Earlier this year I attended the Stonyfield Entrepreneurship Institute conference put on by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute. A big question on my mind was whether, and how, other entrepreneurs with families maintain balance in their lives. The universal answer seemed to be that they do not, in fact, maintain balance in any way, shape or form. I was a little disappointed not to discover the secret to finding balance, but I was also rather relieved to learn our chaos was quite normal. It made me think I ought to share a typical day in the life of our foodboomerdom to give you a taste of this brand of chaos …
We were up at 6:30 am, which was the last possible minute we could get up and still get the school bus on time. I’m still often awakened at night by my kids, ages 7 and 4, for a bad dream or a sip of water or a bathroom trip, so 6:30 is a rude awakening.
Paul stayed at home to get our son on the school bus and then to take our daughter to pre-school. I went to the shop at 7:00 to begin the opening routine. I baked six flavors of cookies, made the coffee, baked scones and cinnamon rolls (all scratch made). The doors opened at 8:00.
After taking our daughter to pre-school, Paul came back to the shop, loaded up his car with product, and tore out to try to get as many deliveries accomplished as possible before he had to pick up our daughter at noon.
At nine I left an employee in charge and went back to our house to work my other (paying) job for a couple of hours from my home computer. I also had to deal with water system installation guys and a satellite dish repair man during that window of time.
A little after noon I came back to the shop. Paul had returned with my daughter, but then needed to load up with more product and head back out. There were a few internet orders and wholesale orders to get out, so I worked on those in between serving customers and attending to my daughter’s many requests for help making a house out of cardboard boxes, snacks to go in her pretend kitchen, bathroom needs, and hug breaks.
A little after 3:00 Paul texted me that he would not be able to get home in time to meet our son off the school bus, so I loaded up our daughter and ran home once again. If I don’t get there on time, the bus takes him back to school. Ugh. I made it.
Despite my son’s tearful protest, I had to bring the kids back up to the shop so I could finish getting the orders out and oversee the afternoon production work. I set them up with snacks and a dvd in the office and continued the dance of customers, kids, and order filling until Paul got back around 4:30. After Paul briefed me on his deliveries, he tried to get the kids back into the car to go back home, but of course, now they wanted to stay at the shop with me and there were more tearful protests. He finally convinced them with a promise of something or other and back home they went.
Once the office was a quiet zone again I caught up on bookkeeping data entry and bill paying. Oh, the bill paying! I looked at my long list of to-dos — revising the business plan, preparing new sell sheets, finalizing the packaging on the new product, writing for my blog, coming up with an idea for PR — but they would have to remain undone on the list for another day. We closed the shop at 6, and I joined my employee in the sweeping, mopping and other nightly closing tasks.
I got home a little after 6:30. The kids were eating a quick kid-friendly meal of chicken tenders and broccoli. I helped Paul finish preparing our dinner. We ate quickly and then it was time for the kids’ bedtime routine of bath, teeth brushing, books and songs. At a little after 8:00 Paul and I both collapsed on the couch. There’s usually at least one business related thing we need to talk about that our passing-ships-status didn’t allow us to cover earlier in the day, so we try, but my brain is typically shut down by then and I just do a lot of nodding. I’m generally too tired to engage in one of the activities I would love to do just for me, like yoga or learning to play guitar. If I’m lucky I manage to read a few pages in a book or watch a show before I start to fall asleep.
Granted, much of the chaos of our lives is because of the double whammy of raising a young specialty food business while raising young children. But in a weird sort of way, I think the maddening imbalance we experience trying to do both somehow keeps our bigger perspective in balance. We cannot, by necessity, solely live, eat and breathe the business. And we also, by necessity, cannot pull off being perfect parents, which is not possible anyway, but the attempt toward which seems to lead many parents into a different sort of imbalance.
It’s messy in our house, both literally and figuratively, but there you go. At least now, after hearing the stories of other entrepreneurs, I know I’m in very good company.