| Finding Work-Life Balance: Parent Entrepreneurs as Master Jugglers
By Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Founder and CEO, EventBliss and SchotlandPR
The woman on the phone is mumbling at an intense rate while I respond with “Mm-hmm, yes, that’s right.” I am cradling the receiver in my left ear and attempting to take away an uncapped pen from my son with one hand while simultaneously clicking my laptop mouse with the other hand in a partially concentrated attempt to follow along with the woman’s suggestions for her logo. Within the course of the four-minute phone conversation, I had taken the pen away from my son, moved the laptop and myself into another room to avoid my dog’s barking, refilled my son’s water bottle to avoid the meltdown that would come if he discovered it empty, answered two pressing emails, revamped this woman’s logo, and typed an invoice for her. She ended the conversation happy and seemingly ignorant to the external events of the conversation; I ended the conversation and immediately moved on to the next 50 items on the "To Do" list for the rest of the morning.
In the life of an entrepreneur who also happens to be a parent, there is no downtime. It is the most challenging and yet the most rewarding business decision I have ever made.
At the end of July 2005, when my son was 14 months old, I quit my job as Director of Public Relations for a local design college and ventured into the world of entrepreneurship with not one, but two new businesses: Event Bliss (www.eventbliss.com), a custom stationery and corporate design studio, and SchotlandPR (www.schotlandpr.com), serving as a full-service public relations agency to small and medium-sized businesses. Less than one year later, Event Bliss is a profitable company serving clients in almost every state, and has been featured in several local, regional and national media, while I continue to provide PR consulting for preferred SchotlandPR clients.
Parent entrepreneurs are not just multi-taskers – we’re master jugglers. You must be insane to run a business and raise a family at the same time: insanely in love with your work and insanely committed to doing whatever it takes to make both the business and your home run somewhat smoothly. I go about each day with the knowledge that there is no balance. Sometimes the scale tips more toward work, and other times more toward family. Understanding how to control that scale and make peace with your decisions is the big challenge.
The best thing I have done to maintain success at both business and family life is to seek out the advice, support and encouragement of those in similar situations. I’ve learned that nobody can really understand what it is like to be a parent entrepreneur except other parent entrepreneurs, who also have to juggle big deadlines and sick kids, childcare issues, and the struggles that come with learning how to run a business and how to parent a child.
There are many excellent networking groups available, including the new Portland Mamas Inc. (www.portlandmamasinc.org), a resource and networking organization for mom entrepreneurs.
One of the biggest challenges for parent entrepreneurs is dealing with child care. It is difficult for many families to afford any sort of childcare while also starting a business. Yet this is ironically also the time that parent entrepreneurs need childcare the most, since building a business takes an immense amount of concentrated time, energy and start-up costs. A few moms I know work on their businesses only at night and weekends; they are realistic about the growth of their businesses, and they have chosen businesses that allow for those hours. My son is in school for approximately 15 hours a week, time that I use mainly for meetings, and also for dealing with design, production and writing that requires my full concentration. In my experience, it is vital that you take the time to determine the realistic commitment your business will need to succeed, what success means to you, and the type of childcare that will allow you, your business, and your family to achieve that success while still thriving in harmony.
Being a mom entrepreneur has taught me, more than ever, to go-with-the-flow and also to realize the true priorities in my life. A perfectly manicured lawn doesn’t matter as much as spending time with my family. Spending time with f riends is more important than doing the dishes that I can do later in the night. Chores can wait, but relationships can’t, and vacations, even little ones, are just as important in revitalizing one’s soul as they are one’s business.
I’ve found that being a mom entrepreneur is never easy, but it is always incredibly enriching and rewarding. I know that I am setting a great example for my son, who already loves to “help” when he can, and I know that I am building my businesses with my family for my family.
Photo of Schotlands by Jasmine Photography