One of the questions I get asked most by aspiring VAs, is one that for years I was completely unqualified to answer: “Will I be able to juggle being a mum and working as a VA?”
Back then as a singleton, I didn’t really know… As a multi-VA I often got tales of woe from VAs submitting work late because their child had been sick or had helpfully removed all the letters from their keyboard. I’m pretty unsympathetic about that kind of thing, because the deadlines on the work I outsource are short and they shouldn’t wait til the deadline to let me know there is a problem – and invariably they would know before they said yes to the work too. Those kinds of excuses annoy me. Now as a mum, I probably have more of an understanding of the problems, but I’m still not very sympathetic. Mostly because I have a lot of back up systems in place and believe other mums should too.
So how do you go from being a singleton and responsible only for your own welfare, to being a mum who is pretty much responsible for everything that goes on within the house? Everything from where Craig’s socks are to buying bread seem to now fall under my remit. Here’s what I have learnt:
- I pay half the bills therefore my job is every bit as important as my husband’s. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s not worth you working because you’d have to pay for all the childcare… your partner is half liable for those costs too! He doesn’t want to pay for it or have strangers looking after his child? Okay then, he’ll be speaking to his boss about flexible working!
- On the subject of childcare – get some! Even if you intend to work strange hours, there will still be tasks you need completed during business hours and you need to have a time once per week when you can schedule them. I know a couple of mums who “child swap” once a week so they can get work done – it works well!
- Get a back up: Chickenpox, V&D… Oh the joys of kids. They will get sick, it is not an unforeseen circumstance. Have an arrangement with a family member, a friend or even a babysitter who would be prepared to look after your child at home if they are sick. If there’s literally no one, then guess what? Daddy is going to be taking over as soon as he gets in from work so you can get caught up on the work you should have done during the day.
- I need a lie in once a week in order to stay healthy. It’s a non-negotiable.
- There’s no need to go to the supermarket. Online shopping rocks and I don’t have to lug it all home either!
- The house being a mess is not my issue, it’s a family issue. We have a cleaner who blitzes once a week – it’s an essential crutch to my business to not have to think about the cleaning and she is as much as part of my business team as any of my VAs… possibly more.
- I don’t peel veggies – not potatoes, not carrots… they are getting boiled anyway and most of the nutrients are just under the skin.
- I don’t wash up more than once a day. I swear I could spend hours each day washing up all the random cups and pots and bottles which get dumped in our kitchen. Instead I ignore them and skip the 15 different times that I’d have to fill the sink to wash one or two items.
- Ironing doesn’t happen in this house – fold clothes whilst warm from the tumble drier – no one can tell the difference.
- Justeat lets you order takeaway and pay via credit card. It’s not going to kill anyone if you do it occasionally to get through a big piece of work.
- Cbeebies is terribly useful…. That one’s self-explanatory really!
- Switch off. One of the main reasons I’m able to work from home and still make money is that I have an office that I can close the door on. That works both ways – I close it on the household chores in the morning, and I close it on the office stuff in the evenings. Taking a break recharges you and will make your job a billion times easier.
Okay so this is just a starter from my own personal experiences… I’d really like to come up with some mummy tips for those working from home which we can compile into some sort of “How To” guide. So what’s worked for you? Is there some slummy-mummy tip which I need to be doing to shave a few minutes each day off my routine?