With Mothers Day this weekend, and as a working mom for 18 years now, the concept of being a “working” mother is just as emotional as ever. Start a conversation on “working” moms and you’ll quickly get into a heated discussion no matter what side of the fence you are on or what your belief system is.
The facts say it all.
- A full 61 percent of mothers work outside of the home.
- 4 in 10 working wives currently out earn their husbands. This has increased over 50% from a mere 20 years ago.
- And with female college graduates currently outnumbering males with a 60/40 ratio, these numbers are only expected to rise in the coming years.
Whether you own a part time studio out of your home, or you’ve chosen to build a full time business out of a commercial studio, how can you be the best mom AND the best business owner at the same time?
Split Your Time
It’s impossible to do two things at once. You can’t take care of your kids AND provide 100 percent customer service. You can’t give a client your full attention if your child is running wild in the next room. When kids are with you, they want your attention. Even if they have nothing to say. In order to be affective as both a business owner and as a parent, dedicate time to both activities and be conscious of keeping that time exclusively for the activity at hand.
When I’m with a client, I dedicate 100 percent of my attention to that client. No cell phone or texting. No interruptions from outside sources.
The same holds true when I spend time with my daughter. Even at 18, when she comes home from school, she wants my time to talk about her day. She may have activities to discuss, thoughts from happenings around school, or just in need of some attention after “kid-friction” that invariably goes on at every grade level, including high school.
Be Upfront With Clients
There are always certain things that come up that need your attention. Don’t hide it from your clients; be up front with them and tell them exactly what is happening. “I’m expecting a call from my daughter and I have to take it,” at the beginning of the meeting can assure a client that they mean the world to you, but you have an outside obligation you have to meet as well. In most cases a client has a family too; they understand life’s little emergencies and are more than willing to sit back and relax while you spend two minutes on the phone.
Be Aware Of Your Actions
I had a friend who would start out her meetings with “I’m expecting a phone call from my daughter”. The trouble with that phrase is she started every meeting with that phrase. If a client meets with her a half dozen times, they would hear that phrase a half dozen times.
People forgive an occasional problem. But when you make it an every day occurrence, it loses its effectiveness. It’s “crying wolf”. And it shows you’re not effective at anything – parenting or business management.
Teach Your Kids About Business
No matter how young a child is, they can always learn a little bit about business. From the time my daughter understood what an envelope was, we had her licking envelopes, folding letters, and putting stamps in the right place. We taught her how to respect business tools, and realize when mommy (or daddy for that matter) is in her office, you must respect “office” rules. You teach a child all about “inside/outside voices” at an early age; they can just as easily learn about “office” rules. The more they learn about what you are doing as a business owner, the more they can incorporate those thoughts into their own lives. You never know when you’ll start inspiring your own budding entrepreneur.
Don’t Be Afraid of Daycare
For me, daycare comes in all kinds of formats. I read a study a while back that said mothers from 40 years ago spent on average 11 hours per week actively engaged with their children. Today that number has nearly doubled. Helicopter parenting is at an all time high. We’re always “on” with our kids. Yet an old saying is “it takes a village to raise a child”. Look for that village in a variety of places.
I used to switch with another mom who was running a video business. She would watch my daughter one afternoon a week; I would watch her son one afternoon a week. You can find play groups all over your neighborhood. Check with your local recreation or community center to find drop in play groups. One morning a week can give your child fun time with other kids, while giving you a chance to get some serious work done. You can reach out to family, friends, and even clients you get to know well.
Realize You Need Time Too
We all try to be super women. “I can do it all”. Yet that has never been true, nor will it ever be true. We simply can’t do it all and keep our sanity too. I realized early on I had outside interests. I love working, I love building businesses, I love teaching, and I love learning. When I love what I’m doing, I’m happier. And a happier mom means a happier daughter.
The best role model you can give your kids is one that you would love to have them emulate in the future. I’ve always subscribed to the “do as I do” concept. I talk to her about my own priorities. I talk about things I feel I’ve done right, and things I wish I would have done differently.
Now as she’s graduating and heading off to college in the fall, I hope she takes everything she’s learned over the past 18 years to heart. I hope she uses that as she builds her own career goals, and realizes that for her “having it all” can be defined as anything she chooses it to be.
Happy Mothers Day.