Do you have tiny children and your own business or a hobby that you are passionate about? Are you finding the tussle of work v small family hard to strike a balance with? You are not alone I promise. Now my children are 14 & 10 I look back and marvel at how, quite frankly, I managed to do anything. Here’s what worked for me.
When my daughter was two weeks old (my second child) we had a shed delivered. This was to be my workspace. The thing is that I hadn’t thought about how the shed would actually get into my garden (they couldn’t get it over the wall or through the door as it was too big) Looking back, I see how indicative of my state of mind this was.
(me in 2004)
Once the shed was in and up, I sobbed at it being soooo big. Holding my tiny baby, with my bionic 3-year-old boy dashing about in the background I had made a ginormous fu** up of ordering it the first place. I’d paid £800 for this huge mistake which had made it all the way down the M1 from Huddersfield to London, delivered by two enormously grumpy men.
On his return from work that evening, my husband thankfully read the situation quickly. He spent the weekend whitewashing it inside and painting it Wild Thyme Green which seemed to reduce the size of this beast that was now plonked in the middle of our 30ft garden, with two kids.
Once my drawing board was up and my paints were out, I felt better almost instantly. I had a space to work again.
I found ways of my business alive that worked for me. When I say ‘keeping it going’ I mean literally keeping it going. My business didn’t thrive and I wasn’t earning pots of cash, but the jobs came in and I turned them around – it was as simple as that, I kept my business going at a much-reduced pace. I didn’t stop working, much for my own sanity than anything. I’d worked hard over the years and enjoyed success in my trade that I was loathed to give up. I am my work and I feel no shame in saying how much I love the world of work as much as I do my family.
Below are some gems that worked for me, both when they were tiny and now that they are older, I hope they help you too.
What worked for me.
1. Sleep. As much as I could get. When they slept, I slept in the afternoon. The rest gave me the energy and gusto I needed to work in the evenings from about 6 or 7pm when they had gone down for the night, I’d work happily until about 10pm when I would force myself to down tools and go to bed. I never worked in the morning, this just left me flattened for the day – this option works for others but not for me, the evening shift with afternoon sleep was my golden ticket.
2. Regularity. We humans are creatures of routine, never so much more than in early childhood. Each day we would be out in our chosen activity (park, a museum on a rainy day or tots group) by 10am. Up and out did it for us.
3. Having a space to work at home. So, once the shed was in I utterly loved it (bet you knew I would).
4. Employing a cleaner. I know, I know but if you are working – albeit at home for almost naff-all money (remember you are working at a reduced energy rate, don’t expect too much of yourself) you don’t need to be thinking about the washing up and how much the loo needs cleaning. 2hrs per week did me grand. Outsource – it’s justified.
5. Friends. Those tots groups are a golden place to find and meet other knackered persons that are experiencing similar things. You need coffee mornings, they are good for the soul.
Idea’s that help me today.
1. Podcasts. I love them. Think about your interests and there will be podcasts about them. I’m an avid podcast listener, I learn so much as I am painting away daily. Most of my chosen ones are business orientated (told you I was a bread-head) but you can find them on pretty much any subject now, subscribe and switch on whilst changing nappies.
2. Click & Collect, Food Deliveries & Veg Boxes. Ok, so I sound like a dinosaur now, but the only grocery deliverer was Ocado back then, linked to Waitrose – way out of our financial sphere. Today most big stores offer delivery, make use of them if you can.
3. Three freezers. No, I am not joking. Fill them up with meat, vegetables, fruit & bread reducing the lost hours spent in supermarkets. At the same time as your megashop, get in all the cleaning stuff, etc, that you need for the month or six weeks ahead. My three freezers keep us going forever and I only have to head out to the local market (on my way to work now) once a week for all the other bits I need – it’s so nice not to have to shop weekly or bi-weekly.
4. Freeze food (freezers again) When you make a meal, make two or syphon off a third to freeze for another day. Do you have any lovely aunties, mums, etc come and see you? Ask them to bring you something lovely for the freezer! If they really want to treat you, take them to Cook!
5. Apps, like podcasts there are gazillions which can help us in every way. I’m a massive advocate of CLUE, the app which tells me when my period is due, reducing the need to wonder why I am such a grumpy cow and feeling lousy once a month.
6 . Get your child benefit in pound coins! This sounds utterly bonkers but I find it works brilliantly! Once a month I go to the bank and get my £137 in a few fivers, mainly £1 coins and some £2 coins too. I leave the bank weighed down with cash and it feels rather brilliant. The money goes into a pot kept in my kitchen cupboard and each time my children need money for school activities, a Friday trip to the shop on the way home, I reach for the pot – relieving the stress of having no cash (I hardly ever have any in my purse now). Of course some months the entire deposit goes on new shoes but, generally, I do my best to keep it as separate as I can from other monies.
7. Market day. Thursdays are Market Day here where I live. Taking cash from my pot, normally about £25, I buy all the fresh fruit and veg I can carry, a loaf of freshly baked bread and a chocolate brownie that becomes the after-school snack and two bunches of flowers if I have enough left over. I do my best to do this weekly and feel cheated if I can’t get there and miss a week. Seriously, all this for £25? Result. Shopping this way also gives me a lovely feeling of supporting my local community.
These are simply ideas that work for me, do you have any gems to share? I’d love to hear them.
Much love, Sam x
Sam Barnes has been a practising artist for 25 years. Throughout her career, she has had her own gallery, worked with hundreds of artists in making and marketing their own works and exhibited her own extensively. Her work has been successfully published & licensed many times. Sam is passionate about artists, makers and creatives earning a decent living from what they do. Our world needs new and beautiful things and artists deserve liveable incomes. Those two things are possible. Sam writes from her first-hand experience and occasionally works 1:1 with others.
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