For as long as I can remember there was one thing I wanted to be when I grew up...A Mom. Not just any Mom, a stay-at-home Mom. When Bob and I began dating seriously I really made it clear that this was a huge priority for me. And for the first several years of our girls' lives it happened- But at the end of 2001 things changed.
Bob had always dreamed of owning his own business. We had an opportunity to purchase The Little Gym in Salt Lake, where our girls attended classes. At the time, Bob was in a job that was supposed to be ending within the next 6 months, so it seemed to him like good timing. We were under the impression that the place basically ran itself and the owner was really an "off-site" owner. This seemed ideal. Bob told me that he couldn't start this without my help. I had been teaching piano at the time to help pay for preschool and dance classes. He said I would be able to stop teaching piano and only have to work 15 hours a week - I could pick the hours when the girls were already at school - so I could be home with them as much as possible. He was going to work his job and then go to the gym in the evenings.
Now let me briefly interrupt this story. I made a huge error. I had always said that being a stay-at-home Mom was my number 1 priority, but when push came to shove I didn't stand up for that and say "NO!" For that I will always feel badly.
After returning from an intensive training at the corporate office, it became quickly apparent that as capable as the managers at the gym were, the previous owner had never really allowed them the opportunity to run things. I think he liked the idea of them taking care of things - but couldn't seem to let go of his control and trust them to get things taken care of. My 15 hour a week job quickly turned into a full-time job as I needed to learn the business, make a lot of changes in the business practices at the time, and to build relationships with both the staff and the customers. To say I was overwhelmed is a huge understatement. My bachelor's degree in English had not prepared me for business ownership....particularly when it came to budgets, finance and marketing. There was a lot of trial and error in the early days!
Although Bob set up and kept track of the finances from our home, he was unable to have a strong presence in the gym itself. We did work many Friday nights together, however, running our "Parent Survival Night," basically a 3.5 hour party for the kids. Business ownership is a lot of work and if things fall apart there is no one else to fix them but the owner! I now have a business that has bumps in the road - but allows me only have to work about 30 hours a week...sometimes less. I have an incredible manager who is always begging for more responsibility - which I happily turn over - for that I am blessed!
I have learned a lot through this experience. I have learned how many really amazing parents there are out there! No matter what someone looks like, or believes in, people generally want the best for their children. I have learned that a high income, or a lot of education does not mean a child is better off. I have had to be the voice for a child who's mother was abusing him. I have learned that there are a lot of people who believe they are the exception to every rule. I have learned that - judging from my past and current employees - the next generation is a lot smarter than we give them credit for - And I have learned to be a better parent. I may not have wanted to be a business owner, but I can tell you that I 100% believe that what we do is making a positive difference in the lives of the children and parents we teach.
I love having the opportunity to learn and study child development and the best practices for raising all different types of children. I have read A LOT of books on both subjects and I know that working with kids will always be a part of my life in some form or another.
I have been blessed to work with amazing, talented, loving and supportive team members whom I adore! I love that I am able to keep in touch with so many of them...and I have learned so much about becoming a better person through their examples.
In closing, let me share a few bits of unsolicited advice on parenting:
1. All of the primary caregivers in a child's life need to have the same expectations and consequences for a child's behavior. If one parent is overly strict and the other overly permissive the child will grow up feeling insecure, nervous and more apt to be manipulative...since there are no clear boundaries. Mr. Rogers puts it best: "Every child needs LOVING limits." They may be loving - but if they are never enforced they don't exist.
2. Teaching your child basic social skills and acceptable manners is not crushing their spirit, but allowing other people the opportunity to enjoy your child as much as you do.
3. Every time you add a new child to your family you have to learn how to parent all over again - no child is the same. Step back and watch what makes your child tick...and go from there.
4. Give your children A LOT of opportunities to do things for themselves. We are not raising children, we are raising adults. Think of the kind of adult you want your child to be and lay the foundation for it now. Keep in mind that a 2 year old is often full of tantrums because they are ready to start helping take care of themselves.
5. Let your child make simple choices every day. A favorite of mine is letting them pick out their own clothes. They may end looking crazy - but people won't think that you did that to them. They can see that you can match your clothes - they will admire your ability to relax about unimportant decisions that can allow your child the opportunity to feel fantastic!
6. Your child may look like you and talk like you - but he or she is not you! They will have interests and talents and quirks that will baffle you...but because you love them you give them as many chances as possible to become who THEY really want to be.
7. People are more important than things...ALWAYS!
8. Practice what you preach.
9. Read and sing to your children as much as you can - because someday they will think they're too old and that you are off key.
10. If you are ever losing control, take a deep breath, turn up some music and have a dance party...I promise everyone will feel better after that!