Meet Jennifer Donogh of Ovaleye: Cloud Services. A member of our Power Blogger Team, Jennifer is savvy in balancing motherhood and business.
I've tried everything: mother's helper, babysitter, daycare, working with my son, and sharing responsibility with family. Here are the pros and cons of each I have found.
I am an owner of a web hosting company along with my mom and dad. I have worked with them for the last 4 years in evolving and growing our company and have loved every second. When my husband and I decided to start a family we did so with the faith that we would work out the logistics of what that would look like over time. I haven't met many women in my position who are young, building a company, and having babies so a lot of what I have done in terms of childcare has been through trial and error (with thankfully very little error).
A couple precursors:
Our company isn't exactly a lifestyle business, but we have built the company from the beginning as one that values family and offers a flexible work environment for parents. That doesn't mean that I can ignore the business during the day while my husband is at work to play with my son. My days consist of support emails, phone calls with our team, creating content, provisioning servers, and the like. Like many of you some work can be done at night and during nap times and some really does require my full attention and must happen during daylight. So what's a budget conscious, loves to be with her toddler, business building mom to do? Here is what I've tried to date…
Working with Baby
Our business was in a period of transition when I was a new mom, so I answered emails and worked on strategy from the delivery room on. I didn't take a traditional maternity leave in leaving work for a period of time. Again, I'm incredibly lucky in that my business partners are my parents so my son slept through our meetings in his car seat on the table and was held by my mom when I would answer support emails. However, there were definitely times when I was praying he would nap so I could take a phone call, or I felt overwhelmed trying to feed him and post to the blog, etc.
Pros: In many cases, babies sleep a lot up until they are six months old. You can get an incredible amount of work done while they nap. You never know focus like you do when you are a new mom. (Tweet) When they are not sleeping, having a good stroller and your smartphone will help with phone calls and help you stay in shape for when he or she starts walking.
Cons: If you have a fussy baby, are tired, have a business that you need to go to meetings for, is project based, or is primarily based on fulfillment this 'working with a baby' method will not be as feasible. You can get busy work done during naps and should be proud of yourself for accomplishing anything during that time. Consider one of the following methods of childcare for all the times in between.
For the first six months or so I did not rely on others to watch my baby on a regular basis. This was partly because I wasn't ready to leave him with someone else, and partly because I was embarrassed to ask for help. However, after a couple break downs, my mom asked if she could watch my son for one day each week and I have since then gotten better about asking for help when I need it.
Pros: I love that my son can spend time with members of our family one-on-one. Do I really need to say more?
Cons: Even though I am better at asking for help, I still always feel guilty when they watch him. I also know that for many of you, having family members help out is not even an option for many reasons. I would encourage you though, that if they are near by, available during the day and you have a good relationship to not feel bad about asking for help and just do it.
This was the first level of outside help I had after my son was born. Thanks to being a former drill coach I know and trust a number of girls to hold a position like this. Again, I was very lucky in that I didn't have to go to an agency or use a site online to find someone. However, if you do need to look elsewhere for help I have heard amazing things about Care.com.
Pros: I liked being able to be home in my office upstairs while someone was looking after my son. I really don't need to leave the house in order to work, like many of you, so this worked out great. Until my son was about six months old.
Cons: Your son or daughter will know that you are in the house working and will cry. There was a certain point that my son realized that mom was upstairs and if he just screamed loud enough she would come down. I've heard other parents find a work around to this dilemma by saying good bye, walking out the front door and then entering in another door to sneak in their home office (not an option in my house layout).
When having a Mother's Helper was getting tired I moved into the official realm of having a babysitter when he was 10 months old. She watched my son three days a week for six hours a day. The babysitter was responsible for making him lunch, changing diapers, facilitating naps and all other needs a baby might have while I was away from the house. I've heard that some babysitters will even fold laundry, wash dishes, and prepare dinners.
Pros: Being out of the house freed me up to get much more done when it came to focusing on work that required me to be analytical and also opened me up to attend meetings and other events during the day.
Cons: Once my son hit a year old he needed to be in a more social setting where his environment would change and he could interact with other kids rather than being cooped up in the house with adults all week. I was not comfortable with having someone else drive my son anywhere, so it was time to consider other options.
At 13 months we put my son in 'school.' It is one of those daycares where the morning is setup for learning and the afternoon for playing and socializing. At first we had chosen to do half days for three days a week thinking he would do better being there for a limited amount of time. This only proved stressful for mom. Now he goes to school for two full days a week and spends one day with a week with his grandma. The other two weekdays are spent either with me at home, playing in the office, or out and about.
Pros: My son has done really well at school. He knows when he gets to go and is always excited to see kids. The teachers are amazing and you can tell they absolutely love what they do. I love having consistency knowing that if the school says its open it will be open for care. I also love not having to find the right helper that has the hours I need and will love and care for my son like I do.
Cons: This has proven to be the most expensive option. At face value its less expensive than having a babysitter, but where we have lost money is when our son gets sick. Apart from the doctor bill, we also have paid for services that we aren't able to recoup along with missed time at work.
All in all, every decision we have made so far when it comes to getting help with watching our son so my husband and I can work has been great. Each solution fit its purposes and we have considered ourselves lucky to have had such great experiences. I know not everyone can relate. Reading forums and chatting with other moms I know there are some awful stories out there when it comes to finding childcare that fits your family. (Tweet)
Jennifer Donogh is an owner at Ovaleye LLC, a cloud services company serving small office, home office businesses across the United States. She is the creator and Director of Young Female Entrepreneurs, a wife, new mother, and entrepreneur with a passion for helping young women create their futures through community and the use of online solutions.