USA TODAY- The topic has been hot this year in particular. When new mother Marissa Mayer took the reins at Yahoo then banned employees working from home, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer, told women to "lean in," the conversation about how to handle the demands of both home and work became impassioned.
STORY: Owners can achieve work-life balance
COLUMN: 'Work-life balance' uneven phrase
But that conversation centered on work-life balance for people who work as employees. Almost no one addresses how truly challenging it is to balance the demands of family and work when you run your own small business.
After all, doesn't someone who runs her own business have total control over her time? Can't she pick up a carpool at 3:30 p.m. or take the kids to the dentist at 11 a.m. without a boss looking over her shoulder or wondering how this will affect future promotions?
Sure, unless a client needs something on deadline. Or that's the only time you can reach an important prospect. Or you don't have anyone else to watch the store.
And even if you can get away, you know that the time you spend away during the day will be time you have to make up after the kids have gone to bed - when you're already exhausted.
If you don't work, you don't make money when you own your own business, period.
The issue isn't promotions or perception. It's about income, dollars and cents and paying the bills.
When you own your own business, you work whenever you need to work - day or night, weekday or weekend. You can't clock out.
Work-life balance when you own a small business is not impossible, just difficult.
Here are five keys to managing the tug of war between home and business:
1. Recognize the necessity of working the hours you do. Some people use work as an excuse to get away from the demands of home or personal life.
But if you're like most small-business owners, you realistically have a lot of work to do, often more than can be done in a typical work week.
2. Understand that going to work is also serving your family. You may say that your priority is your family, so you feel conflicted when you're not at your kids' afternoon soccer game.
But you're also serving your family by making sure you're earning money to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. Don't feel guilty.
3. Rotate priorities. Not all of your priorities are equally demanding throughout the week or year.
During the summer, you may be able to lessen the amount of time you spend at work to give your children more attention. In the fall, your work demands may increase, and someone else may have to manage getting dinner on the table.
4. Don't neglect yourself. With demands of work and life, your personal needs usually fall to the wayside.
Has it been years since you exercised?
Balance in your life does not mean all priorities have equal weight. You might spend only one hour a week on yourself compared with 80 hours on your business, but even that one hour may make you feel that you're not neglecting yourself.
5. Get as much structure to your day and week as possible. A set work routine helps you and those around you understand your work life.
Have regular work hours even if you work out of your home.
Finally, think about the example you're setting.
Years ago, my nephew came to stay with me while I was writing one of my books. When I asked him if he wanted to be a writer, he resoundingly answered, "No!"
"Why?" I asked.
"You're always working," he said. Many of us would like our children to grow up to enter our businesses, to be hard workers. But if they see us constantly stressed and absent from our family's lives, it's hardly an enticing prospect.
For a small-business owner, finding balance between personal and work life is not like reaching balance on a scale with equal weights, but more like balance on a teeter-totter.
Sometimes one priority will be up, and the other down. You never reach true equilibrium, but with luck you'll never fall off. And you'll have some fun.
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)