You love your kids – hey, who doesn’t, right? So why do you feel like putting them on the first bus to Alaska when you’re trying to get work done and they’re out of school, ready to play 24/7?
It’s the conundrum faced by every business owner who has children. You want to spend time with them but you also need to make money. Summertime is a great time to relax and have fun with the family, but you also need to keep food on the table and product moving. How do you balance the two worlds properly?
The single most important thing you can do in this situation is learn how to set boundaries – and keep to them. Let your kids (and spouse, and friends, etc.) know that when you’re at work, you’re at work, no matter if you’re actually sitting at home or not. Some loved ones will have a tougher time with this concept. After all, you’re sitting in the next room, why can’t you just play or take out the garbage?
But it’s important to at least mentally separate the two worlds. Of course if you can literally separate the two it’s even better, but as long as you’re strict about boundaries then you’re good.
This separation works both ways, mind you. When work is done, it’s done. Go hang out with the family, eat dinner, and goof around. Don’t continually answer emails or pop back into the office as this can further confuse kids who don’t understand the difference.
If need be, make a game of it. Tell your little ones you’re on a “spy mission” when you go into your office and they have to watch the living room for bad guys until you get back. While fun, this also gives them an idea how important your work is. Another alternative, especially if you don’t have a separate office, is to wear a special “work hat” (or scarf, or beanie, or funny glasses, or whatnot.) When you have your hat on, your family should know that they can’t approach you, because you’re on important business.
With all that in mind, the boundaries you set are your own. There’s no firm rule saying you can only come out of your office at the end of the day or maybe at lunchtime and that’s it. Part of working for yourself means you can make your own rules, and this should be one of them!
So schedule a few “fun” breaks into the schedule if you’d like. Maybe right in the middle of the afternoon you’d like to break away and go throw the ball outside. Go for it! Just try to maintain some form of consistency with your schedule as it really does help separate your two worlds.
Your kids could even come help you at certain times of the day if they’re old enough to refrain from causing havoc. Give them some simple tasks like carrying items or even printing and boxing things – make it a team effort. They’ll get an idea what mom/dad does and also feel like they’re helping. And who knows, maybe they’ll strike out on their own one day just like mom or dad!
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