Raising THE FARM For Valentino Hantke, owner of The Art Farm in the City (419 E. 91st St., theartfarms.org), which teaches children about ecology and nature, and connects them with live animals via an indoor petting zoo, balancing her roles as a business owner and an involved mom requires sacrifices and the support of her family and s t aff - but she wouldn't have it any other way. I often say to people, "I feel like my business is my first baby." I co-founded The Art Farm in the City 13 years ago, seven years before I had children, and I now run all operations. My work with The Art Farm encompasses so many of my passions and joys: music education, early childhood education through hands-on experiences, event planning and inspiring my wonderful staff. I thoroughly enjoy connecting with our clients, bettering our programs and watching the little ones grow. Most of all, it's an incredible experience to bring nature and a breath of fresh air to the city. But I've also got two young sons at home in New Jersey, ages 2 and 5, whom I spend about 12 hours a day away from when I come into the city for work three days a week. I'm comforted by knowing I leave them in good hands, since my husband and I have family to take care of them when we're working. And as each busy workday comes to a close, I rush out so I don't miss my ferry back home, since I know my two little boys will be waiting for me to walk in the door, have dinner with them, give them baths and read books to them before bedtime. Being a parent has helped me be in tune with the customers of my children's activity center: We chat about our shared experiences with our children, and I treat every child with as much sensitivity and love as if he or she were mine, because I get it—I'm a mom too. Being a business owner isn't a job; it's a lifestyle. It's every day, all the time. It's about finding a way to nurture both your family and your business. I'm fortunate to have a committed staff that runs the facility on the days I don't commute in, and technology keeps me constantly plugged in. But I also remember coming home from the hospital after my oldest son was born, and on the first night, I had to run payroll for work or no one would get paid. Many people ask me how I do it. In addition to the help from my husband, family and staff, I know when it's time to work, and when it's time to put my iPhone down and be with my boys. I definitely don't have it all figured out, and as with all working parents, I have to make some sacrifices. I'm not there for every family moment, and I miss school parties and special events on the days I come into the city. And I've expanded my business at a slower pace than if I didn't have kids. However, being an involved mom is just as important to me as growing the business. Having a balance keeps me positive and on track. I'm happy and fulfilled, and I truly believe in what I'm doing. I wouldn't change any of it for the world.
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