Business and Family Affairs
Every executive position
is a juggling act -- and being "CEO" of your
home career is no different! Use your managerial skills to take
control of your work and family life.
by Lisa M. Roberts
There's a title every work-at-home parent
holds. It may not help to advertise it on your business card,
but it couldn't hurt as a sign boldly displayed in your home
office. What could possibly describe every job an at-home working
Try "Director of Business & Family
Affairs." It pretty
much sums up your life (as much as a single title could!).
The key to making this integrated
job position work for you is to see yourself as you are - a Manager.
Managerial skills constantly come into play as you juggle the
three "departments" of your home career: parenting,
business and housework. Without strong managerial skills, one
of these "departments" is bound to collapse.
If your workload gets overwhelming
at times, just do what all good managers do -- draw up a plan.
If you've been in management professionally before, you know
what's expected of you; if you haven't, draw from your roles
as a parent and head (or co-head) of your household.
A manager steps back to
see "the big picture" and to develop a course of action,
then steps in to set that plan in motion. This takes the
- Delegate and motivate.
- Schedule and organize.
- Monitor what works and what
In any business, the call for
a manager comes whenever there's more work than one person can
do alone. This call is likely to come sooner rather than later
in the life of your home business. The common sense approach
of delegating tasks to others is a bright spot in your work-at-home
lifestyle plan! It eases your workload and is the keystone of
Although in the beginning you
may try to handle everything on your own, as your business and
family grow the task of delegation will be a welcome one. One
way to get started is to study each point of your triangle of
responsibilities (child care, business, housework). List the
primary tasks involved at each point and realistically evaluate
your need for outside help. Then jot down the names of a few
friends, relatives and professional associates who may be of
assistance in these areas.
In short, your delegation needs
will depend on:
- Child Care -- The number, ages and personalities of
- Business -- The nature and volume of your business.
- Housework -- The size of your house and the standard
of cleanliness you subscribe to.
Just remember that when it comes
to delegation, this simple premise holds true: the best work
is done when the worker is in the best spirits. Whether you enlist
your children, spouse, neighbors, friends, relatives or professionals
to help you out with any of your child care, business or household
tasks, always extend respect and appreciation of their efforts.
In addition to any monetary compensation you may agree upon,
offer positive feedback, a smile...and gratitude.
Remember: A healthy dose of motivation with
Once you have your extended support
team in place, the next exercise of your management skills is
scheduling -- not only of the tasks that you've delegated but
of all the remaining that are left to you.
Here's your chance to loosen
that 8-3, 9-5 block of work time you've picked up in the school
system and traditional workplace. As a home-based professional,
you will find innovative applications of your work time, weaving
your business-related, housework and child care tasks in between,
through and around each other. In fact, the next time you braid
your daughter's hair, recall your day's activities...and feel
It's more likely, however, that
the similarity will be found more in the weaving than in the
equal distribution of three parts. No matter how organized your
schedule may be in theory, you'll find in practice a good dose
of flexibility will be in order. Some days you'll find yourself
under the pressure of business deadlines, other days you'll be
acting as a full-time nurse to a child down with the flu, and
still other days you'll play catch-up with domestic chores.
The prospect of unexpected interruptions
shouldn't rattle you. Managers of every type -- in every line
of work -- face this upheaval of planned agendas. But that fact
doesn't keep them from setting up estimated timetables -- and
doing their best to stick to them. Timetables help managers keep
track of all the tasks ahead while assuring that they will get
For home businesses, timetables
play another critical role. The structure of a fairly consistent
work schedule enables the family to adjust to home business life.
Knowing when you are unavailable to them (save emergencies) and
when they can enjoy your full attention develops a sense of security
in both your children and your spouse.
Just as your business needs blocks
of your uninterrupted time to succeed, so does your family need
them to flourish. Without an established work schedule, the pull
to pitter-patter in your home office may rob you and your family
of that critical time you all need to spend together.
The final test of your managerial
skills comes at evaluation time. This should happen one or two
weeks after putting your first plan into action, and then continue
every couple of months and/or as needed.
At this point you're on a schedule
(somewhat), you've delegated tasks to others, and now it's time
to track the results. There are two aspects of home business
that need to be consistently monitored:
- Productivity -- Whether all the tasks that need to be
done are getting done.
- Spirit -- Whether all the players involved are
in healthy spirits.
These two considerations are
partners in home business success; one cannot do well for long
without the other. If one gets ignored, the other cries out for
attention. For instance, if you find yourself getting everything
done but at the expense of a positive family psyche, your family's
needs will grow more and more demanding and that productive roll
you've been on will come to a halt. On the other hand, if you're
constantly worried about how everyone else is "handling"
your new-found work-at-home responsibilities, you may never have
a chance to get to them!
With that thought in mind, we're
once again back to that triangle of responsibilities:
- Child Care -- How are your children doing? Is the gleam
of pride starting to shine in their eyes or are their arms folded
in opposition? Are they going to bed peacefully or do they keep
popping out for "more" of you? Have they grown more
diligent with their homework, inspired by your "home"
work, or are their grades starting to slide?
- Business -- So how's business? Are client calls/orders
streaming in on a consistent basis? Are you following up on your
leads? Taking the time needed for administrative and business
management tasks? Continuing to market even when business is
- Housework -- So what's the house look like now? Is
your basement growing soiled clothes? Does your kitchen sink
host dirty dishes every night? Are you afraid to open up some
of those tupperware containers in your fridge?
Take time -- and time again --
to identify the weak spots on the domestic and business front
and then figure out how to address them. If the laundry's piling
up, for instance, why not throw a load in every morning after
you shower, then finish it up whenever you need a break from
work. If it's the filing that's piling, set aside a half hour
each evening before turning in to clear your desk off. Finally,
if your children take an attitude/behavioral turn for the worse,
stop everything and sit down for a talk...
In other words, start weaving!
Pull every functional task, one way or another, into the fold.
Don't worry if certain strands keep sticking out -- that's natural!
Just keep in mind that a braid simply won't hold unless all three
main parts are taken in. As a Parent -- and a Director
-- you'll learn the art of weaving soon enough.
- © 1997 Lisa M. Roberts, all rights reserved. The above article
is an excerpt from How
to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide
to Home Business, a title highly recommended by La Leche
League, Home Office Computing and the Family Christian
your own copy today!