A few weeks ago, speaking to group of mostly female business owners, I was asked about the logistics of raising a five-year-old as a single mom and the owner of a fast-growth business. I fumbled the answer. I made some noise about having a support system, and trying to schedule my life around my custody schedule, but that’s not really the answer. I mean, it’s part of the answer, but not what I think that woman (who I assume is a mother or would like to become one while also achieving the dream of owning a business) was looking for.
So here’s the answer I should have given:
I do it by forgiving myself.
I forgive myself for not being a room mother or attending the class parties because I don’t have time and I never got around to taking the three-hour training class the Catholic church requires if you want to be around their students.
I forgive myself for not being the one to get Catherine out of bed and ready for school because I like arriving in the office first and having a quiet half-hour to myself to be truly productive before the chaos of the day strikes, and I find getting her ready incredibly stressful. She likes braids I just can’t accomplish.
I forgive myself for not cooking meals every night, or any night. There are only the two of us, and frankly, I’d rather Catherine eat a full plate of cooked carrots and some ham that I’ve microwaved than try to force her to eat what I want that night (which might be cereal or slices of cheese over the sink.) And if I’m being honest, there are nights when I’m happy to be able to get something from the drive-thru on the table for her.
I forgive myself for never having the kinds of groceries other moms do. I watched my neighbor last week come up with four different kinds of lunchmeat for sandwiches for her daughters and their friends, plus peanut butter and jelly for her vegetarian friend. I couldn’t come up with ONE kind of lunchmeat in my house, let alone enough bread for five sandwiches. If gas stations didn’t sell milk, I’d really be in trouble.
I forgive myself for being tired. On days when I get home from work and I’m just wiped out, it is extremely hard to bring myself to be a great playmate for Catherine. I don’t really have the energy for dress up or makeup or making clay pots or painting masterpieces. Most of the time, it takes a herculean effort just to get out the coloring books and pencils after dinner and before bath time.
I forgive myself for leaning heavily on my neighbors. Catherine is the sole only child in her age group in my neighborhood, and when she sees her friends out, it’s all I can do to keep her in the house long enough to put shoes and a jacket on. Then she’s gone, racing from yard to yard, playing with anyone and everyone. Most of the time, I take advantage of that time to do dishes or change out of my work clothes or start dinner or grade papers. I try to pay it back when the kids end up on the swingset in my backyard, pushing everyone all at once on the swings and handing out bottles of water and Kleenex like a pro, but I know the burden falls more heavily to the other parents in the neighborhood than it does to me.
And I even forgive myself for taking time out of the day when Catherine stops by the office to visit me, or she calls me to negotiate a truce between her and her Grammy, who watches her during the day. I push meetings, cancel lunches and ignore phone calls if she really needs some mom time. She’s always more important than another networking meeting, and she needs to know that.
But on a daily basis, I forgive myself for any or all of these things. Because I can’t be everything, all at once. I can be an amazing mom who works a ton of hours and has a great deal of stress and sets an example for her daughter of how to be a strong woman in business. But I can’t be that AND the kind of amazing mom who plans meals and always has groceries and plays games no matter what. I made my choice. I love my life, and the life I’m creating for both of us. And I can’t allow that to be ruined by guilt or pain over the things I choose not to do.
So, to all the moms who want to start businesses, or who already have businesses: forgive yourselves, whether for missing out on those kid moments, or for skipping a business lunch in order to go to Fazoli’s and watch your kid cover herself in spaghetti. You cannot be all things to all people. You just have to create the life you want and then live in it, unabashedly. Your version of being an amazing mom will be different from everyone else’s. Different, and equally right.
by Lacy Starling, President & Fearless Leader