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Building an empire and being Mummy - guilty, anyone?

(28 Posts)
CommsWhizz Thu 13-Feb-14 17:28:36

I'm feeling rather emotionally battered at the moment and am hoping that I'm not alone with this one. I suspect I'm feeling so crazily emotional is because I'm just so bloody tired, but I need some sane perspective, please. Thanks ladies.

I started my own business last summer and it's really taken off and surpassed all my expectations. I have three children, including two who are aged 3 and 19 months. I work Mon, Tues, Weds, and the little ones are in nursery for two days, then on the third day, my mum has the littlest while the three year old goes to the playgroup close by. Thurs and Fri are my days with the children.

My workload has now gone through the roof. I have lots more work from my main client (as some of you will remember my angst a few weeks ago), but also lots of other chunky projects from other clients. I'm working my three days, plus snatched hours here and there and most evenings and bits at weekends. I'm finding these snatched hours stressful and not particularly productive, and I fret when I've not had chance to check my emails in case something comes in and it's urgent and I can't do it... I'm sure you know the drill.

I know that if I had another day of childcare, say Thurs, I would stick a better chance of being able to contain my work within set working days. My stress levels would reduce and the time I spend with the kids would be better and more enjoyable all round rather than the distracted and frazzled version of Mummy they're getting at the moment, poor little tikes.

Yes, I know I could turn work down, but I'm loathe to do that as I may lose the client completely, and the plan is that I'm growing the business so that hubby comes onboard later this year, and when he does, I can ease back slightly again. Fingers crossed.

So why, why, why do I feel completely consumed by guilt at the very idea of childcare for four days? I know I said I wouldn't do it, and nothing was more important than my children's early days, but now I have this business, I also feel a pressure to give it my absolute best as it's for our future and one that will benefit my children in years to come. I know how hard it is to work around school runs and assemblies and school hols and so on, and one of the driving forces of creating this business that we're both doing is so we get far more flexibility to be 'present' for our children - which is why this feels so hard.

Is it just me trying to be everything to everyone, or are all of you feeling this too?


Ragwort Thu 13-Feb-14 17:45:53

Does your DH work elsewhere - can you do some of the work on a Saturday and he has responsibility for the children that day?

freelancenewbie Thu 13-Feb-14 18:23:54

Totally relate to your post - mirrors how I feel completely. Here's a few things I've done (in case it offers you any help?):

1. I have turned down work. I know you don't want to & others may disagree with me, but I just couldn't cope @ the thought of additional work so (v. reluctantly) turned down - hope very much I get more opportunities when DC at school & I have more time. It's a gamble & I may regret turning down work but, I think, sometimes you do have to say no.

2. I upped my childcare. I had 1 day a week CM, now I have 2 days plus dd in pre-school two sessions on top of that. Yes it's not 4 days like you're thinking about but the additional day (& pre-school) have literally saved my sanity. If my workload was any bigger (which I expect yours is), I would without doubt increase childcare from 2 days to 3 or 4. I am quickly learning that for me, childcare is absolutely essential. I asked for advice from this thread on MN before Xmas & the general opinion was that I needed to cut down evening/weekend work (which was exhausting me beyond belief). So I upped the childcare & it's unbelievable the difference it's made. Could you go with 4 day childcare until your husband joins you? Could you do 4 slightly shorter childcare days? If you can get your work done in 4 days with childcare, that would give you 3 days with your DC. And if you're not tired/stressed/distracted on those 3 days, then that might work better for you than less childcare days but trying to snatch hours - which can be very stressful.

3. Final thought for you is this: your business is obviously going great. Have faith that it will continue to be great in the future & it doesn't have to grow at such speed at this stage if you don't want it to.

CommsWhizz Thu 13-Feb-14 19:26:20

Thanks both of you for your thoughts.

Ragwort, yes, hubby works Mon-Fri, and we make a point of always spending Sat and Sun together as a family, though I often do an hour here and an hour there, plus evenings. We also have our eldest to think about who, at 12, is starting to get more and more independent and so we try and prioritise time with him before he's too cool old to want to hang out with us. Plus, at least one day over the weekend, one of us has to ferry him around to football matches while the other has the little ones. Like Newbie said, it's the evenings and weekend working that's really exhausting, and it's trying to find a way to make everything work.

Newbie, thanks so much for your thoughts, and I'm so glad I'm not alone. Juggling it all is overwhelmingly exhausting and I can see that I'm losing track of the bigger picture and drowning in detail. I suspect that one extra day (so littlest does three days at nursery and one at home with my mum, but me very much present, and the older child does three and a half days at nursery/playgroup) would make the difference between my work feeling manageable, productive and controlled, and leaving it as it is and feel like we're all about to be mown down by a runaway double decker bus.

And yes, Newbie, with any luck I could do the extra day just until hubby is working alongside me and then claim it back again. My dream is to build it up to the point where it can support us both, then hubby comes on board, it grows more and I can ease the hours back and then, when they're all at school I can get a decent balance between work and slinking off to have long lunches and read books home.


WilsonFrickett Thu 13-Feb-14 22:40:14

I honestly think one 'good' day at the weekend is better than a whole weekend of snatching hours here and there and becoming pre-occupied with work. Weekends are also normally free of calls and emails so you can get a lot done too.

I would designate one weekend day a working day for you. Think of it as an special day for DH to do SAHD day. Call in favours for football. Then close the door and crack the feck on. You will get sooooo much done between, say 10 and 4. Then still time for a nice family dinner or movie night or whatever.

I know quality time with everyone together is important but once your DH joins the business you will be sick of the sight of him grin and I think this could give you some of the breathing space you need, you'd get the extra day, your cc costs won't go up and it will be good for DH and DCs to have time together. Win win.

Oh, and if things quieten down you can drop the weekend and pick it back up easily - you're not tied to a childcare provider.

WilsonFrickett Thu 13-Feb-14 22:42:52

I'm working on Saturday btw grin I find that much easier to manage than working evenings. Although of course I do evenings when I have to.

freelancenewbie Thu 13-Feb-14 23:09:25

I agree re. weekend working & if it works for you, that could be a really good option for you. The problem I've been finding with it is DH can be so busy with his work that he also needs to work a bit over w/kend too & then I can't fully rely on him to help me by taking DCs out. It's a tricky one - for me my CM is my saviour - your DH could be yours!!

CommsWhizz Fri 14-Feb-14 14:16:00

Thanks everyone for your input, all gratefully received and pondered.

Recently, I've been doing a fair bit at the weekends and so far, it's not worked great. I'll be honest, it feels like everyone's getting shortchanged. I feel sad that everyone's having fun without me and I'm missing out on family time, hubby wishes I was there and the kids spend the entire time asking where I am and what I'm doing. Plus, as I'm working most evenings, weekends is when hubby and I properly catch up and at the moment, it's the only real time we get to spend together.

One of my main issues is that a huge amount of what I do depends on being visible for clients and while there is a decent amount of background stuff I can work on at weekends, the time would be much better spent when my clients are also working so I'm on email and just at the end of the phone.

But, obviously this would come at a cost - emotionally and financially, and I fully appreciate that by working at the weekends there'd be no financial hit or tie in, it's more flexible, but again it's the trade off - work versus time with little ones and hubby.

Maybe to ease my conscience I need to just keep plugging away when and however I can and just suck it up. I've been a working parent for the last 12 years and the balancing act just doesn't get any easier, does it?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Fri 14-Feb-14 14:25:24


I have the opposite problem. I am surrounded by women with babies around the same age as mine who are extending their mat leave, taking a career break and generally dreading returning to work. I on the other hand are really looking forward to it, but feel guilty that I don't feel more like them!

Anyway on to you....lots of helpful comments & suggestions already. It sounds like it is too much work for the time available...but I did wonder if you are working in the most effective way possible? I know that with myself when I am stressed I tend to start messing about with my website or starting up some un-needed project and doing everything other than focusing on getting the worked finished! It takes a lot to manage myself during these times...

A couple of things that have helped with my productivity:

- Trying to stick to 'Getting my inbox to 0' process to try to manage my emails. There are courses and a book if you are interested but basically it is suggests deadling with emails immediately by filling them or moving them to an 'action', 'sometime' folder.

- Moving to Microsoft Exchange for my email. Previously I had my emails in a rubbish inbox provided by my host and then delivered onto my laptop and a copy inbox on my phone. Moving to Exchange means I have just the one inbox which I can access on my laptop and my phone, so once I have deleted an email it is gone, I am not reading it twice etc.

- Doing a to-do list everyday for my work. And focusing on 'next actions', loosely I am following the 'Get Things Done' time management process - another book.

- When I am very busy I outsource tasks that can be outsourced, so admin, research etc. You need to find somebody who you trust and is good but if you do it can be a real weight off.

Back to your OP....if I were you I'd try to see this as a temporary situation, this time next year your DH will be with you and helping to take the load. Your little ones won't suffer through being in extra childcare but they will benefit from a less stressed mum thanks.

And well done, there are downsides, but you should congratulate yourself on being so successful so quickly - it isn't easy.

ShoeSmacking Fri 14-Feb-14 14:25:26

I'm in a similar situation in terms of work and I think an extra day in childcare is absolutely the answer. Are you able to do half/short days with your carer? I think it really is absolutely fine for them to be out of the house with someone else during the main working day. For me, one of the huge benefits of working for myself, mostly from home, is that I avoid the commute and can really maximise my working time. So put them in nursery or with CM for an extra half or three quarter day so you still get time with them, but you get another 4 or 5 hours a week uninterrupted work time, which we all know, will be much better work than a snatched hour here or there.

What I tell myself is that if I was working in an office five days a week, I'd be leaving the house at 7:30 and getting home at 7. At least this way I'm there for breakfast and getting ready and I'm back in plenty of time for some pre-bed time bonding. With the half days, I get a good few hours and we still have time to do something together. Often those half days are the ones where I take him somewhere or we go on adventure. And I'm not as stressed when I am with him as I know that my clients are only having to wait for a relatively short time before they hear from me again.

ShoeSmacking Fri 14-Feb-14 14:28:35

Oh, and because I have some flexibility with DH being around a lot (he was a full time SAHD but now works as well), I also sometimes take myself out of the house first thing ie 8 am and find a coffee shop where I sit and drink a coffee, have breakfast and churn through all my emails and short tasks. I can't do anything huge in that environment but I can respond to requests, review information and files etc. then, when I get home at 10:00 if DS isn't going to nursery and DH is working, I can spend the bulk of the day with him knowing that I've already done some good work. Then when DH gets home (admittedly, we are lucky in that he'll be back by 5 usually) I hand DS over and disappear to my office to do a bit more. So even on the days DS isn't in childcare, I can usually get at least 3 good hours in before DS has gone to bed which limits what I have to do after hours.

freelancenewbie Fri 14-Feb-14 15:06:33

ooooohhh Shoe, I totally LOVE your idea of early morning coffee at cafe - may have to introduce that idea immediately!

MinesAPintOfTea Fri 14-Feb-14 16:55:49

There isn't a magic answer, you just have to pick the time you'll miss the least and block it out for work whether its getting up at 5 every day to get 2 hours done before the house wakes, treating Saturday as a working day or an extra day of childcare.

No point feeling guilty about it if you've decided building your business up is best for the family.

Suzietwo Fri 14-Feb-14 17:11:54

When I have very busy periods I remind myself that this is the pay off for being available full time at home. It works for reduced (no) maternity leave too.

I would prefer to be in my position than in a proper job and even when I'm ferociously busy (14 hour days 6 days a week) I see more of my kids than I would if I was employed.

The best thing I did was have a nanny 2 days p/w. It means kids are at home being looked after by nanny (where I work 3/5 spdays, the other 2 I'm out in meetings) so I can take 5 mins to chat or have lunch w them. Keeps me connected but still able to do the hours. The other seats they are at nursery.

My children are 2 and 4 and there's another due in May. It ISNT easy, at all and I have more or less given up social activities in favour of family and work but that's ok for me at the moment.

CommsWhizz Sat 15-Feb-14 21:05:37

Margot, are you a neighbour? I suspect you can see me, as yes, I do just the same when I'm really up against it and in panic mode, fiddling with less-important, non-essential things just to put something off that absolutely HAS to be done. I have no idea why, but I can recognise it's something I do and need to work on. I know there will be ways of being more organised and tricks to working smarter and more efficiently, not harder or for longer. I really, really like your suggestions and will investigate further...

Shoe, like Newbie, I also really like your early morning coffee suggestion. We're members of a lovely health club with a fab café where I often work, so I might suggest that I combine a little bit of weekend working with a trip there and head out first thing and be back by 11ish having done several hours of decent work and have the rest of the weekend to enjoy with the family.

Thanks too for the support re extra childcare. I think I may have a solution as I've had a wonderful offer from a relative, who my children adore, to help out now and then when I'm drowning in work and would benefit from an extra few hours here and there. It's not regular and can't really be depended on, but it'll be a help and means the kids will have a ball and I don't need to beat myself up or commit to something I may not need every week. Fingers crossed...

PintofTea, yes, I totally get that I need to make a decision and not give myself a hard time. However I'm resigned to the fact that for me, guilt seems to be my default setting since becoming a parent. Sometimes it's for my lack of patience, sometimes because they've not had enough fresh air, fresh vegetables or their diet has mainly consisted of toast that day.

Suzie, yep, I'm much the same in that I absolutely made the right decision in working for myself and I know it all balances out. Only a couple of weeks ago I easily tweaked my working hours so I could hold the hand of a poorly three year old for most of the day and work in the evening, so it does pay off. It's good to remember that, so thanks! And hope it continues to go well for you - you sound a busy, busy bee!

I really am grateful for all your input, thanks so so much.

jonnyelwyn Sun 16-Feb-14 09:46:04

Wow - this was a great thread! What a valuable object lesson in freelance strategy and negotiation.

Thanks for sharing/creating it guys!

WilsonFrickett Sun 16-Feb-14 13:41:22

Have also been musing on this aka I should be working but, ye know, this is more fun and you said earlier OP about needing to be visible for clients. This is also something to think about. I need to be responsive to clients but not visible - there is a difference iyswim? My clients all understand I'm busy and often booked in advance and most of the time they respect that.

Of course, part of that is my own communication to them - what's the deadline (Friday), oh great because I'm booked solid till Wednesday, can slot it in on Thursday OR what's the deadline? (Wednesday), hmmm, I'm booked solid but let me just see - yep, you know what I can move something else and do a bit of this overnight so it will be with you Tues night?

This then stands me well for when someone really does want something done (extra money) or for when I'm taking a sneaky day off to get my haircut and go to the nativity. Could starting to do this a teeny bit more help you shift your hours to where you want them to be?

Remember also 'doing work when you choose' is also one of HMRC's tests to see if someone truly is SE.

CommsWhizz Mon 17-Feb-14 09:16:43

Morning all,

Wilson, yes, I totally understand what you mean about how available I make myself and it's something that I've battled with. Years ago I worked for an agency who wanted you to eat, sleep and breathe the client which drummed into me some really unhealthy ways of working. Thankfully, I've broken those habits now but as this new client of mine currently needs a lot of handholding, I can feel some of them starting to creep back in.

When I took this work on, I did say that I wasn't prepared to be solely theirs on particular days (which is what they wanted) as that was more like a part-time job, but that I would do the work as and when it worked for me and for their deadlines, so I think it's time to gently push back now and then. For other clients, it's a doddle and many of my conversations with them echo what you've written.

Thanks again, so much. Sometimes getting other folks' perspective makes everything so much clearer, doesn't it?

CommsWhizz Mon 17-Feb-14 09:50:55

Oh and Margo, this morning is a classic case in point. I have so much to do that my stomach is churing with anxiety yet so far I've replied on here, made three cups of tea, wiped down the kitchen surfaces and sent a number of non-essential emails.

Time for one more cuppa and then I really will crack on...

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 18-Feb-14 22:35:36

I know your pain CW. I have 2 urgent things that need doing this week, despite the fact we are away on holiday sad but I am drawn back to something that can wait until next week. It just interests me more!

I do find working in 45 min slots works or giving myself a deadline for making a cuppa can sometime help..but it really takes discipline!

PermaShattered Tue 11-Mar-14 18:25:07

I feel your pain too. Are you all still monitoring this? If so i'll pitch in..... smile

BusinessUnusual Tue 11-Mar-14 23:18:49

I would use the extra childcare.

CommsWhizz Wed 12-Mar-14 12:38:16

Hey Perma, yep, still monitoring this, and living it daily!

In the end I opted for a halfway house - an ad hoc arrangement with family for the fourth day for when I need it, so we're not committed to the extra costs of childcare while I figure out just how much time realistically I need to get the work done well. At the moment, typically, it's taking all day for the four days and most evenings and some at weekends. I keep reminding myself this is good, that business is booming, but at the same time, it's not sustainable as I may end up rocking in a corner before the month is out.

Business, thanks for your input and yes, I suspect you're right...

freelancenewbie Wed 12-Mar-14 13:18:42

Hi - yes Perma - please do join - I'm watching this too and very interested in views. You will see that I suggested the OP perhaps turn work down. I have completely ignored my own advice, taken on a new client and I am today going to visit a nursery for upping my childcare. I am totally realising the requirement for additional childcare - and feel that for me that is the key to retaining my sanity! For me, the whole process has been/is continuing to be a work in progress - I keep trying all different options/work loads but I'm kind of getting there - it's a bit of trial and error I guess.

Comms - thanks for all your replies to my posts recently - I've started so many threads, I can't keep up with it! The general gist being, I've got real busy, I need childcare and I just hope I don't regret the choices I've made!

Margot - as always, grateful to you.

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 12-Mar-14 14:26:05

I find really focussing on maximising work time in the evenings very helpful when busy. So DH comes home 6.30-7 and I go STRAIGHT to my desk, he does bath, bed, clear up, starts dinner. We eat together, I go back to work 9-11. When busy I just push on through to the wee hours. I find you can get SO much done knowing that there's no clock running against your childcare.

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