Working from home can certainly pose its own challenges, as the lines between work and family life become blurred, more so than they would if you were working in an office. Read on to find out how Jo prioritizes her time, and tries to stop working and have some personal time once her son is all tucked up in bed.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your child/children….
I'm a Brit, living about an hour north of Tokyo, I've been here about 18 years (came for one!) My husband is Japanese and I have an 11 year old son who is great!
When my son was born, I discovered Montessori but we don't have any Montessori schools nearby. I took a diploma so that I could use the method at home and with a vague idea of opening a small school. That didn't happen but I did find someone who had her own school, it was too far for us to go on a daily basis so we opened a bilingual class at the weekends. It was fun but the 3/11 earthquake put an end to it, the school was in a radiation hotspot.
As I was learning about Montessori I also found out about blogs, back then there were very few people blogging about Montessori and those who did were looking at it from a teacher in a classroom point of view. I started by sharing what we were up to and how I was making materials, it all kind of snowballed from there. I never started with a business in mind, I was doing it for fun and to share with friends and family what we were up to.
Moving on I opened an Etsy shop selling Japanese fabric, my own sewing patterns and creations. I was a regular contributor to the UK's top sewing magazine of the time and contributed to several sewing books and websites. All was going well until yes, the 3/11 Tohoku earthquake happened and overnight all sales stopped.
No-one wanted nuked fabric from Japan!
I decided, as a family, we needed a safety net in case we were in the position where we had to up and leave. So I brainstormed ideas for a location independent business, it also had to be flexible to fit around my sons schedule. I signed up for Marie Forleo's B-school and set off in a whole new direction.
I kept the Etsy shop open but digitized all the patterns and added in the Montessori materials that I had been making for my boy, that is pretty much hands off now but I still make regular sales.
Next I moved into the world of online courses...
What is the name of your business/blog and what does your work entail?
My brand is jojoebi (a combo of my childhood nickname and surname) and I help entrepreneur moms to get organized at home, work and in their heads using the Kaizen framework. Kaizen means improvement so I emphasis working in baby steps to reach your goals.
I now have 4 programs ranging from Clear The Clutter for decluttering your home, to My Organized Chaos which is setting up and organizing your home, Montessori Crash Course which I run with a partner Deb Chitwood, that is for parents who are starting on their Montessori journey and need help. And In With A Boom, an accountability mastermind which includes a tech library, mindset training and daily check-ins to keep everyone on track with their goals.
I also have a range of masterclasses and a couple of books! I'm a creator at heart so I always have a new project on the go.
Plus after the 3/11 incident I wised up against having all my eggs in one basket, now my business is set-up with multiple income streams, many of which are fairly passive - nothing is truly 100% passive but many I don't have to do much to keep things ticking over.
What made you decide to be both a mum and a career woman?
Being in Japan, with pretty poor Japanese skills, my career choices are limited. I started out teaching English to kids but that was always just a way to pay my way whilst I travelled, although I love teaching, I didn't love working for someone else. Having an online business means I can make my own hours and have the freedom to work anywhere, which means we can go back to the UK for extended periods.
I have always been fiercely independent so when I first had my son and was a stay at home mum I hated the fact that I didn't have 'my' money. It didn't dawn on me until later but, I realise now that things like going to the hairdressers and buying new clothes I stopped doing because I felt guilty for spending family money on me. After talking to a lot of moms, I have discovered this is quite a common thing. The other part of it was the boredom, I need to be using my brain to fill my time.
What challenges do you face balancing both roles and how do you overcome them?
I used to find it difficult to 'balance' both until I gave up the notion of balance. It's a ridiculous idea because you can never balance everything. At any one point, there is always something more important that something else, something is always going to tip the scales.
I prefer to think of work/life as ebbs and flows. Sometime in the day I am in workflow and others, family. Somedays this works beautifully and others the waters are a bit more choppy! Whichever state I'm in at the time I give it 100%. Multi-tasking means you are doing 2 or more jobs poorly, I prefer to give one job my all whether it’s me playing Monopoly with my boy or writing a new ebook for my tribe.
Raising a Montessori child means that I have an independent child, which makes a huge difference and frees up so much of my time.
My Japanese language skills are not great so that is where most of my challenges lie, both with work and home life. I have a great PA who helps out when I'm stuck on the work side and hiring a bilingual accountant took a HUGE strain off me (and probably saved my marriage!)
What is one tip you have for unwinding after a stressful day?
I don't have many stressful days thankfully. I meditate most days, even if it's just a short 3 minute meditation and in Japan it's traditional to take a bath at night, so I often combine both. Our bath gets filled and then has a handy gadget that keeps the water at the right temperature. You scrub clean before getting in the tub, the tub is just for relaxing and the whole family uses the water. After my son is in bed, I take a bath and that is it, I am done for the day. When you work at home, it's very easy to keep doing just one more job...
What is one fun weekend activity that your family enjoys together?
Exploring. Either finding new parks or museums or even new cafes. My son loves trying new food (he has his own show on YouTube). Skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
What is one time-saving parenting tip you can recommend?
This is one I share with all my moms and often has a lot of resistance to begin with, but it's amazing how many moms come back to me and thank me for pushing them into it. Meal planning! It doesn't have to be in detail or complicated, just jot down what you are having for each meal and suddenly the decision is out of your head and it frees up brain space.
I have some clients who find it easiest to have themed days Meatless Monday, Pasta Tuesday, Pizza Friday. Others keep a file with 30 family loved recipes and pull one out each day then repeat the following month. I tend to do the shopping then decide what I'm going to make with what I have bought.
There is no hard and fast rule, just find a system that works for you. I have more time saving tips HERE.
What benefits do you think there are to being a career mum?
It keeps me sane! I also think it's great for my child to see his mom working, my husband in an engineer and works typical salaryman hours, my son gets to see me at work and can see the difference. In Japan there is a very strong push for kids to go down the salaryman route, I am happy that my son can see that this isn’t the only choice.
Also for my situation it keeps me from being isolated, I have a great online community and belong to several others. I have met some amazing women through my work and I love that I have connections all over the world.
Lastly, what do you do to ensure you maintain a strong bond with your child/children, despite having numerous responsibilities?
Clear boundaries around work and family. I work from home so it can be easy to be always working. When my boy started elementary school I decided that when he got home that would be my cue to finish for the day. Knowing that I have to be done by 3.30pm means that I make better use of my time and work more efficiently. It also means that I'm giving my family all the attention they need.
Obviously this doesn't happen all of the time, there are times when I am super busy, like mid launch of one of my programs but my son is a sweetheart and he'll offer to cook dinner or help me out in someway if he can see I'm slammed with work.
One other thing we still do is read together. In the mornings my son reads to me and before bed, I read to him - at the weekends it's daddy's job.
So make sure you have some dedicated time to spend with your little ones, whether you work 9-5 days or run your own business. Simple activities like reading with them or playing with their toys together can make a huge difference to a young kid’s life!