Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Building a Community for Support

Support that thing you think you have until you need. People think you don’t need support because they see that you are getting on and getting the job done! Such a vicious cycle.

One thing my partner said when we found out we were pregnant was that it was going to be super hard as we did not have much family close by. There was my brother who was fabulous in the early days but that was all. At the time my stubborn self went ‘we can do it. It is just a baby’. In reality I should have taken his words and looked for my support community.

I did find some support in a women business network I was part of in Ballarat, but it was short lived. I have also found good support in a national networking group for mums. These have accepted I am a mum and allowed me to bring my daughter if needed. But they didn’t help when the pressure cooker was on and I needed hands on help with baby or home. That I have had to either work through or pay someone.

Recently I was ill and we couldn’t find a babysitter and we missed out on a business opportunity. I let people down and it didn’t sit well with me – in fact I was angry. What I realised was that I had to create a ‘community’ that I could call on to help me out when needed, and that I could help them also. I put a call out on social media and yes I got an amazing response…I had my community. People I was not afraid to ask for help from.

It is interesting that in Western society’s we believe we have to do it all alone, to be super parent, super business person, domestic god – no support, no asking for help. Yet in Eastern societies children are brought up by a village. Interesting thought…..

I am not a person to ask for help. And I usually wait until I crash and burn prior to seeking help. Each time I have crashed and burned since the business met the baby, I have reached out and asked for help or more specifically I have paid someone. At first it was staff to try and pick up my workload, then it was a babysitter to enable me to have dedicated time to work, then childcare, then a cleaner, then it was reducing my workload altogether and defining and focusing on core business.

Focusing on core business – and defining what it was that I wanted to achieve for me was the key to gaining clarity for both myself and the business. To start thinking in the way that if I was giving my time away to someone, especially if they did not appreciate that time, and it was not core business, that I would rather give that time to my family. To be clear about what I wanted to achieve in the business. When it came to meeting commitments in the business that were about achieving the goals then I needed to call on my support community.

While my support community 4 years ago would have been very different to the one that I have created today, I still would have reached out and asked for help or at least accepted the help when people offered it. I read in the books that if you were to visit a new mother/family then the best thing you could do was help with the housework, washing, cooking or not stay for too long. And it is so true. The best visitors I had after Sophie was born was one who brought 4 meals worth of soup, packed individually and ready to freeze and one who put her family on a time limit of 20 minutes.
I also realised that just because I to 4 months to catch up with someone – was probably the next best thing I could do other than cooking a meal or 2 for them!

If you don’t have a reliable support network around you then you need to create one. If you are to continue to run a business and meet the needs of that, then there will be times that circumstances fall out of your control and you need the extra little bit of support.

How do you get support? Or do you not reach out and ask for it?

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Getting a break

When I used to tell people that my business partner was also my life partner I was met with ‘wow I could never work with my partner’ I didn’t really think that much about it – we have a set of skills that are very complimentary to each other and we are also both able to switch off after work. Pre-baby we both also had ‘interests’ outside of our business and relationship.

We have never really been ‘child-free’ either. With Craig I acquired a 10 year old step-son who was week on and off rotation between his mum and dad prior to living with us full-time for 3 years. Circumstances saw him leave us when I was about 3 months pregnant. From this I knew what sort of father Craig was and also to some degree the type of ‘parent’ I could be. I had certainly learn’t that when I opened my mouth to discipline that it was most likely my mother’s voice coming out – so I have already dealt with that shock!

So when baby comes along I am in a very fortunate position that my ‘life and business’ partner understands the pressure on both a domestic and a business level – he is also living in that pressure. Our biggest ‘arguments’ we have ever had have come from within that pressure.

‘They’ tell you to take time for yourself and also your partner. Our time together was spent juggling a baby so that work commitments could be met, ensuring the domestic world happened and then catching up on sleep – as interrupted as it always has been.

I had and still have separation issues with my daughter – she has been caught wailing at the back door because I have gone to the office (30sec walk away); screamed when I left the house for the first time to get a massage (45mins); she will only be sorted overnight by me. It has only been this year when she was 4 that I have been allowed out at night for work or to socialise. We are yet to spend a full night apart.

For me I got a break from Sophie when she was with a babysitter or at childcare so I could work. I soon updated this to allow myself time to get my hair or nails done or to have a massage – which are all treats to myself. I am also known to use ‘work-time’ to catch up on cleaning, washing or cooking. Because I am self-employed and I am able to do that.

Craig and I have also been known to have a ‘working lunch’ together or sneak to the movies while she is at childcare to get some ‘us’ time. When you lack free babysitting this is what you do.
When you live together – work together – business and home are the same place – and you are parenting together – time is so precious that it is hard to spend time with each other and also yourself to nurture those loves.

In the last month Craig has gone back to full time work – this has meant big changes for both of us – and less time we actually see each other. He rings every lunchtime for an update.

The important thing to do is to try and pre-empt any issues and make changes to the routines so that you can spend time together.

How have you managed to get a break? Your tips from escaping domestic duty, 'wife/husband, mum/dad, business duties?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Plugging Back Into The Real World

There will come a time after you have introduced a baby into your life where you will HAVE to plug back into the ‘real world’ beyond other parents. Impossible as this thought is when you are in the state of feeding, changing nappies, surviving and giving the best start your precious bundle. You will be bombarded with appointments with maternal health nurses, joined up to a ‘mothers group’ and supported/compared/charted like you have never been in this new judgmental world of being a mother.

There will be a time when you will welcome the change of focus to business, where the centre of every conversation is not your baby, its feeding and pooing habits or your post birth recovery!
But it won’t be easy – it will be hard to stay focused on conversations, your foggy-sleep deprived head won’t be able to take too much, you will be constantly thinking of your cherub and if you are still feeding then your boobs are going to be crying out for release!

There may be times when you can take your bundle with you – and you will find that you will start being attracted to the networking and people who are accepting of you having a ‘baby attachment’ and those who are not supportive won’t be in your life for very long (unless they are paying you $$).
While this sounds easy to have your bundle with you – it has its own challenges……
The biggest is that you can not control the mood they will be in and therefore how easy they will be. Other people will either hate that you have a baby/child with you, tolerate it or totally steal them (I had it happen in a board meeting, it was awesome!)

As they move through age brackets it gets both easier and harder. You learn to take paper and pencils, colouring in books and off course tablets!

As your bundle of joy gets older you will start to look for caregivers – grandparents (if you are lucky), baby sitters, family day care or child care centres. Yet there is always the things that you just can’t plan for like last minute changes of plans in your business, illness and public holidays to name a few.

As your child/ren get older you also need to work around school holidays, pupil free days, 3.30(ish) pick-ups plus being involved in their school – attending assemblies, sports days and so on. The juggle doesn’t stop. Yet at some point it has to get easier.

At this time, like no other in history, women are encouraged to plug back into work and their community. Infact the pressure to do so is probably also the greatest that it has ever been. Women are leaving the traditional workforce in droves after they have children and creating micro and small business – some that are growing into International exporters – right from their lounge room! They are creating social business that aim to make a difference in their area of expertise. Women are driving the boom of small business.

The flipside of this is that we are seeing less women taking on board positions or senior management roles but more women are starting small home based businesses.

It is an incredible time for women at the moment, they are seeking empowerment to make decisions and to put their families first – and if the traditional workplace is not allowing for that they are creating an environment that is supportive of that.

My wants and desires for both myself and my business totally changed after the birth of my daughter – shame it has taken me almost 4 years to totally understand and recreate that phenomenon.

What about you - what is your story about returning to the real world? Any tips?