How to Manage Two Businesses and Two Toddlers at the Same Time

Award winning mumpreneur Joanne Dewberry of Charlie Moo's tells us about how she manages to be mum to two toddlers and run her businesses:

I’m constantly asked "How do you fit everything in?"  My mum is always saying "You need to slow down!".  I have two small children, Charlie age 3 and Megan age 1, I run two businesses, Charlie Moo’s and Networking Mummies. ( I co-own Networking Mummies with Laura Morris of RentaBuggy), so my life is pretty hectic! But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The reason I started Charlie Moo’s was because I was disheartened by the rubbish party bags Charlie had received at parties. Not only did they break straight away, they were either very age inappropriate or made of plastic. At one party he received near enough a whole bag of chocolate. It became a slightly stressful experience. Charlie would wander out of the party tightly clutching a plastic bag in his hand and we would fight with him for the contents, in most cases he would be left with a balloon and some bubbles. I took the plunge to build and start up my website after Megan was born in August 2008. I became very adept at typing with one finger whilst breast feeding at 2am. I now sew all the fabric bags myself too!

When I struggle to fit everything in I remind myself why I started Charlie Moo’s: not for the money, not for the fame, not even to rid the world of plastic party bags … because I wanted to.  I also wanted to be a full time mum and that is what I am! My day is dictated mostly by the children’s routine, pre-school, toddler group, friends, trips to the park, I fit my businesses around this.  Sometimes I do have day meetings, events and workshops that I can’t take to. I work these in so they are not very often and it actually becomes a nice treat for them to spend the day with nanny or daddy.  In a lot of cases Megan does come along to meetings with me, but I find if I’m upfront and honest and let them know the situation most people are very accommodating. 

Being a mum is my number one job and being a business woman always comes second.  Which means I will work late at night early in the morning, and am proud of what I have already achieved. I’m fine with this arrangement as by September 2012 my children will both be a primary school and I will have missed nothing in the first four years but gained enough knowledge, skills, contacts and hopefully business kudos to be able to take Charlie Moo’s into the next phase.

(The photo is of Joanne's daughter, Megan.)

Work/Life Balance: Do We Really Need It?

One great thing about work/life balance is it reminds employers that we have a life outside work. I'm all for that.

But beyond that I'm not so sure. Ruth Billheimer of Virtual Balance emailed me today to ask if I could fill in her survey. She'd noticed that people are seeking fulfillment in their work rather than balance and wanted to know more.

I've had two babies in the last two years, so I'm still trying to thrash out what my new work and life will look like. As for balance, well I'm totally unbalanced  – my life is 90% babies and 10% business. 'Me' time? I'm lucky if I get time to plug in a hairdryer these days!

Unable to make a meaningful contribution to Ruth's survey, I thought I'd write this post instead.

The times in my life that have been the least balanced have also been the most productive. Like the time when I worked full-time and studied part-time at the same time, or now, being mum to a 22 month old and a 6 month old. Intense times, but times that are really rewarding as well as shattering, frustrating and challenging (in a good way).

I've noticed this in other people too. When I used to hang out with physicists  (that doesn't make me a bad person, see 'the best advice I have ever been given' if you want me to explain… ) the best scientists weren't the ones that had balance in their lives, in fact they were the ones  who were bordering on being obsessed.

I know there's more to life than achieving things, but it does suggest that aiming for balance isn't going to guarantee success or even satisfaction.

From time to time I read about someone who feels her (it's almost always a 'her') life is out of balance. She thinks that if all the different parts of her life rolled along in harmony she'd be happier. I think that misses the point. If you put your efforts into making all the aspects of your life cancel each other out, life might just pass you by.

Much better to accept that life is a rollercoaster and enjoy the ride. During the frantic times you could feel stressed, stretched, challenged, a sense of satisfaction, confusion, fear, proud of yourself, focussed. During the quieter times you might feel relaxed, calm, frustrated, bored, as if you're going nowhere, peaceful, demotivated.

Calm isn't necessarily better than being frantically busy. Both states have their good parts and their bad parts. Of course you need to take care of your relationship and your health or you'll be heading for divorce or worse.  Being a workaholic and hardly ever spending time with your children would be a terrible shame. If you're working too hard and it's making you unhappy, change it if you can.

But if we actually balanced our lives, I'm not sure we'd be any happier than we are now.

Live your life, don't try to iron it flat.

Do you have any thoughts? Drop me a comment!

Creative Commons License photo credit: stachelig