A few days ago, my daughters and I were hiking a massive sand dune, hoping to enjoy sweeping views of Lake Michigan from the top. But before we set out, I looked at both my girls, ages 2 and 6.
“I have a meeting in one hour,” I said seriously. “That means if we’re going to do this, we need to keep moving so we can be back down at the bottom in time.”
Sometimes, it feels like I’m constantly balancing business and parenting. Being a self-employed person who runs her own business gives me a lot of flexibility in how I parent — for example, right now my family is on a cross-country road-trip while we homeschool my oldest. When the guilt creeps in about how my business takes away from time with my girls, I remember that I’m teaching them important life lessons when I make space for my work.
Here’s what I hope they’re learning.
You Can Think Outside the Box
When I went to college for a Journalism degree, everyone — from my long-lost cousins to strangers on the street — would react the same way: “Why? Newspapers are dead.”
And yet, I knew that writing was what interested me. After graduation I started freelancing for a variety of media, from children’s TV to newspapers. I carved my own idea of what a writing career can look like, and eventually that led to my business.
Whatever my girls decide to do with their lives, I hope they know they can create their own paths. There’s no prescription for success, and it’s ok to do what appeals to you.
Women Should Take Pride in their Careers
While I enjoy being a mom, what really makes my heart sing is my career. I love it when I see my name in a national publication, hit a long-standing income goal, or get a story lead just right. When something like that happens, I share it with my daughters. Although they’re still too young to fully appreciate these accomplishments, I want them to know that women should take pride in their accomplishments, and there’s nothing wrong with talking about your successes.
I think this is especially important when it comes to finances. Early on in my business career I was lucky to come across a group of women who talk openly about income and payments. Having transparency about finances helped us all get fair and equal pay, and understand what financial goals were realistic for our businesses.
For now, my girls don’t understand too much about money, but I have started explaining to my oldest that my work time is related to the things she has the privilege to do. I might need you to play outside while I write this story, I’ll tell her, but that pays for your horse riding lessons. I hope, in time, she’ll be comfortable talking about finances and always advocate to be paid what she’s worth.
Find an Equal Partner
Since my younger daughter was born, my husband has been a stay-at-home dad. Having him handling the day-to-day essentials of running a home with two young kids has allowed my career to flourish.
Plus, amid the never-ending search for gender equality, I love that my kids (and their friends) know that dad is just as capable of taking care of them, making cookies or volunteering at school as mom is.
I don’t believe that one parent or partner needs to be at home, but I do hope — almost more than anything else — that my daughters find partners who are in equal step with them. Having someone who is on your team and supports you in achieving your goals is the greatest gift.
Know When to Say No
This is one I’m always struggling with — I’m constantly trying to squeeze in one more thing, whether with the kids or the business. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary and empowering to say no. I’ve burned myself out enough times to know that making space for yourself pays off in the long-run.
I try to make my kids aware when I’m doing this. Last year, there were times when my daughter wanted me to volunteer in her classroom that I simply couldn’t. I told her why: I had to work. On the other-hand, when I took a solid week off for family vacation, I made sure my daughters knew that I told my clients no so that I could focus on them.
My own parents were business owners, and growing up in their household taught me lots of important lessons, from treating clients with respect to taking pride in your work. I hope that I can do the same for my daughters, giving them guidance that will serve them well no matter what they choose for a career.
Kelly Burch is a freelance writer covering finance, family, business and more. When she's not behind the computer she enjoys exploring the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire, where she lives. Connect with Kelly and read more of her work on Facebook or Twitter.