Gruelingly long days, demanding clients, sleepless periods, days turning into weeks—sound familiar? If so, you are a mother or businesswoman.
Starting a business is a lot like having a baby.
First, the initial excitement of starting something new is quickly followed by an overwhelming surge of fears and worries. Then preparation becomes your top priority. And yet, once you launch, everything you thought you knew goes out the window and it seems like you didn’t plan anything.
Motherhood is as daring and strenuous an adventure as entrepreneurship. In a way, it is even more labor intensive. According to a 2018 study by Welch, working moms log an average of 98 hours per job, roughly the equivalent of holding 2.5 full-time jobs.
But it is these types of challenges that have become the inspiration for many women-owned businesses today. Additionally, the experience of motherhood gives women entrepreneurs a head start on what to expect in today’s demanding and fast-paced business world.
Spending time caring for your children does not hinder your ability to run a successful business. Rather, you build a unique set of skills that put you in a good position for the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship.
Prioritization, Organization and Multitasking
As a mother, there are seemingly hundreds of different things that demand your attention. Trying to tackle them all at once will get you nowhere. The key is to prioritize the most important tasks and organize your daily activities accordingly.
Similarly, in the business world, there are bound to be a host of time-sensitive projects coming your way. In some cases, two or three assignments may need to be turned in at a time. Also, an entrepreneur is expected to handle several things simultaneously, like a mother.
Similarly, being a mother means wearing many hats: as a caregiver, cleaner, cook, family nurse, driver, etc. Entrepreneurs must also possess a similar flexibility. Especially when you’re starting out, an entrepreneur has to jump in and multitask in the business, even if it means going into an area you weren’t prepared for.
And even then, the job is never done. There’s always another fire to put out (sometimes literally, in the case of being a mother), and one must prioritize the most important tasks flexibly, allowing one to undertake another round of re-prioritization.
creative and resourceful thinking
Convincing a two-year-old to eat his vegetables is arguably one of the most difficult negotiations anyone can engage in. However, mothers face these types of scenarios on a daily basis. If the obvious solution doesn’t work, they must quickly find another creative way of doing things.
Using resourceful and creative thinking, a mother can often find her way out of any difficult situation. Being a successful entrepreneur also requires this type of skill set.
Every entrepreneur will face difficult situations in which they must convince a client, motivate employees or sell an idea to an investor. In some cases, a direct answer will not be enough. This means that an entrepreneur must find new and unusual ways to complete tasks.
This truth is also not based on assumptions alone. Science has shown how motherhood affects women’s creativity and resourceful thinking, allowing them to undertake more challenging activities.
A woman’s brain experiences cognitive, emotional and behavioral flexibility upon becoming a mother. These changes help them adapt to new environments while allowing them to think outside of the box. Therefore, these unique problem-solving approaches position a mother to be even better at whatever business she tackles.
Advanced Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills refer to how we communicate and interact with people on a daily basis, individually and in groups. From setting context, improving organizational communication, discovering different listening styles, and developing effective communication strategies, these skills are crucial for motherhood.
“When I had kids, I found that listening carefully to my kids when they had a tantrum and expressing empathy helped them calm down quickly,” says Mital Patel, a life coach who works with parents. “My clients are not children, but we all respond positively when someone really listens to us. So when I actively listen to my clients’ needs and concerns and give them a safe space to open up and try to understand their perspective, it’s good for them and that’s good for my business.”
However, this type of empathy also requires a certain toughness. Conflict resolution and mediation skills are equally important, particularly when working with a group of people.
“As a parent, I often find myself playing the role of referee and coach, helping my children navigate through conflict and guiding them to find solutions, and I have seen this translate into my coaching.” Patel continues. “For example, I recently found myself mediating between two team members with different perspectives.” Patel shared three things she does that help her be an effective mediator, whether at home or in the office.
- Manage your emotions. If you don’t control yours, it will be difficult for you to help others control theirs.
- Listen to learn. Listening to the other person with sincere curiosity helps us understand their perspective and gather the information we need. When people feel heard and understood, they are more likely to work with you to reach a solution.
- Communicate gently but firmly. “It’s an art,” says Patel. “But if we can be nice, it helps build trust and reduce conflict.” Firm boundaries help set clear expectations and prevent future problems.
As between a mother and a child, conflicts will arise, fights will break out, and there will be disagreements in the workplace. The trick is to work together to resolve those interpersonal issues in positive and uplifting ways.
Start preparing for your ‘baby business’
In both entrepreneurship and parenting, there is no rule book. So despite your best efforts, planning will only get you so far, and reality may look very different than what has been prepared.
In both occupations, the best thing will be to prioritize the things that you cannot do without, delegate and advise yourself for the rest. Since mothers trust other mothers, successful entrepreneurs should seek help from their more experienced superiors.
Courage, determination and hard work are key components of being a mother and an entrepreneur. And while there will undoubtedly be bumps in the road with both of them, it’s all part of the start of an exciting new journey that you’ll remember and be proud of for years to come.