Balancing Parenthood & Running a Small Business

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

When I decided to start a business, sarah + abraham, in 2007 I was a stay-at-home-mom with two kids ages 2 and 4. I was only able to work when they were napping or having quiet time or after they were in bed. It was frustrating to have so many ideas but so little time to work.

The first winter was especially difficult. I finally started getting some orders, and I was having all of my printing done at Kinko’s, so several times a week I had to bundle my kids up and try to keep them entertained while we waited in line or while I used the paper cutter. Trips to the post office were also no fun at all (for me or for them!)

There were so many times I questioned what I was doing. It always felt like at least one area of my life was suffering as I tried to balance being a stay-at-home-mom, growing my business, being a good spouse, nurturing my friendships, and taking care of myself.

Today my business and family life have changed drastically compared to a few years ago. My kids are both in school full-time and able to entertain themselves for a couple of hours after school, for the past 15 months my husband has been at home helping me with the kids and with my business, and I typically only work about 20 – 30 hours a week while earning the same income that we lived on when my husband was working full time.

There are still days when I get frustrated that I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to, but I’m much more comfortable now with the concept of balance being a continual process, not something that I’m striving to achieve.

balancing work, family and friends

I’ll never have a day when I get a lot of work done, meet a friend for coffee, have a great workout, run errands, make a healthy dinner, and spend quality time with my family. I’ll certainly never have a week full of days like that. And that’s okay.

Every night at bedtime my husband, kids, and I each say three things we liked about our day. We do this to teach our kids about gratitude, but it has also taught me to be more thankful for the small blessings that every day holds and to not be so frustrated about the things that I didn’t accomplish.

My advice to other moms who are overwhelmed by starting a business while they have small children at home is that it won’t be like this forever. Your kids will be in school before you know it. Your business will grow and change in ways you can’t even imagine. It’s okay to not accomplish as much as you’d like to as fast as you’d like to – you’ll get there eventually!

If you’re a mom and a business owner, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on balance and what has worked for you.

When I decided to start a business, sarah + abraham, in 2007 I was a stay-at-home-mom with two kids ages 2 and 4. I was only able to work when they were napping or having quiet time or after they were in bed. It was frustrating to have so many ideas but so little time to work.

The first winter was especially difficult. I finally started getting some orders, and I was having all of my printing done at Kinko’s, so several times a week I had to bundle my kids up and try to keep them entertained while we waited in line or while I used the paper cutter. Trips to the post office were also no fun at all (for me or for them!)

There were so many times I questioned what I was doing. It always felt like at least one area of my life was suffering as I tried to balance being a stay-at-home-mom, growing my business, being a good spouse, nurturing my friendships, and taking care of myself.

Today my business and family life have changed drastically compared to a few years ago. My kids are both in school full-time and able to entertain themselves for a couple of hours after school, for the past 15 months my husband has been at home helping me with the kids and with my business, and I typically only work about 20 – 30 hours a week while earning the same income that we lived on when my husband was working full time.

There are still days when I get frustrated that I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to, but I’m much more comfortable now with the concept of balance being a continual process, not something that I’m striving to achieve.

I’ll never have a day when I get a lot of work done, meet a friend for coffee, have a great workout, run errands, make a healthy dinner, and spend quality time with my family. I’ll certainly never have a week full of days like that. And that’s okay.

Every night at bedtime my husband, kids, and I each say three things we liked about our day. We do this to teach our kids about gratitude, but it has also taught me to be more thankful for the small blessings that every day holds and to not be so frustrated about the things that I didn’t accomplish.

My advice to other moms who are overwhelmed by starting a business while they have small children at home is that it won’t be like this forever. Your kids will be in school before you know it. Your business will grow and change in ways you can’t even imagine. It’s okay to not accomplish as much as you’d like to as fast as you’d like to – you’ll get there eventually!

If you’re a mom and a business owner, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on balance and what has worked for you.

49 comments

  1. THANK YOU!!! I’m currently home with my 3-year-old and I view this time with him as precious and short-lived. I recently came to the conclusion that instead of stressing about job growth with a little one underfoot, I’m using this time as an opportunity to explore and experiment with directions to take my business once he’s in school and have a lot more time to devote to this venture. Yes, I want to grow and expand, but for now, I want to take it slow.

  2. Janet Murphy says:

    I love this. I agree with all of it. My youngest will be finally in school full time in a year and I am just now finishing an office/studio with a door which I have not had since my oldest was born because I had to multitask work with mommydom.

    I love the list of “I will never have a day when” because when you write it out like that, it makes sense that would not happen in one day but we berate ourselves so often for letting one area of life slide while we deal with another.

    We need to cut ourselves slack. Balance is just that balance, movement back and forth, otherwise it is inertia.

    Thanks for this.

  3. lesley says:

    oh, this post hit the spot. thank you! i have always been working away slowly, with the thought in the back of my mind that in a couple more years, the kids will be at school fulltime and i’ll have the time i really need to work.
    but in the meantime, i’m reminding myself that i chose this path not only to fulfill my creative needs and desire to have my own business, but also to have the opportunity to enjoy my young kids while they are just that, young and around home with me.
    the time to ramp up my business will come soon, and when it does, i’ll be ready!

  4. Jessika says:

    Thank you for your post this month Sara-so many points really struck home with me & I love the idea of sharing things about your day and praising the small blessings.

    @Janet “We need to cut ourselves slack. Balance is just that balance, movement back and forth, otherwise it is inertia.” is just beautiful. It should be a print! I love picturing my life as an ebb & flow-stasis would be unbelievably boring.

  5. Holly says:

    Ugh! It is such a struggle being a ‘stay at home mom’ AND running a business! I feel guilty that I look forward to the day when both of my kids are in school full time. But, I try to remember I need to enjoy my time with them. I am very grateful to have the opportunity that I do. You hit the nail on the head when you talk about having so many ideas, just not enough time to make them all happen.
    Thanks for a great post!
    Holly
    (also of Accounting SPOT)

  6. Kelly says:

    Wow, I needed this post today. I’m a SAHM to a 1-year-old and 4-year-old, a military wife and small craft business owner. So I know exactly what you mean about always feeling like something is suffering. I’m just doing my best to simplify and balance what I can do now and look forward to growing my business one day. Right now I’m thankful for what I have: a husband at home, two healthy kids, and a “job” I love! Thank you for this post!

  7. aliza says:

    This is so ironic that I just read this tonight. Today as I sat and edited some images for my photography business, I was asked by my husband, if I was just going to sit in my office and “hang out all day”? I was furious. Then I looked around my house and saw all of the piles – and piles – and piles. And I cannot decide whether to drink coffee or wine with dinner. When will it all get done? I have no idea, but I have 4 small children who need me- and who need me to make memories with them… sooooo- the piles will wait another day. The editing will be done a little bit at a time… I’ll write down my ideas as there will be a day when they won’t need me so much, and I can
    “Hang out” working away in solitude… I bet I will miss the action. Thanks for the great post!

  8. margaret says:

    Thank you Sara for the encouragement. I have a one year old and a three year old and there are some days I’d rather spend crafting than playing. I love what you said about counting your blessings- thank you for the reminder to look for the positives in my day.

  9. Wonderful post (really looking forward to this month’s theme and the discussions!!)

    I’m trying to be gentle with myself right now, as I realize that there are only so many hours and that I need to find space for myself and my ffriends and family among all my dreams. Taking it slow and simple and just doing what I can while I try to appreciate the moments with my girls. When they are both in school, I will be able to dedicate more time to those dreams that are mine alone 🙂

  10. What a great post! I have the hardest time with this right now. I have twin girls who will be 4 in June and are very busy! I have a small Etsy shop that I am working on growing, but it is very hard with the kiddos at home all day and no naps anymore. For the summer, I am going to enjoy them…and let the shop on hold. I know it will be there in the fall when I have some more time to put into it. Thanks for sharing…I love the idea of sharing 3 things you liked about your day! I think we might have to start that at our house too!

  11. Excellent post! Being a mom & wife & starting up your own business is is so overwhelming. I have been trying to find a balance to this for two years now & it is so difficult! And just when things were really getting going…I found out I’m pregnant with twins! So I will have to try to find a way to back off from my business without completely letting it go! It helps me to be me & feel like I’m a part of society! It’ll be a trip, that’s for sure!

  12. Tracey says:

    “I was only able to work when they were napping or having quiet time or after they were in bed. It was frustrating to have so many ideas but so little time to work.”
    This is so my life right now. So many ideas, so many designs in progress, so little time. Constantly watching as others launch the same themes I am working on, so frustrating.
    Then there is the flip side, being able to calm myself by being present with my 4yo. (Melissa I have a very busy no napping 4yo, but only one, I can only imagine what it would be like in stereo!!!!) That’s how I release my frustration. I stop and be present with my girl and I play. She will be in school f/t this fall and she won’t be around. What a wondrous change it will be for my work, but I will miss her.
    Balance right now is not fighting the natural flow of the day (work, play, work, play), taking things in small pieces and reminding myself daily that a perfectly kept house is a sign of a misspent life 🙂

  13. tammie says:

    so very good to read this! i’ve been trying off and on for 7 years to find a balance, but now that they are all in school for at least a few days a week, it is certainly becoming easier.
    we also end our days with statements of gratitude – so important!
    and i’m also finding that there are large parts of my work that i can do with my children by my side. (drawing, painting)
    thank you again for this great reminder….

  14. Melissa says:

    I am an artist and mother and my journey has been a balancing act. Sometimes I did great at doing it all but alot of the time it all falls apart. It is such a blessing to get to make money doing what I love but so hard to be perfect in every catagory. I have learned alot and taught my children good lessons! My baby is about to go to school and it is bitter sweet, but I will refocus my energy on my buisinesss now. Thanks for your post-love hearing other mothers stories!

  15. sara says:

    Thank you for all of the kind comments – I really appreciate it!

    We started out each sharing three “likes” and one “gripe” during our bedtime routine, but after a few nights of that my husband and I decided that we hear enough “gripes” during the day, and we should only focus on “likes” at bedtime! 🙂

    I’ve been finding lately that this practice has really changed how I look at my surroundings every day. I’m so much more appreciative of little things like magnolia trees in bloom, seeing a little dog who lives near my daughter’s school every morning, a guy playing the guitar near the train station, etc.

    It’s similar to keeping a gratitude journal, but something that we do every single night no matter how late it is or how tired we are since we’re doing it with the kids (as opposed to a gratitude journal, which I often ended up skipping and then eventually abandoning).

  16. Jahje Bath Ives, Baby Jives says:

    Thank you for these words of hope and honesty. I started my business Baby Jives when my son finally started sleeping through the night last summer and I have been blessed to find it growing fast but there are some days when I question if I have the energy to keep up and still give my family the time they deserve. My husband and I have even been discussing if there is time for #2 (which we would both like). But your words make me think, yes I can balance this (and reminded me that it will get easier someday)

  17. Seneca Hart says:

    This really spoke to me! I have 3 children, ages 7, 4 and 1, and my husband was wounded in Iraq and we are struggling through the Army’s medical evaluation process. The business I used to love has become a burden, and I want nothing more than to sell it. I need a good dose of optimism, lol!

  18. robynemu says:

    “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.”
    This is one of my favourite sayings, It helps me to not beat myself up so much when things don’t get done.

    I love the ‘likes’ before bedtime, sounds like a really positive exercise.

  19. Andreia says:

    This is a great post! My creative work occurs when my children are sleeping and the day is too short for all the ideas I would like to make. My business is still at the first steps but I believe in this project so I’m putting all my streghts on it! If the sales come, it would allow me to balance parenthood and our family budget.

  20. Emily says:

    This post comes as a bit of a reality check for me–I just have one 7-mo-old and want more kids and have dreams of finally getting a business off the ground whenever we get “home” from abroad and I have a studio space. In order for us to reach some financial goals I’ll have to bring in some kind of income and I’ve been thinking I’d prefer it be from my own home-based crafty business, so all these comments give me lots to think about. Thank you!

  21. Sara – thank you for this! I have a 3 year old who is not yet in preschool and an 18 month old both at home with me full time. I inevitably end up working on my business from 10pm to 2am multiple nights a week. And although I love that uninterrupted time to myself and get excited about my investing my time and energy into my business, it inevitably leads to a very tired and inadequate mommy & wife the next day. Thanks for reminding me that it won’t always be this way! I just aim to keep all my most critical priorities in check and remind myself often that my role as mommy is ultimately what I want to be remembered for.

  22. Thanks for this post Sarah! Wow, I didn’t realize Mr. Tams is your new VP? 🙂 Good for you! It’s super refreshing to hear from other Mompreneurs that it’s really OK to not get each and everything done that you’d like to. Also thanks for the link to my Balance article. I’m going to start a new tradition at the dinner table thanks to you! It’s a chance to help us all stop and smell the roses and live IN the Moment!

  23. I feel like that a lot – I have a 3 year old and 7 month old. But I remind myself why I work at home rather than in an office – to spend time with my kiddos. I want to raise them.

    Yes I get frustrated, but I remind myself that work will always be there.. the baby years will not….

  24. Sherri says:

    I struggle with this as well. When I first started, Lilah was a newborn and Noah was 3. Now they’re nearly 2 and 5, Noah no longer naps and I have another year yet before kindergarten. I grew so tired of only sewing nights and weekends, so now I get up at 4:30 every day to sew. I still have to do some nights and weekends, but not nearly as often, and I’m not feeling as burnt out. I’m looking forward to this fall when I’ll get a tiny bit of time (only 6 hours, but I’ll take it!) when they’re both in pre-k!

  25. Katie says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I am the mom of a 2 year old and struggle to find “balance” every day being a stay at home mom and continuing my previous business as a horseback riding instructor/coach (I too am self-employed). Sometimes I need that reminder that I dont HAVE to get it all done TODAY. Its great hearing from other moms that have struggled with the same time constraints that I am going through.
    This was a great post! Thanks so much 🙂

  26. Great post!
    I have a soon to become 3 years old andI can totally relate. However I find that having limited amount of time to get things done made me a more organized and efficient person. When I have photo shoots I try to set things up right away (get a sitter or drop my daughter off to a friend’s house, or coordinate with my husband). I edit while she naps but mostly at night. I give myself 2 hours max in the evening so that I can still hang out with my husband. it was not easy at first but with time and practice it will become second nature :-))

  27. My partner and I have school age children but we remember the feelings of choas and isolation that comes with having young children. A lot of balance comes from within; take a few moments everyday to relax and clear your mind, love yourself and all your wonderful attributes and get rid of the guilt. Guilt is like fear and doubt, unnecessary if you believe in yourself and your surroundings.

  28. Tacy says:

    Great article, Sara! Your business is adorable and have ordered several gifts from your site. I have had many of your same conversations about balance of work and family. I definitely feel defeated when I have so many new ideas, but no time to create with a just turned 3 yo and 1 yo. Thanks again for your words. They offer encouragement for better balance!

  29. Great Post! I temporarily closed up my shop after feeling so burned out. I have two little one’s at home with me – a 4 year old and a 20 month old. I run my business at night from 10pm to 2am, during naps if they happen and whenever I can squeeze it in. Like “bri @ mod memento” I found that my night owl work schedule changes my role as Mother, Wife and homemaker during the day significantly. I’m taking time now to reevaluate my business as I don’t want to remember my kiddos early years as a stressful time. Thanks so much for sharing.

  30. debbie says:

    great post sara!! i’ve enjoyed reading all of the great comments too! i have a 4 year old, 3 year old, and 3 month old and have come to the realization that the sink full of dishes and pile of laundry might sit for a hours or even a few days, and that’s alright. i love how you said that balance is a continual process… so true!! i struggle with procastination and prioritizing, but with time and experience, i’m getting better every day. i’ve learned that it’s ok if the kids have to eat a frozen pizza for lunch one day or leftovers is what’s for dinner or that i don’t always have new products for every season or holiday or that i don’t blog everyday… it’s ok.. because in the end, i’m able to grow my creative business while also being at home and watching my young chilren grow! not that many women have the luxury of working at home doing something they love and not missing all the special moments of raising children! cheers to all the mompreneurs out there!

  31. Kelly says:

    Thank you, I also work outside the home, and there are always days that I wish I could get more done! Thank you for putting things in perspective and the inspiration to believe that maybe one day…. I can quit my demanding day job!

  32. nicolle says:

    I truly could not have found this article on a better day. I am tired from staying up designing my ideas until 1am, I am tired of being patient and smiling through exhaustion at my darling baby and toddler (whom I ADORE, by the way). I am tired of trying to start a small business and be a good mom and even just an ok wife. You helped me to pick myself up by my boot straps, reflect on the positive and know that not all days will be flowers and rainbows. And for this I thank you ~

  33. Valerie says:

    So nice to see that I’m not the only one out there! I have a 2 year old boy and frequently feel like I’d rather work on my Etsy business than chase him in the backyard. It sure is true that parenting is the most challenging and most rewarding “job” of your life. Thanks for reminding me that this time I have with him now is fleeting and so very precious!

  34. so great! as i launch my venture full-time while homeschooling a special child, i often laugh out loud at the impossibility/absurdity of it all 😀 but then if i can just stay *in the moment* + put my heart into what ever i AM doing even for short spurts @ a time i surprisingly am doing it!!! So, keep laughing mamas.

  35. I cannot tell you how great it was to read this post. I’m pregnant right now, and also have a lovely and lively 2 year old at the moment. Sometimes I need to remind myself that seasons come and go –and right now, I’m in a season where my kids are #1 and need me almost 100% of the day. Thank you for the encouragement. Before I know it, another season will come, and my kids will all be in school 😉

  36. Jen says:

    What a great post and very timely while I have 4 weeks of work lined up. This is both a blessing and overwhelming. I feel guilt on all fronts, kids, spouse, me and my lovely customers. I want to put the same heart and soul into every item while not frustrating clients in the process. Thank you for this gift. It was helpful in more ways than you can imagine!

  37. I loved this post. Planning 1 year party for my shop + am overwhelmed. It’s tough, but anything worth having is. I’m lucky to have an amazing 8 yr old kid who doesn’t exactly help out at the shop, but does shake himself awake at 5:30 on a school day to go for a run with mom. He’s my teammate if only on an emotional level. My husband works 24-hr shifts as a firefighter, so it’s a challenge juggling shop hours/demands/special events with his schedule + kid activities. Still, it beats the mess I had trying to freelance as a photo/film stylist. I’m happy if not organized/killing it yet. It’ll come, I know.

  38. You are so right about everything but particularly your comment about the kids not being home forever has hit home with me. My youngest has just started in full-time kindergarten after 4 1/2 years home with me trying to work around naps/ him entertaining himself/ helping me. Now that he’s gone all day I feel his childhood slipping away rapidly.
    My plan was to build up my business slowly to the point where it’s ready to take off now that I have more time. There’s no need to rush if your idea is a good one.

  39. Hi, I like what you wrote and I have followed your work. I am a mother of two children aged 7 and 1. When the first born I was working full time and was hard between my work, my project, Tarjetas Yari, the house, the child in order thousands of tasks. At birth the second thanks to God I could stay home and said now it is. But that was wrong, now had a baby. You know that time was less. Sometimes I’m frustrated because I say that I’m going slow. Can not think, the energies are few but what I do is not to stop. Many times to comply with my orders I get up at 4am we all sleep because I’m a morning person.
    Thank you very much for the advice and encouragement and as I say the important thing is not to stop. Hugs!

  40. Peg says:

    Well done, it just shows what can be done if you stick to it through the hard times. I think it is so satifying to be able to run your own business from home and be in charge of your own life. So much better than slogging away for someone else!

  41. Tara says:

    I feel like I’ll never find the balance! I have a 4 year old, 3 year old, 1 year old, and guess what?! I’m expecting!
    I have my own photography business and it sounds like you know the hours put in behind a computer, etc.
    It’s hard enough to keep up the edits/returning e-mails, calls, etc.
    But I can’t ever touch my website, blog, and paperwork for the business.
    When the kids DO nap – which is not at the same time anymore – and the big kids not so much anymore – I need to get work done – but my house is also screaming for my attention.
    I’m praying that THIS TOO SHALL PASS!

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