If there is one day I will always remember, it’s May 11, 2013. On this day, the day right before Mother’s Day that year, my son Holden entered the world and filled my life with so much love as well as so many unknowns.
I was less than two years into running my own Public Relations business and had really started to gain traction as I built my book of business. The day I found out my husband and I were expecting, 8 months earlier, I knew things were going to change. But with your first (or any) child, you can never fully anticipate by how much until you experience it.
What’s unique about female entrepreneurs is there really isn’t such thing as a sick day, much less a maternity leave. So not only was I a new mother, but also a new business owner and the two roles stretched infinitely into opposite directions.
It didn’t take long until I got the impression that many people anticipated this is where my entrepreneurial journey would stop – at least for a while. I could sense clients skirting around the question of will I continue to stay in business. And family members, I’m certain being kind and supportive weren’t asking me about if or when I would “return” to work. I was confused, to say the least. I didn’t come this far growing my business, nor did I come this far nurturing my child to give up on either. When you have a second baby, do you give up your first? It had to be both – So that day and every day forward, I chose both.
As the saying goes, “When opportunity knocks, it doesn’t just go away, it goes to someone else.” I felt convicted that I could experience both of these incredible life opportunities simultaneously – entrepreneurship and motherhood. It would take great sacrifice, balance, and support, but it’s what I wanted. So today I celebrate first and foremost my sweet and lovely son, Holden, and I also celebrate the day I chose not to lose myself in motherhood or forego one dream for another – but instead go against the grain of society to prove you can play two (or more) incredibly important roles in life, if that’s what your heart calls you to do.
It goes without saying that every single person’s passion and desire for life is unique. I wish to only share my perspective in case it could uplift just one other person as they face similar challenges. Here are some of the critical factors I had to face when choosing to raise a family while growing a business – or what I call…my life as a Hybrid Mom.
Wanting to do it all and be it all – without help.
I needed to learn early that asking for help is not weakness or failure, it’s just the opposite. I was really good at putting on the appearance that I could do everything and be everything to everyone in a single day. That’s not sustainable! It was 18 long months before I confronted my “mom guilt” and sought childcare for Holden for a few days a week and it changed everything. No longer did I dread the request to schedule a conference call, or even worse, an in-person meeting. I now had dedicated time for my business, and in return dedicated time for Holden.
Choosing who I was going to cheat.
Every day I felt like I woke up needing to decide who I was going to “cheat” that day with my time, attention, and affection. Most often my husband drew the short straw. Sorry, Scott! But motherhood and business ownership filled my time 200% and they were the squeakiest of wheels. I am so grateful that more often than not, I now “cheat” the things that really aren’t as deserving of my time and I achieve that through efficiency and experience. And yes, sometimes I still cheat my sleep or exercise, but that is far and few between what it was back in 2013.
Learning to separate my roles.
When all the roles you play in life have a very similar backdrop, it can be hard to separate them or turn them off. I experienced this when caring for Holden from home while trying to also grow my public relations consulting business from home at the same time. Where was the line? When did I really go into or come out of work mode or mommy mode? While there are certainly benefits of not having a commute, being able to work from home, and earn a good income all while having your child or children at home – there needs to be boundaries. I learned to set my boundaries by the time of day. Early mornings were for “me” time and exercise, the rest of the morning was for Holden, after lunch he napped and I worked, and by evening it was family time. And for the most part this worked. I knew the best time to schedule conference calls and how to incorporate exercise into our mornings in case the early hours were needed for work. As humans, routines make us feel normal, useful, and prepared. If you feel “off” especially as of late, take a hard look at your routine!
Accepting that I am human and there are 24 hours in a day.
I would like to think that I am strong, but I am not Wonder Woman. I have limitations and I have come to respect those, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am an introvert and I can only take so much human connection in a day before I need a “mommy time out.” And while I’ve always been well aware that there are 24 hours in a day, sometimes I would slip into the mentality that 12 were for caring for Holden and 12 were for growing my business. What did that leave? A tired and miserable person. I’m so glad to say that with time, maturity, and much outside help (bless you elementary school teachers!), I have been able to narrow down most work days to 5 or fewer hours of “must-do” work each day. If I get more done, that’s a bonus and if I choose to close out early and take Holden for ice cream after school – well that’s an even BIGGER bonus.
What do mothers and entrepreneurs have in common? We fail often – or at least we feel as though we do. What I’ve learned over the years is that it is actually important to fail, and fail often so long as you are failing forward. Why? Because failing is a sure indication that some pretty cool things are happening in my life. I’m challenging myself, I’m learning how to deal with disappointment, I’m gaining experience, and I’m avoiding what wasn’t meant to be. So fail away!
Shifting from “I have to” to “I get to”
Finally and most importantly is a shift in mindset. So often I would wake up with the mindset of all the things I “have” to do in a day. But when you shift this to I “get” to, everything changes. I get to make breakfast for the family I am blessed to have. I get to make the bed and fold the clothes of a precious child I love so dearly. I get to work with clients each day to help them grow their businesses and reach their goals. I get to go to bed tired from an accomplished day doing what I love.
And with this I close by saying that parenthood looks different for absolutely everyone. Based upon your unique experience trying to balance work and family, I would love to hear how this spurred change for your career and the life lessons you have learned along the way. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be the inspiration for someone else!
Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!