My whole life changed 12 years ago. I was progressing well on my planned career path as a researcher with either a university or government department. I was completing my PhD in economics, my daughter Abbey was 8 months old. Then my whole future changed in a single moment. Abbey had her first recognisable seizure. Life was never going to be the same.
Since that day in 2005, I’ve finished the PhD (taking an extra 3 years in-between therapy appointments and doctor visits), and tried my hand at accounting and teaching, but none of these career paths could be feasibly pursued full-time around the needs of Abbey and her care. I tried, I really did. However, it was impossible to find a job that matched my qualifications and would also meet the needs of my girl.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a dedicated and loving full-time carer to Abbey. However, and this can be hard to admit, there are times that the rewards from being a mum aren’t enough. Particularly when I look back at my lost career. The constant therapy appointments, doctor visits, interviews, school requirements and paperwork, leave me feeling like I’m not moving forward, but rather reacting to each crisis, in turn, and ultimately stagnant.
Five years ago, I knew I had to do something that would build my confidence, so that I could be at my best for Abbey. To the dismay of family and friends, and on occasion against their advice, I started my own business. A small investment of money and time has turned into the most wondrous journey of self-discovery. I have learnt new skills, regularly engage with like-minded people, and have been able to provide some of the basic needs for Abbey as well.
My small business focuses on assisting parents to be less wasteful and save money, selling a range of cloth nappies and reusable lunch items. We are currently moving into the special needs area with the development of reusable incontinence aids. I enjoy sharing my life and experience with our community, while also assisting them on their parenting journey. The knowledge I have a special needs parent, and my experience in economics, merge perfectly in this enterprise of mine.
It has not been easy as I manage time commitments and demands between being a full-time carer and business owner. Add into that mix a wife and a mother to three school-age boys. I certainly know I am alive (though often feel dead tired) and some days I am not at my best. Tempers run short, tantrums and outbursts happen, but I manage to compose myself in short order. Still, owning a small business has been overwhelming at times when managing the carer role for Abbey. The two worlds can collide. The demands of Abbey’s health, doctor appointments, therapists, paperwork and phone calls are constant and never ending. I must be available to manage these. The carer role always wins when there is a conflict, but it takes courage to concentrate on the business that this is solely for my own personal well-being and enjoyment.
My business has given me a sense of self-worth and freedom to control its future, when so much of my days can be dictated by the carer role. I’m able to create and share. I write about my adventures regularly on the blog. However, my greatest enjoyment is from helping other parents and contributing to their daily well-being.
Let me share my top four tips on how I handle being a business owner and special needs parent to Abbey:
- Start small. Take the time to learn how the carer and business roles will work together. It’s a daily juggle as new needs appear for your child’s well-being.
- Starting any new projects, list out the steps needed. It provides reference points as to where you are up to, if you are suddenly pulled away to your carer role. It also provides a feeling of accomplishment when days become chaotic.
- Keep the purpose of your business at the forefront. Our initial goal was to cover the cost of petrol and Abbeys clothing requirements. Now our goal is to cover the cost of all of her medical needs.
- Find other business owners who understand what you want to achieve, and will champion and support you when needed. However, just as important, find a person who will challenge you; someone to test you and push you onwards when you get bogged down. It’s easy to sometimes use our caring role as an excuse not to do something in the business that requires us to be ‘outside our box’.
- Find help when you need it. Whether in the family or the business. If your business does take off, there will be less time for housework and making lunches, for example.
I hope those tips help you on your journey to start a small business or even a new hobby.
I would love you to share your business dreams with me.