The last few weeks I’ve been feeling like my kids are growing up way too fast, and this has me analyzing all the decisions I’ve made as a mom (even though I’m painfully aware that there is no changing them now). As I was packing for a quick business trip last night, I could sense Zara’s mood dropping (as it always does when I travel), and I started to feel my least favourite feeling; mom-guilt. That got me thinking about my choice to start my own business when my kids were born instead of going back to work.
Being a self-employed mom is not really what I expected it would be like. The reason I pursued entrepreneurship was so that I could stay home with my kids, and have a flexible schedule. Instead for almost 13 years I’ve been battling mom guilt, and missing bedtimes. In the last 5 years, our family business has grown exponentially, and that has meant more and more time away from the kids.
I started dreaming about being a ‘mompreneur’ pretty much from the moment that I felt my son’s kicks for the first time. I had this vision of giving up my 9-5 government job and launching a business that I was the boss of. I would work during nap time and in the evenings, and my days would be fully devoted to my new baby. Fast forward a year later to taking phone calls in the closet so clients didn’t hear a screaming baby, and plopping my son down in front of Max & Ruby DVDs to get just a little more work done.
Then just as my baby products business was taking off and I had piece workers, pattern makers, and sales reps to deal with, my second pregnancy arrived with a whole host of medical complications. Since there were no maternity benefits at my “perfect job” I got to take all of 2 weeks off. Then I started working with one kid in a sling and the other in front of the TV.
Things got a little easier when I closed my first business in 2010 and transitioned to PR & Marketing services in 2011. Plus, the kids got to the age where they could play together and distract each other sometimes. But the work/life pressure didn’t get easier, it got harder. The constant struggle to make it to networking events and bedtime, to be the bake sale mom and land the big projects, and most importantly to just be present in my kid’s lives – it has been overwhelming.
Throughout this whole time, I’ve wondered how the other ‘mompreneurs’ do it. How do they run their businesses and their homes? Here’s what I realized; I’m not a mompreneur. I’m a mom and an entrepreneur. I try to give 110% to both roles, and there is just no way to squish them into one. Calling myself a mompreneur doesn’t give respect to my full-time role as an entrepreneur, and my more than full-time role as a mom. And the word itself gives a false sense of ease to the relationship between these roles.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing entrepreneurship to replace your income, or create a work from home opportunity, I just think that we need to stop romanticizing it. Running a business is hard work, and sometimes it takes more hours than a 9-5 job does. To truly make it work, you must give it time, attention, and quite often, an investment of personal finances. As much as I’d love to have a 4-hour work week, the reality is, most corporations aren’t built during naptime. They are built by people who stay up too late, wake up too early, and work double shifts all the time.
On the flip-side though, being a mom and an entrepreneur does give me some of the flexibility that I wanted in my schedule, and so much more. My son and daughter got to watch me and my husband build a business from scratch, at our kitchen table. They get to see gender equality in action when I’m off on a business trip and dad is doing school drop-offs. And perhaps most importantly – building an empire (that’s what I’m calling it these days) is giving me a sense of accomplishment and confidence that a 9-5 never could.