Five tips for business owners balancing childcare and work during lockdown

Five tips for business owners balancing childcare and work during lockdown
Chris Goodfellow
Chris GoodfellowCEOInkwell

Posted: Thu 16th Apr 2020

The lockdown has turned our lives upside down. Parents across the country can be heard saying, "I love spending more time with my kids, but…". Those that run businesses have the unenviable task of balancing a rapidly changing work environment with childcare.

How can you be a flawless lockdown parent? Is it possible to teach your kids calligraphy while your burgeoning business empire keeps growing?

The short answers to those questions are "we don't know" and "probably not".

Being a parent and a business owner is tough at the best of times. If you're ambitious and care about your kids, you'll probably feel guilty about the amount of time you spend with one or the other. Or, more likely than not, both.

This article provides a patchwork survival guide. It includes advice from parents whose kids have pen on their shirts and mud on their knees. People who have spent the last three weeks rewriting cash flow forecasts to a backing track of screaming toddlers. We hope it helps.

1. Don't be too hard on yourself

Majida Burch is the co-founder of interior design company Brennan and Burch and has two girls aged 11 and 12.

"For people who aren't trying to work, it's a lot easier to paint Easter eggs and do stuff. But we have to juggle being a good teacher, mum and running a business - that's a pretty big challenge," she said.

Go Do productivity coach Karen Eyre-White stressed the need to manage your expectations and concentrate on what you can control while the world is in turmoil.

"One of the most important things to acknowledge and come to peace with is that this is going to have an impact on how much you can get done," she said.

For business owners that are also parents, that means realising you're not going to do a perfect job on either front and giving yourself a break.

2. Create a schedule for the whole family

Rebecca Saunders closed beauty and wellbeing brand Seekology's shop and moved online in a matter of weeks, while managing a small toddler and a newborn baby. She recommends creating a schedule.

"What we've found helpful is at least having a draft routine for the day. Have an agreement with your partner about who's working. It can be different day to day, but it's helpful. Although obviously kids can upend that, particularly when they're little." she said.

You can read more about how Seekology and other wellness brands have adapted to the crisis here.

Majida relies on a routine too. Before the lockdown, she kept nine-to-six working hours. Now, the family's adapting to the new routine and establishing boundaries.

"Fitting in work requires a dedicated space for work and calls and an understanding by the kids that mum has to work but will be available later for hugs etc.

"They know if the door is closed I'm on a call and they can mouth things at me off camera but shouldn't interrupt," she said.

3. Know your work priorities

Having less time for the business and working from home means the systems you use to stay productive are even more important. Here are a few things to try:

  • Work in blocks where you concentrate on a single task

  • Prioritise relentlessly and regularly evaluate what you're working on

  • Eat the frog

Routine tasks can be done while you're watching the kids. However, separating work and childcare reduces stress and allows you to be more present. Figure out what works for you.

4. Keeping children occupied

Structured activities like online learning games, board games and puzzles can be a great way to keep your kids busy while you work.

Majida believes in the importance of staying fit and had a few suggestions for kid-friendly workouts:

  1. Joe Wicks: You can find PE with Joe on his YouTube channel

  2. Everyone Active: Majida's gym has shared family-friendly workouts

When trying to make some space for a meeting, "a bit of carrot and stick doesn't hurt", she added. Majida might ask her children to let her work with the promise they can have a movie and popcorn night, for example.

Rebecca's street has set up a WhatsApp group, with families taking part in a quiz and the children drawing rainbows on windows.

Little Kickers founder Christine Kelly's children are 17 and 19-years-old and back living at home while their universities are closed. While they don't get out of bed until midday, they're both helping out with the business. Her daughter is doing social media and her son's recording coaching videos.

"We hang a cloth up from a show we did in Frankfurt that has our logo on it. Get the kit on and put some astroturf down. He has imagination-based games: some are made up and some are based on regular coaching. I sit there with an iPhone and a gimbal and film him," Christine explained.

You can watch Little Kickers free football lessons on YouTube.

5. Looking after your children's mental health

Majida highlighted the importance of keeping an eye on your children's mental health during lockdown. She said exercise is a big part of that, as well as making sure they're not under too much pressure.

"It's important to understand that they want to be at school, even if they say they don't, and they've had that taken away. Cut them some slack and have an open door," she said.

Spillane Consulting supports mental health practitioners, education professionals and a number of small business owners. Founder Emma Spillane's nine and 10-year-old children are adopted and have attachment difficulties.

"It means they're incredibly sensitive to change, are hypervigilant generally - even more so at the moment - and struggle with regulation, which makes for some intense ups and downs in our current situation," she said.

Emma is homeschooling but says she's against pushing it too much, because the children's emotional wellbeing is paramount and needs careful handling right now.

The routine Emma's family have established helps the kids feel safe as they know what's coming next (you can read more about her "Sanity Saver Schedule" on her blog and check out some of the resources she uses to keep the kids busy).

It's important to make time for yourself too, Emma added:

"It's been important to carve out some 'me' time and that can only happen when the kids are in bed and if I schedule it in."

Chris Goodfellow
Chris GoodfellowCEOInkwell
Chris has over a decade of experience writing about small businesses and startups. He runs Inkwell, a content agency that helps companies that sell to small business owners grow their audiences through content marketing. You can find him on Twitter at @CPGoodfellow.

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