Our current work-life schedule and how we’re aiming for balance in our family

It’s no secret that starting a business and doing the work of an entrepreneur takes time and a lot of it.

In fact, it’s common for those who are launching or growing their businesses to put in long, crazy hours in the early years, forgoing time to be social, have hobbies, or even get a decent night’s sleep.

But what if you’re not just a hard working, visionary twenty-something, doing that daily grind in a studio apartment with no other responsibilities but to make his or her new endeavor a success?

What if instead, you’re a family with children, in the midst of teething babies, potty-training toddlers, rambunctious and talkative little boys, and preadolescent girls? What if you’re trying to care for and intentionally raise your kids, while also juggling their education, meals to be made and cleaned up after, a house and yard to maintain, and family and friend relationships to nurture. What then?

Balancing work hours as an entrepreneurial family is a tricky, exhaustion-inducing thing.

Both spouses need adequate office or work time, and this can often equal a lot of time in those early, start-up years.

When you’re also juggling those work hours with the needs of a young, growing family, pulling off a schedule that keeps it all flowing smoothly can feel rather Herculean, or at times even downright impossible.

We’ve tried a lot of different schedules over the years.

There have been seasons when Ryan worked 60-80 hours weeks (M-F and then some), while I fit my blogging and writing into the “cracks”. Between full-time homemaking and homeschooling, I’d work when I could get a babysitter, or by cramming it in late at night or early in the morning. This wasn’t exactly a long term, sustainable schedule for any us, but admittedly it’s the way we lived for a number of years.

During our Big Trip, we did a lot of switching off, each spouse giving the other time to work as needed. Sometimes I would spend a few days in a row working while he was with the kids and then vice versa. Sometimes we traded off part-way through the day. Sometimes we were so busy doing fun things all day as a family that we both just pulled out the laptops and worked furiously at night until our brains finally bid us adieu.

kids build pyramid

Making a sugar-cube pyramid for history

Since moving back home to Canada last spring, we’ve been experimenting even more. We wanted to find a way to get equal work time for us both, without relying on any outside childcare and while keeping up with homeschooling.

This was tricky, but the way we went about it was to split our days in half.

I would get up and start my day at 7am (or earlier) while he got the kids up and going for the day and started school. Around noon, I would finish up and come make lunch which we all ate together. Around 12:30 or 1:00, he would duck into the office and I would shift into homeschool mode in his place, while he worked right up until dinnertime at 6 or 6:30.

Though we tried not to work into the evenings or on weekends, I’ll confess that when the rubber met the road, that’s exactly what happened. I would often get up extra early on Saturday mornings to go spend a few hours working on my book. He would answer emails in the mornings or after dinner.

We also both struggled to keep focused on being with the kids during our “off” hours, when we knew that we had a major project or task hanging over us. Ryan in particular found it hard to be focused on the kids half the day, then totally switch gears to focus on work, and wanted to find a way where he didn’t have to mentally toggle back and forth so much.

In short, it wasn’t working. Time to reevaluate.

And so as the seasons shift and the leaves turn crimson and swirl around us, we find our family schedule transforming right along with them.

Several weeks ago, we created a new weekly schedule that we’re giving our best shot. It looks a little something like this:

Monday: I drive our two big kids to their “homeschool school” class, leaving the house at 8:30, and arriving at the coffee shop around 9:15 after dropping them off. I work there all day on my laptop, until 2:45 when I leave to pick them up and head home. Meanwhile, Ryan does an hour or so of school with our 5 year old, before attempting to work on and off the rest of the day from our home office while he cares for her and the toddler. Both kids take a quiet time or nap after lunch, which helps a little. After I get home by 3:45, he usually keeps on working while I hang out with the kids, do chores or laundry, and get dinner on the go. I usually pop back on briefly in the evening to approve a weekly post that goes up Tuesday mornings, but that’s it.

Doing art with our five year old

Doing art with our five year old

Tuesdays: Ryan’s work day. After breakfast, he goes straight into our home office where he works the entire day, using this full day to try to really tackle big projects and get focused. Meanwhile, I homeschool the three kids and wrangle the toddler out of trouble, and I try to get in a bit of email or editing later on in the afternoon when school is finished. Ryan finishes up for the day at dinner and we try to keep the computers off after that.

Wednesday: Ryan takes the big kids to their class, and spends the day working at the coffee shop. I stay home, do school with the 5 year old, and also try the same work-at-home routine with the little ones hanging out with me. By 4:45 we both need to be totally done with work because we’ve scheduled all of our kid’s karate and gymnastics lessons consecutively to make for one long, gray-hair inducing evening of driving to and fro all over town.

Thursday: Stephanie’s work day. Ryan takes on meals and homeschool duty while I work either from our home office or I head out to a nearby coffee shop if I’m feeling distractable (I find it harder to work from home than he does). I usually don’t come home until right before dinner time so that I can maximize this day. I often spend larger chunks of time writing or working on big projects. He checks in on his email or does smaller tasks in the afternoon as needed.

My coffee shop perch

My coffee shop perch

Friday: Ryan’s work day. I’m back on home and school duty. Sometimes he’s in the home office, other times he drives into the city for a full day of meetings and work related to our music school. As usual, I try to squeeze in a bit of time in the afternoon as much as possible.

Weekends: Our goal is not to work on the weekends, if we can help it. We’re not saints. We don’t always obey our own rules, but for our sake and our kid’s sakes, we’re trying really hard to stick by this one.

His work time: 30-35 hours

My work time: 20-25 hours

It’s not perfect. We’ll be the first to admit we don’t have it all figured out.

There are many weeks where we struggle to accomplish all that we feel needs to be done. Our house gets messy, sometimes even dirty. We forget to put out the trash on the right evening. We eat dinners of scrambled eggs and fruit smoothies on occasion. Laundry sometimes sits in piles (at least they’re clean). We get behind on business projects and scramble to answer emails late at night or take calls with team members in between helping our kids with math problems.

But this is what we’re doing to work together, as a family, as a husband-and-wife team, in this hectic season of life with a Gr.5, Gr.2, K and toddler.

This aspect of the entrepreneurial life can look incredibly different for every family, but we’d love to know how it looks for you.

Let’s talk about the unique and creative ways that we schedule our days and weeks, balancing between work and family. Hopefully we’ll spark some fresh inspiration for each other as we share!