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Teaming Up with Your Spouse

Whether a home business slows your life down (if your career has been on the "fast track") or brings it up to speed (if your career's been on a break), it can serve as a peace pipe between partners.

© 1997, by Lisa M. Roberts

Parents who work at home to find a better work-family balance rarely do it alone. Every couple who lives with a home business works as a team to pull it off, whether both are actually involved in the business end or not. Most commonly, the spouse who works full-time and earns a steady paycheck with comprehensive family benefits affords the other the time to work at home without that pressure.

Couples who decide to accept a home business into their lives generally unite on one of two primary goals:

  • To enable children to be with their parents more often -- as in the case of the currently employed turning self-employed.
  • To increase the family income -- as in the case of the primary caregiver adding self-employment to the household schedule.

Aside from more time with children and/or more money in the bank, secondary goals that couples turn to home business for include:

  • To provide back-up career development -- in case the current primary breadwinner gets downsized.
  • To invest in one's skillset -- instead of the unreliable stock market (putting money towards one's own business instead of someone else's).
  • To enable both partners to live a well-balanced life.

With united goals, most couples set out together to make home business work. There are a few spouses, however, who introduce a business into the household through the back door without making a "formal" introduction to their partners until it is a strong force. Either way home business in a family takes both teamwork and autonomy to make it a success.

Sharing the Rewards

Whether your spouse acts as a some-time consultant to your business, is involved in its day-to-day operations or wants absolutely no part in it at all, there are always ways you can share the rewards of a home business with your partner.

Although they may not top your list of rewards at first, professional alignment and intellectual stimulation do rank high for most couples who live with a home business. A young father immersed in his career to support a growing family may be on a completely different professional plane than his wife now immersed in child care and homemaking. This vocational gap between spouses continues to be a great source of conflict in modern relationships as it was 20 or 30 years ago, perhaps more so now as traditional roles are on the defense, women's choices are as abundant as they are overwhelming, and upbringing involves higher expectations for both sexes.

Home business can help bridge the gap between traditional and modern parental roles. Consider:

  • The new father -- who chooses a home business as a means to glean a more visible and active role in his child's life than his own father might have secured.
  • The new mother -- who might welcome self-employment as an opportunity to keep professionally abreast in her field without compromising the nurturing of her newborn.
  • The couple -- who has chosen a more traditional path during their children's early years but plan to embrace home business as a way to close the vocational gap between them later on in their marriage.

With home business a way of life, dinnertime conversation can transcend domestic issues and touch upon business concerns. Why is this important? For one, couples are more likely to feel secure in their respective professions when they have the knowledgeable understanding and appropriate support of their spouse. Talk sales, talk vendor relations, talk deadlines, talk career stagnation, talk career opportunity, talk! Talk shop with your partner and see how much closer you become. Equally important, talk within earshot of your children and they might grow with a higher expectation of equality between the sexes than you may have.

Finally, when a husband and wife are professionally aligned, their life paths often run parallel instead of crisscrossing in constant collision. This makes for an easier ride and a clearer direction for all. To be specific, take:

  • The concept of business relationships -- Most professionals know that networking and after-hours socializing can be crucial to career development and promotion. Yet business relationships might be hard to develop and maintain if they are abundant for one spouse and completely null for the other. A home business calls for just as many business affiliations as other employment options and can quench that social thirst for the stay-at-home parent.
  • Business trips -- Here's another potential sore spot for a couple, especially when both partners pursued active careers until one dropped out of the business scene to take care of children. Even if it's just once a year, attendance at a home business or trade convention can not only lift the spirit but bring in business as well.
  • Overtime -- As companies slim down their staffs, the employees who are still holding on are sometimes upholding more responsibilities for the same pay. Even for those who are not workaholics by nature, working overtime is required. A home business helps fill those empty hours for a spouse who's holding down the domestic front for long stretches of time.

A business of one's own can offer more equitable opportunities for a spouse who's feeling "left behind." Whether a home business slows your life down (if you've been on a career "fast track") or brings it up to speed (if your career's been on a break), it can serve as a peace pipe between partners.

© 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 Bookclub. Order your own copy today!

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