How Do You Do It? Answering Questions of Balancing Motherhood and Business Like a Lady-Boss
My name is Blakely, and I’m the “mamapreneur” at the helm of Media by Bg., a company that helps baby + lifestyle brands build a presence on social media and with bloggers. I’m also mom to Finn (20 months) and Holly (7 months). Did you just do the math on their ages? Is your head spinning? Mine too!
Before my son was born I worked at a boutique travel PR agency with high-end hotel clients and though I loved my job, I knew travelling for work would take a toll on my new life as a mom. I became less intrigued by swanky celebrity parties in the Hamptons and meetings with the who’s who at Vogue, and envied moms on Instagram who made a living blogging about their family; their children’s outfits, their favorite baby gear, their solutions to sleepless nights. After writing a press release while in labor and racing to get to a meeting in Midtown Manhattan when my son was only a month old, I knew something had to give. I boarded the train home to New Jersey in tears and – after calling my husband, who gave me the motivation I needed to cut the cord – sent my resignation letter to my boss. I have never felt so free (and panicked, if I’m being honest). Ultimately, working for myself meant I would have a boss who knew family comes first; that first steps, days of school, recitals and soccer games would always trump returning an email or answering a phone call. I would be “mama” first, publicist second. I partnered up with a friend and colleague, PR wiz Kelly O’Shea (of Kellyopr.com), and we set out to make media magic.
The most common question I’m asked is, “How do you do it?”
My first answer is always, “It all just gets done, because it has to.” But, I understand that doesn’t provide much for the fellow mama looking to set out on her own. While I don’t have all the answers – and I always have a huge to do list at the end of every day – here are some helpful hints to working as a stay-at-home mom.
1: Learn to Say “No” An important part of running your own business is learning what projects are worth your efforts and working with people who respect your expertise. I quickly realized that lower paying clients required just as much work as those with bigger budgets, so I decided to set an hourly rate – as opposed to a flat rate – which would hold both myself and clients accountable. You’d be shocked how often I am asked to work for free, and over time, I’ve learned the art of diplomatically and respectfully turning down clients who want the moon for a nickel. The exception to this rule is that I’ve often donated my time to clients whose products and brand mission I am really passionate about. I sign on for very little, and when the brand takes off, I am grateful that I was a part of their humble beginnings. So, in some cases, it’s a good idea to gamble on companies you feel are “worth it.” (Coincidentally, those clients always get the easiest and most organic press!)
2: Accept Help Since the addition of our second baby, I’ve had to accept the fact that I am not superwoman (don’t let my cape fool you), and I cannot do it all. I recently enrolled my son in a Mother’s Day Out program so I can get extra work done during the week, and it’s been amazing for me and even more so for him. Accept your limits, and build your schedule around realistic goals.
3: There’s No Clocking Off A not-so-fun secret of this gig is that there are no weekends. A really common (and hella frustrating!) misconception is that because I work at home, I work less than those who clock in at an office. Not only is this not true, but I probably spend more productive hours at my desk than my in-office counterparts. I don’t take weekends off (I usually spend a few hours a day shooting product, writing and editing releases, and catching up on lists and agendas) and I am typically up until midnight finishing up work. Do not start your own business if you want to work less. Start your own business because you want to work on your own clock.
4: Get Dressed in The Morning This is quite possibly my weirdest tip, but it’s made a huge difference. Because I rarely see others on days where we don’t leave the house, I would stay in my PJs until it became necessary for me to change. Lately, I change first thing in the morning (even if it’s out of yoga pants into other yoga pants) and it boosts my productivity.
5: Turn Off Your Phone For a few hours each day (typically during waking hours when both kids are at their most active), I shut off my phone. I put it on silent and hook it up to my charger, and during those hours, I am no one’s publicist. I dance, cook, sing, play Legos, watch cartoons, and snuggle. It’s important to me that my kids not look back and remember a mom who constantly had her head buried in her phone. Though it’s true that my job allows me to involve them in my work (the kids are photoshoot pros!), it’s also true that I have two personas: “Work Mom” and “Mama.” I try and turn off my work brain for a few hours to let my kids get my uninhibited attention, and they usually reward me with a lengthy nap (so Work Mom can get a few things done).
I am so incredibly grateful to live in the era of technology – where I can hop on a conference call while nursing a baby or work from bed when they’ve fallen fast asleep on my lap. While the title “CEO” sounds powerful, my favorite job – the most important job – is right at home as “Mama.”
I’ve found myself in this position before. Determined not to be seen as weak, I went all in on a project without thinking it through, and found myself stuck, waiting to be rescued. Here’s what happened.
I took a look around our bedroom and declared that we needed a change. I thought about running my idea by my husband, but figured I’d get the “not right now” response, and it would be fun to surprise him anyway. My plan required moving all our bedroom furniture, which I felt that one way or another I could do on my own. I’m a strong, independent woman after all.
I surveyed the belongings and started to move all the furniture, piece by piece, like a very complicated puzzle. Until of course I got stuck. I pondered my predicament for a few moments and determined that yes, I was very much stuck, and needed help. My husband was happy to help, but did ask me yet again why I don’t ask for help in the first place.
He had a point. Asking for helping when you’ve already created the mess isn’t really asking for help. It’s asking to be rescued. I tend to ask to be rescued more then I ask for help, which is the opposite of what I’m trying to do. By not asking for help in tasks that are traditionally thought to be more masculine, like moving furniture, I’m trying to communicate that I am a strong, competent woman, who is able to handle all.the.things by myself.
Asking to be rescued is, one could argue, worse than asking for help in the first place. Being self-aware enough to know your limitations and know your strengths and weaknesses is a huge strength, and one that is expressed by asking for help. I realized I needed help to get comfortable asking for help, so to do this there are three key points I’m going to remember whenever I doubt the power of asking for help:
Asking for help means I am strong. Being able to ask for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness, as author Margie Warrell discussed in her book Brave. Asking for help requires you to be aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses, and have an understanding of the things you may need to push yourself to do vs. what you truly aren’t able to do. In my example, I could have moved some pieces of furniture on my own, though I knew deep down before I started I couldn’t move them all.
No one goes it alone. Have you ever been told that it takes a village? I truly believe that it does. There is no one person on this planet that does all that they do without any help. Not one person. So, you’re in good company when you ask for help.
When and where to ask for help is a personal choice (so don’t compare!). In the media today we are constantly shown examples of women seemingly thriving on their own, and it begs the question, how are they doing it? When you find yourself starting to compare and think less of yourself for needing your village, remember we are not shown the life behind the scenes of these women, and in almost all of those instances, they are getting help with some part of their life. When and where they are getting help though is dependent on how their life looks, and where they need it the most. Remembering that each relationship is unique and comparison isn’t an option is crucial to getting the help you need to be your most awesome self.
Hopefully by now you’re thinking that asking for help may not be such a bad thing. If you are, think about one way you can ask for help, and ask for that help today. Then, make a note of how you feel after asking for help. If it is anything like my experience, you’ll feel a little lighter and smile a little bigger.
Becca is currently a Director in sales at a technology company in Washington DC, Co-Founder of Pop and Banter and the co-host of the Pop and Banter podcast. As a Director in sales she is responsible for managing the relationship with top media and ad tech clients, and assisting them with their digital strategy and overall research needs. She started her career in media research in NYC over 11 years ago, and during that she has moved to the west coast and back, spent a summer in New Zealand on an avocado orchard, and became a wife and a step-mom to three boys (19, 14 and 13). The experience she gained through transitioning jobs and traveling the world has given her a unique opportunity to try various habits and ways of living to see what stuck and what things ultimately helped her move her life forward. This unique perspective is what she regularly shares on the podcast, which aims to empower women and give them tips on how to lead their best life. She loves this work as she is lifted up by helping those around, and is delighted by the opportunity to assist other working women and moms.
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