Thriving working mothers know that succeeding in business and family also means caring for themselves. While female business owners often have the flexibility to schedule vacations and self-care whenever they'd like, some put it off to focus on the needs of clients, the business, and their role as a caregiver. But the reality is everyone needs to recharge from time to time if they want to stay focused and productive.
LegalZoom spoke with powerful, female entrepreneurs to see how they balance the demands of kids, business, and their own wellness. It's certainly a juggling act, but it can be done by following—and sticking to—a basic plan. Here's how to get started:
1. Prioritize Breaks
One major challenge of entrepreneurship is that no one else is setting limits on how much you work or telling you how to structure your time. Being proactive about scheduling breaks into your workdays and weekly or monthly calendar is an essential part of your self-care routine.
"I always try to take a lunch break, and lunch with a friend or neighbor is better," says Nicole DiMella, mother of an 8-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and owner of Lemon Snap Image Services, a photo research service based in Morristown, New Jersey. "It breaks up the workday, and it allows me to talk to a grown-up, even if only for an hour."
Those used to 9-5 workplaces may take weekends for granted, but entrepreneurs often feel the pull to fill every day of the week with income-generating activity. Lauren Harris, founder and CEO of Squiggl, a creative marketing company in Lexington, Kentucky, resists this urge, making a point of logging off on weekends to spend time with her husband and 4-year-old son. The family is expecting another boy in early 2020.
"I work incredibly hard Monday through Friday, so Saturday and Sunday are gifts to myself and my family that I deserve to enjoy," she says.
2. Schedule Self-Care
Prioritizing time for yourself can be far easier said than done as the demands of entrepreneurship and motherhood continue apace. Sharon Lee Thony, founder, and principal of digital marketing firm SLT Consulting, solves this problem by assigning herself regular self-care using Asana, the same project-management tool she uses to schedule and assign client work to her team.
Growing her business from a solo act to an enterprise of 15 consultants and 30+ clients within a single year in New York City while also raising her two boys, ages 5 and 7, showed her just how important it is to take self-care tasks as seriously as business tasks.
"Before I started to use Asana to project-manage my' me time,' it was too easy to let my own needs get passed over," she says. "Now that self-care is articulated in the same platform as other work-related tasks for my job, it's made me realize that my own self-care is something I need to value just as much as client deadlines."
3. Give Yourself Time to Breathe and Reflect
It can be a good idea to build in occasional days off to ensure that you have the space you need to rejuvenate in the midst of the ongoing activity of life. Jucel Meneses, mom of an 11-year-old son and creative director at Haute Creative Studio, a design and illustration business in Ormond Beach, Florida, takes a full day off every two to three weeks to care for herself.
"That solo day assures that I don't have meetings scheduled or things that would take the attention from my own needs and my family," she says. "I might use it to redecorate my space, to stroll by the beach, or go have a late breakfast — anything that can get my creative juices flowing again."
You can do this in small increments as well, carving out time for yourself each day. Harris does so every morning, waking up before the others in her household to have coffee, meditate, set intentions for the day, and do positive affirmations and gratitude journaling.
"[These are] all the things I've heard about for years but never knew I needed myself until I started my own business," she says. "Finding balance as an entrepreneur, mother, wife, daughter, and friend is difficult. But taking the time to be mindful, grateful, and kind to myself makes it feel possible."
4. Plan Vacations Well Ahead
Taking time away from work for a vacation is another form of self-care and should be planned with the same seriousness and intention. Harris gives clients six to eight weeks' notice for any time she'll be away and often works longer hours in the lead-up to the trip to make sure she's leaving all her clients in a good position.
Thony and her family take vacations at least once every other month, including weekend trips and longer journeys. She makes longer vacations work by dedicating blocks of time for work during the trip. For example, while spending a month in Brazil this past summer, she worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays and spent almost all the rest of the week with her family.
Meneses agrees that keeping up with clients with a light touch during vacation helps make travel possible. "I take my iPad and laptop with me everywhere I go," she says. "I don't work on hard concepts or research while I'm out, so all I have to do is keep channels of communication open to continue the process."
Maintaining a business and life as a mother can easily feel like a near-impossible task, but the flexibility afforded by an entrepreneurial career gives these women the ability to design these busy lives on their own terms.
"Between working full time, daycare duties, household chores, taking time for self-care and nurturing relationships — there are times when life feels overwhelming," Harris says. "But the beauty in being an entrepreneur is that I can set my own terms for success and take time to recharge when I need it. The flexibility that working for myself has provided is truly priceless."