When I became a mother, I began feeling isolated and overwhelmed, sometimes skeptical about my ability to grow as a career professional in pursuit of my dreams. At the same time, as I’ve seen my child grow through milestones, I’ve felt an immense love in my heart and optimism about my potential. In short, when I became a mom, it was obvious that I was being challenged to grow personally, but in terms of professional growth, I felt stagnant and even like a fraud.
I was working at my former company Dream Careers, where I’d helped millennials discover and pursue their career dreams for more than 10 years. It was a long time coming, but having a child was the catalyst for me to figure out how I could continue to grow at work and build integrity into my career. When I began to explore this, I felt scared and soon became increasingly aware of the struggles that mothers face in the workplace.
I felt anxious about figuring out my next step, so I quickly put into practice what I preach. I began looking for evidence to combat the idea that my career was limited now that I was a mom. I went on the lookout for companies and organizations that offered a supportive community (which is how I came across Fairygodboss!).
I also sought out role models; I was eager to speak to mothers who are pursuing and living their dream careers.
I’m lucky to have found a community of women taking action, and for Mother’s Day, I’ve gathered a roundup of tips from mom entrepreneurs and business professionals:
What advice would you give yourself as a mom birthing a business, if you were starting off right now?
“Ignore the rules. Succeed on your terms and not because ‘it's always been done this or that way.’ Don't align your self-esteem to the success or failure of your business. You're still amazing, even if things don't work out. Always try again. Never give up. Treat your business like a business from day one. Find a routine and don't let people (or yourself) disrupt that. And pray...a lot.”
“Birthing a business doesn't happen overnight...it truly is a journey filled with good, the bad, and amazing moments. I would tell myself the following: the first year you learn (about yourself and how you want to show up in this world), the second year you realign / pivot (your business model from the clarity you received from all the learnings), and the third year you grow (period). If you embrace this simple formula, everything you dream about today will happen, as long as you stay consistent and keep showing up!
What is important to you as a mom and business owner?
“I believe in supporting other moms and women in business and work, which is why I love hiring talented women to join my team (both full time and contractors) — because there's so much potential for great work and contribution that isn't seen.”
“I believe that it is not our job to sacrifice our lives for our children, but to show them what a good life lived looks like. This has helped me shed some of that pesky guilt that creeps in and makes us think that loving our business somehow takes away from loving our children. I think that showing your children that 'work' doesn't have to be a negative word is a wonderful gift. And pursuing my passions outside of just being a mother has helped me be a better mother.”
“[It’s important to me] that my daughter understands the why behind my passions and purpose and that I am able to redefine mommyhood for her. Long gone are the traditional days of raising a family, my goal is to show her what's possible, and how to go after her dreams.”
What does work-life integration mean to you?
“The ideal work-life integration to me is realizing that there is no separation. At The Muse, we understand that each employee is a whole person with a life that they bring to work. I've always appreciated that, but it has made for an amazing transition back to work when I returned from maternity leave. We've tested out a bring your baby to work policy, where my daughter was with me at work three days a week. I feel so supported—I don't have to pretend that she doesn't exist to be taken seriously.”
“Balance is bullshit. Success requires a sense of priorities and focus, and that was never clearer to me than with the birth of my baby. When I’m at work, I focus on my passion for the business and getting the job done so I can hurry home and spend time with him. I’m clear about my priority…my son. I still love my work, but because I waited until I was 40 to have a child, I want to be able to invest the majority of my energy in my family and dig into spending meaningful time with him. I’m guessing I’ll be living this one out for a while—will keep you posted!”
“I always keep my ‘WHY,’ my goals and my vision of the future in the forefront of mind, read and visualize it daily, and when obstacles come in my way I revert back to that. It's easy to focus on goals when things are going well or when just getting started and things are exciting. The real test comes when the excitement wears off, and I must get through the challenges; this is the most important time to focus on the reasons why I am doing what I do and not allow emotions to get in the way of ACTIONS!”
—Fradel Barber, CEO, Financial Services
What lessons have you learned the hard way, as a mother and business woman?
“As mothers and ambitious business owners, we tend to put an unfair expectation on ourselves to keep all the balls in the air and never drop one. It's impossible to do it all on your own, and it's ok. You're not broken. You're not a bad mother. You’re not a bad business owner.
“There are going to be seasons of hustle and seasons of flow. Communicate with your family during the seasons of hustle and set boundaries. Ask for help. Outsource the laundry and cleaning. Ask the family if it's ok for you to invest a little extra time into your business but set clear boundaries, so they know when you'll pull back and refocus some extra time on them. Honor those boundaries as you slide back into the seasons of flow.”
One lesson I learned the hard way -- and this is one, of many -- is that you have to do things your way on your own schedule. There's a lot of advice out there -- on business and parenthood. The ONLY way to do it is YOUR way.
“That burning the midnight oil will leave your burnt out as well. And if you are empty, there is no way you can pour into your life, children, or business.”
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger, childless self to help you feel ready to rock a career with kids?
“Climb the corporate ladder. Start a business. Take vacations. Find out what you are passionate about. Don't plan a career around having children at a certain time. You are not in control of when your beautiful children will arrive into the world. What needs to happen for a child to be born is a true miracle that I know I took for granted.”
"Your environment matters more than you think. Being around small minded and negative people can keep you really small, especially if you don't realize it's happening. I had so many other people's stories affecting my decision, what I thought I could I accomplish and my self-worth. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up, who believe in you and will support you all the way."
Evangelia is an expert career coach at The Muse and Founder of Career Ready Set Rock, an independent consultancy for millennial women, moms, and moms-to-be who want to make more moves, money and meaning in their lives and careers. Although Evangelia is a career strategist who swears by strengths assessments and action plans, at heart she believes that the greatest life blessings and lessons come from being present, surrendering and having faith.