Working the Mom Shift
Before you make the transition to mompreneur, you'd better figure out just how you're going to fit all that work in.
Are you considering becoming a mompreneur so you won't have to work a standard nine-to-five job? While it's true you won't be working traditional hours as a business owner, exactly what shift will you work as a business-owning mom? Kids' schedules are chaotic, sporadic and undependable. How are you going to find enough time to actually get the job done, and when will you make it happen?
Too many moms just wing it and try to fit work in whenever and wherever possible. If you ask me, this is a surefire road to burnout. While it doesn't have to be traditional, you do need to have a plan.
So what does a typical mompreneur schedule look like? There actually is no "typical" schedule that works for everyone, but here are a few ways to work it right.
The Sleep Shift. The most common way to get work done when you're a mom who works from home is to do it when your kids are sleeping. For some, that means waking up at 4:00 a.m. before your family's out of bed. For others, it means working late into the night after your kids (and hubby) have gone to bed. Others do a little of both, waking up before their kids do, working during nap times and then putting in a few hours after everyone else has gone to bed. Here's a schedule that takes this last example into account:
5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.: Work while family sleeps
7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: Family time
12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Nap time for the kids; work time for you
2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.: Family time
7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.: Work while family sleeps (and/or dad gets final hours with the kids)
There! You've just gotten in an eight-hour workday while getting to spend the majority of time with your family. Yes, it's a long day, but for some people, it works.
But what if your kids don't take naps or your business requires you to leave the house to meet with customers or vendors? Those type of mompreneurs should consider the next type of shift.
The Split Shift. Virtually all mompreneurs start their own business because they want to spend more time with their families. But that doesn't mean you can't get help part of the time to help you out when it's necessary. Consider hiring a part-time nanny or housekeeper to give you a hand for part of the day. If you work a few hours in the morning before your family wakes up and then have someone in for four to five hours, you'll still get in a full day of work. Here's a sample schedule:
5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.: Work while family sleeps
7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.: Family time
9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Work (nanny is with the kids)
2:00 p.m. til bedtime: Family time
The Bits-and-Pieces Shift. There are some types of businesses that can exist with you doing bits and pieces of work throughout the day. Maybe you're hopping on the computer to answer e-mails here or making a phone call there. With web-based office systems, PDAs and other high tech items readily available, it's easy to take your business anywhere, any time.
But I also think the bits-and-pieces shift is the one most likely to drive a mompreneur crazy, however, because you're always juggling your business time and your family time. You're constantly trying to find time to work and be with your kids, and the two don't always mix.
One way to make this shift work, if you can afford it, is to hire a full-time housekeeper and/or nanny. This way, you have someone keeping the house picked up and available to watch your kids when you have to take a call or go into a meeting. I haven't yet tried this luxury, but it sure sounds great!
Here are a few other scheduling ideas that will help you make your new venture a success:
Kid Swap. Think about partnering with another mom--you take turns watching each others' kids so you have certain days or hours available for work.
Mommy's Helper. If you're working from home, you might be able to get a young neighbor to help out during certain hours with your kids. Because you're there, it's usually less expensive than hiring a babysitter who watches the kids while you're away.
Shared Parenting. If both mom and dad are putting time in to make the new business work, each of you might take certain shifts with the kids so that they're always with either mom or dad.
Partner. Find a partner for your business so you can both split the work and the time the business needs.
No matter which option you choose, remember that every business is different. Some need more hours than others. Some require offsite appointments, while other can be done completely from home. The point is to create some sort of schedule that will work the majority of the time. When kids get sick, nannies cancel or appointments get bumped, take a deep breath and realize that it's a small price to pay for being able to be with your family.
If, after reading this article, you're overwhelmed because it sounds like you'll always be working, you're right. But it's not as bad as it sounds. It's true that your day will run very long and you'll have a lot on your plate. But you'll also have the ability to call your own shots and be there for special moments with your kids, take as long as you want for lunch or take a day off to go to the beach with your family. You can spend your early mornings in the comfort of your jammies, sipping your coffee, while your evening work-time might consist of answering e-mails in front of the TV. Now how bad is that really?
Ask any mompreneur, and she'll agree on two things: She's never worked so hard in her life. And she wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!
Lisa Druxman is Entrepreneur.com's "Mompreneur" columnist and the founder and CEO of fitness franchise Stroller Strides. Druxman is also a nationally recognized speaker and author, and is considered an expert in the field of fitness, particularly pre- and postnatal fitness. She hosts a free monthly webinar during which she answers questions from fellow mompreneurs. If you are interested in participating, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.