Family First, But…It’s a Fine Line with Work-Life Balance

equilibrist-1831016_1280That’s the problem with putting others first; you’ve taught them you come second–Unknown

Earlier this week, I was on the phone with a client discussing the details about a current project. Near the end of the conversation, she asked when I thought I could get the drafts to her.

My reply, “I’m driving to Ohio tomorrow to accompany my mother to her eye surgery. She’ll need some assistance over the next several days, but I should be able to get you a draft by the end of the week.”

“Oh dear. Thanks for sharing your schedule with me. If you need a few extra days just let me know; family comes first,” she said.

Her concern and offer flattered me. That’s the sort of flexibility, understanding, and appreciation I sought when I went into business for myself. However, health and emergencies are one consideration, but it’s sometimes a fine line between true family first needs and when family wants to come first.

Here are a few of my real-life examples:

  • My mother calls to give me every detail about the Brangelina Divorce—in the middle of a work day.
  • My daughter calls me at 9:34am Monday morning to work on a 24,000 piece puzzle with her.
  • My aunt is going out of town and wants me to house- and cat-sit the entire week. She wants me there all day and night, but my schedule does not permit it.
  • My partner needs assistance with activities of daily living. There are tools that can help him accomplish his needs, but he doesn’t like the being old image it conveys.

The work-arounds have been to remind my significant others that I have specific work hours and their particular request must be postponed until I’m on break or done with my activities. This also requires reminding them (mostly my daughter) when my availability hours are, with certain exceptions ex: emergency daycare if the school is under a lice scare.

Examples of when family does and SHOULD come first, and the work-arounds for business:

  • My daughter, granddaughter and I ended up with the 72-hour bug December 26, 2014. Although it was a holiday, entrepreneurs and business owners have the flexibility to step aside for these cases. The problem: we don’t LIKE to. We want to maintain a connection with our business and our clients. See Entrepreneurs NEVER Get Sick!
  • My granddaughter ended up being admitted to the children’s hospital with a severe infection a few weeks ago. I was there to support my daughter and my granddaughter, and the availability of owning my business made me more readily available and flexible for this emergency.
  • My dad suffered a fall that left him with severe brain damage December 8, 2009. Until his death in 2015, my mother spent all her days in the ICU with him, uncertain he would live or die. She fell into depression, but I was able to visit her monthly to provide comfort, reassurance, and to handle the onslaught of bills, doctor appointments, and pesky neighbors and relatives. I discovered that this was ideal work time for me because focusing on a project deadline helped me to cope with everything going on around me.

Yet as business owners, we struggle to find a balance. When we’re sick, we have difficulties giving in to the requirement to put everything on hold until we get better. Family has their own needs that push us one way or the other. Teaching them and ourselves where our boundaries are helps to define when family does come first verses when family wants to come first. Your definition will be different from mine, but we need to remind them and ourselves that we come first too.

That’s where true balance begins.

PS: I turned in the client’s project the day after mom’s surgery.

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler
A grandparent in business