I had never been self employed before a few years ago. I always had a time clock to police my work hours, a schedule I kept with my employer, or contractual obligations. Working for myself was a freedom and a restriction like I hadn’t known. Like with many facets of life, what complicated this most, was being a mom. Shit. Has anything ever been a bigger responsibility than being a mom? A working mom. A self-employed mom?!
Never before has my success, my pride, my paycheck been so dependent on how much I work. Frankly, most days there just isn’t enough damn time. It’s the one thing I milk out of everyday. This isn’t going to be about advice or what’s worked for me as a business owner, mother of two, and a wife. It’s more a recognition of the struggle that exists; a pep-talk I’m giving myself because I don’t do it enough. I’m hoping someone else needs one, too.
Is there ever going to be a day where the time and attention (some days, very little) I give my kids going to feel like enough? A time when my son asks me to play with him, and I don’t feel it’s because I haven’t played with him in days? Because I’ve been at the office and he’s the last one left at his after school program? I suspect not. What gets me through it, though, is telling myself, he’s 9. At 9 all you do is ask people to play, right? Then I try (like really hard!) to sit my ass down and focus on some Candyland. I help get him and my daughter ready for bed, read a book, tuck them in, and tell them that no one loves them more than I do. I walk back downstairs, open my computer, and work some more. That’s enough, right? I’m not fucking them up? On a good day I’m able to tell myself that they’re doing great. On a bad day, I cry and email my therapist.
When there isn’t a schedule, or a time clock to tell us to go home, the work doesn’t end. That’s where boundaries come into play. Traditionally, I’ve been pretty good about boundaries–I like my time compartmentalized so I can give everything my attention. Running a business and feeling every success and failure is a result of the time I spent working makes those lines increasingly hard to draw. Sometimes I’m able to close the computer, put down my phone and focus on what’s in front of me. I hear (and enjoy) the funny comments my daughter makes. Now, right here, I’m going to remember those times and understand that they probably happen more than I think. Give myself a goddamn break. My mom worked full time my whole childhood, and never once did I feel cheated. Wish I could travel back and tell her not to feel guilty–I’d be just fine… The clarity years provide… Boundaries and balance: here’s to trying my best to to maintaining the one and achieving the other.
Do male business owners feel the same? If business isn’t good, they’re not working hard enough? And if your kid seems sad, it’s because you’re not spending enough time with them? I’m sure some do. I’d bet, though, not near what women feel. Sometimes I’m good at recognizing this and ignoring the norms we’ve accepted for all these years. Other times, I submit to the idea that they need me more and feel it deeper when I’m not around. What heavy opposites to carry around.
If I’m being honest, though, I truly believe what I’m doing in business and at home is enough. It has to be, because I can’t give anymore, and a day cannot grow longer. Business gain is a result of our hard work, intuition, and the relationships I've created. My kid learning to read, saying they’re sorry, trying a different food, and following (some) rules is also a product of my dedication. May I go to bed tonight remembering that. And even though I may not be the one to drop them off at school, they still reach for me when they fall.