You may think this is a bit late. After-all, we only have a week to go! That said of course, the October half term isn’t that far away, then there’s Christmas and the February half term, you get the picture! If you do nothing else, you can always file it away for next year’s summer holiday!
This has been my second year of experiencing the full-on six week holiday season that we enjoy/endure (delete as appropriate!) here in the UK as a self employed Mum. I’ve been self employed for years, but since my children have been 18 months old, both have accessed childcare a couple of days a week until 2010 when my eldest started school.
The summer holidays of 2011 were therefore my first experience of no childcare. Unlike some of my friends whose nursery provision extends through to 7 or even 8 years old in the holidays, my chosen nursery does not offer that option.
As a self-employed parent, you will undoubtedly recognise the challenges the long summer holidays bring. There are the obvious challenges of how best to fill the time for your offspring, ensuring they make the most of their holiday, alongside you enjoying the extra time with them.
My youngest was still accessing nursery at that point, so I only had to focus the extra time on my eldest. I thought I had prepared for it quite well. I’d got lots of stuff lined up – things to do, places to go and people to visit. However, I had some nagging concerns about my business. Iwouldn’t be able to partake in my usual marketing activity of regular networking, which, alongside recommendations, has been my main source of new business. I also expected that many of my clients would themselves be taking a break, and therefore be taking a break from regular coaching. To some extent these were all obvious and expected, but I hadn’t banked on the feelings that came up when it actually happened.
My concerns escalated. My niggles turned into fear. Would I get back the clients who went quiet on me for that six week period? How would we cope financially if they didn’t come back? I could go on about where these thoughts wound up, but ultimately it really took the shine off that precious time with my son. So much so that by the September, I’d got myself in such a bad place that I was ready to throw the towel in. I couldn’t face going through another summer with all that negative commentary, and as I saw it at the time, no other options.
How come, you maybe asking, that as a coach of all people, you got yourself into such a spiral of negative thinking? This was indeed part of the problem. I became very self critical because I should (a word I suggest to my clients that they never use!) have known better. But there you have it, I am only human. By September 2011 I wasn’t in a good place, which just perpetuated itself so that by the end of 2011, I was at the bottom of a very unhealthy spiral.
Thankfully, with a huge dose of grace and humility I began to see the light. I sought help from my wonderfully talented friends and associates and was soon out of the hole. By January 2012 I was in a great place, raring to get on with my beloved business. So why has this summer been so different?
4 main reasons.
- Resources. What I didn’t do last year was be bold about asking for help with childcare. This year, I was bolder. I offered to take friends’ children for the day to play with my two, if they would do me the favour of taking mine for the same amount of days. The parents I asked were only too happy to oblige. None of them were self employed, and hadn’t really understood my dilemma until I explained it. It was a fair deal, and they also got the benefit of a child-free day – getting on with the things they couldn’t get on with when kids are around: clearing the garage, decorating, spending time with partners, shopping with friends.The other thing that I decided to do was make the most of the limited time I did have to work. For me that meant not spending loads of time cooking! Needless to say, my local Cook (handmade frozen food company) came into play big time. I stocked up the freezer with their delicious, healthy frozen food so that I didn’t spend what precious time I did have in the evening on cooking a healthy meal for everyone. I’m not suggesting that’s what everyone should do, but do consider your domestic tasks and get help where you can, either by members of the family helping out a bit more than usual, or hiring in extra help with ironing, cleaning, whatever will make life easier for you.
- Attitude. It was clear from last year that my ‘niggling concerns’ quickly turned into a spiral of negativity, so I knew I needed to enter this summer with a different mindset. If it was true that many of my clients would be taking a break, and that I wouldn’t be attending my usual round of networking, how best could I use the time I was going to have? This was where step 3 came into play.
- Professional support. Even as a coach, with all the tools and technologies I have available to me, I recognise the power of personal support from another like-minded professional. Last year I was too proud to ask for help as I thought I should be able to manage myself. This is where so many of us fall down. I learned the painful way what happens when pride gets in the way. So this year my support came in the form of a business coach who specialises in working with spiritual entrepreneurs. He’d happened to write a blog about his experiences of summer holidays as a lone parent and business owner. It struck a chord and I decided to sign up to some coaching over skype to the USA. It was an early evening call (morning in the States) which suited me as hubby was home by then to take over childcare, and the fact that it was weekly helped me keep focused. I used the time to consider my business in a new way (something we rarely get the time to do) and to look at different marketing strategies.
- Intention. How is this different to attitude? I think an intention has more of an action based driver behind it. You can have an attitude about something, but not need to do anything specific to support it. An intention is likely to result in a follow up action. What is a good intention? You might like to refer to my blog Good Intentions for 2012, which also defines how an intention is different from a goal. I made two intentions this summer. The first was to make the most of being with my two boys by being present (that meant not thinking about my business while I was with them), and most of all to enjoy this precious time. My second intention was to focus my limited business time on two main areas – review my core business model, and my website.
As we come to the end of the summer, I am happy to report that my mood is buoyant and I’m very much looking forward to a whole new chapter for Swan Coaching in the coming months, having decided that the focus of my business is now “mid-life professionals who are seeking more meaning and purpose”.
If anything in this blog has struck a chord with you, and you’d like to find out how coaching might work for you, I’d be delighted to offer you a complementary 20 minute call to find out if I can help you, whatever your specific challenge may be. To arrange a mutually convenient time to chat email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me on +44 1582 413013. I’m also available on skype. If you prefer, you may like to subscribe to my newsletter which you can do by adding your email address in the box to the right. I promise not to give your details to anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Warmest wishes,