For years we’ve debated whether or not women can truly “have it all,” “it all” being both a career and a family. As women’s rights have evolved and the importance of work/life balance has become an issue for all working people, not just women, certain structures have been put in place to assist working mothers in managing the demands of both their jobs and children.
That has included an evolution of the childcare industry to support the needs of working families, as well as labor regulations that allow for family leave when needed, employer-provided onsite childcare and the opportunity to telework. Even with those advantages it’s still not easy for any woman to handle the responsibilities of work and motherhood at the same time; you can imagine that that stress is multiplied for mothers whose jobs don’t provide those privileges and/or who don’t have the financial ability to take advantage of them.
That is why many women are choosing to become “momtrepreneurs.” A momtrepreneur is any mother who runs her own business, typically out of her home. Without the logistic demands of traditional employment—having to be in a particular place for a set amount of time that they don’t have control over—these women are able to bring in income while having the freedom and flexibility to handle family responsibilities.
Thanks to the rise of the “gig economy” as well as the proliferation of social media channels and the newfound power of influencer marketing, there are boundless options for today’s aspiring momtrepreneur to cash in. In some cases we’re not just talking side-hustle money either; some momtrepreneurs are pulling in executive-level income from their businesses. But like most enterprises, what you get out of it comes down to what you put into it. And that doesn’t just mean the financial benefits, but the personal ones as well.
Here are a few tips to help momtrepreneurs find that balance and thrive.
Believe in Yourself—I know it sounds simplistic and trite, but plenty of women’s journeys into entrepreneurship are over before they begin because of a lack of self-confidence, and it can be compounded for mothers, who often report feeling a loss of their identities once their kids are born. Instead of mourning the boss ladies they once were, however, momtrepreneurs should embrace the strength that motherhood has brought them, and leverage it to find new paths to success.
Cindy Wang, founder of ergonomic baby-carrier brand Mamapod, believes that moms are in possession of a unique skillset that actually gives them an advantage in business. “Mothers have to be great multi-taskers and quickly develop keen organizational skills just to manage their family’s needs,” said Wang. “Many business ideas are triggered by unfulfilled personal needs; momtrepreneurs are the ones who take the initiative to identify and create better solutions.”
Think of all the creative solutions you’ve had to come up with, often right on the spot, to get a picky kid to finally eat something healthy or to get all four kids to each of their extracurricular activities on time. Moms are some of the biggest innovators out there, and that is a vital characteristic in an entrepreneur. When you became a mom you didn’t lose your professional skills and you definitely gained a lot more, so put that to work for your own business, in your own way.
Maintain Boundaries—Anyone who works from home will tell you it can be difficult to leave work behind when work is also where you live. For momtrepreneurs, it’s important to keep the business and family parts separate, according to Tonya Taylor, founder of KYDZ Careers, a childcare business consulting and staffing service. “Moms may be tempted to be working on their laptops while their kids are playing in the same room, or taking client calls while feeding the kids their lunches, but when they try to split their attention, neither their kids nor their work benefits,” she said.
Taylor also emphasized the importance of boundaries, physical and emotional ones, as well as scheduling. “If you work from home, it might be useful to find childcare for your kids a couple of days a week, to give you time to focus while minimizing the expense,” she advised. “Then plan to get the bulk of your to-do’s done on those days so that you have more flexibility on the others.”
You should also be sure to use your support system, whether that’s your partner, friends or family, to help you handle family responsibilities when you need to put your boss hat on. For most families, getting everything done means everyone pitching in; working from home doesn’t mean all the household duties fall to you, so keep a structure in place to make sure everyone shares the workload when you’re trying to build your business.
Prioritize The Personal Benefits—You took the risk and started your own business in order to have the freedom you need to take care of your family and yourself, so don’t get sucked into the demands of your business and end up back in the same stressed out place. The major benefit of being your own boss is that you can build your business at your own pace and give yourself time off when you need it.
Multi Level Marketing companies like those that sell essential oils, lip gloss, leggings and more on social media have enabled many women to make money on their own time, though the feedback on those is mixed, and there are some that are more legitimate than others. If you go the online MLM route, be sure to research who you work for and remember that all of those success stories are not created equal. What these companies do offer is flexibility; you can work as much or as little as you like, and when you are able to instead of when you HAVE to.
Ultimately, your priority has to be on yours and your kids’ needs, and you have to plan around that when building and growing your business. For instance, if you have three kids and a partner who travels often for work, you should acknowledge that your bandwidth will be limited for your business, and not book yourself for time you won’t actually have. Keep the focus where it belongs and don’t spread bandwidth too thin.
“Momtrepreneurship” may not be for every mother—it requires a certain skillset and there are many privileges that lead to success that many women are not fortunate enough to have. But it may not be as out of reach as you might think.