A wonderful trend is emerging in the realm of small businesses in that about one in three American small business owners are not just women – they’re mothers. That number is growing fast, with women now starting businesses at nearly twice the rate of men. There are millions of us now, and more emerging every day.
While these numbers are encouraging – it is a great thing to see women making their own way in the world – I’m also concerned about the stress-levels many of us are battling day to day. I see too many fellow women in the business world largely living under an oppressive shadow of unrealistic self-expectations, and that dynamic is doubled for moms who run businesses. There is an immense pressure to perform and succeed that we are putting on ourselves all while trying to be everything to everyone.
So, what is a mother and business owner to do? Here is the mindset that has helped me keep my sanity while juggling the responsibilities of work and motherhood – based on my real-life experiences.
- Imperfect is a good thing. If you’re anything like me (and if you’re a working mother who makes time to read self-development articles like this one… I have a hunch you are), you could probably teach a master class in perfectionism. You’re probably always trying to do more while also doing it better. You’re trying to get it all done, juggle it all, make time for everything you feel bad you’re not doing consistently enough. Even the common rallying cry around “self-care” can start to feel like it’s only adding yet another item to your never-ending to do list. For decades we’ve had these kinds of conversations – how do you balance it all as a mother and a woman, while also creating a successful career? These struggles are not new, yet we still haven’t figured it out. I think a primary reason for this is the plague of perfectionism. I’ve suffered from it myself in many ways, for many years. It’s taken me a long, long time to learn a very key lesson in life. And I want you to repeat after me as I share this lesson. Imperfect is a good thing. It’s not just the fact that you can’t be perfect (you can’t), or that you should stop being so hard on yourself (you should). It’s that it’s actually a grand thing – a wonderful thing – to be a fallible, messy, just-spilled-coffee-all-over-yourself kind of person. Being imperfect means you’re a human being, and that means you’re relatable, and that’s always a good thing. It’s time to fully embrace it. Celebrate it. You don’t have to do it all, be it all, marching like a perfect little soldier toward your perfect goals. Stop trying and start laughing at your mistakes along the way.
- Implement some rituals. One of the greatest challenges of balancing mom life with entrepreneur life is finding your own version of equilibrium so that you can be the steady, constant force you need to be for your kids – even when your professional ups and downs are throwing you for a loop. I know from experience that my kids have needed me to be a safety net on many occasions – a cozy, secure spot they could fall back on when times were tough. Kids need that in life, and it’s our job as parents to provide it. But that’s also easier said than done. How do you curate this safe space when you feel your own world is swirling around you, or worse yet – threatening to fall apart? I’ve had many moments of fear, frustration or uncertainty in my work life and my personal life, and it hasn’t always been easy to shield my kids from the effects of that. But one thing that has saved me countless times has been creating and maintaining family rituals. Little things I can do with or for my kids on a regular basis, each day or each week, so they know they have something to count on – and something that isn’t ever going to change. For you, this could be as simple as turning Friday night into taco night, so they know that at the end of each work week, no matter how crazy things have been, you’re going to put away the phone and the computer, make some good food, and join them to watch a movie. It sounds deceptively simple, maybe obvious. But implementing a ritual – and more importantly, sticking to it and repeating it time and again – can be an incredibly powerful thing for creating that sense of stability and security for your children while also giving you all something to look forward to.
- Act more like your kid. Women in business have the world on their shoulders, and then heaped on top of that is most of the cooking, childcare and housework, too. Most of the time, we’re exhausted, and we’re worried about at least twelve different things. What food do we still have left in the house? How much algebra do I have to re-teach myself to be able to help with homework? What do you mean, you don’t carry the one? What’s my kid’s Zoom school schedule today? Why is the toilet in the master bedroom always running? There’s always so much going on, and the to do’s are never truly completed. Sometimes it all feels like too much. And those are the moments when I try to remember to act more like one of my kids. I ask myself – How might they handle this situation? Or better yet, how might they forget about this situation and just have fun for a while?
My fellow mothers, sometimes the solution isn’t to go make another list. Sometimes, the solution is to let it go, let loose and get a little bit silly. Have some fun, forget about your troubles, and just laugh at some YouTube videos for a while. Kids – especially the younger ones – have a preternatural understanding of how to live in the present. They know how to just be. Swinging effortlessly from moment to moment with nary a thought to the past or future. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel that way more often? The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a big step back and ask yourself – what would my kid do?