Being a working parent whilst building a company

By Sarah Dowzell, COO and co-founder, Natural HR

One expression that always stuck with me growing up was, “You get out what you put in”. It’s a message my parents instilled in me from day one. Watching them work hard while having very little time for themselves but trying their hardest to provide me and my brother with the best possible start in life.

It was also inspiring and had me creating plans from a young age. I knew exactly what I wanted from life, planning everything from my job to what I wanted in a husband! He helped me pool my entrepreneurial skills with his tech skills, which is how Natural HR was born.

A work/life imbalance

When people think about a poor work/life balance, they tend to picture 9-5 jobs. This is certainly what my parents experienced. In fact, the term “work/life balance” didn’t even exist until the 70s.

But it’s not the only way we can reach burnout. Entrepreneurs may face higher risks of burnout simply because they care so much about what they do. This is evidenced in the hours we put in and the lengths we go to as a means of avoiding chaos.

Then we throw children into the mix.

With all the best organisational will in the world, things can go wrong. When we have children, we’re constantly battling against lost sleep, school routines and illnesses. This is tough enough for the employed – a factor highlighted during the pandemic when so many people struggled to work and home-school at the same time.

For entrepreneurs, it’s a whole other ballpark. It’s important to note the distinction between freelancers and growing businesses here. While freelancers work incredibly hard, they don’t face the same challenges as those who want to scale. For example:

  • Pitching for investment and attending high-pressure meetings
  • Writing job descriptions and recruiting staff to grow the business
  • Finding time and resources to invest in marketing or new innovations.

And doing all that while still getting the kids to school on time? Impossible! Or at least, impossible if you don’t seek out solutions or have a drive to succeed.

How to scale a business while bringing up children

On the surface, people see a thriving business built on technological and human resources expertise. What they don’t see is the years it took to get there – balancing home life with work life.

This is why I’m such an avid campaigner for working parents. I lobbied the government to review the free childcare scheme, attracting 4,000 signatures and featuring in national news. This would not have been possible without a support network around me.

This leads in to tip #1:

Tip #1 – Find like-minded people

Finding a support network that can help out when you need it. I personally joined a local women’s business group, which has been an invaluable support group from sharing our successes and awards evenings together, to having a shoulder to cry on and motivation to keep going!

Tip #2 – Be willing to compromise

Running a business gives you freedom to run your own timetable, but this is no 9-5. This is where you have to find compromise, whether it’s pushing back a client deadline to attend a school play, or replacing golf with business development. Speak to your network – colleagues, partners or otherwise – and prioritise your needs.

Tip #3 – Diarise everything

This might sound counterintuitive to maintaining a work/life balance, but I keep everything in the same diary. Meetings, Zoom calls and school plays are all on the same calendar so I never miss the important things.

You get out what you put in

Entrepreneurs are successful because they care. When you have children, your incentives change,  but there’s no shame in loving your business as much as your family. They may even spur you on to do more. I learned a lot raising two boys – crucially before the spotlight was shone on work/life balance in the COVID years.

I noticed all the parallels between growing a business and growing a family. There will always be chaos and you need to have plans in place to mitigate risk. Both require dedication, hard work and help from the right sources.

But most of all, like my parents said, you get out what you put in. That’s why it was so rewarding to see Natural HR taking the next step when it was acquired by Moorepay back in March 2023.

Work hard, plan, and lean on those around you. Family or not, the best people to have around are those who celebrate your success.

About the author

Find out more about Natural HR and its acquisition by Moorepay Limited here.

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