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SALT LAKE CITY — We hear a lot about work-life balance. Just what does "balance" mean? The word connotes a two-sided scale where both sides are in balance, depending on the equal weight of two opposing forces. In this case: working and parenting. Not realistic.
If a parent has paid employment, the universe will not always be in order. Neither will the laundry. The demands of parenting on one side and the job on the other will usually not smile in agreement to shared time, effort, payback or fulfillment. One will be sacrificed for the other if a parent tries to do them both perfectly.
We also hear the word "juggling" tossed around. Picture a stressed out parent moving furiously to keep too many balls in the air, dropping them one by one. Not pretty.
It's about priorities
Rather than balance or juggling, parenting with priorities is a better approach. This article addresses three benefits to owning a business on family life and how prioritizing plays into entrepreneurship.
Utah has 203,468 small businesses, generating a vibrant workforce and substantial revenue for the state. According to a 2013 American Express OPEN survey, Utah ranks seventh in the number of women-owned companies added in the past 16 years (73.4 percent). Many women choose entrepreneurial careers because it can offer more flexibility: They cut back when a child needs more attention or burn the midnight oil when a deadline is due.
As owner of the multi-state amusement park Seven Peaks, Gary Brinton maximized his potential for prioritizing what was most needful at the time. He set his own schedule so he was almost always available to watch a soccer game or go on a vacation with the family.
Nevertheless, shouldering the responsibility of business ownership requires the family to be patient at times. One child complained about his mom paying too-much attention to her small business during a demanding time. She asked him, "Where do you think the money comes from so we can pay for your clothes and food?" The boy smiled and said, "Keep up the good work, Mom."
Prioritizing equips working parents to choose what to put on the scale. Ginger Woolley, a single mother, ran a successful business for nearly 20 years while raising three children.
"Early on, I made some decisions that helped me to manage the home front and still run my business," Woolley said. "I let go of the idea that I had to do it all, and I hired a mother’s helper who cut 20 hours out of my labor at home.
"I gave up all the grocery shopping and at least 50 percent of the meal prep, all of the laundry, every bit of the household cleaning; I even let the mother’s helper supervise my children in their chores. And my kids learned all the basic home maintenance skills without a harried working mother trying to make it happen."
3 family benefits of entrepreneurship
1. Building family unity. Parent entrepreneurs often get their kids involved in the business as a bonding family project. It's more than a "9 to 5" weekday proposition for them. As a result, the children feel ownership and a part of the family's goals. From helping to manage a website, fill orders, distribute flyers or inventory the merchandise, they are all in it together.
2. Sharing life skills and passions. As in the olden days of apprenticeships, entrepreneurial parents have the opportunity of sharing what makes them tick and teaching trade skills, whether that be pastry baking or basic techniques of jewelry making. Children see more of the complete picture of how a business works, how their family income is generated, and understand Mom or Dad as a whole human being, not just the tired parent who comes home at the end of the day.
"I remember learning complicated concepts from my dad, such as loan amortizations, when I was young," Bryan Brinton, Gary Brinton's son.
Gary Brinton also impressed upon his children that "you can choose a job where you get paid for the product of your own hands' work, or you can provide those types of jobs for those who prefer that and receive a multiple from the work of their hands."
3. Leaving a legacy of learning. Being a parent entrepreneur builds an educational foundation for those who follow. Many who have grown up in a family business aspire to learn the theory (college) to complement and enhance the practice (family business). These kids have a leg up over other students because of their experience. They are motivated in getting a purposeful degree that would benefit the family business or apply similar skills to their own entrepreneurial ventures. They avoid the "I don't know what I want to major in or what I want to be" conundrum because they've grown up already knowing.
The four Brinton children use their bachelor's or master's degrees every day to contribute to the family business. Woolley's children are grown and also successfully self-employed, continuing the tradition of do-it-yourself, pioneering spirit that characterizes Utahns.
Julie K. Nelson is the author of "Parenting With Spiritual Power," a speaker and professor at Utah Valley University. Her website is www.aspoonfulofparenting.com where she writes articles on the joys, challenges and power of parenting.