Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘work from home’

About Time

The Secret to Work-Life Balance is Trusting that it will all be okay in the endWhen I was little, I used to listen to the older and wiser people in my life.
(And I read a lot.)

I picked up a common thread.

“I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time.”
“I wish I had spent more time with my family.”
“I wish I had spent more time with my kids.”
“I wish I had spent more time on what really matters.”

I vowed to learn from those older, wiser folk. I promised myself I would use my time wisely.
Focus on things that really mattered. Be wise myself.

As I got older, I thought that’s what I was doing.

Yet the more I did, the less satisfied I felt.

I was tired and irritable, and the important things seemed to be flashing past me before I had a moment to grab hold of them.

I imagined that having children would give me such a slap of perspective that I’d automatically get my priorities right. Especially since I was already focused on doing so.

But when I had kids, all I could think of was earning enough to give them everything they need. And I don’t mean horse riding lessons and ski trips every holiday.

I mean food.
A place to stay.

You know – important stuff.

Here’s what I discovered: important stuff clashes with important stuff. Spending time with my family clashes with supporting my family.

(And just between you and me, I have no idea how to fix that.)

I started to think that it would be terribly useful to meet one of those older, wiser people who, with the benefit of wisdom and experience, had discovered the true value of spending time with family (especially kids), and was making that discovery a practical reality in his or her life.

I really felt that there’d be a whole lot of wisdom and learning to glean from such a person.

Recently, I was lucky enough to find just such a person. He’s a colleague and a mentor. His business trajectory so far very closely mirrors mine. His kids are similar relative ages to mine (just twenty-odd years older, of course).

His life took some turns I hope mine won’t, such as divorce. But otherwise, I could see that I could learn a lot from this guy.

The best part (for me) is the fact that he has a daughter not much younger than my youngest.  So even though he has adult children (and even a grandchild), he also has the opportunity to live out the wisdom he learned in his younger years.

Whenever we’d speak, he’d remind me that time spent with family – especially children – is by far the most valuable investment of your time.

We both agree on this point.

But as we worked together, I started to notice a troubling trend: he has even less time available for his kids than I do. Seriously. And that’s saying something.

So really, I don’t have an answer. Maybe when I am old and wise, I will have a clearer idea of how these things work.

But I’m starting to think the best thing – the only thing – to do is to make peace with it.

I’m not saying “go with the flow” (although often that IS good advice). I’m not saying don’t make improvements if they’re there to be made.

It’s just that, sometimes, I’ll be working flat-out, and my kids will pick that moment – in the middle of that deadline – to have a meltdown. There go two hours of work. Two hours of sleep. Two hours of keeping a promise to a client … But they’re two precious hours that I’ve given my child, and that I don’t regret. Sleep deprivation and all.

Sometimes it goes the other way: the kids are doing something amazingly fun and I’d love to join them, but work beckons and deadlines must – and can – be met. Then the deadlines win.

In the end, I hope it all balances out. I really hope the clients are patient and understanding, and happy enough with my work that they don’t find someone with fewer time commitments. I hope my children are healthy and balanced enough to know that sometimes putting them first meant putting their physical needs (clothes, food, shelter) ahead of their desire to spend time with me.

I hope they all forgive me.

I hope it all turns out okay.

And I choose to trust that it will.


The unbearable silliness of being

I can't believe I work this hard to be this poorToday is not a great day. In fact, it’s the tail end of a not-a-great-fortnight, following hard on the heels of a not-great-month before.

What makes it so “not-great”, you ask? The simplest, silliest of things: cold, hard cash. Or rather, the lack thereof.

Not too long ago I was having a heart-to-heart with a good friend, and I was explaining how lucky I felt to have such simple problems. Really, our only challenge is a lack of cash flow. We have a wonderful, happy family. We rent a beautiful home in an amazing part of the world, for a very reasonable monthly fee. We have great health (sorta), and no scandals or drama to speak of.

But today I am less enthusiastic about our so-called “simple problem”.

To tell the truth, I’m downright despondent.

The essence of it is that I am the breadwinner, and I haven’t been paid (pretty much at all) by my clients in two months. There’s no reason for it, bar a poor economy, and the unfortunate knock-on effect of my clients not having been paid by their clients, who haven’t been paid by their clients, and so on. It’s not the result of non-delivery or poor workmanship on my part. In fact, they’re delighted with my work, referring me to all their friends and associates, and apologising profusely for the delayed payment. They love my work! They just can’t pay for it. Which would be okay …

But it’s all of them. All at once.

And we have no buffer. There are no credit cards or overdrafts or provident funds or savings accounts we can raid. We’ve even exhausted all the Banks-of-Dad we’ve ever had access to.

Yes, I hear you gasp out there in Internetland. How very heedless and poorly planned. Unwise. Foolhardy. Stupid.

We weren’t always like this. We had savings and budgets (for the next twelve years!) and planny-plans. We had medical aid and insurance (household, vehicle and life). We had money set aside for education. We had in-store credit and bank credit cards. We owned cars and houses. (Well, A house. But still. We owned it). And even when we ventured into self-employment it was far less seat-of-your-pants than it sounds. We had those savings I mentioned. We had resources. I did my research, I had my client base. I had another of those shiny planny-plans.

And I had faith. Scads of it. I believed my friends when they sold me businesses that would make us rich. (Free advice, kids: no one ever sells a SUCCESSFUL business. Why would they? If it’s for sale, step away slowly and tear up that cheque). I believed that our combined experience and wisdom and determination and work ethic and sheer grit would never fail us. I believed in our support systems, and the kindness of human nature. And I believed that, by doing my bit for God, He’d provide for me. Now, to be fair, the Bible doesn’t actually teach that. But churches do. Pastors do. Serve in Sunday School, pay your tithe and be faithful whenever the doors are open or there’s a job to be done, and you can’t but be blessed. It’ll all work out.


That approach leaves you over-extended, over-committed, burnt-out and bitter.

As it stands, I work all the time. From sun up to midnight. It never seems to end, Monday to Sunday. And I just can’t believe I have to work this hard to be this poor. For certain, I am doing something horribly wrong. Something foolish. Something unwise. But what in the world is it? No one seems to know. People offer platitudes: “It’ll come right.” “April is never a good time for small business.” “The economy is bad.” “The fault is with the customer, not with you.”

Pah. Again.

It’s not even as if our expenses are enormous, and they’d be even less without the sea-anchor of debt we’ve chained to ourselves in the last few business collapses. Having closed three businesses already makes me reluctant to close a fourth – and anyway, how would I support us if I did? I feel like Ross Gellar in Friends: serial divorcer, although the consequences are somewhat more devastating. (At least, so it seems to me).

So, if anyone out there has any ideas on how to get clients to pay, or get paying clients for what is generally acknowledged to be really great content creation, or how to make ends meet AND get sleep AND spend time with my kids, I’m all ears.



Peace made practical

Last year I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and fibromyalgia, as I’ve explained ad nauseam (sorry for that). I won’t go into the boring details, except to say that the diagnosis launched a journey of self-discovery. I should actually say it deepened the existing journey of self-discovery I was already on. And then we moved. Into a bigger house. (Can I just say: moving sucks! But more space is very nice).

It’s been a very good thing.

For one thing, it’s forced me to respect how I’m wired in a way that I never have before. I’ve been trying to fight it all this time, as if certain basic aspects of myself are somehow less desirable than those of another person. Academically, I’ve always known this is a dangerous route, as it is hard to sustain under pressure, and a terrible example to set for impressionable young daughters.

So now we begin to make the academic understanding apply in practical ways to my situation. While this may sound unreasonably petty and very OCD, a significant contributing factor to my body’s failure to thrive is mess. I like order – rhythms and structure and logic and peace. I do not like mess. And in chaos, I wither. Unfortunately, my family does not share these compunctions. Not even a little bit. Not even at all. Things are not put away, cleaned up, turned off, tidied, washed or straightened. Things are not done.  Ever. Honestly, I’m not exaggerating when I say we’d disappear under mountains of our own rubbish in less than a year if I didn’t move heaven and earth to stop that happening.

Until last September, I truly believed that I was the flawed one; that I ought to be more accepting of the otherness of others, and not inflict my own obsessive-compulsive tendencies on such free spirits. Pah! I’m over that. Now we have order. Thanks to the genius that is Alisa Vitti, the wisdom of Dr James Wilson, and some plain old common sense (not to mention Pinterest), I am building the tools I need to have a home that is a source of peace and joy for us all.

First of all, I have defined three very simple, very clear focus areas for this year, with measurable goals for each. I’ll share these later in the week. I’ve put them up in key areas so that they are always easily visible to me.

Next, I’ve broken each month down into a schedule of deliverables for each of these three areas of my life. My guiding philosophy here is “less is more”. Whereas, in the past, I would try to cram as much as I could into every day, scheduling my life down to the last five minutes, now I am trying to see how little I can get away with in each day without chaos ensuing. It sounds lazy, but it’s actually sanity saving if you’re an over-scheduler like me. I’ve also taken things like our business, family and social commitments, and my cyclical changes, into account with these schedules, since they have a very real effect on all that I do (and how effectively it gets done).

Finally, I’ve made some rules. In our house we all have chores. Doing chores earns rewards, not doing chores earns punishment. I’d like to instil a sense of teamwork and the necessity of pulling together into all of this somewhere, but waiting for my brood to do their bit because it’s the right thing to do will require a degree of patience I cannot lay claim to. We have chores lists that get checked off every day. Completing your chores gets you your agreed reward. Not doing so gets you grounded, and may cost you something, too. And we have a chore bin: if you leave it out, it goes in the bin. You have one week to earn it back by doing a chore, otherwise it goes to charity. No matter what it is. (The bin is new and not popular. I am intrigued to see how it will play out).

I am feeling much more content and at peace, and I missing far fewer deadlines than ever before. The school bases are covered, and my clients’ expectations are managed. All while the house keeps ticking over and very few balls are being dropped there, either. Over the next few weeks I’ll share the ways in which we’re taking charge of our chaos, and how making it practical is helping us establish and maintain peace.

Ironing out the kinks: growing a small business, dealing with health challenges, and making home school work.

juggling life's priorities is a full time job

Juggling life’s priorities is a full time job.

Wow, two and a half months since I posted anything on here. I’d planned to post something every single day this year – or, at the very least, a few things a week. Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and men and moms, I suppose …

Life has been busy.

My time has been split along three clear lines this year. Number one has been establishing my business. Now, I know that as a home schooling mom, that perhaps reflects poor priorities on my part. However, as the breadwinner in our family, I really don’t have a choice. It’s pretty simple: I don’t work, we don’t eat. And if I don’t have an effective, successful and efficient business, with a team of busy staff, then we’ve got nothing. So, some days the girls just get along with their education as best they can while I work out the kinks of a growing agency.

Number two has been figuring out our various health issues. Goldilocks’ Tourette’s Syndrome has been wreaking havoc with her ability to speak recently, and the effect on her confidence has been marked. She’s a deeply empathetic child, and has been battling more and more with bouts of what she refers to as being “down in the dumps”. Little Red Riding Hood has her fair share of challenges, which will form the subject of other posts. Suffice it to say that she’s needed a lot of attention recently. And of course, my dear old body just isn’t playing along. I really need a strong body, able to lift heavy weights and meet challenging deadlines. I need to be able to go for days at a stretch without paying too much attention to the every last gram of poison on my plate. Unfortunately, I have no such thing. Aside from digestive concerns, which sound petty but can be debilitating some days, my back decided to fight back against the chronic abuse inflicted on it by years of poor posture. The result was two days of excruciating agony in which I could hardly walk. Thank God for physiotherapists (and the means to afford one!). On top of it all, my skin has only once looked worse than it has these past few months. This makes client visits a real challenge, despite the fact that these form the basis of my business. (I may have a solution at last, though. More on that to follow).

Finally, I’m working out the kinks in home education. Really, the main problem is that Ambleside just seems too easy. We read stories, draw pictures, watch opera, dance to medieval music, and race through easy maths (involving multiplying Roman numerals!). We sew fluffy pink horses, draw butterflies and newborn hamsters, and circumnavigate the globe using Google Earth. And we fastidiously and meticulously neglect to complete a single timeline of any kind. It seems to go too fast, yet too slow. Each day’s school work takes around 3-5 hours, which is a tricky amount of time to budget accurately. For now, I’m focusing on giving the system a chance to take effect. Next week is exam week, which promises to be very revealing.

Here we go …

It’s been an awesome hiatus since Christmas, and such fun easing into the year with almost nothing but school and good books. But now the time has come to get this old nose back to that old grindstone. Work must be worked! I feel a strange, clawing reluctance to even get started, and as I compiled my “To Do” list this evening in preparation for the week ahead, I was struck forcibly by the sensation of sleepless nights and seemingly endless stress. I realise the great irony, of course: if I’d gotten back into the groove a little earlier, I’d have less to do right now. However, I’m assuring myself that this has been a much needed and well-deserved break, and hoping that I can make up the lost ground without too serious an impact on the lovely family routine we have going – especially now that the house has been restored to wonderful order.

Please hold thumbs!

Our very own Cold War (had me in stitches).

One of the things I LOVE about the way my life works right now is that I get to sit at my computer, working (for the most part), and eavesdropping on my little angels. Although perhaps today that’s not the right term for them. They’re playing a very complex game that involves them being witches. And I’ve learnt something I never knew before: Witches speak with Russian accents!

DD1: “Who vantz de cockrroach? De CockROACH!? De COCKROACH!!”
DD2: “No! It’s time for ze pizza. Vurrrm pizza.” (that’s WORM, not warm).

As if that wasn’t funny enough, a little later the witches were evangelised by a passing missionary unicorn or some such, They each prayed a prayer of salvation (in fluent Russian accents) and then, lo and behold, began speaking in perfect American!

It was hard keeping the giggles in on that one!

A working solution? We’ll see …

This week hasn’t been too bad, school-wise. We’ve managed to achieve a full week of school in only four days. (On Wednesday I had some urgent deadlines I had to get through). I don’t intend to work tomorrow so I can’t “catch up” work or school then. This means I have to finish today, which could prove tricky.

Having said that, I think we may finally have found a solution that works for time management in our household. (Blogging doesn’t theoretically feature, incidentally). We just started today, and it kind-of happened by accident. Let me sketch the scenario: ever since starting home schooling, I’ve been convinced that I could wake up at 3:00 and work until 6:00. Then it would be breakfast and Pilates, ablutions and getting dressed, with school starting somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30. Four hours of school would follow, with snack breaks, and lunch around 11:30/11:45. After lunch, I’d work until 16:00, make supper, feed the family, read a bed time story, and get back to work for another few hours. That way I could work for about eight or nine hours every day, and still fit in school and a bit of exercise.

The problem is, I’d never wake up at 3:00, and I’ve been battling to work after 21:00. So in reality I’ve only been fitting in about 6 hours a day of work, if that. And if I have a deadline, school is on the shelf until I’m done. (Yes, I know eductaion is vitally important, but so is having food to eat and a place to sleep).

So, today …

Because it was so hot yesterday, by the end of the day I needed a bath, even though I’d bathed in the morning. This meant that when the day dawned bright and cool this morning, I could simply get-dressed-and-go. We had vitamins and bananas in bed, and started school comfortably snuggled in the girls’ room at 6am. We finished about half an hour ago, at 10:00. In that time we caught up the missed day, had a lovely Bible study and even squeezed in some extra stuff. It was great, and now I can work flat out until about 5pm, and have achieved 7 solid hours. On a normal day I don’t go out in the evenings, and if this was one of those*, I’d be able to get in another two hours of work between dinner and bed, and still get an early night. I seriously think this may be a winning solution to our time management issues. The girls and I are all best at school stuff in the morning, and I am best at “work” from about 10:00 onwards. I’ll keep track and report back.

*However, tonight I’m going to see Celtis in Musgrave, and I am seriously excited. It promises to be amazing!

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