It’s a common characteristic of business owners: the love of doing things their own way and having the flexibility for their passions in life. Sadly, many entrepreneurs find balance a problem, especially in summer, when kids are home, and family BBQs are in vogue. How does a thriving business owner push through the busy summer months and still embrace those values they hold dear?
Here are a few ways many successful business pros keep family prioritized without neglecting their companies.
1. Practice strategic outsourcing.
Need someone to watch the kids for a week while you are away on a client trip? Launching a product and need five days of uninterrupted productivity? While shifting your parenting duties on to someone else may seem counter to spending the summer together, many natural summer activities help achieve this aim. Summer camps, for example, give the kids a chance to meet friends, practice skills, and see new things – as well as conveniently give you some much-needed alone time. With camps ranging from a few days to many weeks, you can pick the duration that gives your family the right balance.
Bonus tip: Studies show that kids lose around 2.6 months of math knowledge over the summer. Help them stay sharp, and get your work done, by sending them to a camp or study program that combines math and fun. STEM camps are growing in popularity, helping end that learning gap and putting kids at an advantage when they return to school in the fall.
2. Arrange micro-vacations.
I’m not a fan of the 2-week family vacation, probably because I am a business owner. The stress and activity needed to prepare for a full 14-day client blackout are just too much, and it often causes difficulties in the family dynamic. Returning from a trip can be just as hard. Many families find that shorter vacations offer better value, create less stress, and more naturally integrate into the very busy calendars that families have each summer. Don’t feel you have to do ten days in Italy to spend time with the kids; you’d be surprised what a 3-day jaunt to the next state will offer.
Bonus tip: Language matters. It may seem silly to call a one-day trip upstate a “vacation,” but for kids who look forward to summer, it helps build the narrative they need. Just be sure these vacations are truly a getaway. Overusing the word will quickly destroy its meaning.
3. Ask the kids.
Parents often miss huge opportunities to bond by simply not listening. We may think we know what makes an epic family road trip until we get feedback from the kids. Business-owner parents can often over-promise and under-deliver, so avoid losing trust by getting it directly from the kids’ mouth what it is that they expect from the summer. If you’ve been prepping for an epic Disney holiday, but they just want to spend the week binging Stranger Things again with the parents, you’ve clearly been given a gift. Ask. Listen. Promise. Deliver.
Bonus tip: Try to balance nostalgia for the things you did as a kid with what your kids want to do now. Sure, you can visit that lake you loved when you were nine, but be open to their requests for a few stops on the way. They’re entitled to their own childhood memories.
4. Establish boundaries.
The bigger your family is, the more important this strategy will become. Set goals at the beginning of the summer on how the group will use their time, and stick with it! Common boundaries that help families stay connected (and avoid summer burnout) may include:
- One sport per child
- Additional sports must be done by everyone
- One work trip per month for mom or dad
- No business work after 11 pm
- No friends sleep over one weekend a month
- Only one workday allowed per family vacation
You get the point. Settling these things in advance results in fewer hurt feelings when expectations are assumed but not understood by everyone.
Bonus tip: Boundaries get broken, so expect this and schedule a check-in time to see how everyone is doing. Can an additional sport be comfortably added without messing up the dynamic? Will that extra work trip be OK if the family can come along and enjoy the hotel pool? Use common sense to build flexibility in when it agrees with everyone.
There’s no good reason for families not to know what’s going on these days. With shared calendars, cell phones, text apps, and social media, there are more than a dozen ways to let your family know if plans have changed. Use the tools at your disposal to form your summer plan, and quickly advise on next steps if something changes. Some recommended tools for family communication hubs include Cozi, a specifically family-focused app, or a more generic tool like Trello.
Bonus tip: Kids that may be too young to carry a phone to school may be the right age for a “summer-only” phone. Consider investing in basic smartphones or refurbished models that keep them connected while at camp or a friend’s house. You don’t have to load it with a lot of data; many parents do a wi-fi only plan with just a few GBs of data. Do what you need to get them through summer, and don’t feel they need to keep it after school resumes in the fall.
6. Consult the experts.
While it’s admirable to want to go your own way on this, networking with other working parents really does help. Whether it’s a Facebook group, a set of articles, or just that dad you know from that one soccer camp, get some input when needed on new ways to handle problems. Not everyone’s advice will work for you, but it can inspire new solutions.
Bonus tip: Need a truly fresh perspective? Start by asking those who work from home and homeschool how they handle it. These are parents who are in the trenches of work and family balance all year long, not just during the summer. Check out blogs written by business-owning homeschoolers to get ideas for engagement and schedule management.
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, things can go south very quickly during the summer. Sickness, a family death, moving, or a change in business can all destroy our solid plans, leaving us scrambling to recover. The good news is that business owners are already experienced in risk, mitigation, and incident recovery. Team up with your loved ones to create a new plan moving forward, and always remember that your family is the reason you do your business. Without them, the other stuff may not mean much, at all.
This article was originally written on May 24, 2019 and updated on February 1, 2021.