara McGrady | One Swell Studio
2. Find a schedule or routine that works for you and your little one. Finding time to get work done when your kids are sleeping or already out is a great way to combat the mommy guilt. Rachel of Intentionally Designed shares with us how she manages her schedule running her design studio and running after her one-year-old — all in a day's work.
I am the owner and designer behind Intentionally Designed where I help other busy moms and business owners design an intentional life and business so that we can all focus on the good stuff in our lives. After struggling with the work/life balance for so long, I wanted to be able to help us all find the balance. Being both a stay-at-home mom and business owner, the guilt of focusing on work when I feel like I should be playing with my son is a daily occurrence in my life.
I am a toddler mama to a very curious one-year-old boy who keeps me busy all day long. Believe it or not, I spend most of my day running around with him and get my work done when he is sleeping. Which means lots of early mornings (I am not really a morning person!) and lots of late nights. I am a stay-at-home mom first and a business owner second, but those paths cross often in my life and it's hard to draw the line between the two. Since we don't have any childcare during the week, I am often forced to do some work while I am spending time with my son and the mommy guilt is always a struggle during these times. But after months of working on finding that right routine, we have found something that seems to work for us, and helps with my mommy guilt tremendously.
Even though I wish I could spend all of my time focused on him, playing with blocks and reading books, I know that my business needs attention too in order to be successful. And if my business is not successful, it wouldn't be beneficial for our family for me to have the business in the first place. So while I do most of my work during nap time and after bedtime, I have learned to do some things during the day while he is occupied so that I can put my work away the rest of the day and truly be present with him.
I am not sure that the guilt will ever go away completely because I will probably always feel like I should be with him when I'm working and vice versa, but being intentional with my time and setting boundaries has helped me feel less guilty because I know that there is time in my day for both things. I know that I have set time to do my work and set time to be with him.
As a solo business owner, it's easy to always be working to grow your business, but at the end of the day, I always ask myself what is really more important? Spending time with my little one who won't be little for much longer, or doing work that can really wait until tomorrow? It's all about finding your balance and being intentional with your time so that you can feel less guilty about not working all the time and be more productive when you are working.
written by Rachel Green | Intentionally Designed (formerly Printed Ink Designs)
3. Learn to be okay with not having it all figured out. Phyllis, designer and mommy to two, says it best — you'll probably never reconcile these two halves of your life. It's true, mom + business owner is not an easy combo, so being okay with "your normal" can help the mommy guilt start to subside.
I'm a work at home graphic designer running a one woman studio, working with exceptional small businesses and visionary creative entrepreneurs to create custom branding, web, and collateral design that fits like a glove. When I'm not doing that, I'm wrangling up my two little munchkins, Julia, age 4, and Ella, age 2.
The thing about being a mompreneur is that you literally never have it figured out. Once you've tackled the "how do I work while nursing a newborn baby?" phase down, they've blasted forward to the "hey Mom, good luck trying to work now that I've figured out this walking thing" phase or my favorite, "I'm a teething two year old and feel like being irrationally upset at everything! EVERYTHING!" phase — care to guess which one I'm dealing with right now? I used to like to think the difficult years were over by the time they hit Kindergarten, but as many moms with older kids tell me, and what they will tell you, is the challenges may be different, but they don't go away. And I really believe that one of those things that’ll probably never go away is the never-ending, honest-to-God struggle with mom guilt.
When my daughter Julia turned 5 months, I hired my first part-time, at home nanny — the first of four who would share in the responsibility of helping to care and nurture my kids while I worked, not necessarily glamorous work, but it was work that helped contribute to my family’s income. I have absolutely no regrets about the help. Knowing my kids are safe, well-cared for, and enjoying themselves makes my time away from them easier to bear. What ends up being more difficult is when I do have my previous time with them. It can be hard to switch gears sometimes — I feel guilty when I know I'm distracted and not 100% invested in what my kids are doing. I'm improving, little by little, but I frequently have the thought cross my mind, "I wish I were a better mother."
My mom friends who keep me sane on my rollercoaster parenting journey all happen to be stay at home moms. I sincerely believe they have taken on one of the toughest jobs of all, and there is a tiny kernel of self-doubt when I inevitably compare and wonder — am I making the right choice to work? Practicality and necessity aside — am I cheating my kids out of the experience of having a fully present, invested mother, who can plan crafts, get them out to twice or thrice weekly playdates, and just plain be involved ALL of the time? The logical side of me says I chose the right path…I love being a mom but I also love the work I do and the fulfillment it gives me. I know I don't have the temperament to be at home with them full time, and even though I would surely treasure that time if I had to take it, it would be a challenge. The emotional side of me remains uncertain, and probably always will be.
This job isn't easy — not being a mom, or a business owner, and especially not when you balance the two, oftentimes quite precariously. If I can end with one bit of advice it'd be to learn how to be okay, never reconciling these two halves of your lives. And know that despite what you may perceive as failure, your kids and your family will always love you.
4. Flip it around and view it from your kids' perspective. While we're experiencing mommy guilt, our kids are seeing a dedicated business owner providing for her family. I've learned there's power in sharing your struggles with other mompreneurs, while praying the little one is proud of me when she understands why I do what I do.
I'm guessing you know who that little pudgy face is, but here's a refresher... I run Paper + Oats from home while I play mom to that sweet Poppy girl who just turned one. She also just figured out how to walk so my productivity has gone WAY down :) Not only am I a mompreneur, but I'm also a single mompreneur and it is no easy task. There's no trading off with the husband in the evenings after work, so I've had to get a little creative in finding undisturbed time to devote to Paper + Oats without feeling guilty.
Like most mamas sharing today, I work primarily during nap time and after bedtime. Very little guilt in these times. But then there's the days when I need to work through some playtime or I need to send her off with Nana or hire some childcare so I can finish a project. Those days are tough. While I love having that support that's able to take her on occasion, I still feel guilty for having to do that in the first place. It's so silly, though, right?! Paper + Oats is how I provide for Poppy. It's our only income and it literally puts food on the table. So why as mothers should we feel guilty for sowing into that? It's a frustrating emotion to tame, but I'm not sure it will ever go away.
A big help that I've noticed recently is things like this exact blog post. Finding other mothers in the same situation and sharing your struggles. This weekend I had the honor of attending a girls night cocktail party with several other women entrepreneurs in Nashville, many of whom were moms. We sat around a campfire and shared our struggles in balancing our mom lives and our business lives. All ranges of experience were represented, in both motherhood and business, and guess what? Every single one of us confessed to feeling the mommy guilt on a pretty regular basis. It doesn't really go away. None of us are perfect mothers and none of us are perfect business owners. We make mistakes, we have flaws, we drop the ball sometimes. But we're also hard workers, some of us are breadwinners, and all of us are big dreamers.
So let's flip the mommy guilt around and take a look at it from the little one's point of view. Our kids get to see that fire in us and we get to share our passion with them daily. They get to see that we created a business with our own two hands, and they can do it too if they want. If we're careful to regularly close the laptop and be fully present with our kids, they'll grow up remembering the balance we strived for, and how they got front row seats to a business being born.
How do you combat the inevitable mommy guilt that comes with being a work-at-home mompreneur? Anyone else feel like just when they figure out a routine, the little one switches it up on you? Me too. Bye-bye, afternoon nap :(