A few weeks ago, The Daily Podcast posted an episode called “The Agony of Pandemic Parenting”.
Ooof, it was a gut punch.
- It was raw.
- It was real.
- It was relatable.
If you haven’t listened to it, jump over there and do it. Be sure to grab some tissues. When the mother said "I don't expect it to be easy, I just want it to be doable" with the palpable agony in her voice, my eyes started leaking.
One of the hardest aspects of being a mother as a uni-parent, a parent without a co-parent, through this pandemic has been trying to exist as a woman-owned business in a patriarchal space. I’ve had to re-evaluate what is considered “professional”, why I think that, and the values I'm going to run my business with.
Learning to ask "but why".
I realized that I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that my existence as a woman business owner and a mother should exist independently of each other. But why?
To be professional, the kid should never be seen or heard. But why? Women throughout this country are terrified they will be fired or penalized if their children are seen or heard while they work remotely. It's another layer of stress we have been carrying.
That the sounds of a child existing quietly in a space is disturbing to the professionalism of others. But why?
Here's the thing about motherhood + being an entrepreneur: It's a Venn diagram, not building blocks.
It was a strange realization for me, because from the time of my daughter's birth, she has been part of my business life. From scheduling longer breaks between clients to pump breastmilk, to toting her into the office at 5 weeks old to sell gift certificates at Christmas, I wore the two hats simultaneously.
I was wearing her when she was 11 months old and I had to let a therapist go. I bounced her up and down as the therapist was hanging out of her car window screaming at me.
She slept in her pack and play as I packed up one office to move to a new space and then crawled on the floor of the new office while we unpacked.
She was taught to shred paperwork we no longer needed for the business and how to fold the hand towels for the bathroom. She knew from a young age that if there was a client in the office, she needed to be quiet and calm.
I've been proud to model being a mother and a business woman for her. I want her to see me do both, because I want her to know she can too.
Then the pandemic hit. Childcare was challenging and ever-changing. There were times when my daughter would be bribed to sit on the couch outside of my office door while I massaged a client. One day, I was asked to have her go into a windowless room, by herself, on a different floor than my office because she was "too echoey" upstairs. I was shocked. Upstairs was an open loft, anyone up there is echoey. When I clarified what the issue was, I was told it's just a different kind of noise. And that as cute as kids are, it's just not professional.
It was especially crushing because my office was located in space that is woman-focused and we were encouraged to be vulnerable and authentic.
What's more vulnerable than a uni-parent mother during a pandemic trying to be an entrepreneur?
It raised additional questions for me like:
- What message am I sending my daughter that she can't take up space in my business?
- Why should my daughter feel like she needs to be silent or hidden?
- Is this the message I want to model to her?
I quickly realized that the answer was "no". I moved out of that space a few weeks later.
The values I hold for my family and my business did not align with the idea that being a mother and an entrepreneur needed to be compartmentalized like building blocks stacked on top of one another.
That definition of professionalism is rooted in the patriarchy. I'm ready to smash the patriarchy, not fall for its lies.
I no longer plan on apologizing for my daughter's presence and I won't feel like I've failed as a mother or a business owner if life necessitates her to be around.
If you are a mother, trying to run your business, it's ok if the two mingle. It does not make you somehow less of either.