The Parent [Preneur] Trap

woman juggling work and familyThe difference between balancing and juggling is about the size of an elephant.

No. Make that a herd of elephants.

The crazy combo of parenthood and entrepreneurial-hood is much more of a juggling act than a work-life balance issue.

“Balance schmalance” is what I say!

As far as this single mom is concerned, there’s NO WAY to evenly balance the tasks of self-employment and parenting. If you’ve found a way to keep those scales balanced, you’re the rarest of [balancing] birds!

Just like everything in life, it all boils down to priorities, commitments, and devotion.

Every day you need to make peace with yourself and decide:

1.) What high-priority commitments (and promises) you can keep and

2.) How much time, dedication, effort, and energy you can spare to fulfill those commitments

In other words …

Which side of the scale is going to tip today? The parenting side? Or your business side?

Good advice from Robert Louis Stephenson:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

Which translates into doing something every day to move your business forward without obsessing about hitting a home run every time you’re up to bat.

Stay flexible and focus on progress, not perfection, and give yourself a pat on the back on your most productive days (and maybe a cupcake, too).

Raising children while running your own business is no picnic.

Sure, it’s wise to make use of all the helpful organizational tools like day planners, timers, editorial calendars, marketing templates, and social media schedulers. But let’s face it. Time management is a tough assignment.

I always say I don’t manage time. It manages me.

Annie Sisk, mom, and founder of Pajama Productivity says:

“Forget about ‘work-life balance’. There is no such thing. It is possible to get it all done if you strategize and build in accountability steps along the way. You have to be willing to adjust and adapt, and to be brutally honest with yourself about your real obstacles and goals. And having some like-minded help along the way can be invaluable.”

Dorien Morin-van Dam, mom, and founder of More in Media says:

“Here is the secret all of us working-from-home-parents know: While I work in my business – for me that is creating content, writing, creating images, planning, posting, scheduling and talking to clients – I also prepare and cook dinner, walk my dogs, drive carpool, do laundry, shop at the grocery store, make beds, pay my bills, and clean.”

Dorien has found a way to use the buzzer on her clothes dryer to help keep her on track with business-building activities. Go figure.

Nick Armstrong, brand new first-time daddy, and founder of WTF Marketing says:

“The best way I can describe it is a series of increasingly amazing moments interspersed by insane amounts of demands on you mentally and physically, all coupled with healthy doses of frustration and helplessness and joy.”

Nick is describing fatherhood but the same commentary can easily be applied to being an entrepreneur or small business owner.

To keep from getting snared in the parentpreneur trap:

Decide right now that every day will bring on a new set of challenges for you to juggle. Ask for support from family, friends, and colleagues. Delegate tasks whenever possible. Hire help if your budget allows. Make networking, online and offline, a priority.

Don’t beat yourself up when your days don’t go as planned.

Stay confident. Your parenting skills and your business-building skills will continue to improve.

And one final important note about self-care:

I haven’t met a single parentpreneur who’s experienced anything positive as a result of sleep deprivation. Don’t put yourself on the train to Burnoutville. Just sayin’.


This month’s Word Carnival topic is Parentpreneurs: What Being a Parent Can Teach You About Business. Click the link! Read the fab posts from my fellow carnies.

  • One of the techniques that we teach for business planning is to make an organizational chart for your business. Write your name under all of the roles that you are filling (CEO/ Sales staff/ Manufacturing/delivery person/ Bookkeeper) and then figure out which of those things would be better done by someone else. It helps to see it written down so that you can prioritize what to outsource first when you have the money to do so.

    • AWESOME tip, Celeste! Thank you. Writing things down and seeing the information right under your nose in black and white really hits home and provides clarity.. 🙂

      And thank you for the visit today. Really appreciate your input!

    • P.S. Celeste, I love your “Differentiate or Die” post. Good stuff!

  • Melanie, you are awesome, you just say it like it is. Balance schmalance. And so true. Your advice to make peace with yourself is something to hang above the computer. We were not put on earth to be super-people, just decent, hard working, caring, parents should be enough, yes? Thank you for your no-nonsense approach to juggling work and parenting. Sounds like you managed it just fine.

    • Great to see you here, Sandy, and thanks for the lovely compliment. 🙂

      When my girls were growing up …
      Some days I managed just fine. And some days I wanted to pull my hair out and curse motherhood! LOL!

      Making peace with yourself is SO important. We only have two hands, two feet, and one voice (as I always like to say) and 24 hours in a day. To me, self-care and sanity rank right up there with the necessity for toilet paper! It’s a MUST when it comes to putting your well being at the top of your priority list.

  • Wow, you really took this one on head first, Melanie! I really like to tell myself there is a balance in general, yet I have never found it 🙂 So I think I’ll take up juggling proudly! Even without kids there are priorities and commitments and things to decide. Throw the kids in and your efforts and responsibilities magnify exponentially. I especially like the idea of focusing on progress not perfection. So important and yet so easy to forget!

    • Tell me about it, Carol Lynn! I’m a recovering perfectionist. LOL!

      It doesn’t surprise me you haven’t found the perfect “balance”. Know why? IT DOESN’T EXIST.

      Every single day is different, every client has different needs, spouses and biz partners sometimes get sick, pets have their own special needs, friends and family need a pair of listening ears and maybe a shoulder to cry on, etc.) The party never ends. 😉

      Add kids to the mix and your day can go down the crapper pretty fast!

  • Love it Melanie I so agree to “Balance schmalance”…Not only what you said, it also boils down to energy. I have found that if I make sure I eat right and not too heavily or unhealthily I can be more productive. I agree it is not picnic raising children and working from home. For me it’s been more of grandchildren and working from home For years in my corporate life, I worked from home but the kids were teenagers so they were self sufficient, then I decide to go on my own and my granddaughter arrives. Of course I had to have her near me and be available to her because I could be flexible and she was the first. I then learned I had to set boundaries and trained her how to work around me! Now there are two more and granny is gonna have to work around them more so they can get trained too! I believe one of the big keys is having the flexibility, creating the space for us to co-work and love each other at the same time.

    • Hi Michelle!

      It’s such a HUGE challenge, isn’t it? And we women (for some silly reason) are so guilty of trying to do the impossible sometimes — like meet everyone’s needs, get all the work done, and somehow manage to weave in a little self-care, too, along with household chores, shopping, cooking, errands, and laundry. Whew!! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. LOL!

      I can tell you’re crazy about your grandkids! (And you’re not alone) 😉

  • OMG…work/life balance is such a pile of rocks!

    And you’ve so very plainly called it exactly what it is: a juggling act. And with any with good and engaging show, there are many acts to the story. Thanks for making sense out of the nonsense Melanie!

    xoxo, Blaze

    • Thanks for chiming in, Blaze! I was hoping you’d join the conversation. 🙂

      Work-life balance is not only a “pile of rocks” … it’s a pile of something else I won’t mention in mixed company! LOL!

  • Thanks for quoting me, Melanie! 😀

    One of the most interesting things that’s happened since I’ve become a father is that my focus is laser-sharp. It sort of has to be in order to hear the baby’s hunger cues before he starts wailing.

    This can be majorly frustrating, though – when I have my laser-focus on, I can get great things done. But I get stalled by the more important (and urgent) wail of a hungry baby on occasion.

    In all honesty – the whole fatherhood thing – while being complicated and frustrating at times, has also been remarkable and incredibly humbling. It’s an amazing challenge, and one where the rewards come step by painstaking step.

    I wouldn’t trade it for anything (even the color that I used to have in my hair!)

    • You’re already a master at the ‘preneur’ part of parentpreneur, Nick, and very soon you’re going to feel like a parenting pro! Change any diapers with your eyes closed lately?

      What’s going to be super exciting and super rewarding for you is to watch your baby and your business grow, simultaneously. And to know you had a hand in both. 🙂

      Just as a matter of interest …
      My hair was totally gray before age 30. I have four children. LOL!

      Happy Parentpreneuring! Enjoy every minute. Your child will be a university graduate before you know it.

  • Sleep deprivation – those were the days. It’s amazing how much you can achieve on how little sleep. I don’t think I’ve ever gone back to a normal sleep pattern. 🙂

    Along with priorities, commitments and devotion, you hit the nail on the head with identifying what’s possible (and keeping it manageable). Great read, Melanie.

    • Happy you stopped by Sharon!

      “Keeping it manageable” is the golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory. 😉

      My sleep patterns pretty much returned to normal after my second child … and then my twins were born. Oy. They didn’t sleep through the night till they were two and a half years old. They’re twenty-two now and I’m still trying to recover. LOL!

  • I’m not a parentpreneur yet, but I am a self-admitted perfectionist. From what all my friends with kids tell me, and from what you reiterate here, letting go of the idea that things have to be perfect is a big part of maintaining your sanity when you have kids—especially if you’re running your own business! I can only imagine.

    Boy, do I have a lot to look forward to! 🙂

    • You certainly do have a lot to look forward to, Molly!! And some details of parentpreneurship you’ll want to bury in a deep dark hole. LOL!

      Welcome to the Perfectionists Club. We have a huge membership! You may as well pay your lifetime membership fees up front. I did. 😉

      Absolutely elated to have you in the carnival!

  • NO KIDDING on that burnout thing, by the way – I used to say “there is a REASON torturers use sleep deprivation as a coercive tool. IT WORKS.” I’d have done/said ANYTHING to get some sleep at some points along the parenthood path! Add in solopreneurship and, well, it’s a real tightrope act. Or unicycle/juggling act – as your picture so beautifully demonstrates! Great post. 🙂

    • I hate to say there’s comfort in numbers, Annie, but almost every new parent has been deprived of sleep.
      And unfortunately, tempers start to flare and then there’s a whole lot of “grumpy” goin’ on at home. 🙁

      The good news? Parents are really circus performers in disguise … and the show must go on!!

  • Sleep deprivation – for six weeks after my daughter was born I experienced this to the nth degree. I still think water boarding me would have been more humane. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is considered torture, and it absolutely messes with your brain.

    My favorite suggestion is “Don’t beat yourself up when your days don’t go as planned.” Since a parentpreneur will often find their days not going as planned, that self-doubt will only drag you down.

    • Boy, can I empathize!

      When I was a new mom for the first time, Nicole, there were days I would have gladly and willingly placed my head in the guillotine. No joke. My daughter had NO interest in sleep and no interest in making sure I got any, either! She finally slept through the night at 8 months into my walking around looking and feeling like a zombie.

      As parentpreneurs, it’s so easy to beat ourselves up, emotionally. Truth is, we need to face facts. You can’t possibly (not even with magic wands and fairy dust!) be all things to all people. Problem is, mompreneurs and dadpreneurs keep trying that shoe on for size.

      You’re 100% right …
      ” … self-doubt will only drag you down.”

  • Too true, Tea! Sleep deprivation is the perfect precursor to running your own biz. 😉

    I had a ten-year+ stretch of sleeping … maybe … two or three hours a night. Funny thing is, my body and brain adapted — so I thought. It wasn’t until recently I discovered what I was actually experiencing during that period was a false sense of energy and well being. Now that a big life change is affording me a “normal” night’s sleep, it’s a wonder I didn’t collapse.

    My best advice to parentpreneurs? No matter what, never burn the candle at both ends!

  • Ah, sleep deprivation. Nature’s way of preparing us for building a business, right? So good to have reminders to take care of ourselves. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Melanie!