Monday, January 30, 2023

How Running my Own Business Has Made me a Better Mom

Over the years, I have read many an article discussing how being a mom can make you a better entrepreneur and businesswoman. 

In fact, when I first thought about writing this article, I googled its title, and there was only one first page result that actually talked about how running a business makes us better mothers. 

The remaining nine all discussed why moms make the best bosses, how to juggle motherhood and running a business and tips on balancing the two. 

That is definitely not what I want to be talking about today. 

I want to try to explore why and how managing a business has made me a better mother (and a better wife), and hopefully you too can take something away from this piece, and remember it when you need it most. 

My career as a mom 

Let me first tell you a tiny bit about myself.

I am the mother of two daughters who are 8 and 10. I have been married for 11 years and in a relationship with my husband for 15. 

During those 15 years, we’ve had a succession of dogs and cats, have moved from the States to the UK for my husband’s work, have buried parents, christened godchildren and eaten one too many brownies. 

I won’t go into detail about my work, seeing as I am writing this under a pseudonym (oh, hello – sorry to disappoint, but I am oddly shy about signing my own name under these pieces). 

Let’s just say I run a small digital company that has 9 remote employees, that I work from home, and that I have been in business for 13 years. 

(If you are superstitious, now is the time to imagine this story unfold into a horror/thriller/slasher fiction.)

I’ve struggled a lot with balancing motherhood and career – especially as I really, really, really wanted to focus on both, excel at both, enjoy both, at the same time, if possible.  

These are the lessons I have learned while perfecting that act:

Multitasking is a myth

Mother going mad sitting with kids in front of laptop

Mothers and businesswomen alike talk about multitasking a lot

Given the fact that our to-do lists seem to be getting longer and bulkier with each passing year, it’s no wonder we have started looking for ways to do more than one thing at a time. It’s either that, or inventing a real-life time-turner (shoutout to all the Harry Potter fans out there). 

What I have learned by doing the work that I do though is that multitasking is futile

I’ve spent years trying to write emails while on the phone. Typing reports while in meetings. And while I was sort of, kind of able to do both to an extent – had I chosen to cut the phone call and meeting shorter and just got to the main point faster and then refocused on typing, I would have done a much better job at both. 

The same rule applies to being a mother. Trying to make a meal, help one child with their math homework and look at the other’s coloring book while also keeping one eye on the dog who is munching on something in the living room is a recipe for disaster. 

At least for our mental health

And it affects the time we actually spend with our children. 

When I think about my grandmother, my epitome of woman, mother, housekeeper, cook, and so much more – I can never remember her multitasking. If she’s cooking, she’s cooking, and we all know not to disturb. We could go along and help, but interrupting with our own fancies was just not it. 

When she sat with us grandkids, she would be there 100%, ready to impart advice, share a joke, scold or reassure. 

That is what I try to do today, in business and at home. If we’re playing tea party, I am attending a tea party with my daughters’ dolls (and the dogs), I am not secretly drafting memos in my head. 

If I’m plotting how to reach out to a certain client – that’s all I’m doing, there are no thoughts about dinner prep and dog walks in my mind. 

Also, can I just pause to ask – do we see men multitasking as much? Is it a specifically female fantasy, or does everyone suffer from it equally? 

(Apparently not.) 

Prioritizing should be based on rationale, not emotion

When I first started my business, I would catch myself doing what I called, very erroneously and poorly “being a woman”. 

I would find I was making decisions based on my emotions. 

I would keep putting a task off because I would find it boring. I would struggle with reprimanding an employee who had made a serious and costly mistake. I wouldn’t want to work with someone because it didn’t feel right.

How I learned to trust and work with “being a woman” at the office is a topic for another time – what it has taught me is to prioritize better. 

When it came to the girls, I started to revamp the way we did things around the house and in the realm of parenting. 

I stopped giving in to their emotions (and my emotions) as much, and doing more of what I knew was actually right (all the while talking to myself in Maya Angelou’s voice). 

If we needed to wash Teddy because he was filthy and muddy, Teddy was getting a bath, even if that meant my daughter would have to sleep without him for a night. If another ginger-haired doll was absolutely not what we needed to be buying, I’d not let the begging and the faux tears get to me. 

There is no perfect anything

Before I became a mother and entrepreneur, I could be heard saying “the time is not right yet” a lot. 

What the time was not right for was having kids and starting a business

I was waiting for the perfect moment to arise for years. 

Looking back on that time today, I can tell you that it was in fact the perfect time for both. And it would also have been the perfect time a year sooner. Or six months later. 

While I am a very firm believer in planning (family and otherwise), I have come to learn that waiting for the perfect time is nothing but our fear of the unknown. Let’s try not to give into it.

I have managed to apply this principle to everyday life as well. 

We no longer wait to do things around the house “until the time is right and we feel like it”. And this goes for me too – the laundry, dishes, dog walking, tidying, putting a face mask on, doing my hair – none of this I put off anymore for a more perfect time in the future. Now is the perfect time. 

The girls now do their homework and schoolwork when it needs to be done. This especially goes for math, which they don’t do enough of as is, as I’ve learned from their teachers. They also clear their rooms and the table right away.

Doing it now instead of later takes a whole lot of negative energy and emotion away too. Your brain doesn’t get the time to work itself up about not wanting to do something. You don’t get the time to imagine how boring or difficult it is – you just do it, it’s done, in the past, and you are living in the wonderful present without the dread of something you need to do hanging over your head. 

Time is the most expensive commodity in the world 

I’ll quote a bit of a cliche here, I hope you won’t mind.

We all get 24 hours in a day. You, me, Beyonce, Michelle Obama – we all get the same 24 hours. Unless of course they have access to the time-turner. 

What we choose to do with them, I believe, is what makes us happy or miserable. 

In the office, I choose not to spend any of my precious time on things that can go on ahead without me. I’ve taught myself to trust my team, and I don’t really need to okay every single outline. 

What this means to me as a mother is much more profound though – and it can simply be summed up as “make every day count”. 

I no longer choose to spend my evenings ironing all of my outfits. I can iron the one I’m wearing in the morning. If ironing means no Lion King for me, who cares about the ironing. 

Time is the one finite resource we all have – how we spend it matters much more than how we spend our money, or even how we spend our hearts. 

You are not defined by your career, or by motherhood 

While this is a subject many much more prolific and more educated, knowledgeable and eloquent women have spoken about over the past decade – let me also underline it here briefly. 

Who you are as a woman is not defined by your success in business. 

And it is not defined by being a mother either. 

Who we are, who we really are, deep down in that special place at the very core of our being – that’s not based on how successful we are or how many children call us “mom”. 

Quite the contrary, that’s what makes us better mothers, better women in business, better humans. 

Don’t let society try to whittle you down and box you up into any category, be it motherhood or girl boss. 

There is more to being you than either – and it’s okay to feel it, say it, believe it. 

Over to you 

How do you handle being a mom and running a business? Or working in a position of power while trying to raise your kids? 

I would love to know your take on the matter!

Mother, writer, entrepreneur, Julia is the Robson family anchor. Drinks a lot of coffee, dislikes tea, and can make some very mean pancakes.

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