In some ways, starting a business is like having a baby. They both demand a lot of attention, result in sleepless nights, and require a lot of coffee. For those trying to manage a business and raise children simultaneously, things can get overwhelming, especially when you add to the mix some of the situations that come with being a Veteran or active member of the military.
If you find yourself in that situation, or you are contemplating going there, here are some steps that you can take to make things more manageable until the business or the kids reach maturity.
Welcome the flexibility
One of the things that I most looked forward to when I left my job with the federal government to start my own businesses was having more time with my kids. I had been working a “40 hour per week” job that demanded more like 60 hours of my time. And if I wanted to advance up the ranks, I needed to spend even more time connecting with the right people each week.
While starting your own business can be just as demanding as being an employee, you have the flexibility to decide when during the day you work and when you have worked enough for the day. Figure out the best time to be there for your kids and schedule your work around it. But be careful; being too flexible can keep you from getting your work done.
Flexibility should be a tool that helps you to balance business and parenting, not something that hinders you from running a successful business. Set a schedule that works for you and your kids, and stick to it.
As I’ve said, both a business and a child can be demanding. To keep things in balance, you will need to define what needs to get done to keep growing strong and be careful about going beyond that.
The business plan that works will be the one that still provides time for your family. When opportunities come up that demand additional time, they should be weighed carefully before committing. And the family should acknowledge that you may not always be available because you are responsible for running a business that needs your regular and focused attention.
Balance can be especially hard to achieve if you are working from home. When working from home with younger kids, establishing a fun and engaging place for the kids to play while you work can help you to be more productive. You might also need to let clients know that they may see or hear kids in the background while you are meeting online or talking on the phone, which has become more acceptable as remote work has become more common.
Knowing when to disconnect from work can also be challenging when working from home. Working on a laptop makes it easy to work around the clock at the breakfast table and the dinner table and in the bed. Remember that you started your own business because you wanted to work less.
Anticipate co-parenting challenges
The challenges faced by those trying to balance a business and parenting are compounded when co-parenting is involved. And co-parenting is a common scenario for Veterans and military personnel due to the higher than average divorce rate in the military.
Co-parenting brings added strain in a variety of areas. If your ex-spouse lives in a different city, it can mean travel time that takes you away from your business. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce, you may have a financial commitment that must be factored into your business goals. In any case, co-parenting brings an emotional strain that must be managed along with the other strains of running a business.
For those who are transitioning out of the military and into a co-parenting situation, do not fail to consider the additional burdens it brings when filing Veteran Affairs claims. It is not unusual for challenges you faced during your military service to contribute to the situation that led to divorce. If divorce leads to co-parenting responsibilities, those could bring additional financial duties related to traveling to see children and providing for their food or lodging while visiting.
Play the long game
Overall, being successful at running a business and raising a child requires accepting that both are long-term endeavors. Patience will be a resource that you will need to have plenty of. And when you feel like things are moving too slowly, remind yourself that anything worth having is worth waiting for.
About the Author
— Chas Sampson is a former US Army Iraqi War Veteran and Decision Officer/VA Rater at the United States Department of Veteran Affairs who founded Seven Principles to help his fellow Veterans empower themselves and improve their lives. Monikered after the seven Army values, the company’s mission is to identify, analyze, and execute solutions to put more money in Veterans’ pockets each month and for the rest of their lives.
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