As women, it’s only too easy to use our children as an excuse. Because the facts are, once you have children in your life, they are (while naturally being a joy) a distraction, a responsibility, and a drain on our reserves. There is always something else you need or want to do for them, or somewhere else they need or want you to be. Which is great, but doesn’t sit easily alongside building a business.
Take my day today for instance. I am genuinely tired, due to a certain person needing Calpol in the night and another certain person getting up at 6am. I then had to go to a ‘homework coffee morning’ at school, which took a large chunk out of my morning. So really, my children (a six-year-old son and daughter who is nearly two) could have provided a genuinely great excuse for getting very little done at all.
But if you’re a woman with children, who runs her own business (or a man if you’re a hands on dad) there’s not a lot you can do about having to juggle in reality. There’s no magic pill, no panacea. It’s a fact of life. The only way to deal with it is to reframe it, so here’s some common ‘Mum beliefs’ that might hold you back, and how to reposition them in your mind.
1. My children might suffer
Hands up if you have honestly never ever looked at your mum and thought, ‘It's YOUR fault that X happened to me’ or ‘It's because of YOU that I haven’t Y.’
And do you remember how, as a teenager, nothing your mum ever did was right? If she spoke, what she said was wrong, if she worked, you wanted her at home, if she was at home, you just wished she wasn’t hanging around the whole bloody time. So the school of thought that I subscribe to is that at some point, no matter what you do, your children will blame you for it. That is a fact of life.
But against this backdrop, just as you most likely ‘got over’ the things you blamed your mum for and at some point realised she was just trying to do her best, your children will in turn ‘get over’ their gripes with you.
Perhaps most importantly, experts say that happy mums make for happy children. So it follows that if you have a burning ambition to do something, to create something, to be someone, but you don’t go for it because you’re worried that your children might suffer, then you won’t be happy. And that is ultimately what will cause them pain.
2. No one takes me seriously now I’m a mum
I’m at a parenthood stage now where the ‘me’ before parenthood seems like a different person to the ‘me’ now. I can’t remember how I used to spend my time when I didn’t have the constant demand of two little ones.
So the idea of putting yourself out there with a new business, a new product or a service at the same time as coming to terms with what can feel like a new identity is nerve racking. Add in the worry of what to do if you have to cancel a meeting because your child is sick and how unprofessional you’ll look when you open up your handbag in front of clients and a dummy falls out (happens to me all the time) and it’s easy to understand why many people give up before they even start.
But this is more about your beliefs, than about anyone else’s. Because the circle of life dictates that once you get past a certain age, most people will be parents. So think of it this way. There’s actually nothing new or that interesting about the fact you’re a mum. And in fact, being a fellow parent, even in business, can be a great platform to bond on, or open up conversation about.
Obviously if you’re at a professional meeting, keep things brief, and don’t witter on about your children for long, or show them the entire collection of dummies in your handbag. But everyone likes to see a ‘human’ side to people they meet professionally and so there’s no need to pretend you haven’t got children. Even the most tyrannical of bosses or clients can be won over if you encourage them to share a story or two about their own offspring.