Women are flocking to small business. We’re packing up our corporate suits and fleeing the corporate jungle to run our own race. The lure of being your own boss shines brightly for women especially those looking to find a better balance between earning an income and raising a family.
The number of women owned businesses is booming according the ABS Census 2016. We are taking to small business at a faster rate than men – up 7.6% over the last decade (504,838), compared to an increase of 0.3% for men.
But … and this is a big but … women are finding the juggle is wearing them down. The reality of running your own business can be (and is) a hard slog. A third of these women run businesses has children under 15 years of age, that means double the work because those pesky stats show that even though women are taking on more in business and at work, they are still doing the bulk of the housework (come on guys, help a little more).
Here’s the rub. Despite the calls for equality, parity, to be treated the same, woman deal with challenges of business and family differently to men. So many of us live daily with guilt and overwhelm, feeling bad because we are trying to put our businesses first, be the consummate professional so dinner is often late to the table or the washing is not done or a kid misses acting class because you had a deadline.
Then the guilt. The ever consuming tsunami of guilt that envelopes the woman of the house, driving her to drink (1 in 5 women over 40 are drinking daily) and worse … suicide rates amongst women have increased 26 percent.
Women are under siege. But have we done this to ourselves?
The number one thing women complain about when at the beauty salon are their families (they are also the number one thing they brag about). Salon owners say the women who come to see them are burnt out and so desperate for time to themselves that when they lay on the salon bed, they sigh in pleasure. Then the stories start of driving Johnny to this lesson and then to that lesson and then to sports training. How she must get home to make dinner for the family, so they can eat before she runs them somewhere else and when they’re all in bed, she’ll go back into her office to finish her work.
Now, this is not the same for all women. We all have our different crosses to bear. Back to have we done this ourselves?
The keyword is boundaries. So many do not set them and are at the mercy of the ebb and flow of family dynamics. When we set up a business or are working fulltime, the whole family must work together to make life easier for each other. It is called sharing the load. Sadly, so many families still rely on ‘mum’ for everything.
When you run a business from home, it is easy for people to encroach on your time. They must think you are just lying around watching Ellen, drinking champers or hubby thinks you are just playing at your hobby. If your partner and kids want to avoid the ‘f@#k’ off face when they interrupt you for the 10th time, here are some tips on setting boundaries.
- Business set up – this is the best time to establish boundaries with your family. Tell them what your work hours will be and let them know during those hours you will not be taking calls from them to answer, ‘where is the vegemite?’. Set up an office space with a door, if you can, so you can close it when working; this lets people know to stay way. After all, if you were working in a ‘real’ office, would people just drop in on you or come asking domestic questions?
- Housework – whose responsibility is it? Every person living in the house. It does not matter what age your kids are, they can still pitch in to help. Here is a list of age appropriate chores. Every little bit helps. Sometimes we have to make lists, so hubby knows what is expected of him.
- Expectations – let your family know the first three years of a new business is time consuming and you may not have time to do all the things you used to. Let them in on your dream and goals, so they can champion you all the way. This means a couple of times a week dinner is toast and canned soup (if they have a problem with that, they can always cook their own).
- Priorities – planning is often seen as a dirty word, but it can be your best friend. Make time in your schedule for YOU. Yes, you. Time to go for a walk – you will think better with exercise. Time to eat. Time to spend with your family – quality is better than quantity. Time to do something you love. It is ok to be selfish with your time. Not enough women are and that is why so many are burning out.
- Get help – you really do not have to do it all yourself. Aside from training your family to pitch in, reach out to friends and colleagues. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Being vulnerable is not fashionable … yet, but it should be. There is nothing wrong with admitting things are not going well. Seek out collaborations with other women in business – what can you do for each other in a skills exchange? If your budget can cope, get a coach or mentor to help you along the bumpy road of the first few years in business.
Written by Nicole van Hattem
She Society is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.