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biz ladies: LESSONS ABOUT MOTHERHOOD & BUSINESS


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.

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57 Comments

Georgena Senior

“Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the other side, or you’ll miss the point completely” Such a wonderfully put important point for everyone’s daily life! I will adopt this as my mantra today. Thank you!

And depending on the day you will either laugh or melt down when ‘they always need to take a crap when you’re at the grocery store checkout.’

Melissa@Julia's Bookbag

Lovely lovely post. Gotta watch out for those ninja classes! I wish I had read this 6 years ago. Witness Protection program indeed. I don’t think I LEFT THE HOUSE the first 3 months after my daughter’s birth.

Amanda

Thank you for the illuminating (and totally on target) post, Meg! As the mother of an aforementioned two year old who is also starting a new venture, this could not be more timely. I especially resonate with your point about comparison and will be reading it on a daily basis….even the best pieces of wisdom can take a while to sink in when running on limited sleep:)

Elisheva

Thank you for touching this hard subject. About the guilt – I was given very good advice. I realized I was going to need a sitter one afternoon a week and was really beating myself up about it, and my sister told me that putting more time into the business I love is actually sending a really good message to my kids, especially my daughter. Mommy has a fulfilling job that she loves – it made it so much easier for me to not feel bad knowing what I was actually doing was setting an example.

teresa

This is wonderful, but seeing as how this is biz ladies, lets talk finances. As an independent business owner or freelancer who needs to and deserves to take maternity leave, how does one cope? What happened to your small business income in those weeks or months when you couldn’t manage to brush your teeth, much less meet with a client? It’s not like biz ladies have a nice maternity leave package.

Kelda

Thank you for this post! It is all too easy to put incredibly high expectations and demands on yourself. I can pull some new mantras from here : make it work, don’t be a shut – in, and nothing happens overnight. Thank you!

Lorraine

Such great advice. Thanks for sharing, Meg!

Acanthus Nichole

Great post! I am in the same boat you were-launched my site while on maternity leave 2 years ago! Naptime seems to be the only time when I can work, unless I find someone to occupy my little guy. It’s so hard to balance when I’m in this stage in which I’m a mom, work 30hrs per week at one job, and work on my business in my spare time. Whew!

Emily

This is a reassuring post! As a working Mom who’s “making it work”, I think these points apply equally well to us as they do entrepreneurs.

Jess at the Eagles Nest

I’m a new mom and launching a new business so I am so excited to have read this and can’t wait to read Meg’s book. Thanks for the advice!

angela

As a mother of three children, to read this, it made my day! Thank you Meg for making us feel better about “making all of this work” in our life. What a challange! but somehow it works…

kelly jo

As a single mother of a two year old with a full time job and an arts and crafts streak, I am formulating a plan for a creative business. I am so sick of the word ‘balance’ and how it is supposed to impact my life. Thank you for giving me the will to believe that ‘making it work’ is good enough. And thanks to my friends for hanging tough went I went through a bout of being in my own witness protection program!

Christi

This is a very realistic article. I agree that “they’re both full-time jobs.” Remembering that fact makes me feel better, when I find I can’t do it all at once. Two full-time jobs force all-nighters. But, at least as business owners, we have the freedom to choose which job we do and when. Kids do not grow up too fast, if you spend time with them and watch most of their events. Hopefully, the business will continue when the kids are grown. But, it doesn’t work the other way around.

Adriane

As a mom, artist, business owner and blogger, the timing of this post could not have been more perfect. Thank you SO MUCH!

Heather Terveen

Spot on Meg! I’ve always loathed the term “balance,” and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why — you’ve articulated it perfectly. I’ll have the “make it work” phrase (in Tim Gunn’s voice naturally) replaying in my head from now on. :)

Morgan

Perfect. I have been struggling with the mom guilt for months. I put my business and blog on a back burner because I felt so guilty about what I was doing to my kids…or not doing. My blog (about a year ago) and business were going so well but the guilt was overwhelming and now I am struggling with missing my business. This was so reassuring.

Jennifer

Absolutely perfect, couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have a 2 year old and am just starting to get back to my business after not being able to juggle both work and a new baby. It is a major financial sacrifice for my family, but putting my daughter in daycare 3 days a week has made a HUGE difference in all things. I am focused and productive during those working hours, and as a family when we’re home together, we have much more fun and I am able to feel more “present” in the moment. I have started exercising regularly and we actually go places like the beach and the zoo on our “days off.” If you can find a way to do it, I recommend it.

lidia varesco design

Seriously, the best blog post I have read: I want to post this on my office wall!

I have a 9-month old who *just* started sleeping well, so for many months I was feeling overwhelmed trying to “balance” baby and business. I now know to pick and choose what is most important. Maybe I write one less blog post, but I get an extra hour to play with my little guy.

Thanks for this post, Meg. Love your book Craft, Inc. (currently reading it) and look forward to reading Mom, Inc!

Van C.

Thank you for sharing these lessons. Being a mom, freelance designer with a business of one, girl, wife, friend… is definitely more of a juggling act on a balance beam–in 3 inch heels! I was having a self-pity party just moments ago and your words came at the right time. Really needed this today!

Frugal Portland

Well said! I’m neither a mom nor an entrepreneur, but you really nailed it on this piece. Heading over to check your site out now.

Natalie Giddings

Point number 3 will change my thinking forever. Such wisdom. I have three children and work life balance is a fight. Owning my own business was the only way I wasn’t going to explode.

Lisa

LOL – I soooooo identify with all this!

My first baby (my business) is 10.5 years old my first boy is 7 yrs and my second boy is 4yrs old, and I am proud of all of them.

Looking back I am very happy I took the plunge into business before I fell head first into parenting. I was also the first of my friends to have kids – by a few years – and it may have been a blessing in disguise! It took time to find my footing in parenthood it would have felt awful to compare my inadequacies to my friends successes.

The worlds “balance” and “perfect” are slowly leaving my vocabulary. I don’t even like using them much anymore. Both are impossible to achieve. I have good weeks where by magic to works and some weeks are a scramble. I think what matters is even when you are feeling frustrated in the moment if you can look at the bigger picture and still feel your world is a happy place. After all life is a marathon not a sprint.

Helen@TheStyleSchedule

I really enjoyed reading this post… Comparison can be numbing. I love the ‘making it work’ vs ‘balance’… am totally adopting that aspect for my day to day travels. And besides, my balance is pretty bad – I can’t stand on surfboard in 50cm of water! Thank you :)

Meg Mateo Ilasco

Thanks for all your comments! I think it just helps to know that we’re all in the same boat and we’re all trying to “make it work” (yes, in Tim Gunn’s voice!).

Teresa: in terms of giving yourself maternity leave or even a vacation at some point, you basically have to save up or generate more income in the months leading up to your leave–so you don’t have to stress about finances during that time. It also helps to find ways of getting passive income, like licensing deals (especially ones that pay monthly), so that you’re still earning even when you’re not working.

Yvette Turner

I love the piece about your child doesn’t ALWAYS have to come first. I know it sounds harsh to those that don’t have kids, or those that like to lay a guilt trip on other moms, but the truth of the matter is that our kids are capable of understanding that we love them more then anything that has ever existed and at the same exact moment -that sometimes- they will have to just wait 5 minutes so Mommy can close this really important deal. Our job is to teach them not to limit yourself to just one roll.

I thought this was a great mother’s day post. Thank you.

Lindsay

Being a mother and everything else: a blogger, designer, worker, cook, etc. is hard work! However, our children make it the trouble and lack of sleep worth it! I’ve been reading so many posts about motherhood lately (I’m sure it’s because Mother’s Day is coming up) and it inspired me to start writing my daughter letters. She’s three, but want her to be able to look back one day and read about my struggles, emotions, triumphs, and failures as a mother in hopes she can learn from my experiences and appreciate all the blood, sweat, and tears are required to be a mother. Thank you for such a great post!

<3 http://dlezr.blogspot.com

Grace Bonney

yvette

as a non-parent i just wanted to say that i know a lot of us don’t think it’s harsh at all to accept the reality that your children can’t always come first. i’ve seen my friends with children suffer so much because of the myth of a perfect mother who always puts herself (and her work) last and it’s excruciating to watch. you all work so hard to support your children and that love is clear to them (and us). i hope this post and others will help working moms know that none of us look down on those who choose to put themselves, their marriages or work first when they need to.

grace :)

Corenne Earl

Thank you for this post. I just started my own design business at the start of 2012 and my daughter also started school. I was completely overwhelmed to begin with but over the last 5 months I have relaxed about the business/home life, realising it is a marathon not a sprint. School has also bought new responsibilites and opportunities which has been added into the mix. All in all, with all the different things I want to do, this is my life and I will make it work as best I can. Thank you again for the post.

Julie

I was thinking about this post as I brought my phone up to my 1.5 year old’s room after nap time. She played (more or less quietly, LOL) while I made a few calls and answered an email or two, then we spent the rest of the afternoon reading and playing together. I felt much more relaxed knowing that those loose business ends had been tied up before the end of the day, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I often remind myself that it is about quality, not only quantity.

Jamie

Meg!
In response to getting really physically ill and depressed while being a stay at home mom and revolving my life too much around my now 18 month old, my husband and I decided I should start a craft business. I really believe now that moms are meant for their own sake and their kids’ to be involved in other things and have their own life. So, I am about 90% through Craft, Inc. And have read all the “Biz ladies” posts. We reworked my husbands work schedule so that I have time to exercise and about 15 daytime hours/week to start business. Things are already getting better, and my son is 50% more cute now that I have time away from him. Bye bye guilt, hello learning to make it work! Loved everything you said here and will certainly be getting your new book. Wish us luck!

avril

Great article. I think it’s really important to have a realiztic view of how Motherhood will affect your ability to spend time on your business and how that will affect any business partners you may have. When my former business partner and I drew up out biz plan (years before I had kids) we had a ridicuous assumption that babies (we weren’t even thinking of active toddlers) would sit quietly in the office or kitchen space. After I had my first baby, it became clear that I couldn’t put in the 14-hour days anymore and my partner still could. After I bought my partner out (most amicably!) And had another baby, i have scaled back the business dramatically for the time-being. Keeping in touch with important clients and keeping some sort of a presence is important, but I think Mom business owners should also be okay with the thought that scaling back doesn’t have to mean failure. For me, the notion that “you can have it all, just maybe not at the same time” made me feel more “balanced.”

Katie

This article could not have been published at a better time for me. Thank you, Meg, for sharing these reminders that so many of us working mom’s need!

Amanda Brown

As someone who doesn’t have children yet, thank you for encouraging me to have a family in spite of the life-consuming aspects of owning a business! Sometimes I need a little pep talk, and this has been the highlight of my day. I’m ordering your book right now!

caroline @trend daily

Brilliant, brilliant. I had my first child 9 years ago too and everything has changed SO much. I feel like a beginner all over again-new to the blogging world-inspiring reading-a must buy! Thanks so much for sharing!

stephanie

“Making it work” is the best and so true!

Sole Moris

Great Article!
I’ll have to read it everymorning.
Thank you!

Bettina

Wonderful post! So encouraging and inspiring. Thanks so much.

Sharon

Great post! thank you for all of the wise words. I’m not a mom yet, but I think this applies anyway.

Ashley // Our Little Apartment

This is The Best thing I’ve read about motherhood and self-employment.

And I’ve read a lot about it in an attempt to figure out how to make it work. I’m beyond delighted that you have written a book about this, since I’ve been obsessed with your other two books.

I am a web designer with a toddler son and I really needed to hear all of this. Luckily, I’m predisposed to be a low-key mom and exited the competition of ‘earlier! faster! more!’ parenting-wise shortly after he was born.

But the friends thing? I struggle with that. Along with making time for my HUSBAND – when naptime and after-bedtime are the only times I can work. (I can try to work when he’s awake, but I’ve noticed it’s pretty much pointless at his age).

Anyway. Thank you. A million times THANK YOU!

Erica

Thanks for reminding us that we aren’t and don’t have to be superwomen! Life really isn’t about being perferct, rather trying, making mistakes, falling down, getting back up and learning. Good luck to all you mom entrepreneurs out there!

Beka Rendell

This is just what I needed to hear! I am 37 weeks pregnant and am definitely anxious about running a business and being a mom, however hearing these awesome words of wisdom, especially “Make it Work” helps ease my stress. Thanks for posting this!

Holly

This was a wonderful Mother’s Day read – thank you for the encouraging words of wisdom.

emily

This truly is a heartening post – (and comments!) I own a small brick&morter shop in Vermont and have brought my 9 month old with me for 7 months. It’s delicious and challenging, and each day I field comments from customers about how it “won’t last long.” My response is always “it’ll work until it doesn’t”. The space has grown to accomodate him and for now, it still works. My handmade vendors and customers with kids are the best to share stories and resources with. I’ve been so inspired by the glimpses I have into their spaces, I’m working on a new project to catalog these stories of how it works so that we can share the best ideas together (hopefully I’ll get to hear from some of the fabulous women in this community who are making and running businesses!). I can’t wait to read Mom Inc! I often recommend Craft Inc – it was one of the best motivators for me to start my business. Thank you, Meg!

Nat

I’m so late to this, but I just have to say a huge thank you. This applies not only to ladies running a business, but full time working moms as well. I’m about to go into a Master’s program (with a 3 year old + a baby on the way) and ALL of these tips apply. And I agree wholeheartedly. There’s entirely too much pressure put on mothers to give 150% of their undivided attention to their kids. I just wonder what kind of adults we’re raising.

Soledad @ Sol del Sur

My sister, who lives in Germany and has a 4 month old baby, just bought your book last weekend and was talking about it yesterday. I didn’t think it applied for me, but maybe I should get it too!

I’m feeling “the call” to become a mom but the idea of “loosing my life” totally freaks me out. I’m scared of not being able to keep doing what I’m doing, I guess I have to get used to the idea that things wont work the same, but they will work, somehow. Excellent post, thank you so much for sharing.

Nicole

Thank you so much for this! I have a 9-month old son and he is my first. My business has started to really take off and so has he! I was concerned that I would have to take a break from the business in order to solely focus on the baby, but I will now be implementing a schedule and stick to it. This was helpful thanks.

Julie

Just brilliant! Thank you Meg for having the genius idea to do a book on both subjects. Being a designer/blogger/business owner and mum of 2 young children – I feel very connected to your world!

Dominique

Wow good to see im not the only one feeling I needed to hear this amazing advice! ! I am going to read and re read this post! To remind myself I’m making it work!

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