Starting a new private practice was an easy decision. I had three babies in thirteen months. I have a social work degree. For me, that meant that most social work jobs were either going to require on-call duties or have caseloads that might require late night or weekend visits. Or, I would be supervising people with those duties and they would call me (a lot). So, the idea of making my own schedule around my life as a mom was a no-brainer.
Balancing Your Children vs. Your Clients
Luckily, you should find that, most of your clients are very understanding of your pregnancy, post-partum recovery and your new family needs. They will be interested in your life and you might share a little more information than you would normally. People are interested in babies. They just are.
Balancing Your Schedule
- When I was pregnant, I cut back my hours and increased my breaks. I napped on my couch. I put my feet up during sessions. No one seemed to mind.
- After delivery, I took a shorter maternity leave so that I could work part-time for much longer. By short, I mean three weeks. Then I started working four hours a week, then eight hours a week, and so on. I am not saying this is the only way. But the flexibility allowed me to do it the way I wanted rather than according to some Human Resources policy.
- In the infant phase, I didn’t schedule any clients until after 10am. This so that I could deal with sleep deprivation and leisurely get my children ready in the morning.
- As they transitioned to toddlers and got up at 5:30am, I transitioned to an 8am start time. I can drop them off and my husband picks them up, so that I can squeeze in a few extra afterschool appointment slots.
- I have a spring, summer and winter appointment calendar. Every few months, I adjust my hours to fit my family’s lifestyle. I rotate the days that I come in late, or end early, depending on lessons, events and other activities. In the summer, I came in later to go to swim lessons in the morning. Now, I close early to go to ballet lessons in the afternoon, once a week.
- I plan vacations for the entire year. Before opening my schedule for clients, I block off any Holidays, day care closure days, family vacations and continuing education events for that time frame. I have found that families will find a time that works, but can get annoyed if you are constantly cancelling or rearranging appointments. Make a plan ahead of time and stick to it.
Balancing Your Business Finances
You are NOT as in charge of the schedule as you want to be. Inevitably, the day care will schedule an event on short notice and I will have a full day of clients. Yes, I could cancel (and sometimes do) but ultimately; your schedule is a commitment to your clients and your business. You will still miss some of your child’s activities and events. You have to prioritize. My toddler told me, “It’s okay Mom, it’s no big deal”.
Also, you still need to budget for your personal and business expenses. Setting an expectation for the number of families that you plan to see during the entire year will help you determine a reasonable salary. You can set aside money for your vacations, continuing education days, weather related closures and slow months so that you are not stressed about finances from month to month. Knowing how many hours you need to work each month to maintain that salary is key to achieving balance in your business.
Balancing Independence and Isolation
I need help. I could not be successful without my husband who is fully committed to this business. Having his health insurance and steady paycheck definitely takes some of the stress off of me.
I need professional connections. The private practice warning is always that it can be very isolating. That is true. Balance means finding ways to connect with other professionals or to get out of your office during the week.
Just know that it’s harder. When I was childless, I really loved play therapy. I enjoyed every second of being around children. Now that I have three at home, sometimes I am tired. I still love it, but it is harder and requires a lot more self-care. More downtime is a must. I get my nails done more often and eat lunch outside. It just takes more energy.
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org