The electronic cottage may not be as peaceful as
the smiling faces in photographs in the burgeoning number of glossy
“mompreneur” magazines and websites might have us believe.
About 30 years ago, our self-employed family was featured in a local
magazine. The photograph was lovely. It depicted two shiny faced
little darlings perched on either arm of their mother’s desk chair,
as hubby looked on smilingly and supportively. The reality is that
it took over an hour to get child number one to stop crying, child
number two had just thrown up on another part of the rug, the
laundry basked was hidden under the desk, and my husband and I
hadn’t spoken in two days.
In spite of that chaos, my home business has survived and thrived
(so have the kids and marriage!). But it has taken some planning,
organization and creativity.
The home business owner wears many hats and has to deal with many
conflicts between home life and business life – especially with
children at home. Spillover is the term I use to describe the
creeping, oozing migration of business into personal space and of
family life into business space.
Spillover is the pit bull answering the door when a client arrives.
It’s that final client report with happy faces drawn in the corners.
It’s when your two-year-old beats you to the business phone and
won’t give it up without a temper tantrum. It’s when you want to
work quietly and your teenagers want to party with their music at
The solution is separation. I don’t mean to divorce your spouse and
send the kids to an orphanage (however attractive that might seem
some days). I mean to create a separate workspace with a door, a
lock and sound proofing if necessary.
Equip your office with technology (like multi-line phones, call
waiting and high speed internet) to help you communicate a
professional image. The client really doesn’t have to know you’ve
just stepped out of the shower, have a kid hanging on one leg and a
kitten clawing its way up the other and that the smoke alarm is just
about to go off because the toast is burning in the kitchen.
It may be difficult, but you will need to cultivate the ability to
ignore distractions if you plan to get any work done. Personally,
I've never had much trouble ignoring the dusting, but one home
business owner I know says, “When I worked in an office and went for
a drink, the water cooler didn’t say ‘clean me’; my refrigerator
does. I have learned to ignore it.”
You also need to learn how to deal with people who think because you
are at home you are not working. Don’t let friends keep you on the
phone for hours during your working day. Try to have family treat
you as if you weren’t home during your working hours. Don’t be
available to take out the trash or go to the grocery store...until
you take a scheduled break.
Obviously, the support of your spouse and/or children is very
important. If possible, include family members in the planning phase
of your home business, so they realize what will be involved. Don’t
just let them come home one day to find you’ve turned the TV room
into an office. Keep them in touch with your business successes, but
don’t bore them with extended dinner table discussions of the
intricacies of your enterprise.
Home business spillover is just one of the psychological issues that
challenge home business owners, such as loneliness and isolation,
motivation and procrastination, and workaholism. But keep the ooze
in control and you’ll be well on your way to mastering the rest.
Wendy Priesnitz is a writer, editor and social entrepreneur.
She has worked at home since she and her husband launched their
magazine publishing business in 1976. Having founded The Home
Business Network in 1986, she is a pioneer in legitimizing
home-based business. In addition to managing her
company Life Media and editing Natural Life, Life Learning and
Natural Child magazines, she has hosted
her own television and radio shows, written a weekly small business
column, and authored ten books, including Bringing It Home - A Home
Business Start-Up Guide for Your and Your Family.