Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment.
They’re the feelings that afflict working moms.
Or stay-at-home moms.
Or women in general.
Even today, decades removed from women’s suffrage, the equal rights amendment, and other societal shifts, women still fight built-in biases, unrealistic expectations, and limitations imposed by millennia of misogyny.
When you consider the complications of modern life — the so-called “work-life balance,” the parenting wars, and working parents — my article title might be surprising.
But it’s true.
Being an entrepreneur makes me a better mom.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are as many styles of mom entrepreneurs as there are parenting styles.
Sometimes, it seems that there’s pushback from all angles:
- “Mothers should be home with their children all the time!”
- “You’re selfish for working.”
- “You’re selfish for not working.”
- “Your child needs you to provide financially.”
- “Your child needs your constant presence and nurture.”
Have you heard any of these messages, either explicitly or implicitly?
Such arguments often make false dichotomies; yet for many women in the last century, the choice had to be made between two options. Today, the Internet and entrepreneurship have provided opportunities for women, more than ever, to be able to choose both options — creating the best possible path for their family.
Combining motherhood and entrepreneurship is by no means easy. But hard things are not always bad things.
Here’s how I, and many of my fellow mom entrepreneurs have found being an entrepreneur makes me a better mom.
1. Being a mom entrepreneur gives me energy.
What mom doesn’t want more energy?
I’ve discovered that pursuing a task apart from motherhood gives me energy and insight into my role as mom. My dual roles — entrepreneur and mom — are complementary more than they are separate.
Being a mom can fuel your desire to pursue your entrepreneurial passion. And the mental energy from pursuing work as an entrepreneur — from freelancer, remote worker, to start-up founder, and beyond — can sustain you as you fill the role of mom. The two do go together in an almost magical chemistry of energy and excitement.
As I understand that my identity as a woman is multidimensional, I can nurture both of those identities at once.
2. Entrepreneurship keeps my risk appetite alive, and forces me to face my fears.
One of the most challenging parts of being a mom is one that takes many new parents by surprise…
Is it choosing the safest car seat?
Or…Is it choosing the best way to birth my baby?
Or…Is it choosing what type of parenting style I need to use?
Or…Is it remembering to attach my furniture to the wall?
Somewhat surprisingly, the most challenging part is not just one of those questions, but what’s behind them all: fear.
Fear is a four letter word, and when it comes down to it, being a parent means choosing which fears to prioritize, and which to ignore.
When we live in fear, we bend to a position of powerlessness and diminishing quality of life.
Do you know what defeats fear? Taking risks.
As an entrepreneur, I make calculated risks every day. Stepping outside the box, outside the traditional, and forging my own path means taking risks. With each successful fear that I face down, I’m empowered as I see the bravery within. I know I can do it again, and again, and again.
3. I’m already on a roller coaster. Why not add another curve?
Believe it or not, embracing motherhood and entrepreneurship simultaneously sometimes helps even out the highs and lows. As you crest a peak in one and reach a depth in the other, somehow it feels balanced.
4. I’m able to pursue the lifestyle I know my family needs.
Every family is different. Each family has different needs, dreams, and desires.
Entrepreneurship allows my family to create a lifestyle that allows us to thrive. That doesn’t mean we don’t make sacrifices, and it doesn’t mean we obtain the lifestyle we want right away. But it does mean that once we know what we’re after, this becomes a viable option in the very near future.
One of the most helpful exercises my husband and I have done was to sit down and ask each other what our ideal day and lifestyle would look like a few years down the road. And then, to pursue the business ideas, passions, and lifestyle that would allow us to reach that ideal.
I wish we had understood this before having children; but then again, maybe it was having children that pushed us to understand this.
5. My children see that work is part of who we are as people.
I operate with the belief that work is part of the human identity.
There is no flourishing without work. Many consider motherhood a vocation in itself, and no more or less fulfilling than any other vocational choice.
I’m willing to expand those choices to include more than momhood, which exposes my children to more of life, of what it means to pursue the individual callings and passions uniquely expressed in each individual.
6. I have multiple identities in which to experience fulfillment.
Have you ever sought fulfillment in a single role, relationship, or choice, only to come up short?
There’s no single panacea that solves all of our longings. But there are multi-faceted ways to experience fulfillment. For me, various entrepreneurial adventures, have given me that experience.
My identity as a woman is multidimensional.
Because this is true, it can feel isolating and depressing to limit myself to the box others think I need to remain within.
7. I teach myself and my children that sometimes there is a lot of value in embracing the struggle.
We shouldn’t pursue hard things simply for the sake of feeling a sense of stoicism. We shouldn’t assume an option is best because it is hard. As a culture, we sometimes lean toward asceticism. And many times, that’s a problem that can at times undermine the flourishing we truly desire for our families.
But the opposite of asceticism isn’t laziness. It’s a balance that sometimes means embracing a season or project of struggle. There’s merit in realizing, as Jake Weidmann put it, “When you commit to something that takes work and see it through to the end, it will develop you as much as you develop it.”
Wrestling with the work, the tension, the struggle is hard when we’re in the midst of it. But when we emerge from it, we’ve created something amazing, and that struggle is part of it’s beauty.
Pregnancy, adoption, and even the journey of parenthood teach us this, too. Sharing with our children and families what we are doing and why we are doing it allows us to bring them along with us for a very tangible lesson.
I’m grateful to be on this journey, with my family as participants, observers, and cheerleaders. I’m excited to be the same for each of my children, too.
I’m thankful for what entrepreneurship has allowed me to be as a mother, and for the way it is shaping me into the person and mother I’m becoming.
This post has also been featured on The Huffington Post.