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The Home Business Balancing Act:
Business Role vs. Parent Role

by Evelyn U. Salvador

You're all set to start your home business. You've been anxiously awaiting this day to arrive where you no longer have to work for someone else. You've gotten a small business loan, and your office--bigger than any one any corporation ever assigned you--is all set up.

And most important...you've got the autonomy you worked hard to achieve... for yourself and for your baby. After all, being together with your child was the main reason you changed gears amidst the corporate structure.

Everything's just perfect.

...Until that first big client call. You're programmed in the "professional mode". You've just quoted rates for a new project. He's REAL interested. And you and the client are setting a date for their first consultation.

And then it happens...

The baby cries!

Not a small, quiet whimper. But a loud, exercising-her-newly discovered-larynx, scre-e-e-e-each!

And the client HEARS her!

He jump-starts his voice box and says, "OH, MY!!!"

Inwardly, you say, "Oh, s - - - !" Outwardly, you attempt an even more professional tone to cover up what just occurred, and say, "Pardon me a moment, I'll be right with you." But your voice is shaky, because your business confidence is shaken... he wasn't supposed to KNOW you had a HOME business. You went through all the trouble to prepare your stationery, advertise like the big guys and set up voice mail, etc., so you had the BIG corporate look. The end result was very camouflaging. But, hey, you were an A.V.P. in your last job, you knew your stuff...it was only fair!

You run out into the living room, swoop the baby out of the playpen, run down the hall into her bedroom, quickly deposit her in the crib, throw in a noise-maker toy as you run out the room closing the door behind you, and run back into your office... returning in less than a minute.

You stop five seconds. And take a long, deep breath...

"Excuse me," you say to the client, "It was one of those days I brought 'her' (you wouldn't dare say 'the baby') into the office with me." Being vague about WHAT office, you think you can hide the fact that you have a home office. But after you complete the sentence, you realize professional people don't BRING their babies to their office either.

You're snagged.

The client says nothing. Like it never happened. First you think that's a good sign. Then you come to your senses.

He makes the appointment for the following week. And cancels the day before. You never hear from him again is the worst case scenario. Your rates are reworked in half is the best case scenario.

Paranoia sets in every time the phone rings thereafter.

WHAT DO YOU DO? How can you achieve quiet working time for yourself and ensure your secret is kept a secret until you've built a relationship with the client and YOU'RE ready to disclose your business is a home business? And how can you provide quality time with your child(ren) at the same time?

You need to set up your working area, your child's play area, and a daily routine with utmost care. And time management plays a key role.

Guidelines to Perform the Balancing Act

Here are some guidelines and suggestions to help balance the act and lessen the compromise both the parent and child endures when there is a home business.

  1. Very carefully plan the best place for your office to be located in your home. If you have a choice between a large office (like the family room) in the middle of the house versus a smaller room in the back of the house, opt for the smaller, quieter area. Or better yet, separate and finish off unused garage, attic or basement space.

  2. Consider the place the playpen (or play area) will most likely be situated while you are in your office. Let there be a door with windows between you and the baby (or children). Replace whatever door you have there with a sound-deafening version, like a well-made French door, and attach blinds you can regulate as needed.

  3. When the baby is asleep in his room and/or out of sight from your office, keep a monitor in your office in the "ON" position while you are working quietly and which you can turn "OFF" when your business phone rings.

  4. Set up a sound-buffering scenario so distracting noises will be buffered, but you'll still be able to hear if there is an emergency. Here are several ways:

  • Add insulation to the walls.
  • Put a sound-box machine IN your office. They are small machines whose sole purpose in life is to make background noise. 
  • An alternative is a rain- or wave-maker or an AM/FM radio with natural sounds, including rain, waterfalls and waves. It is calming, as well.
  • A similar such effect can be achieved from a HEPA air cleaner, on top of which you benefit from the pure air.

Whichever sound-proofer you select, keep it on at all times. After a while you forget it's there.

  1. Similarly, set up a comfortable setting for you and the child in the room the baby is in. In that room, put on the stereo with nature sounds or soft music (a CD player that allows six to ten disks at a time is great). Blends in well with what you have on in your office, and doesn't interfere with the child's TV because it is background music only.

  2. Even if the child is engaged in other play, keeping the television on is a good distraction for the children when they bore with other activities. Keep the sound loud enough to be heard in the same room, but not the next.

  3. Designate office hours, and stick with them as often as possible.

  4. Set up a routine with your child(ren) where at scheduled intervals (perhaps every 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how well your child engages in independent play)--you visit and sit with them to spend quality time (say 10 minutes) and start them on a new activity. They look forward to spending the time with you and can keep busy till the next visit, when they are anxious to show you what they did while you were away.

  5. Your lunch and their feedings is a good time to break for quality time... the amount of time depending on both your business' and the child's needs. In good weather, a terrific break is to take a walk down the block or play in the yard. It not only is beneficial for the children, but it refreshes and sharpens your mind to tackle the second half of the day.

  6. From a very early age, start to program your child with the routine and your business parameters. Explain that "Mommy (or Daddy) could be working away from home but chose to be home with you. That's why it's important that I have quiet time while I'm working."

  7. If you have more than one child, set up partner arrangements where two can play together, with the older one assigned to keep the younger one "happy." In practice, this equates to making funny faces with or talking to the younger sibling when he starts to become whiney or loud. It has three benefits: there are less sibling fights because they learn to work things out, the older child learns early that he or she should be the role model, and it prevents you from having to intercede every few minutes.

  8. With two or more siblings, plan preschool arrangements depending upon how well they interact together. If they get along fine, it might be better for them to all go at once and share time together when they return. In this way you have solid quiet time to handle your clients and work. If they tend to fight and get into trouble where you constantly have to intercede, alternating preschool shifts could work best, where you can make the most of individual quality time and they can share some joint time with each other, making them happy to see each other and less apt to fight.

  9. Plan nap times around your schedule and the child's routine. Schedule set times so the child gets used to taking them, say after a certain activity or TV show, or an hour before her brother returns from school... waking her in perfect time for you all to share lunchtime together.

  10. If you can, hire a mother's (father's) helper for two to four hours a day to give you that needed break. This is the time you can designate to make most of your phone calls and/or schedule client visits. You'll be surprised how much help even two hours a day provides. Hire someone who will engage in play with the child, perform educational activities, take them outside... provide all the extras you wish you could but can't and don't want your child to miss out on.

  11. Discipline and routine is key. Provide incentives and rewards for good behavior and time-out to think about the importance of Mommy (or Daddy's) business when they act out.

  12. Let your child(ren) know that when the business phone rings that means everyone must be quiet. Reward them till they get the hang of it. Come up with a signal, such as a bell, to indicate "business phone" so they know to be quiet.

  13. And definitely make sure your business phone has a "HOLD" button! If things on the home front are a little up in the air when the phone rings, you can always opt to act "corporate" and answer the phone, "ABC Company, can you hold a minute?"

  14. If at times you feel down when no matter how well you plan nothing seems to go right--and expect that you will at times--and you start to entertain thoughts of renting office space elsewhere, treat yourself with your loved one or a friend to dinner to take time away. In fact, once a week is almost a must.

And most importantly, try never to feel bad about the compromise you and your child(ren) have to make for your home business. After all, when you were away at work, you were AWAY at work. Not to be seen until 6 or 7PM. And when they come knocking at your door and you have to turn them away, inform them of their next scheduled visit with you... and that you are at work now. Though it will never seem to them like they have enough time with you, remember (and remind them)... that they have you now where they didn't before.

2000. Evelyn Salvador is a certified resume writer and job coach who owns and operates Desktop Publishing Plus (www.DesignerResumes.com), in Coram, NY since 1990. Among her many credentials, Evelyn is a member of the National Resume Writers Assoc. and Professional Assoc. of Resume Writers, has been a speaker at resume conventions and on local radio. You can contact her directly at: (888) DTP-PLUS or EvelynDTP@aol.com. This article may be reprinted so long as it is reprinted in its entirety, including the bio and this statement.

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