They say self-employed mothers can have it all. They’re lying.
It seems every time you open a newspaper there’s another story about a mom starting her own business. The press, and the moms themselves, have glamorized these incredible “mompreneurs” for starting great businesses. They’ve led us to believe these businesses appeared overnight and were instantly successful. Women often feel the expectation of raising children, running a smooth household, being a (nice) wife, having a social life and being something other than a mom all the time. Being a mompreneur is touted as the happy medium between being a full-time mother and a dedicated career woman. Except, of course, and we speak from experience, these stories are all lies. We started our own business, Stonz, almost two years ago. Like most mompreneurs, we created our product out of necessity when we couldn’t find anything to suit our needs. We needed baby booties that were easy to put on and stayed on our baby’s feet, that kept out the rain, wind and cold when our children were outside and that had a waterproof soft sole. Our idea seemed wonderful; we’d develop the kind of booties that moms all over were craving, and keep our households running smoothly. But putting the plan into action was a whole different story. We had the notion that we could spend copious amounts of quality time with our children (Lisa has two; Tracey has three), cook (healthy) meals, keep a clean house, manage household finances, exercise, socialize, drive the children to every activity they’ve ever heard about, make lunches, be involved in school activities, maintain good communication with our husbands through the odd date night and schedule the must-have “me time” recommended by lifestyle gurus. Oh yes, and find a few hours a day to build and run a successful business. We could work from home and be with our children; what could be better? And then reality set in. We found ourselves taking important business calls while surrounded by a house full of screaming kids. And we don’t mean at volumes that can be muted by taking refuge in another room; we mean lock-yourself-in-the-vehicle -in-the-driveway decibels. Imagine going to pick up completed booties from your tailor and accidentally locking your keys in the van while it’s running. Then imagine your six-month-old child is still inside. (Fortunately in this case, an ex-carjacker stumbled by and offered his assistance.) And then there’s the business lunch where your one-year-old (who attends many meetings) refuses to stay in his high chair, does a puppet show with his feet for the adjacent table and spills an entire cup of ketchup on your white shirt. This, alone, isn’t so bad; after all, this is your third child and you have no preconceived notions of staying clean all day. But imagine returning to your car feeling the meeting went as well as it could have under the circumstances, and noticing your son had unbuttoned your shirt to your belly button. Quality time with our children often includes lugging them to the post office, the courier, the tailors, the cutters, fabric stores, meetings and accountants’ offices. And they don’t always traipse along without complaint. Is this the Utopia we had envisioned? And what about our husbands? Date nights now consist of watching late-night programming on Bravo while attaching finishing hardware to booties when the children are in bed. Our husbands have had to pick up the slack for their busy wives, which sometimes means doing laundry at midnight. Healthy meals now consist of toast, eggs, carrots and a glass of milk, or take-out when delivery is available. Exercise is running kids to soccer, gymnastics, school, swimming, hockey and music between phone calls. And that’s literally running, since we’re always late. Our houses are constantly in a state of disarray. And the oh-so-important “me time” is now known as “a shower.” We’ve learned that being a mompreneur doesn’t just mean working from home and taking care of your children. It means doing both at the same time, which is much more difficult. We are managing to get most things done, but there is always a price to pay. We now do things with a lot less sleep, and often have to deal with lonely partners. I’m guessing this is probably the reality for more mompreneurs than the articles, panels and conferences would have us believe. Fortunately, families, customers and suppliers have been patient and understanding. This is probably because they, too, realize that living the “balanced” life might actually mean accepting that we are always a little off-balance.