Are school holidays a blessing or a burden?

Okay! Like you or friends of yours, I’m juggling for the 16th year both parenting and business, school holidays, re-branding, two new websites, new hires and end of year! How do we do it? Group certificates out, growth celebrated, new IT equipment ordered, painting and office makeover planned and training new people in new roles.

“How do you make it look so easy?” one new parent employee asked me yesterday – and I realised we just do! We get on and do. In the country of small businesses, hundreds of thousands of us are out there every day juggling businesses with family and somehow it just all happens. As the country of SME businesses, we just do it. Is there an equation or formula for success? I could write a book on my experiences and my learnings – maybe I should!

Meanwhile, I had a married couple in this morning to brainstorm a new strategy for their professional services firm and their 20-something-year-old daughter attended the session. I sat in admiration of the juggle. Mum and Dad in the business, a successful history of 20 years of delivering solid client outcomes – a wonderful story of combining family with business. For some it works, for others it would be considered a nightmare.

For me, I love the juggle and created a business specifically so I could combine and maximise all the roles I enjoy — mother, CEO, thought leader, soccer mum, mentor, grower of people, brand builder, keen fitness follower. My husband and I worked together for over 15 years and we were a great success – a good mix of skills, no competing and a healthy respect for each other’s core competencies. If it works well, it works fine. Gerry Harvey and Katie Page of Harvey Norman are a great example. Wonder how they juggled school holidays and being present for their kids?

As for my experience juggling business and school holidays, well I love this time of year – it’s the best. The freedom of being my own boss, creating my own life is a strong motivator and school holidays are when that freedom really plays its part. Why is it so good? Because it’s fun to break the rules and the discipline I live pretty firmly by to make it all work. Not having to get up on time, eating the wrong things for a change, going on expeditions to new places, staying up later with the children, watching kids movies (not so great!) and juggling some time off while all my clients are trying to do the same. The parent/business person juggle is a common one. We are a club.

However, for many, it isn’t quite so easy. Financial worries, juggling split families with added complexities, keeping a business going during child intensive times and coping with the pressures of family and business life. There was of course a time when my children were younger when it wasn’t so easy for me. Which is why it pays to offer a hand if you see someone struggling.

A lot of the stresses of juggling work, parenting and business are around our concern for the welfare of the people around us and the effects on our children. As a child of a single parent and juggling my own single family now, I’ve come to the conclusion a lot depends on how open the communication is. When I look back to my own childhood, my single mother worked in a highly responsible professional position in the days before equal pay or flexible working arrangements were even dreamt of. I don’t believe from my experiences that I suffered in any negative way. I saw first-hand hard work, lots of love and the determination to give me everything my mother had ever dreamed of being bought up in a children’s home. I do however remember arriving at friends’ homes of stay-at-home mothers, and the smell of a freshly baked cake for afternoon tea was a luxury I can still taste.

So what are the rules for juggling at this particular time of year?

  1. Get lots of sleep and take the time to rest
  2. Take time out to plan the new financial year and review that business plan
  3. Re-group with your team and re-set the rules of operation for this next period. It is a new beginning.
  4. Evaluate training needs, celebrate the successes, learn from the down times. What didn’t work?
  5. Review the IT requirements, staff holiday plans and staff motivation
  6. Review job descriptions and client satisfaction
  7. Let the kids or those close to you know the plan!

It does take reaching adulthood to fully appreciate what an enormous effort, successful juggling takes. So roll on this school holidays and relax you’re probably doing just fine and remember, you are certainly not alone.

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