Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from previous Biz Ladies contributor, creative director of Anthology Magazine and mother of two, Meg Mateo Ilasco. Meg recently released her newest book in the “Inc.” series of creative business books, Mom, Inc., with co-author Cat Seto. This newest installment focuses on motherhood and creative entrepreneurship, and today Meg is graciously sharing some of the greatest lessons she has learned in business and motherhood. Thanks, Meg, for this wonderful post! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
I had my first baby over nine years ago — before there were parenting blogs to help me make important decisions (What colors should I make my baby’s bunting flags?), before Toddlers and Tiaras existed to reassure me that I actually am a good parent.
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I also had another “baby”: my first business, a wedding invitation company. So I understand motherhood about as much as I understand business. Over the years, I’ve taken copious notes and noticed some similarities: they’re both full-time jobs, they make you stay up late, they make you drink lots of caffeine so you can feel more engaging, and they always need to take a crap when you’re at the grocery store checkout. Okay, maybe that applies only to one of them. But I’ve also learned many lessons about being a business owner and mother, and I’d like to share some of them with you:
1. Motherhood doesn’t mean sainthood. There were no mom bloggers and barely any of my friends had children when I was having kids (no, I was not a teen mom); in other words, there was a dearth of real and virtual moms I could compare myself to. As a result, I got in the habit of hardly comparing myself to other moms — and this is a good thing. Comparisons will just lead to feelings of inadequacy. Let those other mothers grow their own vegetables and puree their baby’s food! Let them enroll their two-year-olds in violin class! As a mother and entrepreneur, you’ll have limited quantities of resources, time, and energy. Choose your projects and commitments carefully. If it’s not something you want to do or have time to do, then simply don’t do it. And don’t beat yourself up with comparisons.
2. Yes, children should come first, but . . . sometimes so should your business! The feeling that children should come first all the time will lead to only one thing: guilt, lots of it. You’ll feel guilty when you check your email on your phone in front of your kids; you’ll feel guilty when you have an important business event that makes you miss your son’s dance performance; you’ll feel guilty when the answer to “What’s for dinner?” is take out — again. You don’t need to interact with your child around the clock (it will teach them some independence); sometimes it’s just plain impossible to attend everything your child is involved in (especially if you’ve scheduled them in a ton of activities), and you shouldn’t feel bad that you didn’t cook and clean all day. Putting your business first some of the time doesn’t make you a bad mother!
3. Think less about the word “balance” and think more about “making it work.” If there’s one word you’ll never hear enough of as a mother and entrepreneur, it’s “balance.” How do you balance it all? How do you achieve a work-life balance? The problem with the word balance, for me, is that it implies homeostasis — a condition of absolute equilibrium where everything is working perfectly the way it should. Balance suggests that everything important in your life should be satisfied in an equal way. Life for a parent entrepreneur rarely works like this, making balance such an unattainable goal. Indeed, it is hard to reach a feeling of equilibrium when you’re being pulled in five different directions. So instead of thinking of balance, I think about “making it work.” It places importance on flexibility and adaptability, instead of satisfying all parties. And for an entrepreneurial mom, where every day brings a new set of challenges, flexibility is an asset.
4. Don’t forget your friends. When I had my first child, I might as well have been in a witness protection program. I lost touch with my friends as my life revolved around only family life and business. I was always too busy with the baby (“Oh I can’t make it to the party because Lauryn has her bath time.”) or the business (“Not today. I’ve got so many orders to fill!”). You need time away from the kids and business; you need time for yourself. The trick to this: schedule it regularly — like you would your son’s t-ball game (you always make time for that!). It’s also a good idea to meet up with friends who don’t have kids or a business so you can have conversations that don’t involve sleep training or how to make a press kit.
5. Enjoy the process and learn to adapt. Becoming a great designer, blogger, entrepreneur, or mother rarely happens overnight! Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the other side, or you’ll miss the point completely. Mom business owners with younger children, especially two-year-olds, always ask me, “When does it get better?” The answer is: Don’t worry about that, just enjoy your child now. And truthfully, it doesn’t necessarily get “better” — granted you won’t have to change a diaper later on, but you’ll gain other responsibilities and face other challenges as your child gets older, such as homework, fieldtrips, ninja classes, archery classes . . . and the list goes on.
Like I said, motherhood and business operate on similar tenets. It’s not making gobs of money that makes you a business owner; it’s the process of building a business that makes you one. And it’s not producing a kid that can speak three different languages by age four that makes you a mother; it’s the process of understanding your child’s needs and connecting with your child that makes you a mother. At the end of the day, remind yourself of how astonishing your accomplishments are in nurturing and molding multiple entities that will one day go out into the world and make some kind of impact — even if one of them is doing the potty dance in the grocery store aisle.