If you’re a mom running your own business, the back-to-school season means it’s time to start juggling work and kids again – big time.
For a woman balancing being both a mom and entrepreneur, also known as a mompreneur, back-to-school season means going back to babysitting headaches, back to running from one after-school activity to another, and back to being homework helper. It also means you’ll likely have to don your chauffeur cap once again. Oh yeah, and you’ve got a business to run, too. Even if you have the help of a partner or spouse, it’s enough to make your head spin.
To help you balance running your business and managing your kids’ schedules this school year, take a look at some of our back-to-school tips to make this your easiest transition yet:
Be flexible and keep things in perspective
Running a business is stressful enough, but what if you have to unexpectedly pick up your kids from school in the middle of the day or take over the carpool on a day that’s not ordinarily yours? In situations like these, it’s key to be flexible and recognize that your company won’t fall apart if you need to adjust your schedule at the last minute. You can adapt even if you need to figure things out on the fly.
Single mom Tracy Bagatelle-Black, a freelance public relations specialist and social media expert, says she brings her laptop with her if she has work to do and has to leave her home office to be with her kids, ages 15 and 9. Every other Friday, for example, Bagatelle-Black takes her teenage daughter to dance class at 4. She often has a client deadline to meet, so she uses the studio’s Wi-Fi password to get online and work while her daughter is in class.
Get organized and stick to routines
Even if you’re super organized when it comes to your business, keeping up with kids’ schedules is a monumental challenge.
Bagatelle-Black’s No. 1 tip: Use Google Calendar and input all of your kids’ activities, early release days, parent-teacher conferences, and more.
Her No. 2 tip: Set routines and stick to them. Bagatelle-Black is often still working when the kids come home from school. They do their homework and then put it in a designated spot on the kitchen counter. "It always goes on the counter and I check it right before dinner," she says. After dinner, things may get busy again with her kids, but when everyone is settled in for the night, Bagatelle-Black can hop back onto her computer to tie up loose ends from her work day.
Lastly, Bagatelle-Black’s No. 3 tip: Set boundaries with your kids. For example, if she is in her office on the phone, the kids are not allowed to interrupt unless it’s an emergency. Once she’s off the phone, they can come in and talk, she says.
Take care of yourself
Balancing motherhood with your business – especially during the particularly hectic fall season – can take a toll on your well-being. For this reason, it’s important that you carve out time to both exercise and relax. With such limited free time, this may mean a run or walk during your lunch hour or even using a treadmill desk. It’s also important that you get enough sleep, eat healthy and take vacations.
Your business isn’t the only place where you may need hired help. If you can afford it, hire a babysitter or enroll your children in an after-school child care program. Quality childcare will help you focus at work so that when you’re with your kids, you can focus on them, says Pam Foley, who raised two children while running an Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchise business with five shops in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Foley sold the company and is now a real estate agent and artist. Even if money is tight, you can still work out creative childcare options. Bagatelle-Black suggests becoming allies with other moms, especially those you can carpool with and rely on in a pinch. "I once had a meeting with a CEO and had to rely on another mom to pick my kids up," she says.
Timing is everything
Bagatelle-Black’s biggest timing tip is to be early. She always drops her son off early to school as this kills two birds with one stone: She avoids the morning rush and she starts her day off with more time to organize. Bagatelle-Black’s daughter walks to school and back, but Bagatelle-Black has to leave work to pick up her son at 2:44 (and once a week at 1:30 for early release days). Because this is right in the middle of her work day, she has a designated meeting spot about a block away from the congested school pick up area. Her son meets her there, hops in the car, and she is then on her way home and back to the office without wasting valuable time.