It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>
Last month, I posted a video called “The Importance of Time” and, once again, shared my favorite quote “The Days are Long, but the Years Are Short“.
It reminded me of the many times when I was starting out in my business (so that I could spend more time with my kids) when I'd find myself saying “Sorry, sweetie, mommy can't play now…” Of course, I realized how silly that was at the time. And, yes, I kicked my own butt into prioritizing better.
So, the question I asked the experts this week is about balance.
What's your #1 Tip for balancing work and family? And, do you have any stories about times when you found yourself doing less than your best at balancing your priorities? How did you handle that?
Oddly, I only got responses from the ladies on my panel. I'd love to hear from some of the daddies who are working from home, too.
I was pleasantly surprised by how honest and open our experts were about their struggles with this topic….
Felicia Slattery of Credibility and Cash Flow says:
I started my business when my girls were just 1 and 3 years old. For those first few years I worked around their schedules, which meant during nap times and after they went to bed at night. I found myself working late hours and was tired, but I enjoyed my work and napped when I needed to!
That's one tip: allow yourself a rest and a break and don't beat yourself up for not getting something done. When your body is tired, pushing on and on isn't going to be good for you, it isn't going to be good for your business — you'll make plenty of mistakes you wouldn't otherwise — and it isn't good for your kids or family — you end up being testy, cranky and short with them when you wouldn't otherwise be.
Now that my youngest is in all day Kindergarten (cue hallelujah chorus!), I work while the kids are in school. I have set work hours from 8:30-2:30 PM and I tend to stick to them. After school, I will occasionally check email and will definitely play around on social media — but that's not hard core work.
The other piece that I couldn't live without is getting help from my team of virtual assistants. When I started out I couldn't afford a team, I only had one person working a couple hours a month doing the most critical things I needed because I didn't know how to do them myself. But, that got me in the habit of delegating when I could and it's helped a ton to have good people I can trust doing the work that needs to get done. And I feel great about helping other home-based professionals like me!
Kelly McCausey of Work at Home Moms Talk Radio says:
The toughest time I had dealing with priorities was at the beginning of my online business life. Once I discovered there was a way to generate income online, I wanted to do everything I could – just about every minute I had available.
I was working full time, my son was eleven. As a single parent, I really flubbed it in that first year. I was forever telling Sean to ‘give me one more minute' (which would turn into an hour). Money was so tight and he knew I was making a little extra so he didn't complain too much. Thankfully, I did wake up and realize that nothing was as important as the one on one time I could spent with him.
I never achieved perfection of course – I know there were many times through his teens that Sean had to turn off my monitor to grab my attention.
Still, when the Netflix DVDs of Alibi or Stargate showed up, I'd drop everything to watch them with him. Priorities you know.
Lynn Terry of Clicknewz! says:
Being a single mother has had its pros and cons when it comes to balancing my career and family. On the one hand, I'm both the only parent and the sole provider. On the other, my adult time is my own – I never had to consider the needs or opinions of a mate like many do.
While I have much more free time now that my business is successful, the start-up phase was a different story altogether. And of course, the kids were younger. So both the business and the children required more of my time.
There were many moments where I had to make the hard decision between spending quality time playing with my children, or making sure they had a roof over their head and food on the table the next month. Obviously, providing for them had to be my top priority.
As I said, things are much different now. But back then I sacrificed sleep most days to work before they woke, or after they went to sleep for the night, so that I could spend time with them during the day. Not always, but as much as I could.
My children are 14 and 19 now, and have a deep appreciation for the lifestyle I created for us – and both the sacrifices and the time it took to get us where we are today.
I still get up before sunrise and get my work done early in the day, to make myself available to them when they need me the most. They are still my top priority, but so is providing a great life for them. For a single mother, there is no greater opportunity to achieve this than to work online and from home. I feel truly blessed to live in a generation where I could “have it all”, and give my children both a nice life and the full-time mom they deserve. 😀
Shannon Cherry of Sponsorship Made Simple says:
You've been lied to. Yes, I am sorry I am the bearer of bad news: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BALANCE.
I know, I once thought there is a place I could get to that everything was calm- like the scales of justice and things being even and equal.
But that day, that place, will never happen. It's impossible.
Once I realized that I wasn't so obsessed with making sure everything in my life was perfect. There are days that my business is a priority and days when my family will be. Let me share with you why with a great quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who is always trying to balance good and evil:
“Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.”
And that's the key. The one thing you can count on is that stuff happens that will be out of your control. It's how you manage it that keeps us sane. Essentially, you need to be prepared to be and do your best, whatever the situation demands.Stop freaking out when you know there's a choice between what is urgent and what is important.
It's really about making choices, not balance that will keep you sane.
Even Jack Welch has said: “There's no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” He's right. No matter what you choose, there is a consequence. But really — who cares? It's better to make a choice and live with the consequences, than be paralyzed by fear of being balanced.
Connie Ragen Green of ConnieGreen.com says:
I have managed to successfully balance work and family by including many of my family members in what I am doing online. This has been so much fun, and we have all grown closer as a result.
Spending long hours in front of the computer to learn how to do everything involved in running an online business really took its toll on me during my first year, which was 2006. I found myself becoming alienated from everyone around me, and it was lonely not to have anyone to discuss my business with. I began to feel like I had made a poor decision to leave my job as a classroom teacher in order to become an entrepreneur.
My stepdaughter asked if there was anything she could do to make it easier for me, and finally I agreed to show her what I was working on. To my delight, she found it very interesting and wanted to learn more. Soon she was combining my articles into short reports, making graphics for me, and helping me to manage my list. My grandson is also involved now, and has three sites of his own that are making some money.
And, most interesting of all, my former husband, Claes, now plays a huge part in my online business. He is my house manager, helping me out by taking care of my dogs when I travel, doing all kinds of work around my house, and spending time with my 93 year old mother. It is truly a ‘family affair', and everyone in my family is much happier these days.
I would encourage you to include your family in your business, in whatever capacity that makes sense. Your next business partner just might be living right under your roof!
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
I found an article that I wrote back in 2005 when I was just starting out. My passion and desperation for my new business had my priorities way out of whack – as you will be able to tell in this article.
The reason I share this is to show that sanity is within reach — and that you don't have to be perfect to be profitable. 😉 (You know I'm far from perfect!)
Are you a mostly-sane Work at Home Mom (WAHM), too?
by Nicole Dean (way back in 2005)
I have a confession.
I’m a mostly-sane WAHM. I’m far from the ‘got it together’ work at home mom that I’d like to be.
I believe that there are a lot of women out there like me – clutching onto your sanity while juggling family, daily work requirements, basketball practice, ballet recitals, PTA meetings, and the many other responsibilities we carry on our shoulders.
If you’ve been a WAHM for more than a minute, you know the predicament we face. We chose to work from home so we could spend more time with our children. This is great in theory. What happens, though is that we end up with no scheduled and defined work time, so it becomes a struggle to find time to spend with our kids. When you hear other people say “It must be so nice to work from home so you can spend time with your kids all day”, you roll on the floor laughing. If only it were so simple! Finding the balance between work and home can be a constant struggle especially when work IS home.
I remember the days when I worked out of the home in an office job. I had two separate and distinct compartments in my life. There was the office, where I could work in peace and quiet, focus on projects and be productive. And, then there was home, where I was able to focus on my children and have fun. I had scheduled working hours, and also distinct family time.
Now, I have the ‘hom-ffice’, an odd melding of home and office. The line between the two compartments is unclear. My office is now an extension of home. And, home is becoming an extension of my office.
Because of this dilemma, I find that I’ve got the focus of a gnat. Here’s how my work day goes.
I wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and sit in front of the computer to check my email. Fifty new messages. No problem. I get ready to tackle the first one.
“Dear Nicole, I was wondering if you might be interested in” …
“juice in a sippy cup, pretty please my pretty mommy?”
Whoa!! Ok, brain switch! I turn and look at my little girl who just crawled out of bed. She is a perfect picture of childhood, with her big brown eyes, sweaty wildly curly hair and big grin. I hug this rosy-cheeked angel and go to the kitchen to get juice. Then, I sit back down and attempt to read my email
“Dear Nicole, I was wondering if you might be interested in my new affiliate program selling” …
“the new Lego robot I built!”
Brain switch again. I swivel my office chair and see my son, his blue eyes twinkling, and his face beaming proudly, holding up his Lego creation. I ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over the new Lego invention — a robot that can climb walls. I rub his blonde head and tell him how wildly creative he is. He grins and goes back to Lego-building.
I swivel back to work, and try to get as much done as I can between the many interruptions, karate practice, dinner and bedtime stories. Oftentimes, late at night, you can find me working, while watching late night TV shows. My husband comes in to check on me. I swivel my chair to get my good-night kiss and I tell him that I just want to wrap up a few last projects. I stagger to bed late at night only to start again, before the kids wake up in the morning.
Are you seeing the pattern? Is there any wonder that I’m mostly-sane? Look at your own days and I’ll bet they are very similar to mine.
Despite the frazzled hours and days, and all the distractions, I love being a WAHM. The honest truth is that I wouldn’t trade my job for any corporate job in America.
However, as I meet more and more work at home moms, it’s becoming apparent that I’m not alone in my struggles. Other moms are setting expectations that are just not matching reality. What can we do about it?
1. Reclaim your office:
If you have one room that you can dedicate to your work, stake your claim on it. Clear out all toys and non-work items. Make your “hom-ffice” a real office. No more messing around with half a commitment to your business. Your office is your turf. Protect it.
2. Buy a timer:
If your children are old enough to understand the concept of time, invest in a timer. It’s a life saver. The next time you need uninterrupted working time, tell the kids that you’re setting the timer for 15 or 20 minutes. If they give you 20 minutes of uninterrupted work time, then reward them with quality time with you. Play a board game together or go to the park. But, the important thing is to actually do it. Don't hit the “stop” button on the timer when it starts to beep and say “just a few more minutes” or you'll sabotage your free time before it even gets started.
Set goals this month to reclaim your work area and your time, and you will take a step closer to being a happy, relaxed, and successful WAHM!!
Flash forward a few years, and there are still days when my office seems to have a revolving door, when I'm trying to focus and it's just not meant to be — and that's ok.
I take a deep breath and look at the little picture on my desk of my daughter squeezing her two baby dolls taken back in 2003 and think of how quickly she's grown.
Then, I look at the picture that my mom gave me of my grandma's yard — where, if I look real hard, I can still see my grandma's footprints in the snow. And, how much I wish she was still with us so that I could have more time with her.
So, I give myself a quick priority check. Regrets suck. I prefer not to have them.
Actually, that reminds me of another article that I wrote a few years ago for a work at home mom print magazine. Sorry. I'm commandeering this post, but heck, it's my blog, and I reserve the right to. lol.
Here it is…
Tell my 10 Things about My Mama
by Nicole Dean (2006)
Have you seen the movie or read the book, “Because of Winn-Dixie”?
The story is about a girl named Opal. Opal’s Mama left her and her Daddy when Opal was much younger and she doesn’t remember anything about her. Opal desperately wants to know more about her Mama, but her Daddy still hurts too much and misses his wife too much to talk about her.
So, on her 10th birthday, Opal asks her Daddy for 10 pieces of information about her Mama. She feels that’s a fair deal. One fact for each year of her life.
Her Daddy eventually gives her the 10 facts she requested and Little Opal holds them dear to her heart. She writes them down so she’ll never forget this simple list of “10 Things about her Mama.”
My 4 year old just loved this movie. She is also quite the intuitive child. She remembered that my Grandma died earlier this year, so, after this movie she asked me “Mommy, tell me 10 things about Gramma Jennie.” Of course, we sat down together, and I wrote the list in her diary and we talked about the wonderful woman my Grandma was.
This got me thinking about me, as a Mom. If, Heaven forbid, an accident or illness were to take me from my kids, what would my “10 Things” be?
I know what I’d like them to be. I’d like them to be that I was warm and loving and patient. That I gave lots of hugs and spent a lot of time with them. That I laughed and played and held them when they were sad.
I’m afraid that lately my list would not be so complimentary. The list of ten things about me would be that I worked too much, told them “Just a few more minutes” too often, and got irritable when I had a deadline.
Yesterday, I don’t know if God was yelling “LISTEN UP, DEAN! AND GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT” or if it was a complete coincidence, but I got a reminder to work on my “10 Things”.
I was driving down the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, hoping that wisdom would come from the waves crashing along the sand. While I was waiting for inspiration, I was station surfing on the radio.
I sang loud (and very off-tune) to some AC/DC. No inspiration yet.
Next, Boy George. No lessons to be learned from “Karma Chameleon”, I guess.
Then, I hit the country music station, where many of life’s truths are shared, and was introduced to a song called “The Dollar”.
As I listened to the song, I got the message I needed to hear.
Here’s an excerpt from that song, by Johnson Jamey, called “The Dollar”
Daddy hugs his little man
Says “Son I’ve got to go”
and he pulls out of the drive and disappears.
As they walk back in the house
the young boy asks his mama
”Where does daddy go when he leaves here?”
Mama tells her little man
”Your daddy’s got a job
and when he goes to work they pay him for his time”
Well the young boy gets to thinking,
and he heads up to his bedroom
and comes running back with a quarter and four dimes
He says “Mama how much time will this buy me?
Is it enough to take me fishing or throw a football in the street?
If I’m a little short, then how much more does daddy need
to spend some time with me?”
The young boy tells his mama
”Now I know daddy’s busy
cause most times when he gets home it’s dark outside
but tell him I’ve got me some pennies
saved up from the tooth fairy
and I keep ‘em in my piggy bank and I believe there’s thirty-five”
He says “Mama how much time will that buy me?
Is it enough to take me camping in a tent down by the creek?
If I’m a little short then how much more does daddy need
to spend some time with me?”
In the spirit of this song, I’ve decided to spend today with my daughter instead of writing my usual 1000 word article this month. I have a feeling, as Mothers, you’ll understand exactly why.
In the meantime, I’ll be working on making my “10 Things about My Mama” list reflect the Mom I want to be. I hope you will, too.
Yeah, making money is fun, but making memories is a whole lot better.
It’s Your Turn.
So, now, I’ll pose this question to you. Do you have any special tips for balancing work and family? I’d love to hear your comments!
PS. I have created brandable reports from several of the previous Expert Brief columns that you can use to earn money by giving them away.