Guest Post by Gemma Whates, Co-Founder of All By Mama

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When I launched All By Mama my son had only just turned two. We started all the planning and research a year prior to that, so just after his first birthday, which was great as I was still getting plenty of nap times to work! But as we launched, my little man helpfully decided that day time sleeping wasn’t for him anymore so I had to quickly learn to juggle running a business around a very awake two year old – both of which were of course totally new to me. My son is now three and a half and I’m due our second baby any day now! I’ve learnt some valuable lessons along the way about how to get stuff done when you are working around a young family.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Plan your day

The days I need to get work done around my son are generally ‘successful’ based on one  main thing – planning. If I sit down for 10 minutes the night before and roughly plan out our day so I know what I’m cooking (hi M&S ready meals), what activities I have planned for my son to keep him engaged and busy, and what urgent work I need to get done in that time, I tend to finish the day feeling l’ve done what I need to work wise and without feeling like I’ve neglected Leonardo too much. Even if he’s spent some time watching TV or playing on the iPad I know he’s done a couple of things he found really fun like playing with water in the garden, some arts and crafts or baking a cake (of the cornflake variety obviously) and I’ve managed to achieve what I needed to work wise. If I have a rough plan and accept the day will be a bit of a juggle at the start, I tend to find it helps me stay calm! Of course little people can’t be ‘scheduled’ and there are days when it doesn’t work but then I try to remind myself, after a gin usually, that that’s the beauty of flexible working and working around my son, that I CAN stop and focus on him if I need to.

2. Ask for help

I wouldn’t be able to run my business without some childcare and help from friends and family. My son spends time with his Grandma who is very handily close by and my partner is very supportive and plans mini day trips with my son at weekends from time to time so I can catch up on work. I’m always very tempted to go with them but I know they like the one-on-one time without me around! Now Leonardo is a little bit older he is at pre-school, which is a great help as it’s a guaranteed time to focus every day. Prior to that I did use a nursery so I had time to focus fully. Basically what I am saying is: ask for help. It doesn’t matter if it’s family, friends, partners or childcare, if you can have some time to purely focus on your business it’s a great help. The beautiful thing is, if Leonardo isn’t well I can cancel all plans, cuddle on the sofa and work in to the evening when he is asleep but I know I have that support in place for when things are running smoothly.

3. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise!

Remind yourself that you can’t do everything! You can’t run a business, look after your child(ren), have an immaculate home and a brilliant social life and find time for your partner! I think something has to give when you run a business, especially if it’s around a young family. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be ‘supermum’, prioritise what is important to YOU. Prioritise what you need to get done and tackle the most important tasks as soon as you have time to work. Don’t waste time checking emails all day long; set aside a little bit of time each day to answer them and focus on your other priorities the rest of the time. Prioritise what you want to get done for your family, whether that’s a freshly cooked meal or organising a day trip and factor in what’s important to you. For me, I work most evenings of the week, usually taking one night off to spend with my husband if I can, so I’ve accepted my social life, for now, is just going to have to take a back seat for a while – but that’s how I’ve prioritised personally. Having a social life might be at the very top of someone else’s priorities – so make sure it’s personal to you – but let go of thinking everything has to be perfect and you can manage it all yourself.

4. Pick up a pen and paper

I worked this one out quite early on. I sat down at the computer and Leonardo was pulling at my legs and wanted to tap the keys. Still happens now. I was frustrated so decided to try a different tactic and sat down at the table with him, gave him some colouring and took a pen and paper out and actually wrote on paper! Leonardo thought I was colouring in too and it was a huge success. I was able to do what I needed to do and just spent 10 minutes later that day when he was asleep typing it up. I still do the same now, and he asked me about what the letters I am writing are and what they say so I think it even counts as vaguely educational! Win, win! There are days when he scribbles all over my work and throws it on the floor and I just drink tea and eat cake through those! He knows I am working and when he goes to school or with his Grandma he always asks if I am staying in the ‘home office’ to do some writing, which I find quite sweet! I like that he sees me working hard and I hope it motivates him in the future to achieve whatever he wants to do.

5. Schedule in fun

Running a business can be all consuming, I find it so tempting to sit down for days at a time at my computer and just work. Of course that doesn’t happen that often, usually I at least need to stop to put my son to bed but I am often thinking about it 24/7. My whole motivation for launching All By Mama was so that I could run the business flexibly around my family and support others that wanted to do the same. I now make sure I plan lots of family time away from the house, even just walks in the park or little days out where my phone stays in my bag (other than when I’m using it as a camera!) and I totally focus on having fun with my family. I find that I really need to set aside certain times to do this and then feel so much more refreshed and focused afterwards.

Lastly, I really believe it’s not about the time you have to spend on your business. You don’t necessarily need to be at a desk for eight hours a day if that’s not how you want to run things, it’s about being focused during the time you do have and the output you can achieve in that time might surprise you. Oh and remember to try and drink your tea while it’s still hot!

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