Making The Work-Life Balance Work

(This article originally posted on WE Magazine for Women)

A New Perspective on Modernizing the Family Business

As a working mom, I get this question all the time: How do you balance your work and home life? It’s not an easy question to answer. Traditionally, experts have tried to encourage working parents to remember to carve out time for their families, turn off their phones at home, be “present” and “engaged” with their kids, in other words, separate your work-life from your home-life.

But for many of us – especially those who are self-employed, your work is often your life.  It requires huge chunks of time and dedication to get off the ground. You can’t stop thinking about it and often work long, hard hours – a labor of love, to be sure – but time-consuming nevertheless.  Stopping because the clock says it’s time to go home or turning off your phone when you walk in your front door is simply not an option.

So what is a small business owner/working parent to do?  The answer for me was to find a way to blur the lines between work and home so that I could achieve a sense of balance, borne not from a separation of the two, but from a synthesis.

I spent time with my teenagers telling them about what I was working on from the very beginning. Tedious things like contracts and business licenses. And fun things like logo contests and web design. I asked for their opinions and shared what I was struggling with.  They were anxious to help! Mom’s passion was infectious and they began offering opinions (some understandably naïve and some remarkably insightful). My oldest son even designed my first logo. And this summer they both recruited several friends to all come in and intern for me, helping with data-entry and community outreach.

But I also have two boys who are still in elementary school (yes, I have 4 boys ranging from 18-7, and yes, it’s the same husband). Talking to them about the nuances of running a startup would very likely put them to sleep – sadly,not an adequate bedtime story. Yet I still try to find ways to include them in my work.

I talk to them about the amazing technology advances I read about while doing research (what boy doesn’t love virtual reality and robotics?), and I also ask for their help doing little things like folding fliers, erasing the whiteboards, and tying bows on the cookies we give out for promotions. They’re honestly happy to help.

I realize that not every business is suited for this kind of work-life integration. But maybe it just requires us working parents to think beyond the proverbial career and home boxes and reach for another solution – one that sees balance as a long cycle of ups and downs, gives and takes. And one that allows us to bring our families along on our career journeys.  What better way for us to prepare our children for a future as a contributing member of society than to allow them to start contributing right now? I love my work and I love my family. Blending them together gives me more time for both – a modern balance!

Shannon Bloemker is CEO & Founder of Glasshouse, a preventative home maintenance company. Shannon is a mother of four boys (ages 7 to 18), and she has managed to run a startup between running around them.  She has over 15 years of experience in home renovation and maintenance, including owning a successful investment firm. She has a Masters in Sustainability from Harvard and a LEED credential. Shannon embodies the modern mother and is devoted to her family’s future.