July 18, 2024

Unitranche

Supportive Business Potential

Real Talk: The Reality Of Building A Business While Being A New Mom

Real Talk: The Reality Of Building A Business While Being A New Mom

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Conversations around motherhood and what it means for women’s careers have become increasingly common in the seven years since I started my business. These open discussions are essential if we want to continue making progress, where there’s still plenty to be made.

Thankfully, many companies are striving to create a more inclusive working environment that provides flexibility and support for new mums. But we don’t pay enough attention to the “motherhood penalty” among female entrepreneurs. We know that entrepreneurship can be a lonely place sometimes. So can motherhood. Combine the two, and the pressure mounts fast.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, family commitments hold female entrepreneurs back more than male founders. The 2022 survey conducted in 49 countries and territories found that 18% of female entrepreneurs who quit or exited a business did so for personal and family reasons, compared to 12.6% of men. Some other reasons people walked away were failing to be profitable as well as problems getting finance.

But family saw the biggest gap between men and women by far, with the other two causes pretty evenly split. Firstly, this disparity doesn’t surprise me. I’ve seen it play out; plus, I know women who avoided starting a business altogether when their children were young. I decided to set up PureBorn when I was working in the nursery sector, and recognized a gap for eco-friendly baby products. Because of the industry I’m in, many people assume that PureBorn began after I had my son, but the business came first. I became pregnant within a year of starting out, just when we were exploring expansion. I was protective of my vision, and I was also proud of how much we had achieved in such a short time. Therefore, I knew that I wanted to stay heavily involved, and so, I made a conscious commitment to making that happen.

Going through pregnancy, giving birth, and raising a child, while staying focused on another massive priority in your life, isn’t easy, to say the least. Female founders certainly face more barriers than our male counterparts, making it feel like an uphill battle at times. I understand why some prefer to step back. However, the decision shouldn’t be forced on them, because they lack practical support, or feel a societal obligation to put family ahead of everything else. I have often felt more creative, productive, and motivated to succeed since becoming a mother. Personally, managing a business came easier than caring for a newborn.

Related: Striking A Balance: Juggling Parenthood And Entrepreneurship in the GCC

You could say I chose business over baby! I’ve always made sure that both were nurtured, but I have definitely sacrificed many small moments to make sure my first baby -my business- continued to thrive. But instead of giving myself a hard time about it, I leaned into it, and forced myself to confront several realities. These include:

1. YOUR SKILLS WILL SHIFT Leadership is never static, and the leader you were before having a child might not be the leader you are after. In hindsight, some decisions I made after giving birth weren’t the most beneficial. I wanted to prove that I could lead with the same clarity and speed. Instead, I should have taken a step back to establish whether these actions were aligned with our long-term strategy. Experts agree that baby brain is real, caused by how hormonal fluctuations impact our neurons. Serious decisions must be thoroughly considered. Rather than burying your head in the sand, recognize what you’re capable of, and fill the gaps by recruiting people to concentrate on any crucial aspects you can’t.

2. NO ONE IS DOING IT ALL Don’t buy into the myth that it’s possible to do everything; it only adds unnecessary pressure and won’t do you, your family, or your business any favors. Oprah Winfrey perfectly encapsulated the reality of being an entrepreneur and a mother when she said, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” It’s far more helpful to admit there will be things you need to sacrifice, and make your peace with it. You may be unable to do the school run, be at every play date, or keep on top of the WhatsApp group. But it’s ok to prioritize certain things over others! Don’t let guilt get the better of you. Set a few family non-negotiables (mine is dinner together every night, for example), and give yourself credit for making them happen.

3. BOUNDARIES PROMOTE BALANCE If you’re holding a baby on one knee and a laptop on the other, it won’t be long before you buckle under the load. I set clear boundaries between work life and home life, giving me the mental separation to stay fully present in both roles. It’s the best way to manage my time effectively and work towards having some kind of balance.

4. TOUGH CHOICES ARE INEVITABLE Motherhood doesn’t have to stop you from taking the next step in your business- but there is a cost. It will mean compromise and flexibility from your partner and family as well, so make sure they are on the same page. As a business owner, long-term vision often means dealing with an element of short-term loss, whether that’s emotional, financial, or physical. It’s not forever, but you will have to make choices.

5. COMMUNICATION IS KEY This links to the point above, but it’s worth emphasizing. You won’t get a badge for staying silent if you’re struggling. There’s no doubt that having young children increases the obstacles of building a business, and the more aware we become, the quicker we can figure things out. Establish consistent lines of communication with your team, and be clear about what you need from them. The same goes at home, with your partner, family, and childcare providers. We all deserve to find our purpose, and there’s no shame in pursuing success. Achieving my goals is fundamental to feeling fulfilled in every aspect of my life. And by exposing impossible ideals, we make it easier for other female founders to do the same.

Related: The UAE’s Increase Of Paid Maternity Leave Is A Step In The Right Direction, But More Needs To Be Done