Success in life and in business means different things to each of us. Some women are born to be entrepreneurs — in fact, more new businesses have been registered by women in 2021 than ever before — but for women hoping to become mothers, or who already have families, the challenge of running your own business and bringing up a family at the same time is a complex one, often with additional challenges.
When I was in my late teens, I knew that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mum. My own mother, a woman with many talents, had been an unfulfilled and frustrated housewife and I didn’t want that for myself. I have always believed that a happy loving mother will be well-placed to create a happy home life for her family.
We are not all in a position to choose to be happy, but I made up my mind that I would do my best. I wanted a happy life and that was my goal. It helped that I have a naturally optimistic temperament. I married in my early twenties, and when, a decade later, it became obvious to both of us that our relationship was no longer working, it seemed better to me that we should separate and not stay together ‘for the sake of the children’.
Takeaway: Every family is unique. We cannot know in advance what the impact of separation and divorce will be on our children. But life is never easy for children growing up with quarrelsome parents.
All mothers feel guilt sometimes. We want to be the perfect parent for our children and we want to fulfil all their needs. It helps to recognise at an early stage, that we will all make mistakes and that often we won’t know we are making them until our children are much older and keep reminding us. We often learn years later that what we were anxious about was ‘our stuff’ and it wasn’t keeping them awake at night.
Conversely, they often blame us for things that impacted on them in ways that we had not appreciated were so worrisome for them at the time. Even the best parental communicators get it wrong sometimes.
Takeaway: No parent gets it right all the time. If you are truly doing your best, there’s no need to beat yourself up. Always aim to keep your communication lines open.
I had not expected to find myself a single working mother with three young children. It wasn’t easy, and this was compounded by my oldest child – my first-born daughter – being disabled. She has cerebral palsy, is non-verbal and unable to walk.
Of course, I would get stressed overwhelmed and angry some days. But it never lasted for long and we’d all soon make it up. I didn’t have a problem apologising to them and they usually understood what part they had played. My younger daughter always said she wouldn’t refer to her own children as being ‘over-tired’ at bed-times but of course, when she became a mother, that resolution didn’t last very long. So even the best of intentions don’t always work out the way you plan – even when you think you’ve been forewarned – so don’t beat yourself up.
Takeaway: There will always be days when everyone is stressed, argumentative and tired. Always acknowledge this so that everyone’s feelings are recognised.
One of the most important advantages of being an entrepreneur is that, while you might be working longer and harder than ever before, you do have the freedom to set your own hours. You might have to answer emails before everyone gets up or after they have gone to bed. But it’s a small price to pay for having control over your own time.
Takeaway: Being your own boss is the best kind of freedom.
My most challenging times were the periods between nannies starting and leaving. Someone always needed to be waiting for my older daughter who would be brought home at 4pm every day in the school bus. And later, when she moved into a home, someone had to be waiting at the bus stop to meet my younger daughter before she was old enough to walk home on her own. There were no mobile phones then so no one could text if there were delays. Now mobile phones make it so much easier for parents and children to communicate when they need to during the day and especially if you can’t be at the school-gate.
Takeaway: Recognise that nothing is static. You may overcome one challenge only to be faced with another. This is normal and every entrepreneurial parent will go through these cycles. So recognise them for what they are, and take them in your stride.
I think the most important thing a working parent needs to try to do is to avoid feeling guilty. Women have been working in fields, factories and offices throughout history. Few women have had the luxury of sitting at home, able to enjoy playing with their children without a preponderance of household tasks. Landed gentry had staff to help with childcare while many women who were able to look after their children all day often wished they had the opportunity to go to work.
Takeaway: Throughout history women have worked a double shift to put food on the table and to give their children a good start in life. Wanting to work, for whatever reason, is perfectly normal.
Every one of us is born with unique gifts and talents and we need to find how to use and benefit from our skills and capabilities in order to lead our own rewarding and fulfilling life. By doing that, we set our children a good example of how to work hard in order to enjoy what we do, which gives our lives meaning and purpose. Children of working parents often become more independent and capable at a younger age than some of their peers who have so much done for them.
Takeaway: Entrepreneurial parents demonstrate leadership, managing responsibility and solving problems.
Being an entrepreneur is one of the most exciting experiences that life has to offer. You have complete freedom to create your product and service in the way that you want to. It is exciting, rewarding and also nerve-wracking. But you will feel truly alive while you are doing it. And if you become an entrepreneur because you have no other choice, the successes you may achieve could be all the sweeter, as it wasn’t what you had planned to do with your life. If your business becomes successful, you will likely be able to sell it and have sufficient money to explore other dreams.
Takeaway: Entrepreneurship encourages you to feel fully alive.
Whether you already have a business and have struggled through lockdown juggling the needs of the business with home schooling, or perhaps this last year has awakened within you a dream to start your own business – your mindset now becomes crucial. Do your homework, focus on what you want to achieve and persevere while, at the same time, being prepared to be flexible and collaborative. Your mind is the most powerful tool you have so programme it for success.
Takeaway: Believe in yourself and your ability to keep going, no matter what hurdles are in your way.
Always get your partner, if you have one, on side first. When the two of you are working as a team and supporting one another, everything is possible. Next, look to your second line of defence, family members living nearby, helpful neighbours, school friends’ parents. All these people need to form your support group and be there to back you up when you need them, and in turn you have to be there to do the same for them when times are tough. With your support network in place – and without family and friends, you may have to employ someone – then you are equipped to achieve great heights.
Takeaway: Cherish the people in your support network. Life will be much harder without them.
Never has there been more support for people who want to start their own business. There are books and courses, podcasts and lectures, consultants and mentors. Everything you need to know can be found on the Internet. Local and online community groups and networks are there to speed you on your way. This is truly the best time in history to get help as you work to build your company.
Takeaway: Never be too shy to ask for help. There are always people willing and ready to support courageous entrepreneurs.
Judy Piatkus is author of ‘Ahead of Her Time; How a One-Woman Startup Became a Global Publishing Brand’. Judy is an entrepreneur, publisher and business coach specialising in conscious leadership. She founded Piatkus Books when she was in her 20s and grew the company to become an international brand, before selling it in 2007, just before the global financial crash that she had shrewdly foreseen. She is now a keynote speaker and a coach and mentor to start-ups. In 2011 she founded Conscious Café, a network that brings people together for connection and discussion. www.judypiatkus.com
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