Raising a business and babies isn't for the faint of heart. In those first days after leaving my secure, high paid job, I naively thought I would suddenly have all the time in the world to cook healthy meals for my children, keep the house sparkling, and build a business. I was no longer chained to a desk when someone told me to be there. There was no commuting or stepping out for super early East Coast conference calls. Days could almost be leisurely because all the time in the world was now mine.
Go ahead. Have a good laugh. I'll wait.
Reality hit in no time. So, without further ado, I present 10 Lessons From Becoming A Work-At-Home Entrepreneur & Mom.
1. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Did you know that little kids who don't have a babysitter see no reason to stay out of your office? I learned quickly that I had to set boundaries. I also learned that my toddling daughter could not have cared less about those boundaries. She turns three in January and is finally starting to give me space to work - most days. That means I schedule all calls for naptime and days I know my husband will be home. While boundaries are important, my children remain my number one priority. It's a constant juggle.
2. Put down the cell phone. My iPhone is my biggest business tool. It also requires strict boundaries. Okay. I say strict, but it's always a work in progress. It's easy to get sucked into my phone all day every day. What are my clients doing? What is the business owner I look up to doing on her social media today? What's in my inbox? Ooooo, Instastories! Suddenly the day is gone and there is nothing productive to show for it. My favorite is to leave my phone in my closet or bathroom while I sleep. Not only do I have to physically get out of bed to turn off the alarm, but then I can turn it back over and not look until I've journaled, gotten our oldest to school, and started the workday. Social media and email before my brain woke up was NOT a good combination. Stressful messages and emails set the tone for the day in an instant if I wasn't careful. So I turned off email notifications and don't check until I'm ready to do so. But, for transparency, let's be real. I've left my phone in my closet or bathroom only a handful of times. I love the distance but loathe getting up to turn off the alarm. Snooze and I still have a co-dependent relationship going on.
3. My schedule didn't matter to anyone until I declared that it mattered. The great thing about not being tethered to the federal government any longer was that I could work around my family's schedules. The frustrating thing about not being tethered to the federal government any longer was that I could work around my family's schedules. Before striking out on my own, this was the case anyway. It was just more stressful because I still had to get my hours in at the office, get my work done, be a present mother, and help my husband adhere to his (old) non-flexible paramedic schedule. My head had to be in the game pretty much everywhere at once. There was accountability with an employer, though. With that accountability gone, I gradually learned that if I didn't set aside clear work time each day, it wouldn't happen. My to-do list was still on the backburner. So Mama put her foot down. Work started getting done consistently. We're finding some balance here. Yea!
4. Even when I wanted (and tried) to walk away, my soul and purpose wouldn't let me. Something happened when I stepped into this calling. Even when I turned it into a soul-crushing, terrifying, what-have-I-done experience and walked away, it beckoned me back. I can't quit you, EMM. I don't really want to quit you. That we're growing and gaining ground makes it so much better. Ladies, when we decide it has to be hard, it's hard. When we decide we're going to connect to a power beyond ourselves and let it flow with ease and grace, it begins to flow. Take it from someone who spent two years beating her head against a brick wall. There are better ways.
5. Shine as you are. There's something to be said for being unapologetically yourself. I am not perfect. Far from it. I don't always say or do the "right" things. My experience with working motherhood is not every other woman's experience with it. I've gotten pushback on some of my experiences and the transparency surrounding them. It makes me incredibly happy that my honesty about it all has started conversations that need to be had. You don't have to agree with me on everything. Please don't blindly take my stories and experiences as your own. That does not serve any of us. The conversations, though...those are important.
6. I really do get to schedule business and family around each other! Referring back to number three, this freedom really is the best part. Once I figured out how to schedule my days and set boundaries with my family, the sky became the limit. Building a business from home means an added layer of communication with your family. Do it early. Do it often. It's not a solo effort with a significant other and children.
7. Building a brand is fun because building that brand is about becoming fully and authentically yourself. My brand has been about being unapologetically myself and allowing you to witness my own growth from the very beginning. It's been about no longer being stifled by the fear that I'll somehow say or do something that could get me fired. I could not authentically grow this business while in my old career. It's been about shucking everyone else's expectations and fulfilling my calling. Now I show up every day and let you get to know me. Based on that transparency, those who like and resonate with me stay. Those who don't move on to something else. There is freedom in this approach. We don't have to pretend to be people we aren't. Building a business based on who you are and what you can do for others has its perks. When you're brave enough to step out authentically and imperfectly, personal growth and business growth are an incredible thing to see.
8. Ladies, we can do what we love. It's the week before Christmas and I'm joyfully working. What in the actual world? I have never been able to say that. Does your work bring you joy and fulfillment? It doesn't matter what that looks like: a 9-5, entrepreneurship, volunteer work, motherhood, etc. The beauty of today is that we get to make decisions that work for us.
9. I don't have to do it alone. I'm not about to stop being honest with you. One of my biggest hangups going into this was my inability to accept help. Past toxic and abusive situations had taught me that there is always a price to pay for someone else's assistance. Normally a painful, if not soul-crushing, one. I had not yet accepted that there are people who care and want to help simply to see me, my business, and the EMM purpose advance. Living in trust and allowing myself to receive when I've mostly known pain surrounding both cost me a lot of time, effort, and money. Cleaning out the toxic relationships made room for the non-toxic ones. I just hadn't figured out how to let them in...
10. I had to put on my oxygen mask before I could help others do the same. I am all for helping people pro bono. One day I fully intend to have a specific pro bono side to this business. Women at all income levels need assistance. However, I was doing everything for free. Yes. Everything. No money was coming in, but a lot of work was going out. Bills weren't being paid. We were always overdrafted. I wasn't building a business. I was drowning in a submerged ship. I was destroying my family while working my tail off. One day I felt so unappreciated and like I couldn't possibly be making a difference that I sat down to make a list. The list was of all the women I could think of off the top of my head that I had helped in the past year. I stopped myself after filling four pages front and back. EMM was definitely making a difference. First, I do not regret helping anyone. I would do it all again. It was a massive lesson, though, in claiming my worth and making sure I'm not sacrificing my family and well-being to pull others up and out of their own crises. Pulling others out of their struggles created one of the biggest struggles of my life. I embodied a lot of shame and failure because of it. Now we let the miracles flow as I claim my worth and build an actual business.
Any work-at-home entrepreneurs: I'm curious. What have your biggest lessons been?