There’s a reoccurring question that has been increasingly popular from my readers. It’s a question that I struggled with in the beginning, and one that I’m trying to continually perfect and figure out. However, I’ve made some simple adjustments and found some very life changing answers these past few years that I know will help you to. The question comes in a form like this,
“How do you balance your work and family life?”
Aha, the questions that women all around the world will spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out. When I first started The Shine Project, I wasn’t a mom, and didn’t intend to be one for a while. Pretty much over night, we were given the biggest blessings of our lives and I became a mother figure to a 4 and a 6 year old (who are now 7 and 9… can’t believe it!) INSTANTLY. There was no planning, no mapping out how to be a CEO and mom, and no knowledge of what to even expect. My business was 10 months old, was in a vital stage, and even more important than that, I know was in charge of two precious little ones who needed more care and attention that my business ever would. Mike and I hadn’t talked about having kids until it was presented to us, because I’m the type of person that knew when it was time to be a mom, that I would put all my time and attention into being a mom. At that time in my life, I thought that more attention needed to be spent building my company, so there weren’t in the near future plans of bringing kids into our lives. So, when they suddenly entered into our life, I changed my plans a little bit so they would receive all of my focus that they needed.
For a while, I felt like a failure. I felt like when I was working, I was worried about the kids. When I was with the kids, I would feel stressed about work. I felt like I was juggling these balls that had no defined lines as to where they belonged and I didn’t know where to start to set boundaries or even where to begin. My company was doing great, the kids were doing great, but internally I felt like an exploding science experiment gone wrong. My sister set me down, she said, “Okay Ashley. You need to figure this out. And whatever you decide you are going to do, you’re not going to feel guilty about it, okay?”
A few months after that, we put our house up for sale and bought a new one closer to where my parents lived. I knew that I wanted family support and that I wanted the kids to be spending time with people who love them. Zoe would start kindergarten that year, which would mean that the kids would be in school until 2:30 every day. With the support of my mom, we decided that she would pick the kids up from school a couple of days a week until I got home from work. She watches the kids about 7 hours a week… but those 7 hours make a huge difference. On the days she watches them I pick them up by 5. Because of my shorter work hours throughout the week, this means that when they go to bed at night, I finish working on whatever it is that I need to work on. HOWEVER, I do not allow it to consume me anymore.
The hardest years were in the beginning, when my office was out of our house and I only had a couple of employees. That time really motivated me to grow so that I could have more help. If your office is in your home, it is SO important that you designate a certain area for it so that you feel like it isn’t taking over your house when you’re not working, or you’ll start to loath what should be your passion.
When we were able to open an office outside of our home, it changed a lot for me, but definitely wasn’t the cure for all of the mom/business owner pressure.
What has allowed me to have a more balanced life is so simple, yet so hard to grasp: When I’m at work, I work. When I’m home with my family… I am home with my family. We spend hours playing outside. We have certain days dedicated to dance and piano and boy scouts, and the weekends are usually completely work free.
I used to travel all of the time. One time I took a flight out at 5 AM so that I could make it to Shiloh’s Saturday soccer game at 9. I hurried straight to his game, I was exhausted, but I made it. I decided that work would not prevent me from missing the important things in life. And all of those important things involve my relationships with my family.
What really has helped me balance, is hiring employees as we grow. I now have 20+ people who are a part of The Shine Project. Things are delegated to them, which takes a lot of pressure of off me. I try to focus on things that only I can do, and then pass off everything else. It took me a while to get to a point where I could hire more employees. But I decided in the beginning that my family is most important, so I made decisions based off of that. The second we were making enough revenue to pay a salary, instead of paying myself, I hired someone. Then when more revenue was coming to hire another person, instead of paying myself, I would hire another person. After a cycle of doing that, it got to a point where there was a great balance, AND I could start paying myself. I don’t travel a lot anymore. When I do, I try to schedule it during spring breaks or summer when the family can come with me and we make a trip out of it. This weekend we are all going to Nashville (for a big announcement that I can’t wait to share with you 🙂 ).
The kids LOVE seeing my business grow. They write their own business ideas, have started their own little businesses at their schools, and talk about how they will run their own in the future. They learn very tangible lessons and skills that have come only from seeing me work my butt off every day.
It’s SO possible to be an amazing boss, and an even better mom. Here’s some questions you guys asked that I am going to answer:
- When you come home, how do you leave your work at your workplace?
I try to put my phone away until the kids go to bed. If there is something really pressing, I work on it when the kids go to bed. My husband has a very consuming job, so he understands the demands of work which is very good for me.
- What is your favorite way to unwind?
There are a few different things that I do. I try to go to the gym every night which has been one of THE best changes I’ve made. I started working out every day a year ago and it has given me the energy I need to keep up with the intense demands of my life. I also spend time every day communing with God, and reading my scriptures. I believe that if I can understand God’s plan for me, then it’s easier for me to prioritize what I do throughout the day.
- How do you schedule your days to fit it all in?
Girls, guess what! Here is the secret answer to life. YOU CAN NOT FIT IT ALL IN. You will never, could never, should never, and do not EVER fit it all in. Even if were physically possible, you would go mad. You make sacrifices. You don’t do normal things like spend time watching TV. You designate certain hours for certain things, and you skip out on things that aren’t necessary.
- How do you manage feelings of guilt?
Your feelings of guilt will go away when you stop missing things that are in important in your kids or other family members lives. Last year I was asked to speak at an amazing event that would have been a great opportunity for me. But guess what? It was on Zoe’s birthday. There was no question in my mind if I should go or not. I spent the day with sweet little Zoe instead and never looked back. Guilt comes in when you give priority to things that don’t matter in your life, over things that do.
Also remember, your work matters. You will not hear every breath your child takes, nor is it healthy to. Let them grow and develop without a “momster” breathing over their shoulder all of the time. But be there. Show up. Give effort. And decide from the beginning that they are your number one priority. But don’t neglect yourself in the process. You can’t fill someone else’s well if yours is empty.
- What’s a typical day for you like?
Since I pick the kids up and take shorter days at the office to get the kids after school, Mike takes them in the morning. I spend my days working at the office until either 2 or 4, and then get the kids from school or my moms house. Four days a week the kids have activities that I taxi them around to. The other days we usually sit outside with our neighbors and they play with their friends. Mike gets home from work at 6, and we eat dinner. At 7:30 the kids go to bed, and then I finish up work, go to the gym, play Scrabble with Mike (haha, its our favorite game)… and do whatever else needs to be done.
- How do you avoid anxiety and stress when you have a bunch to do with little time?
Here’s the other secret answer: You don’t. You don’t avoid it, so don’t fool yourself and think that you can. Listen, you are going to get very anxious and stressed a lot. You are going to cry, you are going to want to quit, you are going to fail miserably and disappoint people and fear your future. You are going to wonder why you do what you do, and if you should continue, and why the heck you thought it was a good idea to start in the first place. But here’s what will either set you apart and make you successful, or destroy you:
If you decide to wake up and keep going, or let your anxiety and stress ruin you like it ruins most business owners.
- How do you keep your energy up?
Gym and playing with the kiddos!
- Do you have any help on the home front?
I’m all about delegating what you don’t need to do, so that you can do what only you can do. It took me a long time to get to the point in my life where I could admit that I can’t and don’t want to do it all. Between Mike, the kids, and I, we have different chores everyone is in charge of. Once a month we have house cleaners come and a pool guy. My mom is my biggest saving grace.
I hope that after reading this, you have some ideas and motivation on how to be a business owner, and also play an important role in your family. There are single moms who’s life might look different than mine, there are people who will read this and say, ” I have no financial means to do these things”, some will feel like their husbands won’t support them starting a company.
To you I say, we grew our financial means to do these things because of making smart business decisions that have grown my company. I invested $300 of our money which at the time seemed like SO much… to what we are today. I haven’t taken a dime from anyone, so yes I know what it is like to feel financially drained and stressed. But you’ll figure out how to make it work and let it fuel your motivation to create a business that is booming.
I’m not a single mother, and have so much respect for you that are. You are strong, and brave, and I have confidence that you will listen to your gut as to what works best for you and your family.
I have some very intense challenges in my life that are not appropriate to publicly speak about right now. I tell you this to let you know that I know what it’s like to feel like a wall of impossibility is before you, and be in a position where fear and pain have the opportunity to take over your life. I tell you this so that you can use my story as motivation to go out and live and fight for what you want in life. I’m here to tell you it’s not easy. It never will be. But you need to figure out what is worth fighting for, make your decision, and never look back.
I love you all, if you have any other questions or comments, leave them in the comment section below and I will respond to them.