“I’m really envious of your glamorous life-style,” declared one of the mums as I dropped my children off at school last week. Maybe she could see the remnants of the previous day’s mascara round my eyes, because I definitely didn’t feel glamorous. I’d arrived home from work at 11pm the night before only to find my eight-year-old wide awake and fairly inconsolable because he’d lost out in his student council elections. The other boy had undertaken to install a giant trampoline in the school playground whereas my son had only offered to respect everyone’s views – a life lesson learnt the difficult way.
One of the hardest things I find about running a business is that I feel (rightly or wrongly) that I’m on duty the whole time. At Homemade London, our busiest periods are evenings and weekends when the majority of our events happen, but most of the organisation takes place during office hours. And as much as I tell myself that it’s ok not to check my inbox for a couple of hours, it’s really tricky to resist as the email count steadily mounts up. Couple this with trying to maintain a family life, and I often feel like I’m about to explode.
After three and a half years of juggling business and family life, I can safely say that it’s not easy but there are some things I’ve learnt along the way:
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Whereas some spouses check each other’s emails to make sure they’re not cheating, my husband’s addicted to logging on to my work emails.
“You start too many of your emails with the word ‘sorry’,” he noted the other day. “If you’re doing things wrong that often, you really need to sort it out, otherwise stop apologising unnecessarily – it makes you look bad.”
When you’re constantly worried about your growing to-do list, it’s hard not to feel guilty about the things you’ve missed out and it’s easy, and very British, to find yourself apologising for all the things you haven’t done. Recently I’ve rediscovered the joys of the out-of-office reply which at least buys you some time to get on top of your to-do list or spend some time with your family.
Establish some sort of routine
It’s not news to any parent that children love a routine – Crisps Monday and Kinder Egg Friday are particular favourites in our household. But I’ve come to realise that it’s reassuring to have a routine as an adult too.
I’m quite strict about not scheduling meetings first thing in the morning so that I get to drop my children at school and I make sure that I’m there to collect them from school on a Friday. It may not sound like much but it’s surprisingly hard to maintain because clients may only be in town on certain days or at certain times – but if this is the case, I delegate these clients to another team member. The control freak in me wants to be part of everything but the mum in me is happy that I get to pour the Cheerios in the morning.
Support is everything
This applies to both home and work life. The past month has demanded juggling qualities worthy of a Billy Smart act. We’ve been in-between nannies, my solitary full-time employee has been housebound recovering from an operation and we’re right in the middle of buying and selling a house in the midst of a crazy London property market. My daily to-do list is like a work of fiction and when every email I write starts with an apology, they’re completely justified.
Remember why you’re doing it in the first place
Some people call children ambition killers – for myself and my husband, it was the opposite. Personally, I dread to think how much I wasted my spare time in the days when I was child-free. But when the work-life balance tips the wrong way, I try to take a step back and remind myself what my priorities really are.