As a voice for mom entrepreneurs over the past decade, I’ve noticed a curious pattern in the questions that working women ask:
- “When’s a good time to take phone calls if I have three kids under the age of six who are remote schooling every day?”
- “Now that my kids are in high school, how can I manage my time so that I finish my work before school’s over?”
“My kids are grown and out of the house. Is this a good time to raise my prices now that I can really focus on my business?”
At every age and at every stage, mom entrepreneurs want to know when they’re supposed to work and how to do so efficiently so that they get everything done around their kids. They need assurance that they can do their work without the kids noticing for fear that they’ll learn mom’s attention sometimes lies elsewhere. The assumption across the board seems to be that we have to keep our businesses to ourselves.
When I hear these inquiries, it always makes me wonder: Can we rephrase the questions?
Changing the Story
The way these questions are framed, the underlying assumption is that kids come first and mom comes second. If that’s been established as a truth in your home, then the answer is likely a resounding yes, your business takes a back seat to the kids at home.
Working moms talk about their businesses as though they’re conducting illegal activities: If I tell my kids what I need to do to get the job done → they will feel neglected → my kids will react by becoming [choose your own worst fear].
These concerns aren’t limited to certain moms in certain parts of the world, either. At The Founding Moms, we’ve heard from moms in Chicago and Vancouver and Dallas and Queensland and San Francisco and Mexico City and New York who all fear the same thing. By letting their children into their work lives, they believe they’re violating an unspoken cardinal rule of motherhood: If you don’t keep your entrepreneurial endeavors to yourself, you’re not a true and loving mother.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Can we pretend for a moment that moms have to put themselves first or else their children suffer? That taking care of business — which is good for your mental health, well-being, and purchasing power — leads to a far better environment for the kids than trying to squeeze your work around them.
If we flip the framing and ask, “How can I get all this stuff done when my kids need me constantly?” or “How is it possible to grow a company when its founder has half the time that she once had to put in the work?” the answers to these questions become much easier.
A New Way Forward
The reason that women carry this unnecessary burden is that mom entrepreneurs rarely talk about doing it another way. But what if we all tried doing it differently? Maybe our kids can even help us out. Here are three ways to put your business first:
You can scale back your own time and hire virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants (or VAs) sound very expensive and inefficient to folks who have never hired them. But once you’ve made that list of tedious tasks you want to hand off, and you’ve figured out a systematic way to do so with your new assistant, the world becomes your oyster. You’re no longer jammed up with things to do that prevent you from doing the things you really want to do. If time is money, and a VA’s time is less valuable than yours, it makes economic and emotional sense to hire one — stat.
You can rearrange your day and let customers know that you have a new schedule.
Work less, charge more. That way, if you charge more than you used to, taking on less work doesn’t matter because you’re making up the difference. It sounds counterintuitive. It’ll certainly feel that way, too. But when you charge more for your products and services, you don’t need the same amount of sales that you had before to make the same amount of money. Raise your rates, possibly have fewer sales, and make the same amount of money (if not more)? Sold.
You can talk to your kids about your business boundaries if they’re old enough to understand.
I take that back: You can talk to your kids about what you do, period. If they’re two years old, they won’t grasp exactly what your job entails, but they’ll be able to color in “important documents” and stack “work product” which will take them time and help them feel more involved in your day. Elementary-, middle-, and high school-aged kids will feel more involved and possibly invested in what you do for a living if you share it with them. They’re quicker to get hip to the latest apps and sites anyway, so why not tap them for help? There are too many kids out there who feel disconnected from their parents’ day-to-day activities. Take it from my two daughters, who told me as much during their interview on the Why Are We Shouting? podcast. None of their friends have a clue as to what their parents do.
Please tell your children what your plans are to grow your business. They’ll be grateful that they were included in a very important part of their mom’s life. You’ll find it surprisingly refreshing. You might even end up with a stellar intern who will help your business grow in a whole new way. It sure surprised me when my kids embarked on a writing journey and launched The Founding Kids.
All of these changes ask you to put yourself first. Frankly, we’re very bad at doing that. But maybe it’s time to finally try it?
Jill Salzman is the founder of The Founding Moms, a global community comprised of in-person masterminds and online resources that helps mom entrepreneurs build better businesses. She’s also the host of the entertaining business podcast, Why Are We Shouting?