Work Life Balance – A Business Owners Unicorn


It has been quite a while since I last blogged. It is not because I have been on a technology fast or that I have lost interest but rather a lack of time and energy.

I live a busy life, as most people do these days.  With my husband, we own two cafes which trade seven days a week, we both work long hours and time seems to run away from us.  The past year is a blur and although we love what we do, having a successful work life balance seems to be elusive.  As my friends (what few actual friends I still have) will attest to, I don’t have a social life.  What little social life I do have consists of Facebook statuses and Instagram posts.  For those opponents of social media, I say to you, without it I wouldn’t have a social life at all.

My day generally starts at 4am (I don’t use an alarm clock, my body has adjusted to automatically wake up at this time regardless of if it is a work day or not).  I get up and dress and am at work by 5am where I start the day by making two batches of my famous muffins.  While they’re in the oven, I get my coffee machine ready for our morning caffeine rush.  I open the doors at 6am and greet my customers with a smile.  My day in the shop consists of making coffee, baking, doing food prep and ensuring our sandwich and salad cabinet is stocked and beautiful.  I generally finish in the shop at around 11:30am -12:30pm depending on the trade conditions.  As I leave the shop, I may grab a snack (my first food intake of the day) and jump in my car to move onto the next part of my day.  I know it is unlawful to eat and drink while driving, but if I don’t eat while I drive, then I don’t eat at all.

The next part of my day is usually running errands, doing banking, picking up supplies before heading home at about 1:30pm-2:00pm.  But I am not yet finished my work day.  When I get home, I take a short lunch break and then open my laptop and start working on marketing, menu design, food research and other administration duties.  If you follow me on Pinterest then you know I am obsessed with it, but if you look at my boards, 90% of them are work related.  Although Pinterest is fun, I also see it as an important work tool.  This time at home is time for me to develop plans and opportunities for the future of our business.  I usually work on my laptop until about 6pm when we start dinner (Gavin and I share the cooking duties thankfully).  After dinner I will continue to work on my laptop until about 8:30pm – 9pm when I will head to bed.  That is a typical day when I am working in the shop.  I work in the shop on an average of four days per week (two of which are Saturday and Sunday). I often joke that Monday is my Friday and Friday is my Monday.

I spend another two days in the office doing bookwork.  The administering of two cafes is quite a job and I do employ someone just to do data entry and filing, but that still leaves payroll, bill paying, reconciliations and other administration jobs that I have to do.  I try to limit it to 9am-5pm on those days that I am in the office, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

That leaves my one day off.  Gavin and I try to have a day off together, and most times we manage it.  Unfortunately a day off just means a day that we are not rostered on to work.  There is not an RDO that goes by where we don’t have to do some sort of work-related activity.  At least we get to do it in casual clothes though 🙂

Now, when you look at all of that you might be thinking that I am whinging and if I didn’t want to work hard then I shouldn’t have made the decision to own a business.  Let me just say that I am not whinging.  I take a sort of twisted pride in the fact that I work so hard.  I love what I do.  I have never regretted buying our first cafe and I am always on the lookout for ways to increase what we already do.  The issue for me is not the amount of work I do, but how do I maintain a life outside of work with the hours I keep.

I do love my work, but when you do it week after week, while one part of you is fulfilled, another part of you is going without.  My husband and I rarely go out because we are simply too tired or we have to get up early the next day.  One of our cafes is across the road from the beach and yet I never go there.  I don’t exercise even though I know I should and I haven’t picked up a book in about three weeks (which is extremely unusual for me).  I find it almost impossible to sit in front of the television without my laptop and the majority of conversations I have with Gavin are work related.  I think I am obsessed!

What would my ideal work life balance look like?  Maybe a weekend off here and there.  One night out a month with friends.  A regular date night with my husband.  But mostly I would like to not feel so tired all the time.  I would like to eat three meals a day without having to eat in the car or standing over the sink.  I would like to be able to go to the gym, the beach, the movies and not feel guilty for not working.  I would like to be able to make regular hairdresser appointments instead of ringing up the day before and hoping they have a spare appointment.  These are not big things, but these things are my unicorns.

Unicorns are beautiful and exotic creatures but all folklore agrees that they are elusive.  They are also a myth, as is work life balance for a business owner.  Business owners choose the life they have and there is always a season when work seems to be overwhelming and the small business owner has to decide whether it is all worth it.  I believe it is.  I may not be solving the worlds problems with my two little cafes, but I am making a contribution.  I employ staff, giving them opportunities to work and study and earn money.  I contribute to our local economy and support other local businesses.  I support our tourism industry and most importantly I am teaching my children that following your dreams is hard work, but well worth it.

Until I can find my unicorns I will continue to work hard and remember that I am blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love and when this season is over and my life slows down, I hope all my friends will understand why I was MIA and we can pick up where we left off.

Michelle xxx