Entrepreneurs are known for pushing themselves incredibly hard to get through a major project, to pull off a huge launch event, to get a product ready to ship… whatever it is, they’ll get the job done. You can count on it.
And truthfully, most entrepreneurs I know don’t even mind these seasons of working extra hard and pushing themselves to the limits.
But what about when you have a spouse and kids? It’s no longer just yourself that you have to care about; now your busy seasons have a wider reaching impact.
Ryan and I have gone through a good number of these seasons in the past 5-6 years. Thankfully, they’re usually short-lived. A couple weeks, maybe a month or two at most. The longest season I can remember was probably more like 6+ months and that was brutal (and hopefully not to be repeated- we learned our lesson!).
I think it’s the nature of the beast, though. Sometimes the work simply needs to be done or the problem needs to be dealt with, by a certain time, and guess what? The buck stops with you. Ahhh. The perks of owning your own business.
Here are some things we’ve learned over the years for keeping ourselves sane and our household functioning when they occur.
1. Remember it’s not forever.
We have to take turns reminding each other that this is a temporary state of being, not the rest of our lives. It helps to keep things in perspective.
2. Have grace for one another.
You’re feeling the heat, I get it. Fact is, your spouse probably is, too. It really doesn’t help when you start blaming and harping on each other (ask me how I know). When you begin to feel anger or blame rising up in you, stop and ask yourself how your spouse is probably feeling right now, whether they’re working their tail off just like you, whether they’re exhausted and wish they could stop.
And then? Remind yourself that you both love each other and figure out one way that you can show it. Go make or buy them a special drink or treat. Rub their neck for two minutes. Thank them for their hard work. Offer to put the kids to bed by yourself tonight. I guarantee, you’ll get a better response.
Last week, I was having one of those terrible, no good, very bad days, and after dinner, as we raced to get the kids out the door to gymnastics and karate lessons, I start to lose it and snap at Ryan. He asked me to stay behind while he went and dropped them off by himself. He was angry, and understandably so. He could have come home and given me an earful. Instead, he came home 15 minutes later (after I’d had a good cry by myself) with a decaf coffee and piece of banana bread in hand and said “You had a hard day, huh?”. Any annoyance I’d felt melted at this undeserved act of kindness and love.
You’re in this together. And don’t you forget it.
3. Keep your meals super simple.
I rely on my crockpot or on the easiest of combinations (baked chicken, rice and steamed broccoli, or simpler yet, scrambled eggs with toast). My rule (and this is coming from someone who really, really cares about the nutrition her family gets): It doesn’t matter what the meal is, so long as it’s made with real food ingredients, if it keeps us eating at home.
This means that sometimes, fruit smoothies, air-popped popcorn, grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos and cheese, and yogurt and granola are all satisfactory dinners.
4. Bring in help.
Especially if you know a busy season is coming up, plan for this ahead. Though I struggle to hire a cleaner regularly, I have absolutely zero qualms about doing so during one of our bundle months. It’s sheer survival and you know? You can get through a stressful day so much better when your tub isn’t scummy and your floor has been cleaned at least once that week.
5. Let go of non-essentials.
This is actually something we should be practicing on a regular basis but even more so in hectic times. Are there projects or tasks you could take off of your to-do list or put on hold temporarily? Then do it. They’ll still be there when this rush is over, but at least you’ll have one less thing on your plate in the meantime.
6. Don’t forget to take breaks.
This is what keeps you feeling like a mostly normal person. When you’ve been staring at a screen or breaking your back over a project for hours on end and you feel like you’re starting to unravel, just stop.
Take a short walk around the neighborhood. Pause for 20 minutes to sit and chat with your spouse, or relax by watching a favorite TV show together. Go sit on the couch and read a book with your child. Instead of making and cleaning up that simple dinner, go out to eat together and make it fun, even if it’s short. Or declare an hour and a half moratorium on the work and announce a family movie night (you can always pull the laptop back out when they’re in bed).
7. Recognize that kids feel the stress, too.
Sometimes we get hung up on our workload and how we’re feeling, and we forget that our kids pick up on the emotional energy in the home. If we’re super tired and frazzled, chances are they realize that and may feel it in their own way. Often this looks like whining or acting out, being more immature than usual, asking frequently for special favours or treats, that sort of thing.
I’ve noticed this past month that our 5 year old cries more easily and gets overwhelmed faster by chores or schoolwork. The 2 1/2 year old has been bursting into tears or just whining or grunting rather than using his words (of which he has many). In both situations, I’ve felt tempted to put the blame on them; that they’re being bad or difficult. But in reality, I think they’re responding to what they feel from us right now.
It’s important to respond more gently than usual, and understand that some of their behaviour is simply a reaction to ours.
8. Take care of yourself.
I get it. It’s so hard when all you can think about are looming deadlines or crisis management or how there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. But you won’t do yourself any favours by skimping on self care, either. Don’t skip meals, even if what you eat is more basic than usual. An apple and slice of cheese is a million times better than that sugary granola bar, and takes approximately one minute longer to prepare.
Keep water on your desk or in your car and sip on it all day long. Take your vitamins in the morning or before you go to bed, whenever you’ll remember them best. Rather than try to keep up your regular morning routine, use things like a shower or 20 minutes of exercise to break up the middle of your workday. They’ll leave you feeling surprisingly refreshed when you get back at it.
9. Try not to over-caffeinate.
It’s so tempting, I know, but once you’ve already had a cup or two, you’re only going to make yourself feel worse, not better. Instead, try other energizers, like a big glass of water, 5 minutes of stretches or 2 minutes of jumping jacks, uplifting essential oils (like lemon, orange or peppermint), an electrolyte drink like Emergen-C, changing positions or scenery, a small protein-filled snack, or even setting a timer for a 10-15 minute cat nap.
10. Take 10 minutes to tidy the house.
What? Isn’t that completely unproductive when you’re struggling to get things done? Not at all! We find that when we’re working so hard that things start to feel chaotic, the house usually follows suit quickly. The funny thing about physical clutter is that it tends to lead to mental clutter.
Sometimes we’ll all stop what we’re doing and just power through the house in record time, to get it back into shape. Or maybe it’s your desk that needs a little help. Whatever it is, I bet you anything you’ll feel better and work more efficiently in a more calm and pleasing environment.
11. Stop to enjoy the moments.
Just because you’re caught up in a busy season doesn’t mean you stop living and loving your life. Some of the best moments take 2 minutes or less.
Take a picture of your kids being cute or goofy. Give your spouse a kiss. Pause to delight in the last two minutes of the sunrise, or that bluejay hanging out in the tree outside your office window. Giggle over a short video a friend shared on Facebook. Light a candle. Put on a favorite CD. Text a friend just to say hi.
You need these little moments. They’re what make all your hard work worth it.
12. Find creative ways to get the kids out of the house.
Not just so you can get more work done, but because when you’re stressed, that stress passes over to them.
So what’s better — for our kids to spend most of the day trying to entertain themselves or watching movies while we work our tushies off and slap a few fast meals on the table? Or to spend a fun day hanging out with their cousins or friends (you can always offer to trade a day with their kids later), or maybe the grandparents if they live nearby? Or what about bringing in a favorite babysitter who can make sure that they’re engaged in activities like crafts, going to the park, baking together and all those things that you wish you could do but just don’t have the energy for right now.
I used to feel a bit guilty that our kids spent extra time out of the house or with other people during our super busy weeks, but now I recognize that these can be opportunities for them to have a special day with people they love (and who love them, too), rather than feel ignored by us. If this becomes a regular habit because life is always too busy, well, then you need to evaluate that. But as a strategy for getting through those occasional times? It can be the healthiest thing for everyone.
13. Thank your kids.
For pitching in extra while things were hectic. For being a part of the team. For having a great attitude about staying home more than usual. It’s important to recognize that they make sacrifices, just like we do.
We’ve actually made it a regular practice to plan a special family day out once we get through our big project or event. For us, that’s been a day at a waterpark, a trip to a favourite play place and then a restaurant they love, an evening at the movies with popcorn. The point is just to let them know that we’re all in it together and we appreciate their contribution, too.