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Living in a Three Ring Circus

© 1998, by Lisa M. Roberts

There's a well-kept secret on my block that nobody knows about but me. Well, maybe my kids know about it too, but not my husband. And maybe the UPS and Federal Express guys have taken a peek, but not my neighbors. OK, everyone knows that I'm an "Entrepreneurial Parent" -- but what they don't know is what my household has to turn into for this to happen.

The truth is I run a three-ring circus every weekday, right here in my home. No kidding. You have to see it to believe it, and very few do. It's a circus with no audience and no set act, no fancy costumes, loud music or live animals. But if you open the front door when youÌre not expected to, you are sure to find a whole lot of activity going on -- including balancing acts, gymnastic-type leaps, some clowning around and, on a few glorious occasions, a touch of magic...

If you're an Entrepreneurial Parent, you know what I'm talking about. In one ring there's the kids -- toddling or scurrying about -- looking for fun, adventure, and a wipe (thank you very much!). In the second ring there's your household -- chores, bills, repairs, calendar-tracking, holiday planning and the like. And in the third ring there's your work -- documents, clients, keyboard activity, phone calls, mailings, bookkeeping, taxes, et al. Your role as an Entrepreneurial Parent strikingly resembles that of a Ring Master, and if you don't take command of this demanding job that circus of yours will simply fold.

How, as a Ring Master, do you keep the show going without compromising each act? The first trick is to make sure all three rings are properly prepared, practiced and can operate independently at times.

For instance, if that first ring includes pre-school age children, then it should also include a steady babysitter. No question, supplemental childcare is a must for this circle to operate effectively on its own. Preparation here means finding the right chemistry between childcare provider and child(ren), ongoing and honest discussions with each participant, and monetary budgeting. The practice part is simply putting in the time, preferably on a steady and part-time basis. With your monitoring and their enthusiasm, you should find (most of the time!) that this ring can and will run independently when you need it to.

As for the second and third rings, technology lends a hand to boost the independence level within these arenas. From dishwashers, microwaves and dryers, to computer programs, modems and voice mail systems, a few of the juggling acts within the household and business routines are "Ring Master-Free"! Put in a load of dishes, a load of laundry and a leftover meal; let the answering machine take your calls, the accounting program calculate your monthly profit margin, and your web page answer some of your prospects' questions. No guilt necessary -- you're a working parent and you need help.

The other responsibility of a Ring Master is to be ready and able to step into all three acts yourself as needed. This is simple enough one step at a time, but it's quite a feat when all three rings need your help at once.

Unlike a real circus grounded in rehearsals and repetition, Entrepreneurial Parenthood is often free-flowing and spontaneous, uncovering a new act every day. Sometimes -- despite your best attempts at planning -- the school bus pulls up the street at the same moment the express mail truck pulls up the driveway at the same moment the dryer bell rings. You have to weigh needs versus consequences before deciding which one of the rings to step into first. Do you greet your kids with a welcome home smile or turn your back? Sign for the package or make the driver wait a few minutes? Fold clothes immediately or let them become one big ball of wrinkles?

Coming up with a work ethic to live by can help. Mine is family first, career second, housekeeping third. Although I make it my business to alternate center stage activity among all three, having that value system in place helps me prioritize when all three acts unexpectedly demand my performance at once.

Running a circus can be fun and tedious, energizing and exhausting. We hope it will be lucrative. We also hope we can keep it our little secret. Towards that end, it may be a good idea to tip the pizza man with a wink and a couple of bills every Friday evening. After all, you wouldn't want him to spread the word around town...(the last thing this circus of yours needs is an audience!).


Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

 
 
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