Help Your Family Adapt to Your Home Business
Transitioning to a home-based job can solve many work/life balance issues facing your family. You'll be able to pick up your children from school and spend quality time with your family. But you must realize your schedule is not just about you and your work.
Five years ago, Linda Horsley started a marketing and communications business from her home, which she shared with her partner, Jim, and his daughter, a high school senior. "The difficult part was having her respect my office hours," says Horsley.
Arriving with a client and finding someone on the couch watching television could be disastrous for the business relationship, she explains. So Horsley set rules. "Basically, it became a matter of the house being off limits from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., unless she was in her room doing homework," describes Horsley. "She couldn't be hanging out, watching TV."
Setting rules can help your family understand that you need time and space for your work. Rules, however, aren't the magic solution, especially for small children. When a 2-year-old wants her mommy, the fact that you are on an important phone call isn't going to change her needs. Having reliable child care is one way to carve out the quiet hours you need. You can arrange for the kids to go to the library when you have a conference call, or for a light workload while breaking in a new babysitter. And even very young children can understand that you have work time when they cannot interrupt you.
If you work from home, you can also be up-front with clients, letting them know that your kids are with a babysitter in the house. That way, you don't have to panic that your client might hear their voices in the background.
Barbara Grinnell started her own business four years ago when her two children were 3 and almost 1. "I squeezed it in then and rarely used babysitters," she remembers.
Grinnell explains that her job as a unit leader for Creative Memories, a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based company that sells photo preservation products, is geared for stay-at-home moms. "People know it's a stay-at-home business that happens to go alongside family responsibilities," she says. "For me, the kids come first."
Now she has a third child and does much of her work while the older two are in school. "I work during naptime, and I have a cell phone in the car and take my Day Runner with me so I can make calls," says Grinnell. She also uses a babysitter, because the business has grown so much.
Both Grinnell and Horsley agree that their partners' support is essential to their success. "My husband is very supportive," says Grinnell. "He turned to me once and said, 'My gosh, look at you. I'm so proud of you.' That made me feel so good."
Two years ago, Horsley put her marketing business on the backburner to take over Personal Comforts, a Marblehead, Massachusetts, business offering exercise, playgroups and overnight care for pets. "I had back surgery right after buying the business," she says. "Jim was fantastic. He worked full-time and was out walking dogs, cleaning Kitty Litter and bringing in more staff. He still does payroll and accounting."
Both business owners also agree that separating business from their home lives can be difficult, but it's important to preserve balance in their lives. "For the first year, I was putting in 12- to 14-hour days, six days a week, and by Sunday I was a wreck," explains Horsley. "But I am getting better and better at compartmentalization -- better at turning away business."
"I could use more downtime hanging on the couch with [my husband] watching football," admits Grinnell. "If he's home, I tend to sneak away into my office. But the positive side is that last year I earned a trip -- a week for the two of us alone, all expenses paid."
Every family is different, and you may need creative solutions to accommodate your family's schedule while maintaining your work time. But you must work with your family, not against it, to strike the right balance for everyone.
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