Kid Friendly: Going Back to School, and Work

By Katie Hellmuth Martin

As a business owner, I find September to be a glorious month. It’s back-to-business season.

September is also back-to-school season, which, in theory, is also exciting. School supplies! Fall wardrobes! Kids are occupied! Cheaper than camp!

But, for young parents who are business owners, September is tricky. Just as you’re revving back into work, there are last-minute soccer cleats to buy, overscheduling of ballet/swimming/soccer, and Monday holidays. And dinner? Ha. I laugh in the face of dinner!

For fellow parents who are diving back into school and work life, and home life in general: Peace be with you. Staying grounded and focused is going to be our first line of defense. It’s actually going to be our offense, because we are going to step in front of September and own it.

Addressing business owners who are parents out there is important for me, because, like me, you’ve either struggled with justifying child care costs in order to keep working 9 to 5 in a career you love, or you’re justifying child care costs so you can start your business that may or may not be paying you a living wage (yet).

The ads and articles that promise people they can “work from home with the baby” are totally misleading. Hence the photograph illustrating this article. See his hands smashing the laptop? That’s why he has his own toy laptop when I’m on mine. And this is just a picture — we are not colleagues, and we don’t “work” together. One can’t even clear the decks long enough to pay bills with a baby around.

A co-working arrangement that doesn’t work. (Photo by K. Martin)

My job as a writer and publisher is designed to be kid-friendly and work with a malleable schedule (which can be self-sabotaging). But for someone who needs to go to a physical space every day and make things, I have little insight. So I turned to two business owners: Carley Hughes, owner of Ella’s Bellas in Beacon, and Dawn Scanga, who owns Cold Spring Fitness on Route 9.

Carley’s business is named after her daughter. Before she had a shop, Carley delivered her baked goods to coffee shops.

“I started delivering almost 10 years ago to Bank Square when Ella was around 14 months old,” she recalls. “It was a family affair. I would bake when Ella napped or was down for the night. My husband would do dishes and late-night deliveries and Ella and I would walk the rest over in the stroller.”

Parents who have family living in town can benefit from extended (and often free) child care. Carley has her mother-in-law who can help when their schedules align, and a bonus: “We were lucky to have a wonderful former bakery employee turn into child care help off-and-on over the years. She and Ella are still great friends and she’s now a successful business woman and mother, too!”

Dawn worked with private clients as a fitness trainer but now has a boutique studio where she also manages several teachers, members, classes, and her four children and husband.

“Managing the business location, school, and activity schedules has to include a plan of attack,” she says. “I learned early on that I don’t have to do it all myself. My husband and I tag-team the schedule. We have joint calendars so we can divide and conquer. I have older children to help with driving and drop-offs, which is a life saver.”

For those of us who don’t have family in town or partners with available schedules, building relationships with neighbors and friends can be an option. It’s why I got a ginormous car — so that I could help other families who have helped me when I’ve needed it.

Owning a business that has a physical location with open hours and class schedules is a huge life change, as it commits someone to one place at set times. Stay- or work-at-home parents may have more lenient schedules. How has Dawn been dealing with it?

“My biggest challenge that has impacted home life is that it has given my children independence that they so desperately needed,” she says. “I was such a helicopter mom. This independence is enabling more life skills. They all have to pitch in now, much more than before.”

Working as a parent has minuses, but on the plus side, it provides independence, creativity and ownership that both parents and children need. Tackling work goals can be a great way to stop ruminating about personal issues, and vice versa. Unplugging into kid life can provide unexpected clarity or a release from stress from a professional issue.

Enjoy these back-to-school moments, and buy some back-to-school supplies of your own!

Katie Hellmuth Martin is the Beacon mother of three children (ages 1 to 8), wife to one man and owner of — at last count — three businesses. Email her at [email protected]

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