By Lara Galloway
So you decided to start a business of your own, which is amazing in and of itself. You’re smart, ambitious and a hard worker. But there’s just one thing that keeps getting in your way. Or maybe two or three things. Or it could be that you have several of these things—those little darlings you love with all your heart—that need your attention pretty much all the time. If your kids would just take care of themselves, you could get your work done, right? What’s a mom entrepreneur to do if she can’t afford (or, for a variety of reasons) can’t get the help of a babysitter when she needs to work?
Many moms opt to work from home so they can avoid having to pay for childcare. They figure they can watch over their kids and get some work done while the children busy themselves with other things. However, when you are working with your children nearby, they will always trump whatever work plans you have. This is hard to admit for some moms who truly consider their families and their businesses their top priorities. They make plans to work while their kids are napping or playing independently or watching TV. But the minute someone wakes up, gets bored, hurt or hungry, or just utters that magic word—“Mom”— attention shifts to the children and away from work. Getting interrupted constantly while trying to work leaves you, your family and most likely your customers feeling frustrated. So why do so many moms attempt running their own companies without the help of childcare?
If you’re just starting out in your business, you may feel that you can’t justify more expenses like childcare when you aren’t yet making much money. Sometimes geography is the problem. One of my clients lives out in the middle of Alberta on a farm and her closest neighbor (and babysitter) is a 45 minute drive away, making it highly inconvenient to rely on a sitter to help her work during the day. And some mom business owners (like myself) simply want to spend time with their kids in the summer rather than putting them in fulltime camps.
Here are three creative childcare solutions that have been a life-saver for me and many of the mom entrepreneur clients I coach. Best of all? Two of them are completely free and the third is very inexpensive.
Create a Babysitting Co-op: Round up a few neighbors who have kids about the same age as yours. Rather than paying for a sitter, trade babysitting with these other moms. Your children will love having some playmates to keep them stimulated and active. Then when it’s your turn to get some work done, one of your co-op members can have your kids over and give you a few hours of quiet time. Starting our babysitting co-op 12 years ago was one of the smartest things I ever did. My kids loved all the playdates they had, and all the other moms and I became close friends who knew we could count on each other. I was able to schedule time to work free of distractions while knowing my babies were happy and safe.
Do the Mompreneur Tango: Shifting your attention between work and your little humans is sort of like a dance, so I call it a tango. It may seem a little complicated, but it’s beautiful when done well. The idea is to alternate between giving your focus to your kids and to your work in small chunks of time. For instance: When your children wake up, start the day with some snuggles, breakfast together, and getting dressed for the day (an hour or so of time). During this time, do not try to multitask at all (put your phone and computer in another room!), but instead give your children all of your love and energy so they feel happy and satisfied. Let them know to expect that you will soon be giving them some independent play time while you will be working. Tell them how long you will take—perhaps an hour or so, depending on the age of your children—and stick to it. For younger kids, give them a kitchen timer set for 30, 45 or 60 minutes, and tell them that when it dings they can bring it to you and you will stop working and play with them.
When work time/independent play time ends, it’s time for your next chunk of quality time with the kids. Do an activity, go play outside, hit a park for a couple of hours. Remind them to expect that when that activity is done, you will have another chunk of work/independent play time. Repeat this throughout the day so you can get your work done in small spurts. The key to making this work is building trust with your children by setting expectations and sticking to them. If you keep working past the time you say you’ll stop, then they will quickly learn to keep interrupting you.
Hire a Mother’s Helper: Babysitters charge top dollar for their services, but you can hire a mother’s helper for much less (even for free) to come over and play with your children while you’re home. I had a 10-year-old neighbor girl come play with my boys who were 4 and 6 after school a couple times a week. The boys had a ton of energy and loved playing upstairs or in the backyard with her. I was around if anyone needed me, but I could give my work my attention knowing the kids were safe and happy. She was able to practice her babysitting skills in a safe environment with me always present, my kids had a fun playmate, and I was able to work in peace. It was a win for all of us!
If you’re struggling to run your business while simultaneously caring for your children, I feel your pain! Hopefully you can use one or more of these creative childcare solutions to keep you, your family and your customers happy.
Lara Galloway, The Mom Biz Coach and co-author of Moms Mean Business—A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and a Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur, is an author, speaker and coach to women business owners who want to work less, make more, and love the work they do. Her passion is helping entrepreneurs create and run successful businesses and live happy lives. She’s the host of the popular MomBiz Solutions Show on BlogTalkRadio She lives with her husband and three kids in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Connect with her at www.mombizcoach.com or on Twitter and Facebook: MomBizCoach.