Motherhood and Entrepreneurship
I am in the process of setting up my own small business after my maternity break (is the break ever really over? :-). I have always been a high achiever in life, was doing very well in my career (IT in Oz), and had a steep career graph going for me. After having my baby, I decided to consciously take time-off. Now, the 9-5 (or is it 9-9?) routine does not suit me. But I still wanted to fulfil my individual potential and live out my best life, and would like to work professionally, but at my own pace. So now I am in my ‘onramp’ stage, and would like to share some of my thoughts on ‘Entrepreneurship after having kids’.
First in my series is – ‘The soft challenges of doing part-time entrepreneurial work’ (esp. with limited human resource even if you count the baby in
- Ideas-Focus: The problem is not lack of ideas (as one would have expected), but rather too many of them. When I started, there were too many ideas that I wanted to do all at once. Having worked in a fast paced corporate environment (pre-babies of course), I was efficient at using the current working system to make the ideas happen. The shift now is to develop a new system on your own to make things happen. It takes time to adjust to the ‘new working you’. What can we do about this?
- Learn to focus on and develop a few (couple) ideas. Need to analyse what is going to be my niche. Once the core idea sets in, then you can work on the allied services.
- Need to use the strategy of ‘release and review’ with your customer base. But here we need to understand the effort/ output ratio. Come to a satisfactory stage/ get initial reviews from industry experts/ and release. Update and chart your course as per the feedback.
- Instant gratification: Remember the pat-on-the-back by your boss for an excellent presentation/ or the extra-bonus/ or the successful release at 4 in the morning/ or simply the cheers at the morning coffee run? As trivial as they may seem these are important things. As a part-time mumpreneur, there may be no-one to provide this encouragement. These advantages of working in a collaborative effort are missing. Also, initially success may be slow in coming (incubation and setting up period more). This for a mother is more challenging due to the internal pressure she faces in order to succeed (to justify her effort away from her family).
- Very simply – ‘Pat yourself’ There are times when only you know how you’ve gone through that difficult day with being a mum, home-maker, wife etc. and have still managed to complete that little work. Be kind to yourself.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Get honest feedback from the ‘knowers’.
- Perceptions: Ever heard the expression ‘Just a mother / housewife’ – that is what I’m talking about. When you are doing a job, it’s easier for others to understand the structure of your life. So (generally) the expectations & their perception of you is very different. Our society, I feel, is quite biased in this regard. (That’s another discussion for another day). Since I work mostly from home, and schedule around my toddler’s timings, people don’t know where to draw the line with expectations. They tend to take our time for granted a lot more, and also do not understand that the work we do is as important (if not more). I am sure that this is probably something to do with the signals that we give out, but nevertheless it is an issue.
- Highlight what your efforts are, and what you have achieved through them. Sometimes this doesn’t come naturally to us, especially if what we have achieved is not as much as before. You need to be able to tell people and believe yourself that it is important and a priority.
- Being immersed in your work/ Losing flexibility: Remember the reason why we chose to do this type of work? We wanted a lifestyle of flexibility and independence in terms of time and accountability. In order to make it big fast, or to fuel the great early success, we tend to work on this more than a full time job. The work takes over our mind & time, and we find it difficult to switch-off when we need to. The goal of being more present (physically & mentally too) for our family / or of leading a more independent lifestyle is lost. For this we can apply various time/ priority management strategies.
- Do not try to ‘have it all’ by doing it all. You must to understand when the business is big enough for you to recruit / partner with a team and delegate. Apply appropriate task management strategies.
- These priorities in life may change depending upon various factors – there may be busy and slow periods. From time-to-time ask yourself and your loved ones – ‘Is this working for me?’/ ‘Are we happy with this?’.
- Networking: I remember I had wanted to attend a Pune Open Coffee Club forum presentation. It was 45 minutes from my home. I was looking forward to it. During my maternity leave, this was an event to look forward to. To connect to my non-mummy/ non-nappy conversation mode I observed that for most of the other participants it was just another casual meeting they had made way to after a busy day. Just one of the things that they did. For me, this meant pre-arranging for baby-sitting, making sure the feed/ nap times are taken care of, and arranging for stuff so the baby stays happy. Phew!! All this for a free forum meeting (which turned out to be really good, BTW). Now you understand the effort that we have to go through with networking. And I haven’t even talked about the soft-networking aspects (the golf games/the tennis games/ the tweet-ups/ the catch-ups/ the evening beer meetups etc.
- Sometimes you just need to take that break from ‘mummyhood’ in order to connect to your other self. Even if it is a lot of effort, do take the time out to network. When you do make sure you don’t let the mummy-brain take over your personality
- Use technology. When you cannot physically go out and network, use the abundance of technology at your disposal. Be careful that you are networking effectively and not just being part of groups which add no value to your goal.
So the above are some of the few things that I have tried and have worked for me during my on-ramping experience. Would love to hear what you all have to say. There are a lot more things in this series to talk about – we’ll see how we go :-).
About the Author – Aparna Kalantri
Aparna has recently moved to Pune. She has studied B.E. (computer science) from Pune University and then moved to Melbourne. There, she completed (with top honours) her Master’s in IT from Swinburne University. After her degree she worked in Melbourne & Sydney in banking domain doing various IT roles. After having spent seven years in Australia, she (along with her husband and a little baby) moved back to India (Pune).
She is in the process of setting up her own ‘Personal Excellence Centre’ for women. She is passionate about self-development activities, and has been involved in many such workshops in her corporate career. She aspires to help women achieve their full potential and live their best life. She too believes in living consciously and freely.