By Amber Davis

While trying to plan a summer vacation to visit my sister’s family I keep running into obstacles. They have been stationed in Hawaii for five years and I sadly, have not visited them. As much as I love to travel, the cost and anxiety of the flight have kept me millions of miles away from my BFF! Next month they are moving into a new home in Arizona! I am super excited at the idea that she will be much closer to me! The reality is that I probably will still only see her a few times a year.  However, since the day we found out they were moving to Arizona we have been chattering about a big driving trip west. We will visit her family; see the natural wonders our country has to offer and drive back home! The 30 hour one way trip seems fun with four kids until I make an hour trip with them and they can’t even get along! UGH! Ideally, 2-3 weeks for this trip would work best. Finding that time is making me feel a lack of control in my own life!

Obstacle #1 – Our oldest daughter will be freshmen next year in a public school (which I love)! She is involved in band, 4H, 4H interstate exchange club, basketball, softball and is pondering golf.  Basketball offers a mandatory home camp in June, just after softball winds down! Followed by an away basketball camp in early July which appears to conflict with 4H camp (that she LOVES), band offers a mandatory home camp in July for a week, followed by a mandatory away camp the next week! Just upon returning home from band camp she will travel with the 4H exchange club to Maryland! Another great club and opportunity for our daughter to meet stay with and interact with other 4H families from a different part of the country!

Obstacle #2 – Daughter #2 has less mandatory items on her schedule. At this point she only has a mandatory dance camp this summer, the home basketball camp and 4H camp if she chooses to attend (which she dislikes very much)! She is involved in volleyball and basketball but at this point it’s mostly seasonal!

Obstacles #3 and #4 – don’t really have anything keeping them from traveling!

Obstacle #5 – My National Conference for work and our family farm. We cannot plan much for June because of spring planting. Early July is wheat harvest so that holds up the process too!

I am sure some of you are offended that I can referring to my amazing children as “obstacles” which they are NOT!  Their activities ARE! Combined with planning around our jobs, things get difficult!

I try to limit their activities and can site many positives of extra-curricular activities:

  • Sports contribute to a decreased risk of high BP, heart disease, obesity
  • Boost mood and  help prevent depression
  • Increase grades and social skills
  • Dance / sports can increase you strength, promote posture and flexibility
  • Dance has been shown to increase intellectual development
  • Sports and dance increase self-confidence and promote team work

My question is this – Where do you draw the line between allowing those activities to control your life and you having control? Our jobs are extremely flexible but must be taken into consideration. The kids activities are the issue!

There are weeks when I feel like I rarely see my 14-year-old! People say “someday you’re going to miss this” Will I? Will I miss not having control of my life and my schedule?

I love watching my children achieve success in their activities but where will it take them in REAL LIFE? Yes, there are statistics that will answer this question too, however, can you tell I didn’t cheer, dance or play basketball as a child? Can I? Am I less of an adult woman because I didn’t?

I pray for courage to gain control of my life, strength to say NO, and the inspiration to find balance in our family life vs. extra-curricular life!

I ran across some good reference material when thinking through this question!

What suggestions do you have? What works at your house?

Feel free to share!

Amber Davis is a 17 year direct sales associate with The Lonagberger Co. and currently director for at Thirty One Gifts.  Holding a degree in business administration and marketing, she previously worked in the business industry. After the birth of her second child; family took priority over work and she left her full time position. Now a mother of four, she believes firmly in direct Sales and the endless opportunity it provides! “I can’t imagine ever returning to a traditional 9-5 job,” she said. She firmly believes in doing what works for your family. She helps her husband on the family farm and writes her own blog: Adventures in Farm Life. This, she said, is a work in progress and mostly serves to share family photos. In her free time she loves to travel and enjoys volunteering.

By Shara Lawrence-Weiss

It seems everyone is talking about “content marketing” now doesn’t it? However, not all site owners feel comfortable creating their own content or writing their own articles. For those people, sitting down to type something out is likely a daunting feeling. Where to begin? What to say? That’s how I feel when I open a Chemistry book. Huh? Writing comes easily to me but Chemistry – not so much.

Here are a few ideas for the people who feel a little nervous about writing content:

Spin-off Posts

Read up on various topics of interest, at the blogs and sites you most enjoy. If something sparks your interest, write a spin-off post. For instance, if you love gardening and you read a fun post about gardening tips, consider planting your own garden. Track the progress, week by week, and link over to the original post that got you started. I often write spin-off posts from articles that really peak my interest. I enjoy carrying on the thought process and pulling my own readers into the fun.

Ask a Friend

Do you have writer friends? Ask them to write a post for your site to give you some quality content. Perhaps they can write a post about “Writing tips for beginners” or “The best apps to use for content ideas.”

Guest Authors

Many people go looking for guest author opportunities. Add a menu tab to your site/blog and let people know that they can submit articles for review and possible posting. Do not accept all articles. Be choosy and wise about the content you post and share.

Pay a Content Writer

Locate a trustworthy writer who can cover content for your blog or site. It is especially helpful to find someone who already understands your niche.

Buy Articles

There are plenty of sites Online that offer articles for sale. Be careful not to buy articles that are being re-posted on multiple sites/blogs. You’ll want unique content, any time possible. How much does unique content matter? Watch this SEOmoz whiteboard to find out:

Go Outside

Head outside for a walk. Explore nature and be watchful of what you see, hear and find. Use that data to create a post or photo gallery.

Go to the Mall

Do you enjoy people watching? There’s no better place for it than the mall, right? Take your time strolling around, looking for funny or interesting stories to elaborate on.

Visit the Zoo

Have you ever been to the Zoo and NOT had something silly or funny happen? Every time I’ve gone to the Zoo something nutty happens; either to my own family, to an animal, or to another Zoo visitor. This could make for an interesting post.

Write About How You Dislike Writing

A lot of readers really enjoy reading a heartfelt post that digs into a fear you have. Do you fear writing? Do you fear the rejection of a post? Open up a little and let it out! You may even help someone else, in the process.

Write a “Top XYZ” Post

Write a funny top ten list about things your kids say or funny things you’ve heard at the store. Take a pad and paper (or iPhone, etc) with you to the store, just in case you overhear something comical.

Interview People

I offer a free interview option on one of my blogs for small business owners. They can fill out the form and request a “free small business feature.” This is a nice way to get some fresh content while helping someone else gain free promotion.

Fall Back On Expertise

If ever in doubt, fall back on your area of expertise. What is your background? Can you draw from that to create an article, webinar, photo gallery or another form of content? Can you offer video tips or training clips on YouTube? How about offering your readers/viewers a series of videos on “How to _____”? This could generate some helpful and useful content. I once saw a video series on crafting: “How to create your own crafts with kids.” The craft company generated multiple do-it-yourself videos for their consumers to watch and learn from.

What NOT to Write About

Stay Away From “Best Bloggers!” Lists

In my opinion, these lists were never all that helpful, as most of the lists were generated by people who named their own friends or colleagues. Or the lists were created by algorithms that told us the bloggers were the ‘best’ based on high traffic stats – when in fact, having a favorite blogger is a rather subjective thing. Some bloggers create fantastic content but have very few readers. I suggest you steer clear of “best” lists and focus more on linking to a blogger you love, who wrote a wonderful article. Carry on the thought process and keep the conversation going. A lot of bloggers who see that you linked to them will be highly professional and will pop over to thank you for the mention.

Stay Away From Trashing Other Bloggers By Name

I’d highly recommend staying away from this rich content area, unless your goal is to tick people off and generate angry comments. If that’s your goal, fine. If not, don’t write about how much you hated a post or another blogger’s point of view. Don’t mock others or belittle people or name call. The backlash likely won’t be worth the reader stats. Being mean is never a professional way to behave.

Shara Lawrence-Weiss has a background in education, early childhood, special needs, freelance and marketing. She owns various websites including: Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources, Emergent Literacy and Weiss Business Solutions (co owner). Shara actively assists with children’s charity events and will soon be returning to a primary school Para position. Learn more about Shara and Rick. You can view additional Guest Posts here.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, started SixFigureStart LLC, in 2008. The mom offers career coaching and professional development training via books, audios, videos, live, one-on-one and group. Her client base includes individuals, universities and companies.

“As a business owner, you are pulled in a lot of different directions so organization is the key,” Ceniza-Levine said. To her, this organization is crucial for family-work life balance. “I write everything down and assign it to specific times, even regular activities you would just remember, such as school drop off or homework help. I write even these down so I budget time for them, rather than expecting time to magically appear – it won’t! By treating the activities with my kids with the same efficiency and priority as my business appointments, I ensure that both get my energy and attention.”

Being a business owner since 2008, Ceniza-Levine has a lot of insight for other mom entrepreneurs. “Good enough often yields amazing results,” she said. “In my business, I tried a lot of different things to market myself – blogging, speaking, networking, cold calling, talking to
media, social media – and I was not an expert in any of these before I started (my background is management consulting and corporate HR). Some things were more effective than others, and I enjoyed some more than others, but by being persistent, over time, I have been able to build a business that is now seven times bigger than when we started (five years ago).”

Her business has been featured in major press, including CBS and CNN. Visit her site to learn more about the professor, entrepreneur, speaker, entertainer and author!

By Stephanie Shaterian

When you make the decision to be an entrepreneur as well as a parent there are certain compromises that will be made. Your child may watch more television than your conscience is comfortable with. You may have to take a client call in the car with a toddler asleep in the back seat. It is possible that you may have to lock yourself in the bathroom with your phone just to have a few moments to check your facebook page in peace. (Admittedly, I may have done between one and all of these things myself)

Yes, there is a time for business and a time for family but as a parent entrepreneur that line often has to be blurred or we’d never get anything done! Certain social media marketing tasks are a perfect fit for when you have a little downtime – but not enough time to delve into a larger project.

The Rules of Engagement

Business owners often get so caught up in staying on top of content creation that they neglect the other side of social media – the social part. The more you give, the more you get after all. And the little things are what get your audience coming back for more. Engagement tasks can often be done quickly and effectively with only most of your attention. Meaning you can do them while you’re pushing Jimmy in the swing or while the kids are playing/fighting with each other.
I’m talking about:

  • Acknowledging feedback on your posts (Likes, RTs, @Replies, Comments, Shares, etc.)
  • Sharing content from others (Vendors, Partners, Clients, Etc. )
  • Reacting to content by others (by Liking, @Replying, Commenting, Sharing, etc.)

Two Tricks of the Trade

Here are two ways to make it even easier to accomplish your social media marketing engagement activities at the drop of a hat and while you’re on the go.

1. Use a Social Media Management Tool. Scratch that, just use Hootsuite. The free level allows you to add up to 5 social media accounts and integrates with all the big guns. (You’ll just have to check your Pinterest elsewhere) Now instead of having to open and close several different sites or applications you can do it all from one location. Badda bing badda boom – you’re done!

2. Put your social media on your phone and/or tablet.  If you take me up on my Hootsuite suggestion, they have mobile apps for iPhone and iPad, Android and Blackberry. If not, make sure you have all your individual social media mobile apps downloaded on your phone and/or tablet.

A word of caution, although I am suggesting that you can do these activities with divided attention – you know yourself best, so stay in your comfort zone. (Ensure that any dirty looks you might suffer at the playground are worth it!) If you’re the type of person that makes a lot of spelling errors or hits “send” before noticing whatever autocorrect did, limit your activities to ones that are less likely to cause you headaches.

Stephanie Shaterian, owner of fLO Content Marketing,  is the consummate online actress, taking on the identity of any brand and creating winning, witty content that helps companies and non-profits build loyalty and top-of-mind awareness among clients and prospects. Stephanie has worked with a diverse range of clients including: consulting, advocacy, retail, greentech, commercial furniture, medical, performing arts and animal boarding(?!). She also helps parent entrepreneurs get a handle on their social media marketing with her quick and affordable Coach fLO program

Anastasia Valentine started Sandbox PM, an idea to launch company in 2011. Her business helps all size businesses from solopreneurs and entrepreneurs to billion dollar companies bring their ideas to market.

“We can parachute in for a specific task to save the day or act as a part of an extended team to deliver end to end services including ideation, product/strategy validation, marketing, creative, PR and launch events,” Valentine said.

According to Valentine, her business is very much an extension of who she is as a person. “While it is my professional life it is very much a part of every aspect of what I do including being a mom and vice versa.” She said that balance isn’t an act for her, it’s part of what she does every single day.

“I make sure that my family has dedicated time every single day even while I travel. As a business owner, I can take a day off to be with the children or attend an event with them without asking for permission from an employer.”

To other mom entrepreneurs, Valentine encourages them to set measurable and realistic goals. “Be honest with yourself,” she said. “And, indulge when you need to rejuvenate.”

Valentine markets her business by word of mouth, social media, online advertising, speaking engagements and referrals. You can find her online here.

By Louise Sattler

Let’s all take a quiz! Can you name the top four languages used in the United States in 2013? Well let’s pick the obvious choices.. English and Spanish as #1 and #2.  According to national census reports #3 is Chinese.  If you guessed that #4 is American Sign Language (ASL) then you would be correct!

Were you surprised to find out that ASL was #4? Many are! But, the truth is that scores of people who comprise the deaf community use ASL as their primary mode for communication. In addition, people who have limited or no ability to communicate, such as after a stroke, use of a trach or have developmental disorders such as Autism, now are using sign language.

Not to mention that thousands of parents have hopped on the baby sign language “train”.  Why? Well, experts have found that sign language, when used with hearing children, helps to foster earlier communication and reduce negative behaviors that are often exemplified during the “terrible twos” and “trying threes”.

Which brings me to why I taught my children to sign when they were infants.  For years I had worked with deaf children and their families. I have deaf friends and love that sign language has so many cultural roots in our country.  I also knew that learning a language as an infant was far easier than trying as an adult, so I introduced both Sign and Spanish in conjunction with English in our home.  My first-born was able to sign easily as an infant.  And, this translated in to advanced speech and language skills as a toddler. Our son, who was born prematurely, did not vocalize until he reached 18 months of age. However, he signed more than 50 words before his first “spoken word”, therefore able to communicate very well and within chronological and developmental expectations.

Throughout the years I witnessed my children utilize sign to communicate with deaf peers and adults. I have seen their ability to help those with special needs and also to teach their friends to do the same.  My daughter, Natasha Sattler, has been cast in roles as an actor on television and in the movies, simply because she could sign!

Many may ask how to start to learn sign and teach your children.  Thankfully, there are many accessible and affordable ways available. I caution, however, that parents do their due diligence and teach REAL sign language to their children.  Some have made “baby sign” tools available that are NOT real sign language. This would be as if someone was teaching Spanish with incorrect vocabulary and grammar!

I would welcome to hear from any of the readers of this blog to see if your family uses sign language and have you experienced any benefits?

Louise Sattler is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist with specializations in linguistics and multi-cultural education. She has been teaching American Sign Language for more than 20 years to families with hearing and non-hearing children, college students, staff at public and private school systems and businesses. Louise resides in Los Angeles, California with her husband, Marc. She can be found at SigningFamilies.com.

 

 

Clare Kumar is the owner of Streamlife Ltd. www.streamlife.ca and also the co-founder of Flo Collection Inc. which is bringing www.pliio.com to market on HSN.

Kumar started her business in 2005 and said she “takes the bumps out of life” through organizing services, products and knowledge. “I offer 1:1 consulting as well as coordinate teams of organizers when necessary. I am also a regular guest expert on a national show in Canada – The Marilyn Denis Show,” she said.

Balancing business and family is something she takes seriously. “I use the Wheel of Life every three months as a tool to help me be aware of how balanced I am in 8 different areas of life. It helps highlight areas that require more attention and then I can adjust how I’m spending my time.”

Kumar said that the she consistently puts her physical and mental health first. “To make sure I do this, I color code my calendar so that in a quick glance I can determine how I’m spending my time. I also use color to distinguish billable hours from marketing and admin work.”

When it comes to advice, Kumar said to pace you. “The journey itself has to be rewarding. By trying to give attention to the areas of your life that you deem important, you will avoid regret,” she said.

Kumar markets through public relations, television, newspaper and magazines. She is also active on social media platforms and networks faithfully. She uses paid advertising on Google Adwords.