Q: Can I combine motherhood with my career—

This week we had a very special guest on the Parent du Jour — a young entrepreneur named Sarah Lux. Originally from Canada, Sarah now lives in California and runs a fitness studio called uforia. She learned about our project from her friend Kat Gordon (one of the moms we’ve profiled), and sent us this note:

“I work but I’m not a mother, yet. I own my own business and just recently turned 30. I’ve been married for almost four years. The older I get, the harder it seems to be able to see how a family will fit into my life — a life that I love and I’ve worked hard for. I do want kids, but don’t know how to make all of that work.”

We invited Sarah to write a post about her feelings and to ask her questions out loud to our readers. We’ve summarized the best of the responses for you, here.

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How did you know you were ready to become a parent?
Can you combine a successful career with motherhood?

 

The Gotham Gal 
said: Don’t wait. There is never the right time. Once you have the kids, you will figure it out just as you figure out your business as it grows and evolves. It isn’t about the entrance strategy —it is about the exit strategy. You don’t want to be 70 when your kids go to college. You want to be young, engaged and involved and enjoy the moment. If I had to do it all over again, I would have had my kids at 25.

Tereza Nemessanyi, CEO of @HonestlyNowInc said: (1) It’s not a binary decision. Parenting demands ebb and flow. (2) For long run satisfaction, you really do need to keep your toe dipped in something, because on-ramping is damn hard (3) For a parent, entrepreneurship is the most desirable job because you have far more flexibility than ANY job can provide (4) The right Question isn’t “How do kids fit in my life?”, it’s, “This will be my life with kids. How does my company support that?” And (5) your social circle will change out of necessity, to include people who understand your new life and can deal with you in shorthand.

*Editor’s Note* Tereza is the creator of Honestly Now, the “Q&A platform that’s disrupting Dear Abby”. It’s a place where you can ask for — and give — advice on any number of topics including family, relationships, work, technology, or your new haircut.  I haven’t asked a question — yet — but I really, really, really, love answering other people’s questions! So, check out the site, but be careful…it’s addicting.

Culture Baby said: 
I just wrote about this subject at Culture Baby Blog, where I chronicle my adventures as an entrepreneur and a mummy.  I didn’t actually start my own business until after I had my son but it has been a wild and ultimately very rewarding ride so far. I didn’t know I was ready to become a parent because there is no ready. There is a desire to be one ultimately, and no good or bad time to take the leap. Work-life balance isn’t about watching the scale everyday and trying to make sure you are portioning out an equal number of hours for baby and your business. Rather, are you ultimately thriving? While the days might be nutty, the years will be fantastically beautiful.

Lisa Duggan said: I echo much of what Culture Baby said here. It’s not about measuring out equal hours to each portion of your life. It is about the quality of time you spend on each. As a woman who became an entrepreneur after having her daughter, my best advice is: have LOTS of help lined up beforehand.
 Help with your business (employees, managers, partners); help with your housework (paid housekeepers, even 1x month); help with taking care of the little one to be (nannies, au pairs or babysitters).

In other words, get your Village lined up as much as possible before you have a baby — but keep in mind that Village-building is an on-going process.

You will need different kinds of assistance as your family grows. In the first five years, you will need more assistance with the physical responsibilities of having a child — caring for them while they eat, sleep and then start to move around.
 Later, when they enter school you might need help with the more nuanced, emotional side of parenting, the kind of care it’s harder to hire out. Your son or daughter will need your assistance in making and keeping friends, adjusting to school, dealing with fears, learning their way in the world. There is no reason to believe that your business cannot grow and thrive along with your children, and yourself. If you’re lucky enough to have a co-captain — a husband or partner to co-parent with, or co-manage a business with — that’s awesome.

But if you’re a single parent or single business owner — it can still be done. In both parenting and entrepreneurship, the key to success is having a great team.

Jessie Dotson said: Here are things I wish someone had told me: (1) There is never a right time to start a family. If you wait, you won’t get around to it.
 (2) Get help. You don’t have to do it all yourself. (
3) It’s ok that you will miss some of their childhood. You might miss their first steps, but you’ll be there for their second steps, the 104 degree fever at 3am, their first recital, their first homerun, their first crush (and broken heart) and, and, and… You might not be with them every minute — but you will be their mother forever.
 (4) Every family is unique. Every mother, father and child is unique and the resulting combinations are endless. Just because your parents, sister, neighbor, friend, or the latest childcare expert did it one way — that doesn’t mean it would work for you. Don’t force yourself into someone else’s solutions. (5) Make plans on how to balance work and family — but be ready to change them as situations change and as you learn more about what your family needs. For example, I went back to work much earlier than I’d planned (6 weeks postpartum), but conversely worked part time *much* longer than planned (3 years). 
(6) Don’t just take care of your kids, but enjoy them. It’s trite, but true — they change and grow up at an alarming speed. Every age and stage has its fleeting joys.

Imbertdelphine said: 
Just go for it and don’t over-think it. Being a parent is another wonderful business to be in!

Cloud said:  
I’ve written about this a lot over at my blog under “working motherhood”, but if I were to boil down my advice to the essentials, I would say: (
1) If you’re having a baby with a partner, make sure he or she is a REAL partner. As in, wants you to succeed as much as you do, will view parenting as an equal responsibility, etc.
 (2) Trust yourself and your partner to figure things out. You’re both smart. There will be logistical problems, but I’ve yet to run into one my husband and I couldn’t solve. 
(3) Don’t ease up on your career in preparation for kids. Work hard and establish your reputation. Then you will be better situated to continue your career post-kids —or come back after a break, if that’s what you want to do.
 (4) Get good at time management now. Figure out how you work most efficiently. Figure out where your time goes. Time will be at a premium once you have kids, and people will be more likely to judge any decrease in hours as “downshifting” even if you’re just as productive. So sort this out ahead of time. 
 It isn’t easy, but I’m very happy with my life. I know other happy moms in the workforce, too. It isn’t for everyone, but nothing is, and I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way.

Jennifer Fogliani Dunne said:
 The most important thing to know is that it’s going to be hard work — a lot of moms-to-be don’t realize that. But the rewards of parenting are so meaningful. Also, I think you will enjoy the flexibility of your schedule. And, like your parents, you will be a great example to your child(ren) as you show them how it’s possible to have both a thriving business and a close family.  My mom didn’t work but she always told me she would have been a better mom if she had.

Finding balance in career and family is something I strive to do every day. Some days it works better than others — but I just keep trying and have learned to appreciate every happy moment. We live far from my family; I am the youngest of five in a close Italian family. I miss them everyday and now that my children are getting older, they always ask, “When do we get to see grandma, grandpa and our cousins!?” It breaks my heart. It is harder in some ways, emotionally and logistically, but living far away also gives you an opportunity to rely on your partner to figure out those tough parenting moments. It makes you a stronger couple, I think. 
I just wrote an article about this subject specifically for Bay Area Parent. In it I describe several families who live far from extended family, and resources to help create a support network and to help fill the void.

Christina Vuleta 
said: I’ve gotten similar questions from 20-something women on my blog, 40:20 Vision. Here are a few favorite 40-something responses:

“There are so many unknowns. You’ll be always be facing yet another issue. There will always be something. There is all this advice and all these parenting books and eventually you just sort of let go and go with what’s right for you. You will learn about yourself through your child. Your kid will be fine. You’ll be fine.”
— 40-something, photographer, Santa Monica, CA

“There’s no right time to have a baby. I just decided to go with the certainties over the doubts and make the rest up as I went along. But I’d be really unhappy if I had given up on a job that I liked. I think kids are happier with happy parents who are busy doing things they like than they are with parents who are resentful and unfulfilled, and that would have been me.”
—40-something, teacher, Los Angeles, CA

Rob (Sarah’s husband!)
 said: Wow. Thank you all so much for the wonderful advice. I’ve known Sarah longer than I haven’t. We’ve been married for 4 years, were engaged for a year before that, dated for 5 years before that and were best friends for 5 years before that. She’s my closest friend, my strongest business partner, and the love of my life. She’s talented, smart, beautiful and so ambitious. I have no doubt that she’ll be a great mother.
 We’re both from Canada originally and our families are still there. We’ve always been close with them, and I suppose in our minds always imagined that we would be in Canada near our families when we had kids. And yet, over time California has become our home. Our careers, our friends, our lives are now here. 
So, since so much great advice has already been passed our way I have one more question: how do we keep our future kids and their extended family (grandparents etc.) connected when we live so far apart? 
Thanks again for all the great advice!

Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan is the Founder and CEO of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

2 thoughts on “Q: Can I combine motherhood with my career—

  • May 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm
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    Hey Rob — if the grandparents don’t live right in your neighborhood, then you will doubtlessly be leveraging technology so your kids can connect with them when they’re old enough. Skype, Facebook, FaceTime — it’s amazing to see how kids creatively interact with faraway grandparents and cousins these days. Far more than when I used to send occasional letters to my grandparents in Europe.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm
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    We were fortunate enough to live near baby’s grandparents for his first 18 months but we are moving abroad. I’m definitely afraid about how this will change his relationship with his grandparents….he adores them now. But I was chatting with a woman about this very subject and she says that they warm so quickly to their family. While they might not fly to their arms in the first minute….they will when it’s time to say goodbye! There is a built in affinity.
    We have been oceans away from baby’s aunts and find that Skype is a beautiful thing. Best to set up the computer in such a way that baby can do something else while the Skype is on….they get bored quickly of just looking at the computer. And having a big picture of family members visible. Even now at 15 months he can point out his grandpa and even kisses the picture of his aunties. I wish you both the very best in all you do!

    Reply

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