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How do you balance a busy family life with running a business?

Family photo Coombe Mill

We all know how it feels to be spread too thinly in our hectic modern day lives. Too many jobs to do and too little time without feeling we're neglecting our gorgeous but demanding offsprings. We asked our super busy and successful holiday owner, Fiona Cambouropoulos from Coombe Mill Farm, how she manages to keep all those balls up in the air. Not only does she have six lovely children to contend with but she is also oversees the smooth running of Coombe Mill Farm in Cornwall, with eleven holiday lets and daily animal feeds, she happily shares an insight into how she manages to balance time between her business and her family life.

Juggling a busy family life and business

When Helen asked if I would like to write a post for the Away with the Kids blog on how I juggle a busy family life and our holiday business I jumped at the chance. I mean writing about what I do day to day, what could be easier? Then I sat to put pen to paper and wondered "how do I actually manage it all?"

Life is a juggling game of how to keep most of the balls in the air most of the time. Yes I forget things, but it's all about not letting them get to you and dealing with the fall out effectively. I have been known to:

Become wrapped up in writing an article and overcook the dinner with long faces and sarcastic comments all round

or

Be busy on the farm and forget to collect one of my children!

Seriously before you call child line my children are all now age 12 - 18 and on their phone to tell me off in minutes!  Living in the countryside I could spend my whole day in a car just taking the kids to school, collage, activities and clubs with business purchases for our holiday cottages in between. Keeping on top of everything without using up more hours than there are in a day is possible with a disciplined approach.

Top 7 Tips to managing it all as a working Mum

I know 7 isn't a memorable number for a list, but these are the things that actually make a difference to me.

1. Enjoy what you do

It may sound obvious, but even though I work every moment I'm awake I still refer to my old life working for a large organisation as my working life and managing Coombe Mill with my family as my retirement. Work is never a chore when it is your passion, I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love moving seamlessly between family and business chores throughout the day.

2. Plan well

It is all very well doing what you love and being happy, but to be effective too needs planning. There are no hard and fast rules for this one, just a system that works for you. I have a white board in front of my PC with my to do list evolving on it, a annual calendar on the adjacent wall with blog posts scheduled in, a family calendar with all our social and business appointments covering everything from parents evenings to Insurance meetings. I set alarms on my phone for regular events I'm inclined to forget and when it all feels too much I write a long list with everything swimming in my brain and tick them off one by one throughout the day. Without all these visual prompts and reminders I would forget something important.

3. Prioritise

With the best will in the world you can't do everything and it is important to recognise this. I have things on my 'to do' list that have sat there for a year waiting to come to the top of the list. These things may simply time themselves out, evolve into something new or just sit there as a one day for another year. The important thing is to ensure the things that really matter are top of the list and not beat yourself up over the things that just don't happen.

4. Accept help

I am so often guilty of trying to do too much myself. It is partly thinking I can do something quicker or better and partly wanting to be in control. However I have learned that things have to give and I can't do everything myself. My husband and I are a true team with our kids and our business and I couldn't do it without him, I know he would say the same. The children all help out with the business, are paid to help and also help out in the home. Even my 12 year olds can operate a washing machine and cook a basic meal. If a friend offers to bring one of my children home from an activity or share lifts I always accept, it is usually a welcome hour saved I can usefully use elsewhere.

5. Don't Panic

There are stress points in the year where life can feel too much. For me the approach to Halloween with the fun day I put on for our guests and now with the build up to Christmas are two tricky times. With Christmas I have to plan well and be organised to stop myself from panicking as I arrange a large family Christmas and activities for all our holiday guests throughout the festive period. When it all gets too much I go for a run, this is my headspace time to prioritise and feel in control again.

6. Time Out

As work and family life are all wrapped into one for us here at Coombe Mill, I feel family time away is important as well date breaks with my husband. These times are ones I cherish, they give me something to look forward to when I'm working crazy hours and I enjoy them all the more for having worked so hard to make them happen. I can hardly sell holidays and not appreciate one myself! 

7. Laugh

Laugh at and learn from your mistakes, laugh with your family and laugh as you celebrate success, the big things and the little things, in all aspects of family and business life.

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