Starting and running your own business is a massive undertaking for any person, no matter how talented or hard working you are. It requires risk, sacrifice, unwavering determination, long days, sleepless nights, and most of all, faith. For women, entrepreneurial success often comes at the expense of any normal functionality in our personal lives. Sometimes we don’t even have a personal life.
I can certainly attest to that. As a married mother of two, I often reflect on when I started my first company several years ago. I remember the days when I was so busy trying to make sure my business was functioning properly and my kids were not neglected, that I neglected my husband. Many nights I would lie in bed beside him and instantly fall asleep.
I was overwhelmed. He felt that he was living with a roommate instead of a wife, and he was right.
I came to the realization that I had an amazing man who supported me in everything, but as much as he did for me, he needed me too. Therefore, I began searching for solutions. The first one I came up with was that by 10 p.m. each night, everything goes off. The kids were in bed by nine o’clock, computers and cell phones were shut down shortly after, and that left just the two of us. While it was a seemingly small gesture, it was actually a big first step. I soon made more adjustments to accommodate my family, and as I forged ahead, the process became much more manageable for me.
It can get better for you too. Here are some ways in which you, the entrepreneurial-minded woman, can stabilize your home life while striving for your dreams.
1. Set expectations: As you decide to go full-speed ahead in your business, sit your family down and prepare them for what is to come. Share your goals for your company, as well as for your family, so that everyone can see the bigger picture. Let them know what you need from them, and listen to what they need from you. One thing I assured my family was that no matter what I had going on, I would still be a wife and a mother.
I prepared my husband and the kids for mommy having to travel from city to city at times. If I knew I would be away for a few days, I was at home in the kitchen preparing meals for the week. I wanted them to know that just because I wasn’t home did not mean they would not enjoy a home-cooked meal. I also let them know that while things would be hectic for a while, it would not always be that way. It is important for your family to know that they do not come second to your business.
2. Don’t let your business control you. Control your business: As I did in the beginning, people often lose focus on what is most important. They let their businesses control them because they are chasing the dollar instead of chasing the purpose. You are not starting a business to work all day, every day. You are doing it to achieve a goal, to make an impact, and most of all, to provide for your family. If you find yourself straying away from the things that are most important, it is time to revisit your “WHY” for starting your business in the first place.
3. Learn to say no: Sometimes as entrepreneurs, we get in the habit of trying to be all things to all people. But, the reality is, we can’t be everywhere and we can’t do everything. Draw boundaries and keep them, otherwise your professional life will completely consume your home life. I always tell ladies – say yes to those things that are good for them, and say no to those that are not. If it doesn’t align with your mission and purpose, you must learn to say no.
4. Include your family: Simply making your spouse or your children feel that they are a part of your journey can go a long way. If you are working on something for your business, ask them occasionally for their ideas or suggestions. Take your husband to the team barbecue or retreat. Let them be involved. You might find that it actually benefits you in greater ways than you ever imagined. Nowadays, when I host my events or workshops in different cities across the country, I take my family with me. Road trip! Not only do they appreciate it, but I do too. It is another experience we can share together.
5. Forget your business for a day, or a few: Every marriage requires time set aside solely for you and your spouse. This is especially important for entrepreneurs to remember. Take a break from work sometimes to go to the movies, get a glass of wine, or take a vacation. Hold hands, talk and pray together. Not only will it provide you with some much-needed relief, but it will also calm the headache your husband has from listening to your non-stop ideas, budget calculations and company responsibilities.
All in all, changing your habits as an over-caffeinated, entrepreneurial workaholic is not easy. These adjustments require patience, understanding and discipline. But you can do it, and you will live a more successful, happy and family-centered life in the process.
Martha Cooper-Hudson is an entrepreneur, author and the founder of RediscovHer, a women’s empowerment organization for entrepreneurs based in Charlotte. For more information on Martha and RediscovHer, visit www.rediscoverher.com.