You may have seen on social media that my husband and I have taken over his family business. He and his dad have run the factory together for 13 years, with his Step-Mum managing the Cafe for that time. I’ve dabbled in working there casually but as his dad and wife are retiring James and I have taken over completely. Managing a team this large is new to me, working together as a work team is new to us and going back to work with a baby is a new endeavour too – so I thought a little series on the trials and tribulations we face might be interesting (or it might be boring AF in which case I’m sorry for tearing your eyes into the text world and away from The Queen’s Gambit – which I might add, was wonderful.
We spent our Christmas holidays cleaning and preparing the shop for our entry. Although we didn’t change too many things, it was much easier to make physical changes while the shop was empty, and we thought some procedural changes would be easier to implement from the beginning of the year. Well, now I’m not so sure about that decision because its been a ride already, I need a holiday and we’ve only been open 4 days (I’m trying desperately to keep this blog somewhat literary and not use emoticons to express myself but I’m really needing the awkard smile with the sweat bead on the forehead right now because that’s been me all week). Making procedural changes is very hard when you’re not there to inform all the staff yourself- text message and whatsapp and asking staff to tell each other at handover has been all I could do considering I live so far way and have a baby – but it’s not ideal.
Even in the break, many of the things we wanted to get done just took so much longer than we thought or items weren’t available to buy (or the shop closed early on new years eve and left us with 1 business day to run around and find the things we wanted). Bearing in mind we live 50 minutes from the shop, there was a lot of driving too and my godsend of a mum baby sat but then of course Louis-James became so clingy with separation anxiety that his sleep fell to shit (highly literary RN) so the nights after we’d spent the day running around like headless chickens and I desperately wanted to drink wine in front of a movie, I instead spent trapped in his room, with him sensitive to every millimeter I moved away from him and waking at the drop of a feather.
We opened on Tuesday and after a night of waking every hour (either Louis-James can pick the nights I need more sleep and chooses to hijack me or I am so anxious about not sleeping I become the lightest sleeper ever and wake to each time he breathes noisily), I drove to work after waking at 4am for a feed and not being able to get back to sleep. I listened to Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead poscast (highly recommend) and soothed myself with the idea that all leaders feel fear. I tried not to listen to the voice that told me I’m too anxious and introverted to manage anyone and that I am certainly too anxious to lead. I arrived at work, put my covid-safe face mask on and in the hustle and bustle of trying to fill the display with stock and serving the many customers who came in, felt like I’d have a panic attack from not being able to breathe due to the mask. I was worried our new timber display boards wouldn’t work in the display fridges, I was worried we’d stuff something up and customers would get pissed off, and I was worried about stepping on staff toes – they’ve all been in that shop longer than me and I value their opinions and don’t want to come rushing in with all my ideas (as I have a habit of doing in all areas of my life) and dismiss their tried and true ways of doing things.
The anxiety has abated somewhat, thank goodness, and the podcast listening really helps me to feel motivated (I’m also listening to podcast How I Built This by Guy Raz and I bought the book on Audible which James has started and I’d recommend too). But gee, it is so hard to juggle managing a shop, working and having an infant! I need to express milk daily, my boobs feel like they are going to explode by the end of shift, and then when I get home there’s no rest – it’s straight into mum life! Poor James is working every day and barely gets to see his little boy, and it also means I’m not getting as much hands on help from him either (thank goodness for my mum). I know we’ll find our groove and it’ll take time – it’s just a huge adjustment.
Plus it seems the universe has thrown us in the deep end this week – one of the bakers slept in (not hard, I imagine when your alarm is on for midnight!), something has gone wrong with the milk order every day this week, our coffee machine wouldn’t turn on this morning so we had 3.5h of lost coffee revenue (not ideal at 6am) but thank goodness the rest of the day picked up. And although its a good problem to have, it’s been so busy I’ve had to scramble to find staff to work additional shifts. We have a lot of staff away and luckily the younger ones are on holidays and keen to work – I’ve been very impressed with them actually, they really take initiative and responsibility, and I think that’s admirable for teenagers (because I know the type of worker I was and mostly I was calling in sick or having too much fun with friends to take any responsibility).
I feel so grateful on one hand that I’m coming off maternity leave as my own boss, not needing to call anyone to say I’m running late because Louis-James trapped me, and being able to choose my own shifts; but on the other hand coming from no work into being the manager knowing that mistakes literally cost your household income is really hard! Plus I am a (recovering but not yet recovered) perfectionist and extreme high achiever and place very high expectations on myself, and that makes it hard to be as flexible as being a working mum requires. I’m happy to say that so far James and I have worked very well together, with only one disagreement about raisin toast which was decided by a third party (thank you Charli). So we head into the weekend with all our available staff working (and my mum desperately needing a break from Grandma duties after seeing the little guy every day this week) – so I hope no one calls in sick!
Hopefully we can get some time to recharge and head into week 2 with a little more readiness and hopefully alot less drama!