Hi everyone! Firstly, I want to thank you for all the lovely messages I received about October’s blog, the messages meant so much and for those of you who shared your stories with me, thank you!

It wasn’t an easy piece to write, but I hope it helped some of you out there feel less alone and that it gave you some hope for the future. The more support than can be provided for parents going through such heartache can only be a good thing. Thank you so much, all of you!

Ok, so this month I thought I’d actually tell you a bit more about me and what I actually do and the reason behind what I do and to share a few tips on how to find some kind of balance between work life and family life.

So, I became self-employed just over 2 years ago. I had been a full-time mum for 2.5 years prior to starting my business and before then I had worked in retail for nearly 10 years. I’m celebrating my business being 1 year old as I launched it this time last year.

My business came about thanks to a little someone – I’m sure most of you are aware of and that is Incy Wincy Spider – yes you heard me right, a nursery rhyme character. Incy Wincy Spider came about at what was a rather difficult time. My children were aged 4, 2 and 6 months old and I was battling with post-natal depression (something which I will talk about in another blog another time). I’ll explain why Incy Wincy Spirder was my saviour, because you’re probably wondering what on earth I am going on about!

Anyway, my eldest daughter had started school and she started coming home with nursery rhyme packs for the weekend. Now we all know that by the time your child gets to the age of 4, you are pretty fed up with bloody nursery rhymes! The pack included the nursery rhyme and a colouring sheet, which is when I had a light bulb moment. I thought that this could be so much more.

I contacted my daughters’ school to see if I could help with these packs. So, for the Incy Wincy Spider one, I added a mini game and created Incy Wincy using various craft items along with the sun and cloud and rain – so the children could act out the nursery rhyme. Along with this I then created different packs based on various topics such as insects, the human body, buildings, letters, number, colours etc. The school continue to use this little packs for their reception children.

From this my idea progressed and has become what my business, I’m A Mini is now today. I design and create children’s activity boxes which provide amazing experiences of learning through play. They are based on different careers and hobbies and cover four aspects: Learning, Imagination, Fun and Exploring, in other words they represent LIFE. I currently have five boxes in the collection which include: Mini Astronaut, Mini Baker, Mini Explorer, Mini Doctor, Mini Weather Watcher and Mini Footballer and I am in the process of creating more.

My aim is to motivate a child’s interest and nurture their ideas through exploring the world around them. As well all know, technology is a huge part of our world nowadays and is an amazing resource that assists us with our daily lives. However, young children see the world differently than we do. They would much rather do than just look. They want to explore, experiment and immerse themselves in another world. With my boxes children are taken on that journey into different worlds which allows them to learn through play using their wonderful imaginations. My children are a huge part of my business, they are my logo and they are the reason I do what I do. They have an input, especially my eldest, in what goes into the boxes and various ideas. I love the fact that I can share my business with them and that they are a part of it.

Now, starting a business was a huge thing for me and I had no idea where to start, which is when I turned to the Prince’s Trust. They were a huge help in getting me started, I completed their Enterprise programme back in August 2016 and as of October 2017 I launched my business with them. It just goes to show that even out of a very difficult time can come positives.

My business has given me a focus that is just mine. However, it has been a really difficult journey at times because of lack of confidence, utter fear and lack of belief. I have really stepped out of my comfort zone and it challenges me every single day, but the biggest challenge is finding that balance between growing my business and looking after my three children.

So, I thought I’d share with you a few tips for those of you who are juggling being self-employed and looking after kids.

1. Be organised – I plan a monthly timetable, this includes when we are working, when the kids are at nursery/school, any school holidays, appointments, after school clubs, playdates and family occasions etc. The work out the time that is left (usually not time – I know) This is the time you can hopefully spend together with your family – we all work hard and we need that time to let go and have fun.

2. When at work block your time – I have recently started doing this and I have found it really useful. I write my list of things to do each day and then I break down my day into hours. I allocate the amount of time I need to work on each area. I then work on each element of my list for that period of time and then move on to the next one. It ensures that each element is worked on and I’m continuing to move forward with everything. Sometimes, depending on circumstances, I have to adjust my time but it allows me to be accountable for all part of my business and nothing gets left behind.

3. Involve your children – my children are a huge part of my business, they are my logo (which my eldest daughter designed), they help me decide what to put in the boxes especially my eldest. Where you can, include your children in your work, it helps them see why you maybe away at times and the reasons you are busy. If you show them what you are doing and give them the reasons why they are more likely to understand and have an interest in what you do too.

4. If possible try and have set working days and times – I know it’s hard when your are running your own business, you can find that you are spending every spare minute working on it. However, often part of the reason we have started our own business is because we want to be our own boss and to give ourselves the flexibility. So, you are in control, work when you want and stick it and then allow the rest of the time to spend with your family.

5. Plan your meals – this may seem such a little thing but it can make a huge difference. It’s one less thing you have to thing about that day especially after a busy day at work. Plan them at the start of the week and it can also help with not wasting food as well as saving money.

6. If you use social media a lot for your business, I can certainly recommend planning some of your social networking posts to save you some time and to ensure you are consistent. Facebook has their own publishing tool as part of your business page. If you are using Instagram, I can recommend using Later app for scheduling your posts. At least you don’t have to think about posting when you are not working therefore ensuring your free/family time is just that.

7. Finally, take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you do take time out. It’s okay to stop and take that break. Sometimes you need to step away from things in order to be able to see things more clearly. You’re then more likely to be productive therefore helping our business grow. Also, taking that break gives you the time to spend with family, whether it’s going on holiday or even just a day out – it does you good to switch off!

I hope these tips will help in trying to find some kind of balance, it’s easier said than done, I know, but even if you only did a couple of these things they should make things a little easier.

My business has helped my confidence hugely, I’ve still a way to go but with each passing day I gain more belief in myself and learn more about my business. It has also given me the chance to show my children that no matter how old you are, you can always follow your dreams and by working hard you can begin to achieve them.

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