8 Ways Being A Parent Has Helped Grow My Business
This post was updated in May 2017
It’s the tail end of the summer holidays and I’m wondering what life will be like in a few days time without two endlessly-chattering kids underfoot. Quiet, no doubt. The cat will move back into the house. I can reclaim my desk from under its decorations of glitter, masterful drawings and takeaway pizza menus. And I can resurrect my “working from home” status from its current “mum is available 24/7 to play/eat/read and listen to a litany of complaints, though she does tend to yell more often” label.
Despite spending the last 2 months full time with the little monkeys, I’ve managed a fair bit of work over this school break, including 1 new website, 4 corporate stories, 2 infographics, and my new business rebrand and website redesign. As well as numerous blog posts, blog and story research, about 300+ social media stories per week, my 2016-2017 business plan, end of financial year tallies… and about a thousand other things that go along with running your own business, and don’t magically stop for the school holidays.
The craziest thing is, though, that there is no way I could have done all this before I had kids. I simply wasn’t motivated enough. I had no appreciation of the value of time. It something that you learn (far too late).
But here’s what I now know about how parenting and business go hand in hand…
1. The true value of time
These days, I don’t waste time. I'm not sure how having kids makes the day wing past so much faster but it just does. I've got to grab it with both hands before it zips by.
If there’s a deadline to be met or an email to send, I do it. “Put the kids in the car!”, I yelled to my husband as I dashed off an email reply to a potential new client yesterday. Even the two minutes it took to write that email is valuable time to me. Once I set that work train in motion, I can take the kids out for a couple of hours knowing that my email is working for me.
2. It's all about productivity
I am way more productive than I ever was Before Kids. BK, I could happily spend an entire Saturday on the couch with a packet of chips and a Coke watching Buffy re-runs (yep, I’m that old).
But these days, not only are such foods sadly banished from my house (setting a good example is such a drag), I cannot envisage ever having nothing. at. all. to do. The brief window that a nap or iPad time allows is so precious. And that’s when I switch to work all-systems-go mode and power through a blog post or article draft in no time at all.
3. And multi-tasking
When my kids were babies (and gosh, that seems like such a long time ago!), I used to wish that I had twice as many hands. Just an extra pair sprouting out at the sides to fold the laundry or cook the dinner. I could have achieved so much during those long breastfeeding hours.
But it turns out that when babies grow up, you’re even busier (and they’re even louder).
These days, I manage this never-ending cycle of stuff to do by multitasking like a pro. I write out 2 lists each day (work and personal); I schedule all my social media; I plan blog posts and newsletters while I’m driving or before falling asleep; I edit articles in piano class; and use my coffee and lunch dates as blog research.
4. Super organisation
There’s nothing like parenting to get a person organised. All those vaccinations, playdates, school schedules, assemblies, after school classes, homework, and dress up days - it’s mentally impossible for anyone to remember everything without writing stuff down. Those who don't... well, I always feel for the 1 or 2 kids awkwardly wearing their school uniform on "Come As Your Favourite..." dress up day.
My super organisation naturally spills over into my work schedule too. I’ve developed email scripts for new and potential clients; I have web design and writing packages; and my step-by-step, 1-week design process is taped to my office wall. I have a Google work calendar that I print each month so I can see my deadlines, meetings and projects in one glance.
My favourite time to work is actually in the evening, when the kids are sleeping and the house is quiet. I love opening the door and windows and listening to the wind and cicadas in the trees. This is often the time I write my blog posts, tinker with my website and make plans for the next few months.
I know that evenings aren't the ideal time for your eyes to be staring at a screen. That's probably true but I'm a bit of a night owl. Other people prefer getting up before the sun. This flexibility is an intrinsic part of the working parent's schedule.
BK, I’d spend this time watching TV with a glass of wine in hand. I still do that some nights of course (it sounds good right about now!) but being flexible with my hours means I've got a whole new window of work time.
6. Commitment (in a good way!)
As a parent, I’ve survived for years through sleepless nights, followed by very active days. It’s not fun but I get through it. As any parent can tell you who’s sat up all night next to a feverish child, or been bombarded with questions and commentary from morning till night, it’s part and parcel of getting the job done. So, a last minute report or 2 day article turnaround? No problem, I’ll make the time for it. Best of all, the client isn’t likely to projectile vomit on me in the end.
Related post: What I Learned In My First 2 Years Of Freelancing
7. A portable workstation
My kids are chatterboxes. Though the conversation has become somewhat more sophisticated with age, they've never stopped talking, questioning, squabbling, bossing, play acting and singing. Like, All. Day. Long. I've perfected my verbal participation to a solid repertoire of nonspecific "really?", "uh huh" "oh, wow" responses which allows a fair bit of flexibility on my part.
I've also become accustomed to sharing my work space with important artworks, sparkles, stickers (and occasionally cats). The good news? I don't need a office, a library, or even a desk, to work at.
8. The joy of being selfish
I’m not a yes man - though I used to be. Well, not a man (duh) but I used to take on everyone’s projects and problems. I don’t any more, I’m happy to say.
I’m selfish about my business and my time because it’s that important to me. I don’t say ‘yes’ to every project that comes along. I only take on the jobs that I want to do, that I’ll enjoy and can give my complete dedication to.
I've learned the value of time, and more than that, the value of being of being a working parent. I get the best of both worlds - freedom to work, and to be with my kids. That's what it's all about.
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, Squarespace web designer and small business blogger currently based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves helping freelancers and small businesses with web design and content, blogging and through her awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, strategy, web design and "all that online stuff". She also writes food and travel articles for businesses and magazines, and blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.