I’ve recently started blogging about weddings. It’s almost my 2nd wedding anniversary and I really do miss the excitement of wedding planning! As such, this is my way of reliving it. Today’s post is a guest post from mumpreneur Claire who has a small business, planning weddings in Central Park. Central Park looks like a great venue for a wedding. I’ve seen it on TV in movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Elf and Home Alone 2. It’s beautiful and if I’d gone to the US to get married, it definitely would have been my choice over Las Vegas.
Let’s hand it over to Claire…
Hi, I’m Claire. I have been running a small business planning weddings in Central Park, New York for the past five years. I do it all from home and around my two young children. I was living in New York when I started the business, since then I have lived in other parts of the US, and have now returned to my home, England. I am mum to Thomas, three and a half, and Joseph, one and a half. Luckily, I was already running my own business when I got pregnant with my first child. So, I was fortunate enough to have flexible working hours during my pregnancies, which was a huge help.
The “mumpreneur” or the mum who stays at home to raise her kids (a full-time job) while also running her own business, usually from home (a part-time job, or sometimes a second full-time job) is becoming an increasingly popular option. I am aware that dads can also make this choice, in fact my husband runs his own business from our home, too. Working from home allows parents a lot of flexibility on how many hours they work as well as when they work those hours.
I am an avid reader of blogs, and I have found parenting blogs invaluable for advice, distraction and entertainment since becoming a parent. So, I am always keen to contribute to a parenting blog when I can. Thank you for having me, Laura. I have never been someone who dreams of weddings, nor did I feel sure that I would be a mother someday, and wedding planning and motherhood are certainly roles I have fallen into by accident. I wanted to share a few thoughts on being a working from home parent, and about the empowerment I feel this has brought me. Also about balance, and keeping a sense of identity while dedicating myself to raising a family. In many ways working from home can destroy your work-life balance. Whenever the kids are asleep or being looked after by someone else, I will be at the laptop, working on my weddings (or indeed, doing my third job; cook and cleaner). But on the other hand, although my kids do go to nursery, and I think that is a great thing for their development, they spend plenty of quality time with me, and their dad. Working from home means that we do not commute, so that makes a huge difference to each day, and if ever there is an emergency, we can re-arrange our schedules to deal with it.
I continued working through my pregnancies and following the births of my children. In all these photos I have my children with me, albeit in my belly in most of them. I remember my husband bringing my laptop in to the hospital for me to answer a few clients’ emails the day after Joseph was born. I take my laptop along on every holiday. I can’t miss responding to a client, a person’s wedding is a very important day. If you are considering starting your own business to run around the needs of your children, please do not expect it to be easy. Also, if you have been off work for a while with the kids, try not to worry about brain atrophy while you have been off. All the brain cells will get working again if you exercise them!
In a sense, my business is my baby, too, you can check out my website if you are considering a wedding in Central Park. I think it was a major part of what kept me sane through the tougher days when my babies were smaller. It has always been one more job on top of raising my kids, keeping my house clean and feeding my family. Having a baby and toddler at home made last year in particular extremely busy, but having that extra responsibility away from thinking about running the home has often been a welcome distraction from mothering. Many mums would agree that childcare can be extremely mentally, physically and emotionally taxing one moment, and mind-numbingly dull the next.
It helps that I enjoy my work. I like talking to couples about what they want for their wedding day, discussing their questions and concerns, and helping them to feel relaxed in the run-up to their special day, and confident that all will go smoothly. The thing I like most about my business is that it’s mine. I decide what needs doing and when and then I do it. It’s very empowering. You need to really like your work if you are going to be able to persuade yourself to do it after twelve hours of entertaining the kids and now they have finally gone to bed.
My parents come to stay with us for two days every fortnight and look after the kids for us. This has been a huge help for us to maintain our sanity and get out as a couple every couple of weeks. Also, because we can both work flexibly, we make a to-do list of non-urgent things that we can tackle when my mum and dad are with us and taking care of the kids. Very few employers would be able to offer such flexibility, but I choose all my own hours. My kids are not yet at school but I can foresee a future where only the very urgent work surrounding my wedding planning gets done during school holidays, but then when they are back in school, I can get caught up on all my tasks. If you are considering working from home around your kids, you get a huge amount of extra time if you have good support from your family. It did take a while for me to convince my parents that I was in fact making good money at this, and not just messing about. If you have anyone who is prepared to help with the kids, especially while you set up the business, which is the most intense period, then take them up on the offer.
There is no way I could have started a business like my wedding planning business without the internet. It allows me to be in contact with clients from all over the world, as well as with the vendors and service providers that I deal with in New York. The internet is also the way I find my clients. I made my own website and work hard to promote it. Many people are surprised that I can run a business planning weddings in Central Park from my dining room table in the middle of England, but I think as the years go by and all the generations get more used to the internet and how it connects us, many of us will be able to work at least some days from home and avoid that commute that nobody enjoys.
If you are considering starting your own business and working from home around your kids’ schedule my top tip would be to consider your niche; what is the thing that you know a lot about because of your life experiences? I was a Brit living in Manhattan when I planned my own wedding in Central Park, and it gave me the idea that I could help other foreigners get married in this incredible city, and make it as smooth and easy as possible for them. What have you done that is unusual? What problem do you see that perhaps many people have but you can find the solution? Use that time while your children are entranced by children’s TV, or while you are at the kitchen table painting with them, or on the floor playing with them, to think about what people out there might need that you are uniquely positioned to give them. And when the kids are asleep, take steps to make it happen!