When I started my career as a piano teacher, one of the reasons I pursued it is because of how family-friendly it is. Before I had kids, I knew that I wanted to be the primary caregiver to my kids. Teaching piano and parenting seemed to work really well together.
- It’s easy to set my own hours.
- I can teach as many or as few student as I would like.
- I can easily work around holidays, other important family days and vacations.
- It’s kid friendly and easy to involve my own kids.
- It’s a perfect way to stay mentally engaged on my own endeavors while raising kids.
For the first several years of parenthood, I was primarily a parent and I was growing a piano studio on the side. I took my work seriously but I very much viewed it as part-time, supplemental work.
Due to some family changes a few years ago, we made the decision to go all in to my piano studio. I became the full-time working parent while my husband took on most of the household and parenting duties.
It’s not at all what I had envisioned for my career, but it has be very fulfilling and worked well for our family in this season.
Taking on the role as a full-time working parent for took a bit of adjustment, not just for me, but for the whole family.
I’m not going to claim to have it all figured out, but here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned as I’ve ramped up my business and figured out how to balance parenting and family life with it.
1. Lower Standards and Change Expectations
This is something that I’ve had to work on in both my studio and in my family. Don’t get me wrong, I still hold high standards and take both roles seriously, but it quickly became apparent that I’d have to reprioritize many aspects of my life.
For example, I used to spend a big part of my week and each day planning and preparing really fresh, homemade food. I loved feeding my family good food and was always tapped in to new recipes and new ingredients to try. While this is still important to me, it’s simply not possible to devote time each day to preparing food.
We’ve really simplified how and what we eat. We’ve tried several meal planning services and approaches over the years, but for now, we just aim to keep it simple. We cycle through super easy meals, focus on convenience and don’t make too big of deal out of it. Since my kids are still young and relatively picky, this keeps everyone the happiest.
Similarly, before we had kids, I had more time to plan more elaborate events and activities for my piano students. My recitals were a really big deal and I had a lot of energy into making them Pinterest-perfect and super impressive.
Over the years, I’ve shifted my focus to making sure they are the best experience possible for the kids, which means I don’t spend much time planning food, decoration, themes or any extras. I’m happy with how things are now. Maybe someday I’ll go back to fancier recitals, but for now this is perfect for my studio.
There are a lot of things that have taken the back seat for now and that’s okay.
2. Take It Day By Day, Month By Month
Especially with little kids around, it has helped to operate in shorter-term timeframes. What’s working today may be completely out the window a week or a month from now. I love routines and order, but with kids, nothing lasts forever. We have to always be ready to adapt and change with each new phase.
This is true for eating, sleeping, behavior patterns, time schedules, and pretty much every aspect of their lives.
It can be hard to operate a studio around an ever-changing family, but I’ve found that it actually helps to not treat anything too permanently. My students are all enrolled for a full school year so that stability is important and helps balance out uncertainty in the family schedule. But, even with my students, I’m always willing to try something new, discard what’s not working or change gears at any point.
3. Set Boundaries For Your Own Time
Once my daughter was born, it became clear that every moment of the day was so important. I used to teach long hours over dinner time and late into the evening. I’d have lessons sprinkled throughout the weekend and I was always willing to make up missed lessons and reschedule.
This approach simply became impossible with kids. I had to define very specific boundaries to times when I was willing to teach. I had childcare set up for all of my teaching hours and I couldn’t change those arrangements at the last minute. So when students canceled, I had to be more strict about sticking to my schedule.
This has been one of the most important facets of running my studio because I could easily let it eat away at all of my time with my family.
Lately, I’ve prioritized being with my kids at dinner time and for their bedtime. I’m not willing to miss those hours for piano lessons, so I make sure to end my teaching day in order to be with them. On days when they are at school we have very little family time together, so it’s important to me to deliberately carve out some time each day to focus on them.
One thing that I try to do is to avoid doing chores and to-do list items in this short window of time when were together. Instead, I try to sit down with them and enter their world so that I can completely be with them. My son loves puzzles, so we might spend 10 or 15 minutes on a puzzle together. My daughter has nightly reading to do, so I try to give her my full attention and let her read to me.
4. Outsource and Have Good Help
Acknowledging that I can’t do anything has been crucial for our family. We’ve always had excellent help between my parents, babysitters and school programs to help cover childcare.
Hiring house cleaners is some of the best money we spend each month. They are able to work much more efficiently than we do and having a completely clean slate a couple times a month relieves a lot of mental stress.
I’m always willing to hand off tasks within the studio as well. I’ll tell you more about this in a minute, but once I recognized that I didn’t have to do everything for the studio, the business changed for the better.
5. Relieve Your Mental Load
Have you seen this cartoon called You Should’ve Asked? It hits a lot of big topics, but just the first few lines of it resonated with me the first time I read it. I didn’t even realize I was carrying a huge mental load, but I could so easily relate with the mom in that cartoon. I’d walk around my house going from mess to mess and not feeling like I ever got anything done. Completing one task would somehow add 3 more to my never-ending to-do list.
When my studio became my full time job there was no choice but to give up some of my mental load. Every once in a while my perfectionist tendencies get frustrated that all of the household tasks aren’t getting completed to my standards. But, here’s another example where lowering my standards has been a good and necessary part of life for now.
In addition to letting go of many of the details of the household, I’ve found that basic self care keeps my mind clear and energized, which makes the load much less burdensome and helps me to handle more. For me, good sleep, somewhat healthy eating, consistent exercise and regular socializing are key. If I don’t make time for these things, many areas of our household and my business start to slip.
6. Work Smarter Not Harder
When my studio became our full-time job 2 years ago, I had to completely rethink how I was using my time. It was obvious if I just kept doing what I had been doing, that I would max out on time, energy and resources and it wouldn’t be a sustainable path for our family.
I couldn’t just put in more hours, I had to make every hour of work count, especially since it was taking me away from our family and because we were depending on it.
I was ready for some serious growth, so I brought a couple of assistant teachers on board and reformatted my lessons.
I recently had a chance to talk to Tracy Selle from Upbeat Piano Teachers about how I made these changes. I told her the whole story of how I implemented these changes, how I ensured that my family and my time were top priority and how much weight it has taken off my shoulders. We had a wonderful chat about parenting, growing a business and striving for balance.
The biggest takeaway from our conversation is that I don’t attempt to do everything myself. My success is thanks to many other people who keep things running and moving with me. I gave Tracy the full scoop on how I split up my work.
Some other topics we touch on were how I fit a consistent workout schedule into my week (and how it’s changed over the years), how I’ve adapted my business to meet the needs of my changing family and how I always keep a few online projects going to supplement my piano studio income.
To hear the complete story of my studio transformation as it has moved from a part-time side gig to a full time business and to be inspired by 7 other piano teacher moms, I encourage you to check out the newest Upbeat Piano Teacher Webinar, Upbeat Moms. Every Upbeat interview I’ve watched has been top notch and I always take away several immediate action steps that I can apply to my studio or life.
Use the code 20MEGAN July 9-12 to save bring the price down to $49 from the regular $69.
If you’re curious how the webinar works, read my full review of all of the Upbeat Piano Teacher Webinars here. They’re perfect for busy piano teacher moms because you can watch them anytime. And, my favorite part is that once you purchase it, you’re plugged in to an awesome community of piano teachers. This group lives up to it’s name and remains upbeat and encouraging. There are plenty of piano teacher groups that thrive on negativity, frustration and venting, but this group has the friendliest and most positive vibe around!