Updated: Sep 14, 2022
If you are disciplined and like structure, working from home can be the best thing since sliced bread. You can dictate the time you work, how you work and with who you work. But for others, it can be a lonely time and often difficult to stay focused if you are easily distracted.
When you have young children, it can be very difficult for a woman to juggle business and family life, because often women feel torn between the two. However, the good news is that as the child gets older you should find it easier to navigate your business challenges.
So what do I believe are the five main challenges for women in business?
1. Achieving Work-Life Balance
According to a Harvard Business Review Survey, most women responded that their world revolved around work and the viewpoint was more or less universal.
Keeping a good work/life balance is crucial if you want to avoid burnout. Dividing time between work and family can feel like you are being pulled in opposite directions at a hundred miles per hour. In the long term, if a good balance between your children and business is not present, it can be extremely overwhelming to support and nurture both with what they need to flourish.
Try to keep work and family separate, although it’s inevitable they will overlap sometimes, but prioritise what is important to you; set clear boundaries and block off time to do it!
2. Buying into the Tao of Stigma
Unfortunately, despite many mothers going into business these days, the burden of childcare and home duties still falls on their shoulders.
Old-fashioned opinions such as women staying at home with the children, while fathers fulfil the role of breadwinner, are still widespread. Remember, every family is different with individual needs. Sometimes both parents need to work in order to cover all outgoings. This is a necessity in the case of a single, divorced or widowed parent.
Many women starting out in business, may have come from a company that had flexible working policies but informally they felt penalized for using them.
Those without children in the workplace may resent the “special treatment” it seems these women have because they have children. This form of gender discrimination feeds into mothers being seen as less committed and competent.
Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion. In a series of studies it was viewed that affluent women should remain at home, while poorer women should return to work, and at its worse – they should not have had children in the first place.
Thankfully with the advancement of mobile working, it is now easier to run your business from home. Always remember, it is up to you to decide what works best for your family.
3. Underestimating the Menace called Stress
Running a business and being a mum is a huge amount of pressure, even more so if you are a single or divorced mother. It can feel like you never stop and you never disconnect.
It is important, as well as being a mum, business owner and all-around superstar, you schedule some time for yourself. Not easy when you have a million and one things to do.
Experience has shown it is not how many hours you put into the business that determines its success but how you respond to a complex and unpredictable environment where things happen that are often out of your control.
For many it’s the number of little 'stress' points that mount up and tip you over into the 'big' stress moment – then welcome burnout!
If relaxation comes in the form of five minutes with a cup of coffee and a magazine; or a bath at the end of the day, exercise, yoga or meditation – do something just for you to avoid burnout.
4. Giving Guilt Too Much Headspace:
Are your children getting enough of you? Does your business receive enough input from you? Does it feel like your priorities are not right? Well, you are not alone.
Many women experience guilt trying to run a business and be a good parent. The struggle with guilt is personal, it is real and these feelings are natural; although it doesn’t make them any easier to live with. Don’t try to be everything, to everyone, all of the time. Comparisons are exhausting.
Most mothers are not immune to these feelings and just like the ‘imposter syndrome’ studies highlighted many women felt like the 'babysitter waiting for the real mum to come home!'
Do what’s important to you and organise yourself accordingly. You will never make every single school play or every meeting when your children need you. But don’t live by the judgement or criticism of other people. Remember, look after yourself too because failure to do so can lead to absence, low productivity and stress.
5. The True Cost of Childcare:
With more women in the workplace and starting businesses than ever before, childcare remains one of their most expensive outlets and is often seen as a barrier to progression.
You need to plan a childcare strategy because this cannot be ad-hoc. It is more than just time and cost but the emotional impact it has on your family. Your business and personal decision regarding your childcare strategy will depend on your core values and goals.
Therefore some of the things you need to consider should be:-
Is it practical to drop your child off at nursery before work and pick them up in the evening?
Would you prefer to have a nanny at home?
Do you have a backup plan when your childminder is not available?
Are your children old enough to get home from school and make a snack until you get home?
Can family or friends help?
What will you do when your child is sick?
The above does not only apply to those working in organisations. Running a business presents the same issues. You may have an important meeting with your client, manufacturer or a networking event to attend (you know those 7:00am ones).
Every business comes with ups and downs, even more so when you have children to take care of too. Take advantage of any help offered. Enjoy the fact that although you can’t be there with your child every minute of every day, or put every second into your business, with plenty of organisation and contingency plans, both will be fine.