The five biggest mistakes I made as a parent in business

I’m sitting in the conference green room, preparing for my speech, and I look over to see my son sharing a joke with a speaker from America.

He’s 13 and I’m bursting with pride.

But it wasn’t always like this. 

Wind the clock back six years and you’d be more likely to find me manically trying to finish work while pretending to watch the Lego Movie. Desperately trying to tick off goals while racked with parental guilt.

It took a lot of hard work to get to where I am now, and I made a plethora of mistakes along the way.

1. Not getting clear on my ‘why’

For small business-owning parents, many of us start our business dreaming of flexibility. Our ‘why’ is being able to go to sports days while also running a well-oiled business machine.

But then money, ego and people-pleasing creep in. I forgot my why and sacrificed spending time with my son for a myriad of ultimately unsatisfying business achievements.

I lost sight of my main priority…my child.

2. Being unrealistic about our time

Most of us are fully aware that we face time limitations as parents. But rather than take a calm, rational approach, we frantically try to jam as much as possible into the pathetic amount of time we have.

The truth is, we were never going to tick off all those things on our to-do list in a short day.

I sat down and worked out that I only had around 15 hours of billable time to work. Time became sacred. I turned myself into a lean(ish), mean(ish) productivity machine. And stopped writing 37-point to-do lists.

3. Burying my head in the money sand

As a creative person, I took pride in announcing that I wasn’t a ‘numbers person’ and wore my financial illiteracy as a badge of honour. I had no systems around money management and I blindly trusted professionals to do the right thing (spoiler – they didn’t). As a result, I got myself into a business debt hole.

It wasn’t until I implemented Profit First, started educating myself, and asked my accountant and bookkeeper dozens of seemingly daft questions that I started to improve.

Today I know my figures inside out. I can confidently forecast, budget through the tough times, and live a debt-free life. I’m even at the point of planning generational wealth for my son.

4. I didn’t have tough conversations

Like many parents, my son’s dad and I played the game of ‘who is busier’ relentlessly (alongside ‘who is more tired’). And it took a big effort to stop being a martyr and end the blame game. 

I created schedules and routines; we divided labour between us. I realised also that I had a resource I could use at home. My child, who has been confidently tackling chores each morning.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it saves me 20 minutes a day and that all adds up. It also teaches him the importance of helping in the family and being a good helpful human.

5. I was way too impatient

I often looked at non-parents or parents who had ‘help’ with green-eyed anger. Why were they succeeding when I was taking so long to get the basics done?

It took me a while to realise that ‘the world will wait’ (my personal mantra).

I can have it all, but just maybe not today. 

I want to be in my business for the long term. But having a family isn’t forever. I probably only have five more years until my son heads off to university, so I want to be present and enjoy this time.

We put far too much pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people. But for me, it’s important to remember the people who really matter, our kids.

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