Happy Monday one and all!
This post is going to be a little more personal than business but I made a promise to myself when I started The Amy Johnson that I was no longer going to put my world in lots of different little boxes.
Last year I came to the realisation that I am the sum total of all that I do, personally, professionally and otherwise. I also realised that it’s when I try to unravel the twine that binds them all that I burnout. I promised myself that I would be brutally honest publicly about how this tapestry of mine both positively and negatively affects the success of my life and business. I also promised myself that I would do the work and accept the clients that would compliment this weave and not expect me to separate who I am into frayed edges.
I’m not sure if you’re aware but I’m a single mum, Josh is 13 and an amazing kid and I do this parenting job on my own. His dad, whilst they love each other, was not built for the responsibility of parenthood when Josh came along and as a result their relationship is not what I would have dreamed for my only child, it’s not even what I would have dreamed for my ex-husband.
They see each other for maybe a day every three months or so and rarely speak other than that. Financially I alone fully support Josh, I get no child maintenance or other forms of support from his dad. (So as not to be give you half truths or mislead you, his dad paid some towards Joshs school trip this year which was gratefully received)
The reason I tell you this is because it is fundamentally the reason for everything.
Being Joshs mum was the reason I said “I can’t” for so long and it’s also the reason why I now say “I can”.
I am not going to sugar coat this. It’s hard bloody work in every way you can possibly imagine. But why am I writing about this now? Well, because it’s the summer holidays and I had hand surgery a week ago and right now I feel like crawling into a hole and hibernating until next year.
Life is not easy. Building a business, being the only daily parent showing up and having surgery, doing physio is not easy. I am up and down like a yo-yo and since it’s the first school holidays I have tackled as an entrepreneur I felt it was worth documenting for you all.
What I have found the most challenging:
- Motivation – I have loved not having an alarm set but boy am I finding the change in routine a little overwhelming. I have wonderfully decided to go self employed and work from home just as our longest hottest summer since like forever hits. It is proving quite tough to do anything other than mum with any kind of zeal.
- Heat – Now I love the sun, I love balmy summer days but man oh man this persistent heat and the resulting restless nights is totally draining my energy. Mine and Joshs.
- Interruptions – Normally I can time block with a passion similar to that of a fasionista planning a shopping trip. I can dedicate uninterrupted time to whatever it is I need to focus on. However, when you have a hungry 13 year old and days out, family visits, hospital appointments and constant door knocking from Joshs friends wanting to go out and play it can break the concentration just a little. Not to mention that people forget that you have to work when you work from home. Being disciplined is tough especially when everyone is offering you fabulously fun interruptions!
- Food – Have you ever had a teenage boy in the house? I feel like I run an underwhelming and overworked cafe. “Mum I’m hungry” is literally my title now. He’s perfectly capable of getting his own but he does like to announce it to me and ask 30 times before he commits himself to that course of action.
- Money – I’m a new business. I am in my first three months so I am not making masses of profit, I’m breaking even and building which means fun money comes out of some other part of the budget, when Josh is at school and the nights are drawn in we spend less but I want us to have day trips and do fun things that often involve additional costs. I dream of doing all the things. Instead I watch everyone else on my Facebook and Instagram doing the things and dread going to the cashpoint!
- The guilt and negative self talk – Mum guilt is a real thing. Those negative inner voices saying I made the wrong decision or that I am focusing too much on building the business is so strong at times that it’s tough to catch my breath. The business guilt is the flipside of that, the guilt that I am not doing it right or the way other people think I should do it and therefore it must be wrong. Ahhh I swear I have some Irish Catholic blood in me for the level of guilt I feel on a daily basis
- Imposter Syndrome – Are you even an entrepreneur if this doesn’t get you by the balls from time to time? I wake up everyday wondering who the hell I am to think that I can build a successful business, hold down loving relationships and still be the dogs bollocks of a mum to Josh. This one is heavily teamed with the guilt and negative self talk.
- Self Care – So this one is HUGE. With my surgery recovery, being around other people every second of every day and having a messy house far longer than it stays clean for, my instincts are as always to put what I need on the back burner for now, forget about doing the things that replenish and re-energise me and just focus on getting everything else done for everyone else and succumb to poor choices with food, exercise and basically everything else.
There is a lot that has challenged me in these first three months but the summer holidays have already proved to be a massive shock to the system. I can definitely understand why business parents struggle so much at this time and of course especially so when you’re solo parenting.
But lets be realistic, as with any challenge it’s about what you do to help yourself in those tough times and there are things that can help.
How do I combat these challenges myself?
Sometimes I don’t, I fail (shock horror) like I said, I promised myself and by extension you, that I would be brutally honest about this journey. Building a business whilst being a single mum during the summer holidays is proving tougher than I ever imagined and I don’t feel like I am doing any of it quite right. I wouldn’t even contemplate changing it for a second and because of that there are things I try to do to work with the challenges and improve my circumstances.
- Motivation – I remind myself that motivation is fleeting and habit is really the key to getting things done. I try to ensure that I follow some basic every day tasks, the fact that I get them done really does help me feel more driven and in addition, reduces the overwhelm. If I am struggling with this I set myself little challenges and celebrate with a biscuit and a brew. I feel like I’m a 100 when I say that but simple pleasures hey. For example I set a specific time of day to work on a free flowing clients job. 1 hour dead on at the same time everyday. I also put 1 load of laundry on as I am waiting for my first drink of the day. I also make a list of 5 items I must get done.
- Heat – This one has proven tougher to cope with. Firstly and most obviously is attempting to stay as hydrated as humanly possible. The second one is to simply accept that there are some times during peak heat that I simply do not function well. I therefore changed my days to be most productive first thing and last thing with a siesta of sorts when I cannot manage. I keep referring to myself as ‘boil in a bag’ woman between 3:30 and 7pm which is my brain cooked time. I also have a cool shower right before bed and am not afraid to wear nothing but a beach cover up around the house. Needs must. This is not a fashion show.
- Interruptions – Firstly, where I have rescheduled my day to be most productive in the early mornings and evenings I can naturally avoid being caught short during working hours with the interruptions. Secondly, I realised who was interrupting me most and I set aside time to speak to them. Scheduling in calls/visits/lunches/dinners. Whatever is needed to spend time with them and also manage my work.
- Food – I simply try to be organised and ensure that I have food to hand for those frustrating moments. I spoke about it here on Social Mums recent blog post, basically I still make him lunches as I would if he were at school. I have failed miserably with it this week and I am feeling the pain. Organised is the new cool mums and dads, believe you me!
- Money – This is a tough one. There is nothing like school holidays, Christmas and birthdays to make me suddenly feel like the poorest parent in town. I know I’m not, it’s that feeling of lack that I think we all feel to some degree if we are honest. So I am trying to simply do beach days with pack lunches, park days etc. also, we have accepted every invitation to lunch/BBQ etc with friends and family that has come up, Josh is loving it. He enjoys seeing everyone and getting fed and he also gets to play around – he has not complained once. I also set a weekly budget at the beginning of the summer holidays so that he could do 1 regular paid for weekly activity with friends. So, once a week I pay for him to go to the cinema OR swimming. He also only gets his pocket money (£6 per week) IF he does his chores when asked which he can also put towards any paid for activities. I also bought him a couple of ‘experience days’ for his birthday and Christmas last year which we have saved and booked for the summer. Already paid for so just good old fashioned fun with no extra cost burden except transport and food which, if you’re willing to shop around and take your own keeps it really cost effective! Finally, if you are not sure what to do locally then google it. I do and it comes up with some amazing opportunities for unexpected fun. I am also saying yes if family want to give him money for activities, normally I’m too proud but at the end of the day if its a gift and something they want to do without Josh or I asking then it’s harmless.
- The guilt and negative self talk – I am struggling with this one at this very minute but I do try to fall back on a few things. 1) I blast out some of my favourite songs that I LOVE singing to – I cannot belt out Janet Jackson AND smack talk myself at the same time. Break that conversation and re-tune your thoughts. Then I take out a personal development book/podcast or audio book and get to immersing myself. I have also started writing the exact opposite of my thought comments on post it notes and stick them around. It helps but its not foolproof and sometimes you just have to keep taking action regardless of what you hear yourself say until the tide turns.
- Imposter syndrome – Again, hitting home hard at the moment, I use the post its for this too. I also look back at positive feedback, hit the self development books and focus on taking action regardless but I also try to let it out, I scream into a pillow and have a good cry. Sometimes I find that imposter syndrome often hits the hardest when I am shattered and feeling blue anyway, I am a great believer in positive thinking but only if you allow yourself to acknowledge that sometimes things just get to you. Accept it happens then it allows you to take a positive step forward.
- Self Care – This one is partly a soak in a bath and a good book but it’s also acknowledging that I actually feel better when my house is clean and my work is in order so it’s about doing small things everyday to support that. I do Lyndsey Queen of Cleans 5 minute challenge for my housework – it’s a mini version of time blocking and means I’ve tended to every room in my house including hallways and the garden in 45 minutes overall. For me self care is also about setting a realistic schedule. Trying to make sure that I go to bed when I am tired, switching off my electronics at a reasonable time. Limiting TV time and making sure that I exercise and get outside every single day. I’m also an advocate for being honest about whether you are too peopled out to function. Not necessarily avoiding things but leaving a little earlier or being more selective about what you say yes and what you say no to.
These things don’t always work. Sometimes I fail, miss the mark and just underestimate the challenges faced but these little methods do improve the situation even a little and I am also continuing to develop the business, get time with my boy and frankly, those cannot be bad things.
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Thank you for reading.