Welcoming our third baby Mila into our family has been as easy I’d hoped and as hard as I’d feared. I knew this time around would be different – having two older children (aged seven and four when Mila was born) was always going to be a totally different experience to having a baby and a toddler like I did first time around. This time has been different for so many reasons not least of all because Mila has actually slept as a newborn whereas my second child Will, did not. It’s also been different because I’ve had the challenge of running my own business alongside being the Mum of a newborn for the third time. Mila is now five months old and the experience has been so vastly different to my last time it has seemed like a dream.
I spent a lot of time ‘hoping’ for a better sleeping baby. If I’m honest Mila was a bit of a bonus baby (my husband thought we were done…. we were not!). I have always wanted three kids but Will threw the plan way off track and it took a long time to be ready for another baby. I wasn’t sure how our family dynamics would cope if Mila was like Will and kept the whole house up every night. We have been incredibly lucky though that Mila has been a fantastic sleeper (up until her four-month sleep regression) and the stressed and highly strung life I led with Will hasn’t surfaced (yet….). This is the easy part of it. I have slept. We as a family have slept. It won’t always be this way (as she has proved in the past week) but to have had such an easy start has been a true blessing and one which I’m so very grateful for.
And the hard side of it….this almost entirely relates to trying to balance two older kids, a baby and a business. Mila is by no means a difficult baby. She’s our easiest of the bunch. But life with three children is challenging. They’re all different ages with different needs and they require different things from me. And some days it’s really easy and it just gels. And other days they each need something from me that I don’t have to give. With two children I’d never felt that either of them was deprived of my attention – with three I feel that way regularly. Some days Mila’s needs aren’t met as well as I would have liked and she’s been stuck in front of the TV for most of the day. Other days my older two bear the brunt of my tiredness or stress and yelling is my main form of communication. Regardless of the day we’ve had I have a pact with my kids that we don’t go to bed angry and even if I’ve yelled and they’ve learnt some new swear words that day ultimately I know they go to bed loved.
Now add onto all of the above, a business. A loved, deeply cherished business. A business that I built from literally nothing. By myself. No business partner, no co-owner, no-one to bounce ideas off of or get help from. Everything in this business I have built (I do have an amazing logistics manager in my husband and a very handy packing manger in my Dad ;-)) But I’m the social media guru, book keeper, wholesale manager, creative director, author, sometimes artist and admin bitch in this business and let me just say – it’s a lot. It was a lot before Mila was born and it’s certainly become even more since she’s been here. I’ve taken time off which I’m so grateful to have been able to do. I have cherished every single moment with Mila, especially as she’s my last babe. My attention has been fully on her the last 5 months but I both need to as well as want to, keep growing my business. And I’m lucky I can work around Mila and my other children and fit things in when she sleeps. But when she doesn’t sleep. Well that’s when things have proven to be hard. Really bloody hard. And there are things I wish I’d put into place while I was pregnant that could be helping me now and things I’m so glad I managed to implement which has made life easier. I thought I’d share my list of things I did that were useful prior to maternity leave and things I wish I’d done to make things easier now:
- Outsource packing – This one was pretty simple. For any product based business owner we all know that packing orders takes up time. Valuable time that could be spent working on your business rather than working inside it. I knew I could never keep up with packing orders once Mila was here (I was struggling even before she was born) and it was the most obvious thing to outsource. I’m very lucky I’ve been able to outsource it to my Dad and husband. If they can’t keep up with the level of orders or something changes then I will outsource to someone else as there’s no way going forward that I’ll be able to go back to packing orders.
- Planning – It’s probably become obvious if you’ve read my other blogs or followed me on Instagram or Facebook that I’m a planner. In September every year I start planning for the year ahead. I have a spreadsheet with a calendar for each month that I fill in with what is happening. It details where my main income source will be coming from (sales, working with influencers, stockists campaigns etc) each month as well as what social media information will be required (posts, stories and newsletters). It also contains all the school holidays and big sales events (After pay Sales, Black Friday, Birthday Sales, Boxing Day etc) so I can plan ahead and do other promotions around these big events. If you’re a small business owner and you DON’T do this I would highly recommend! I live by this spreadsheet and have found planning ahead to be key to the success of my business
- Hire a Virtual Assistant – This is one thing I didn’t do but wish I had and will be looking to do in the next 6-12 months. I love sharing the motherhood side of my life in my Instagram stories and have never found it a chore but posting to social media platforms and managing newsletters and graphics and stockist requests is very time consuming and something I will eventually look to outsource.
- Automate – I automated email campaigns while on maternity leave and had a heap of graphics and sales posts ready to go when I needed to use them. Anything you can think of that can be automated in your business is worth doing. I also had FB ads running the whole time so I didn’t have to worry about marketing.
- Know your money – No surprises here! I had a spreadsheet which worked out the costs that were coming out while I was on maternity leave and reduced any subscription costs that weren’t necessary. This included things like Adobe products and dropping back a tier on my Shopify plan as I wasn’t using all the bells and whistles stuff while I was on leave. I also knew the few things that were already planned for and had to be paid while I was on leave (the printing for my new book The Amazing 123) and had all these costs factored into what I needed to spend. Whether you’re on maternity leave or not it’s crucial to understand where your income is coming from on a monthly basis and where your money is going.
- Spend money to save money (or time) – To my point above – know where all your money is going and equally know that if you want to save money (or for me, save time) you need to spend money. I’ve always been a big advocate of spending money on advertising and business coaching to ensure your business is being seen by as many people as possible and that there is always a direction to what you’re doing in your business. For me I was focused on saving time rather then money but it’s still the same principal. I wanted to save any time I could. Time that could be spent with my baby girl. And it was worth it because I look back at those first few months and know I was there and didn’t miss any of that crucial newborn bonding.
Trying to get back into the swing of things with the business has been challenging - it’s been harder then I imagined. I’ve also set myself some pretty big goals for the business in the next year and I am always thinking one step ahead of where I am. My vision is pretty big so I need to work pretty hard. It would help if Mila wasn’t going through her four-month sleep regression just as I’m starting to work on this but life doesn’t give you what you want without a few challenges. And one thing about Mila – she was very challenging to make but it has been anything but challenging being her Mum. There are challenging days and most days I go to bed thinking about what I could have done better. But I think that’s both Motherhood and having your own business – in both aspects of my life I’m constantly thinking about how to be a better Mum or how to improve my business. The line between the two is blurred as they’re very intertwined working from home around my children. But as challenging as the hard days are it’s virtually impossible to be anything but grateful for something that you so desperately wished for.