➽ I’d feel less guilty about all the hours I devote to my work if I incorporated my family more into my business. How can I do that?
I started my first business in 1999 in my bedroom with an AOL email address, dial-up Internet, and my twin babies Emma and Jake at my feet. My kids and husband have never been far from my work, literally and figuratively: Owning a small business means the line between work and life is thin, if present at all.
Since then, inviting my family into my work has reaped numerous rewards, including terrific ideas, some great arguments and my sanity. Doing so works well for others, too.
Jill Donovan, a Tulsa, Okla.-based jewelry designer whose Rustic Cuff pieces are carried by Nordstrom, Dillard’s and hundreds of boutiques nationwide, says that instead of choosing between time spent on work or with family, she strives to make it all part of the same world. She looks for ways to include her two daughters in all aspects of her business.
“As much as I can, I involve them in the design process by asking their opinion from a young girl’s perspective,” Donovan says. “I want them to feel that they are a part of the ultimate design process so that when a product is created, they have that proud feeling that they played a role in it.” As a result, her daughters have a vested interest that leads them to love Mom’s business, Donovan says, “and they add a fresh new perspective that I may not otherwise get.” In addition, Donovan has named certain products and designs after her daughters and their friends. “It gives them a sense of pride that they can share with their friends.”
Deborah Gilboa, M.D., an internationally known parenting and youth development expert, says that work-family balance “often translates into trying to keep a constant tally of minutes spent with one or the other. The stress of trying to keep things equal—in a world of urgent, unexpected deadlines on one side and last-minute requests on the other—can leave us feeling unbalanced.” Instead of considering these to be two separate buckets you must fill, Gilboa says to make them one, using these three tips:
1. Tap family for brainstorming. “When a work conundrum stumps you, take it to your kitchen table for out-of-the-box ideas. This lets your family know that you value their ideas and opinions, and it models the resilience you bring to your work when challenges crop up.”
2. Leverage the skills at home. “Our kids and partners are great at all kinds of things, from graphic design ideas to tech solutions, proofreading and brainstorming. Explain that you need their particular help with a work project and outsource at home.”
3. Join ’em. “Find something that takes more time than experience to accomplish and pull it out with a younger family member to have great conversation while they help you work. Or just sit down [to do] your work at the homework table.”
By incorporating their families in their nonstop work, neither Gilboa nor Donovan is burdened by the overwhelming sense of guilt that working parents often describe. As my twins graduate from high school this May, I can proudly say that I’ve always been among those guilt-free moms, too.