Being a single mom in general is no easy feat. Being a single mom while trying to start, build and grow a company brings a whole new level of difficult to the task. As a single mom and a young mom (I had my son at 22), trying to make it in the business world – a man’s world – comes with its fair share of judgement, hurdles and challenges.
I’ve read a lot of great articles over the years about women entrepreneurs that have been very inspiring, but I could never fully relate. Recently, I came across an article by Kate Taylor – 10 Single Mom Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Advice – and something just clicked. It’s inspiring and relatable to hear real advice from single moms who’ve made it as successful entrepreneurs and strong business women. But still, I wonder if their perspectives were any different when they were just starting out versus reflecting back after achieving success?
So, here is my best advice as a single mom by the age of 22 and entrepreneur by the age of 25 (now 27) still going through the process of building my business and still on the road to success. While I agree entirely with Taylor’s article and all the advice from each of the 10 mompreneurs she interviewed, I would like to add my personal perspective and some extra advice to the mix…
1. Own your single-mom status.
In my experience, I have been advised against speaking about my son in any business setting, while others have encouraged it. After graduating from university and beginning the job search process, I remember always feeling self-conscious to tell people I had a son and am a single mom only to see the look of shock (and then concern) on their face. I even remember being in job interviews and being asked how I would manage my time since I have a son. Over the years and having had a few different jobs before taking the entrepreneurial plunge myself, I realize now the biggest mistake I made was letting anyone make me feel bad for being a single mom.
The way I see it, being a single mom and taking on the business world in any way, shape or form simply means that you are twice as motivated, willing to work three times harder, and are stronger than the majority. So, do own your single-mom status and use it a label for strength, perseverance, motivation and determination! And, if anyone ever tells you not to talk about your child(ren) (within reason of course!), you probably don’t want to work with them anyways!
2. Ditch toxic influences.
This is easy to say, but difficult to do. With age and objectivity, I have recognized that sometimes the one’s you love the most are the one’s that care the least (and the one who cares the least tend to hold the most power), and sometimes people give their worst to the one’s they are closest to. I have felt the effects of people putting their own issues on me whether it be their own unhappiness (and seeing me happy), or their own insecurities (and seeing my confidence). When I was younger, I used to always seek the approval of others, but as I got older I realized my happiness had to come from within and it was a losing battle trying to please everyone else.
Since I had my son and decided to start my own company, I’ve become a lot stronger and much more self-aware. It hasn’t been easy over the years distancing myself from loved ones in certain aspects, and trying to get closer to them in others. I am still learning and trying to set boundaries and understand how to compartmentalize relationships in order to only take the positive away from them. It’s not always easy having to be so assertive, and at times, to the point where it hurts the people I care for. But at the same time, it’s not easy to take on a company when surrounded by any sense of doubt or negativity and you simply can’t afford to please someone else at any cost to yourself. I’ve learned to internalize a lot, and as my son says, “lock my ears” to anything negative – at the end of the day, if it’s someone who loves you they will only want the best for you anyways.
Whether it’s your parents, your partner, your friends, someone you work with, etc.; if they aren’t 100% supportive of you, set boundaries quickly or get them out of your life. You may not realize it in the short term, but feeling guilty, feeling stressed, or feeling bad about things (especially things others are putting on you) will absolutely inhibit you in the short term and shape you in the long-term – it’s just up to you what this ‘shape’ looks like (mine is a diamond!).
3. Include your kids in your business.
My son is my everything – 100%. There is nothing more inspirational and motivational then working towards a better and brighter future for him. I hold myself accountable to be a strong role model for him, and for all future generations. My son inspires me every day and I only hope one day my hard work will inspire him.
In the meantime, I talk to him and include him in everything I do for a few key reasons:
1 – To teach him about business, technology and entrepreneurship (Real-world education and experience is invaluable. Plus, I want him to dream big and create and control his own future!);
2 – To keep myself motivated and focus on my bigger goals (It’s easy to get caught up in financial goals and appealing to your stakeholders, my son reminds everyday why I am really doing this with every hug and every smile.);
3 – To spend more time with him (If I kept work and my personal life separate I would never see him. I try to include him and bring him along for as much as possible. Not only is it great exposure for him to learn new things, meet new people, and see new places, but it allows me to sneak in quality time and cuddles between meetings); and,
4 – Because life is unpredictable and we never know what tomorrow will bring (I would never want to regret my time with my son and as much I am working towards our future, I know I will never get this time back right now.).
So there you have it, a few more good reasons to include your child(ren) in your business, it really does keeps things in perspective and is a win-win for both of you.
4. Give yourself a break.
Yes – sleep, eat, paint your nails, have a glass of wine! No one is perfect and everyone needs some downtime sometimes. I learned very quickly in university it wasn’t about how much time I spent studying, but it was about how little time I could spend studying while retaining the same amount. I’ve found the same applies in business. You’re better off putting in 40 productive hours, than 60 unproductive hours in any given week. It’s not worth running yourself thin; after all, if you aren’t feeling 100%, how can you give 100% to your child(ren) and your company? If you’re not focused or feeling well for any reason, take a break. We’re only human!
5. Remember: all you need is an idea and serious drive.
My motto is as follows: It starts with a vision. It develops with a commitment. There is no end with a passion.
We all have different triggers, different motivators, and different things that drive us. Of course, for me my son plays an integral role in all three of the above, as I imagine would be the case for any mompreneur. I hate to admit it, but some of my most negative experiences have also become motivators (I’d love to prove a few unnamed people wrong!). As a result, my best advice is to learn very early on the difference between your triggers (what gets you going), your motivators (what keeps you going), and your drive (what speed you’re going to go at). Identify these three key success factors and make sure you understand them inside and out. At least once or twice a day, remind yourself of these three things to help you maintain your focus and pace.
6. Focus on the positives.
This is a must. In fact, all of the other 10 tips here help guide you to this. You will (and probably do) face a lot of negativity, criticism, judgment and rejection on a daily basis (as do I). Just remember we learn more from the challenges and the failures than we do from the successes. Convert that negative energy into fuel that you can use as motivation. There is always a way to see a glass as half full if you want to. Someone once told me that if you look at a half-full glass directly from the top, it will almost always look full – it’s just a matter of perspective.
7. Only date supportive romantic partners.
Oh boy, where do I start here? First, sustainability in a business is much like sustainability in a relationship, it requires a solid team, long-term commitment, stable growth, the ability to change and adapt over time and in tough circumstances; and of course, the right amount of pizzazz to make you stand out from the rest! In a relationship, the foundation to anything long term absolutely requires trust, respect, communication and chemistry. If you can find these common qualities with a man – he’s a keeper!
Of course, there’s dating and relationships, then there’s dating and relationships as a single mom, and then there’s dating and relationships as a single mom and strong business woman. It’s not easy to date with a child and it takes a special kind of guy to be understanding and accepting of your circumstances. It takes an even more special kind of guy to be understanding and accepting of your child(ren) and your busy lifestyle.
I once fell in love with “the perfect man” – well-educated, established, mature, kind, etc. He was also divorced with a difficult ex-wife, two older children, and a busy career (…again, etc.). Our relationship consisted of three years of ups and downs to say the least. I finally realized that my son and I would never be a priority, and if I stayed with him, my life would always revolve around him, his circumstances and his needs. Once I finally worked up the courage to leave the relationship, I realized just how much his own insecurities and selfishness were actually holding me back. As much as I loved him, I realize now that love was supported by an unstable foundation that had endured so much damage I was simply afraid to move for fear it would crumble beneath me. I moved, that foundation did crumble, and I moved on.
Trying to date again recently has been a less than fun guessing game to say the least. While it is certainly worthwhile to give a guy a chance, to talk through initial issues and permit some time for adjustment; don’t enter into any relationship unless you’re absolutely on the same page. People by nature tend to repeat their behavior, don’t let issues go so easily or it will quickly set the tone/pattern for the rest of the relationship.
We mompreneurs need a man who is confident, independent and fully supportive – and someone who is willing to meet you more than just half-way at times. If you find yourself with a man who cannot make you and your child(ren) and priority fast – run! Don’t waste your time with anyone who is unreliable, jealous, or selfish.
Taking on all that we do alone, we need a man who can bring us up and stand behind us (at times). You never want to find yourself with a man where you’re always standing in his shadows, or he is always blocking your light. When you find the guy who is willing to compromise, and even sacrifice for you and your child(ren), and with whom you have a solid foundation (trust, respect, communication and chemistry) you will know he is the one instinctively (I would imagine it will feel like the same gut instincts I feel in business)! In the meantime, as much as we may want nothing more than to settle down, never ever settle!
8. Give up on finding the perfect work-life balance.
It doesn’t exist. Work, your child(ren), your personal life… they will always be pulling at you from every direction. All you can do is accept that the next few years of your life are going to be chaos, embrace it and thrive on the adrenaline through every stressful moment and sleepless night. Also, remember that balance often means blending a little of each (trust me, it doesn’t always have to be a tradeoff). Oh, and always make sure to have some tea handy too!
9. Slay the comparison critic.
There will always be someone who has it easier than you, and always someone who has it harder. I used to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself at times when my son was sick, I had deadlines piling up, and I didn’t have time to sleep or eat. At times, this “poor me” mentality would serve as a means of self-doubt and procrastination. Then there were other times where I felt I had to work twice as hard as men in the same position and I thought, “It would be so much easier if I were a man in this man’s world”. But then as learned more about my male colleagues, I realized they simply have different challenges and pressures – we all have that difficult something we struggle to overcome! The sooner we learn not to compare ourselves to others, the sooner we bring ourselves onto an equal playing field. As a result, I learned very quickly to embrace my challenges and be proud of every obstacle I overcame because in the end, it only made me stronger.
10. Find the right schedule for you.
Find the right schedule, and believe me, that schedule will change from week-to-week. There is no such thing as routine in entrepreneurship; although, you may find it is possible to maintain a few key healthy habits that keep you sane (like a smoothly in the morning, or exercise a few times a week, etc.) No matter how hectic my schedule, I always try to take time to exercise and I maintain a few special habits between my son and I (I sing to him every night, breakfast together in the morning, dinner together at night, etc.). For me, this keep me sane and keeps us “comfortable” together no matter where we are and what’s going on.
11. Your own advice is your best advice.
#11 is my personal add-on to Taylor’s article. I have received a lot of good advice over my lifetime that I keep close in mind; however, I would have to say the best advice I have ever been given is the advice I derive from myself. I don’t say this in an arrogant way, but I have found if you ask 10 different people the same question, you will get 10 different answers and it can be confusing and overwhelming at times. I personally like to listen and be open-minded to everyone’s advice, thoughts and opinions; but, at the end of the day I think things through in my mind, I listen to my gut and follow my heart as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, being coachable is extremely important, but so is being confident. It’s really about finding the right balance between the two and being able to listen to yourself in an outwardly objective way.
While I know this is a lot to take in, and I fully recommend every mompreneur, or aspiring mompreneur, read Taylor’s article that motivated me to write my own article (click here for article). As for my additions, I truly hope there is something in here that every mother and entrepreneur can relate to (even a little). I think the bottom line is that it is so easy to be a product of your environment in today’s day-and-age, but it so difficult to be a product of yourself. I do think it is so important to never forget where you came from, but it is even more important to choose where you want to go. For all those current and aspiring mompreneurs, all I can say is the struggle is so worth it in the end!
Co-Founder & VP
BioSensive Technologies Inc.
- Posted by An Entrepreneur
- On October 30, 2015
- 0 Comments