And Hope Designs tea towel as modelled by Anna’s 4-year-old showing off his bare knees and wellies

6 ways I am juggling small business and motherhood this summer

Summertime and more specifically the summer school holidays are a difficult time for many parents, and especially mums who also run a small business. The juggle is REAL!!! Without a doubt, working for yourself gives you more flexibility, and I am so grateful for that, but when you do everything for the business, having small children under your feet all day every day makes getting work done much harder.

Hi! I’m Anna, I own And Hope Designs, a small stationery and gifts business founded in 2020, and I am mum to four children who are currently 8, 7, 4 and 3. We live in Belfast, so have the entirety of July and August off school, meaning I have all four around for two whole months each summer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with them and going out to do fun things with them, but it is also a reality that things in the business have to slow down a little because there just isn’t time for everything.

My children are always my top priority, they are my main job and I work around them. I realise this is not possible for everyone but I will always do everything to be around with them as much as possible. Therefore, it is the business and my running of it that has to adapt.

The good thing is that summer is a natural slump in a lot of industries, and certainly this is the case for most small businesses; while I could be using it to prepare for Q4, in this season of life, I am choosing to make the most of the slump to rest and spend time with the children while keeping things ticking over.

Here are six things I am doing this summer to keep things running smoothly without burning myself out.

1. Book the children in to a week of camp each.

The first week of the summer holidays, our eight-year-old went on her first residential camp with the Faith Mission in Portadown. She had an absolute blast, made memories to last a lifetime and is already talking about going back next year. Our seven-year-old is also excited about joining her there next summer. This was also handy for me as I slowed things down a little for the 8 weeks of summer. My two middle children are going to a day camp each day next week so that I can get a few more bits done, sorted and automated before we go away and I take a complete break for 2 weeks.

2. Co-work with a child!

Hear me out on this one because it’s fun if you can make it work. My seven-year-old thrives on one-on-one time, which is not super handy when he has 3 siblings I also need to take care of.

The way my husband’s work pattern works made this possible a couple of mornings. While he has looked after 3 of the kids, I took the kid who needs that time alone with me to a coffee shop. I had a painting I needed to finish for a client, so I brought that and he brought a book he was devouring (a David Walliams if you’re after recommendations!). We chose buns, he read portions of his book to me (and some in his head too), we chatted and I painted. This might have been less effective if I was working on a screen, but if you have a bit of creative work you need to do, this can be a good and fun option that meets relational family needs and business needs as well.

3. Reduce the work load.

Over the summer, I have decided to keep things to a minimum. I have one project I am working on, and mostly do that in the evenings. I also post out orders each morning and the children enjoy a walk to the post box and take it in turns to pop the letters in the box. I’m not doing much by way of social media, and my email marketing is reduced. I am absorbing some reduced income, trusting that revenue will be higher in the autumn and coming up to Christmas. I have also worked on getting some new products ordered and they are on pre-order on my website, which works out really well timing wise: I am getting income now for products I don’t yet need to deal with, and which will be posted when the children are back at school so I’ll have more time. 

 4. Batch create and automate!

This requires a bit of forward planning, but can also be done in an evening or two over the summer when you think of something that needs doing. Wherever you can, automate. I have written some emails ahead of time and scheduled one a week for the next 4 weeks. Batch writing them was a time saver as well, as I was in the zone. I have significantly decreased my social media posting over the last 3 weeks, but have also batch made some Pinterest pins and some Instagram posts and scheduled them to post regularly so I’m not MIA for weeks and weeks!

5. Play park and email

This is a regular feature of my summer - we go to the play park and the children have a great time on slides and roundabouts, making new friends and burning off energy while I catch up on my emails. Fun fact, this blog post has been almost entirely written at a play park.

Emails and blog posts are best written in one sitting, but are also easy enough to get back in to if they’re interrupted, and, for me anyway, need moments to think of the right words so I spend a lot of my time emailing with my head up in between sentences, which gives me time to check on everyone as I think up the next sentence.

Rainy days have been known for “dvd and email” where I sit in the same room as the children and email while they watch something. They are far more likely to behave if I’m in the room, even if I’m not paying attention to the movie, and bonus points for when I make pop corn for a sweet cinema at home experience.

Other things that can be done from the comfort of a play park bench are Pinterest pins, blog posts (like this one) and brainstorming ideas or browsing Journorequests on Twitter. I’m sure there are many others, but this is what I have been doing in the park this summer so far!

6. Change and adapt to the new rhythm.

I have made the decision to not replenish anything that is close to going out of stock over the summer. This means there is one thing less to keep tabs on and one thing less to do when things do go out of stock. I’ll have a good look at what I have at the end of august and place printed orders then to be fully restocked and back up to speed for September.

Over the summer, my daily rhythm has had to change. While I am doing less than usual, anything I am still doing (like some commissioned paintings and projects for other businesses) is done in the evening once the children are in bed. I usually get a lot done in the morning during term time while 3/4 are at school, but this is just not feasible over the summer so I give my full attention to the children on the day and transition to business mode in the evening. The longer, lighter days really help with this, I think I would burn out if I had to do this in the winter though!

Find pockets of time to do the things you need to, assess how your day needs to run and see what you’re left with. Your daily and weekly rhythms will likely look different to mine, but changing things around a little and adapting to the current season is the recipe for success for mums, and this includes mums running a business. It’s just a season. 

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