When you love what you do, it becomes less about work-life balance and more about focusing on what’s most important – and avoiding the guilt
I started Little Voices when my daughter was three months old and the circumstances were less than ideal. My husband had left me for someone else when I was pregnant and it hurt. A lot. But I was starting a venture that combined the things I loved: drama, singing, performing, helping to nurture children’s talent and building their confidence. It was my way of carving out a new life for me and my daughter and she’s been a part of it almost since day one, attending lessons and later on spending time in the office.
In the early days of starting a business, you have to accept that your life will be your work and vice versa. Entrepreneurship is about making sacrifices other people wouldn’t. But if you find something you’re passionate about that also gives you financial freedom, the idea of work-life balance becomes more foreign as your home and work lives intermingle. For me, it’s more about having a work-life blend that allows me to wake up every morning jumping out of bed and absolutely loving what I do. That’s the key to true happiness.
Managing the guilt
But it’s not as simple as that, of course. With the business success comes the guilt. Fortunately, I’ve learned to manage the feeling over the years, which is always in relation to my daughter. I inevitably feel a pang of guilt if I have to leave her for a week to go away for business but I remind myself that my hard work is ultimately for her and I make sure that we have quality time together when I get back – without my job intruding. While I don’t have much time for hobbies, I do my best to balance my time between my work, daughter, partner and family. I don’t always get it right but I try to give them all my full attention when I do see them.
Learning to say no
To create that intimate bubble for the things that matter, you have to learn how to say no. One of the best things I did years ago was remove emails from my phone so I’m truly present when I’m with my family. I pride myself on doing what I say I’ll do and I don’t make promises I can’t keep. As a confirmed people pleaser, saying no can be hard. But I’d rather check my schedule and be sure I can manage something before committing. If I think I won’t be able to squeeze it in, I’d rather say no than let someone down at the last minute.
Creating your network
Achieving balance is also about streamlining your life – and even your relationships. While growing my business, I’ve learned who my true friends are. They’re the ones who are still there when I emerge from long periods of radio silence. I’m not readily available for nights out, parties or holidays; time is precious and I need to spend it carefully. But that’s OK and my true friends understand my life. And as for those people who haven’t been able to accept the way I am, I’ve sadly lost touch with them.
I rely on an amazing core team comprised of people in the office and my family, who understand and support me wholeheartedly. I couldn’t do what I do without them. I met my partner in the early days when I was starting to go down the franchising route and he’s always been my rock. He gets how hard I need to work and when I’m on the phone at midnight or sending emails through the night, he respects my work ethic. He knows that I won’t stop until we’re a household name and that to get there, I do need to make some sacrifices. We’re both aware that our lives are a little unconventional and wouldn’t suit everyone. But that’s OK because we’re a team and we both have personal and joint goals.
Of course achieving the optimum work-life blend is still something I struggle with from time to time. But I’ve developed coping strategies and I ensure that it’s an important part of our company culture at Little Voices. I talk to all our franchisees about how I manage my time and how to prioritise effectively to avoid an onslaught of guilt. There’s no such thing as a perfect blend but identifying what matters, doing what you love and filling your life with people who support your goals is a good start.