The Art of Balancing Work, Family

Doing Business: In an industry flush with women professionals, it’s still not easy to manage both busy offices and busy families.

By: Margot Carmichel Lester

In an industry flush with women professionals, it’s commonplace to find travel agents who manage both busy offices and busy families.

But, short of cloning, how can one woman do all those things?

“The biggest challenge being a working mom is trying to fit it all in,” admits Kathy Bos, manager of CWT/Arden Travel in Fresno, Calif.

Bos has been doing double duty since her son, Wim, was born 10 years ago.

“I like to be involved with his school activities and help out at the school, Scouts and sports and still be able to run a successful business and household,” she said.

Bos said her secrets are “to be flexible, organized and never take yourself too seriously.”

Arden Travel allows agents to bring their children into the office when they’re sick or don’t have school.

“We have a TV and VCR in the back room where they get to watch a movie and relax while stamping our brochures,” she explains.

“There is always a treat of a cookie when the job is done.”

Susie Wiginton, a home-based travel consultant for Strong Travel Services in McKinney, Texas, says she sets priorities.

“I always do the most critical things first,” she says. “I try to do a good job by giving whatever it is I am working on my full attention and try not to procrastinate.”

That discipline allows her to keep her work fairly well contained to between 8:45 a.m. and 3 p.m., while her boys, Hutt and Harry, are in school.

In emergencies, she relies on good friends.

Tips to Help Juggle

It’s a delicate balancing act, says Maria Bailey, chief executive of BSM Media and founder of, a Web site designed for working mothers. Bailey knows her stuff.

“I had three babies under 2 while I was a VP at the fastest growing company in America, reporting to the CEO,” she says.

During that time, she logged 100,000 air miles.

Now her job is helping mothers like herself be successful in business and family.

“Where imbalance comes into play is when you don’t know what hat you are wearing when, and it sends very unclear messages to your family, your clients and most importantly, yourself,” says Bailey, the author of “The Women’s Home-Based Business Book of Answers” (Prima, 2002).

She offers these tips for keeping kids and clients from colliding: " Set very clear boundaries between your role as mother and businesswoman. “Share those boundaries with your family so they know when you are in your office at noon, you are working but when you are in the kitchen at 7 p.m., you are tuned into their needs as a mother,” she explains.

" Have a schedule.

“My family spends a lot of time going over our schedules together. Even the little kids,” she notes.

“I let them know that if I’m not at a football game or swim meet, that I am doing something important at work.”

And help your children understand that it’s impossible for anyone even their parent to do everything.

“We choose together what is important to them for me to attend,” she says.

" Get everyone organized.

“Put the same organizational skills and techniques you use at the office into practice at home,” Bailey counsels. Use your planner or calendar for family business too.

Create “in” and “out” boxes for homework and school papers that need your attention. File exams and assignments so you can refer to them later. “What works in the office will work at home,” she says.

" Be productive.

“Do as much as possible ahead of time,” she notes, adding that this advice applies to both business and personal activities. If you have a few free minutes, try to cross something else off tomorrow’s list.

Invite your kids to help you perhaps they could do filing while you’re printing itineraries.

If you’re bagging chips for tomorrow’s lunch boxes, bag the entire package so you won’t have to do it again tomorrow.

While these tips will help working moms juggle their busy work and home lives, it’s crucial to remember Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will. Being prepared and remaining philosophical when it does happen are key.

“Things come up that may put a kink in your schedule,” Bos says. “For me it is so important to not panic, but remain focused and keep moving forward.

“The challenges will always be there, but you have to know that, at the end of the day, if you kept a smile on your face and made someone else smile, you have done a great job.”