M.F. Chapman's flexible work schedule was a little too flexible: She couldn't find childcare for her unpredictable hours. So she came up with a clever way to help other working moms like her.
M.F. opened Cubes & Crayons, in Mountain View, CA, where children from 6 weeks to 5 years old play in a bright, open space, with lavender walls, piles of board books, climbing toys, and a staff of caretakers. In the next room, their parents tap away at laptops in a quiet, professional work space with office perks like free Wi-Fi, copy machines, and coffee. Members pay anywhere from $15 an hour for drop-in child care to $749 for 60 hours of child care and office space. "We also do $10-per-hour Fridays," M.F. says.
7 Secrets of Low-Stress Families
M.F. finally figured out how to achieve what she calls the "balance and flow" of happily managing both her family and her business, which is now in its third successful year and has 170 members. Here's how she does it.
1. She taps in to the mom community.
Cultivating the community support gave her a sense of purpose, and now she fosters those friendships, organizing a moms' walking club and ordering in group lunches for her clients. "Sometimes it's the simple things, like sharing stories about what we do, that are most important," she says. Her community-building efforts yield true gratitude. "When moms tell me, 'Thank you, I'm so glad someone opened a place like this!' it makes the hard work worth it."
2. She learned to narrow her focus.
"I realized I had to stop listening to everyone," M.F. says. "Saying no to people is very freeing. Your family is much happier, and the things you do say yes to get a lot more of your energy and attention."
3. She keeps family time sacred.
When M.F.'s daughters - Kaia, 5, and Siria, 2 - are at preschool or hanging out at Cubes & Crayons, she has a laserlike focus on her work. "But after 3 o'clock, no one can get hold of me," she explains. "That's my time with my children, so I turn off my iPhone and don't check my email." She and her daughters spend those hours playing in the yard, making pizza - anything that doesn't have to do with work. "When I let myself step away," M.F. says, "I wind up getting much better ideas for both my work and my family."
How to cram a life into your busy schedule
4. She builds downtime into her to-do list...
"I divide my lists into four quadrants," M.F. explains. "There's Cubes & Crayons, my kids and family, the volunteer work I do mentoring schoolchildren and chairing fund-raisers for the Junior League, and me time. I make sure that all four are covered because when it all falls to one side, I get grouchy."
5. ...and sometimes she throws her list away.
One of the hardest lessons she's learned? "It's okay if I don't get everything on my to-do list done at the end of the week!" M.F. says that like most moms, she tends to give herself a tough time if she's not constantly running around and taking care of someone else, but she realizes that sometimes you have to put aside your to-do list.
Read more about Cubes & Crayons here.
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