Could You Work With Your Mother?

Work-Life Balance on 05.11.12
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Photo: Discovery Kids Puterbugs 

I bet when you were little, your answer to the common childhood question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" didn't include, "I want to work with mommy." But you'd be surprised to learn that the very same person who taught you to tie your shoes, amongst many other things, could make a great business partner.

Relatively speaking, my mom's been my boss for 36 years now. But in the past 16 years, she's been my real boss -- even though she'd shudder to hear me call her that -- as we've grown our small family-owned business nationally. Our experiences together have shed light on two very special things we can all learn from working with our moms:

How Close -- Or Far -- Your Apple Fell From Its Tree 

As a teenager, it's a scary thought: you think you'll never be like your mom. Then when we become a mom, we whip out the same phrases and tones that our moms used on us. Do you shudder? I don't -- but I have to say, working with her escalates it to a whole other level. My mom and I have conducted so many trainings and webinars together that I not only sound like her, I can finish her sentence and know where she's going next. Even though I moved more than halfway across the country, this apple did not fall far from its tree.

On a totally different note, some days I wonder where I came from. There are instances when I react completely different to a work situation than my mom. The generation gap opens to show how two related people can look at the same thing in very different ways. But ultimately, when you share similar life views with someone you work closely with -- like your mom -- you learn the importance of appreciating each other's different perspectives, and you can refocus on tackling a project together because you're motivated by the same outcome. For us, that's having a positive impact on the thousands of kids we teach daily -- and the entrepreneurs that help us spread it to even more kids.

Develop an Adult-Adult Relationship In Addition to Parent-Child

As you develop how similar and different you are from your mom, you define who you really are in life, and your mom starts to recognize you're not just a kid anymore. What happens next is pretty cool: you build a new relationship with each other. You develop an adult-adult relationship in addition to the parent-child relationship you've known your whole life. A mutual respect starts to grow and many of the typical quarrels you see between moms and daughters disappear.

I have to admit, though, this can get a little tricky -- so boundaries for work/life balance between you, your mom, and your work all need to be defined. To help draw that line when we're working, I call my mom by her first name, Julia. But when I pick up the phone to complain that my boys are sick and home from school, then she's back to being mom (and grandma). Two minutes later we may join a conference call and she's back to Julia again.

It's interesting how a mother-daughter work relationship can help define who you are in life, how you're different from your mom, yet strengthen the bond between you -- all at once. When people used to ask me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I must admit, I always secretly wanted to be just like her.

Laura St. John enjoys working with a number of mother-daughter entrepreneur teams who work together to help spread her mother's original concept, Discovery Kids Puterbugs, to their local market. For more information on becoming an entrepreneur, contact licensing@puterbugs.com, subject entrepreneur information.

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