When Your Worlds Collide
As entrepreneurs we often have other things going on in our lives that impacts our businesses. Today Alison Thompson from The Safety Elf shares her experience of juggling a business and caring for a family member.
When Your Worlds Collide
As entrepreneurial women it is almost inevitable that there will be times when our personal and work lives collide in ways that make it really challenging to do both.
This has certainly been my experience – right from the very beginning of my journey, and I hope that by sharing my experience here it may help someone else who is facing similar challenges.
I left the corporate world and created The Safety Elf in July 2010 – a business with the central ethos that people are at the heart of what we do as business. And the very next month, my own father was diagnosed with cancer. My parents still lived in Devon, where I grew up – I am an only child living 200 miles away, and my mum had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
I was privileged to be able to support them both through Dad’s illness and death. It was an incredibly painful and challenging time, but I am so grateful that, as I was running my own business, I was in a position to make the work choices I needed to.
Then 2 weeks ago I received the phone call I had been dreading – the paramedics were with my fiercely independent but very frail Mum, who had fallen and broken her hip. I know that for someone whose mobility is already severely challenged, this can have very serious consequences, and that the whole shape of her life had probably just changed. Deep breath….
At these crisis points I knew I had to tell the world what was happening, so that friends and clients were prepared for the fact that I might have to change my plans at short notice. I felt that sharing this in my business world was a BIG risk, and I know it may have negatively impacted on some people’s decisions about whether to do business with me, but overwhelmingly I have truly been moved by the genuine care and understanding that people have shown.
What I learned:
- I have chosen to make compromises in my life and business in order to continue to care for and support my mum in the way I want to. Yes, this can be really frustrating, but I remain thankful that I have structured my life so that I can make those key choices, even if I don’t always enjoy them.
- Look at what the challenges are, and see if there are ways to reduce them to manageable proportions. For example, I watch out for free and low cost offers to use business lounges in serviced offices – it gives me somewhere to psychologically be at work, and sometimes that makes a real difference, as well as practical considerations such as easy access to wi-fi and a printer when I am on the move. I also try to travel by train as much as possible. This means that journey time is not wasted (I have developed a list of “Good train tasks” that don’t require internet or phone access or lots of resources, but do benefit from a period of uninterrupted focus) or if I am very drained and tired, I don’t have to worry about being safe to drive 200 miles.
- Be prepared for the unexpected – don’t wait until you need it to have systems and people in place. My business still needs my input, but can continue to function when my time and attention are diverted elsewhere. And find the right people – it is worth investing the time and effort into finding and building the relationships with those key people, not just at those crisis points.
- Be kind and realistic with yourself about how much of you there really is to go around, and do things that support you as well as your business and family.
- And don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are an amazing entrepreneur, but you are also a human being – a partner, a mother, a daughter – with all the awesome strength and fragility that goes along with it.
Good luck in your life’s journey.