Are You a Mompreneur? Some Think You Shouldn’t Be.

Posted on Oct 13, 2010 in Entrepreneurship | 14 Comments

Disapproving woman.I started a post a month ago while at SocialDevCamp Chicago regarding my feeling of being the only Mom in a see of young, single, kidless, time rich men and women in the Web industry. How would I ever compete? How would I ever know as much? Maybe I shouldn’t even bother, I thought. Those thoughts didn’t last as long as it would have taken me to finish that blog post, so I never did get to hit Publish.

But yesterday the flame was rekindled. I stumbled on an article by a married but kidless female entrepreneur clearly stating her opinion (though it sure sounded like fact, didn’t it?) that if you have children, you can’t run a startup. Insert “punch to the gut” feeling here. I mean, the author is clearly a successful entrepreneur and admits that if she had kids that something she does now wouldn’t get done then. But how in the world can she blast to her readers something that she has only half-experienced? Start-up: check! Children: oh wait… Clearly she hasn’t tried running a startup with children and apparently hasn’t asked around enough to find people that have.

I’ll admit that this hit me extra hard at a delicate time in my personal and professional life. I’m four years into at-home mom and two years into the Web industry. I’m burnt out on 14 hours a day with kids and 5 hours a day to pursue professional interests (and therefore not much sleep). I’m ready for some change, some balance. And I’m ready to pull together my team and rally for financial backing to make my professional dreams come true. But then I just read that I can’t run a start-up. You know, because I have kids.

Now those of you that know me know that reading this article won’t stop me. I’m better than that. I work effectively, have already had great career success, and have a support system around me to help make it all come together. Will I make it all work? Only time will tell, but I feel like the odds are in my favor, kids or not.

So I’d love to hear from you, successful parents and entrepreneurs. How did you do it? What did you have to sacrifice to make it all happen? What advice do you have for other parents that don’t want to drop their professional dreams?

  • Gini Dietrich

    Very fair post and I totally get where you are coming from. But your perception (and the headline – gasp!) is not at all what I meant. I was reacting to a TechCrunch article…and agreeing with the premise that, if you have an investor-funded start-up and little kids at home, something is going to not get the attention it deserves.

    Do you leave those little faces (I love that you call yours little peanuts) in order to work days and nights to make a return for your investors? Or do you leave the investors, who also expect something from you, for (really) the more important people? Something gives. And, unfortunately, with investors, they don’t care if you want to have flexibility to be with your kids if their return isn’t met.

    I was not talking about the men and women, both, who build successful businesses and have families by bootstrapping or by being small or by not having employees. I was not talking about those who have lifestyle businesses. I was talking about the investor-funded businesses that are funded because they are game-changers (which is why I quoted Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook).

    I know what I have to do to report monthly on our growth. And I know (not through real experience, but by being the oldest of six with 13 nieces and nephews) what it takes to raise children. I think it’s impossible to do both, at the same time. Can you have a family and then start a business? Heck yes! Can you get a business to the point that it sustains itself and then have a family? Absolutely! But doing both at the same time seems like we are fooling ourselves. If only because of the first few years of the child’s life.

    Please don’t take my blog post as an affront to all the amazing and successful women out there. I was speaking only from my perspective and my opinion. I KNOW that if I had a baby right now, the baby wouldn’t be the one to suffer. But I have to fulfill my commitments to our investors first.

    I wrote the post on my blog and from where my business is right now, so it’s solely from my perspective. But I’m very pleased with the conversation it started, if only to find other entrepreneurial mothers who need support from their peers. I will be doing a follow-up post with interviews from women who are doing both. So, if you or anyone reading this post would like to participate, I’d love to have you!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Gini –
    Thanks for the reply. I read your post yesterday (obviously) and through most of the comments that were there at that time (40+). I actually unlinked this post from your article as I know that this is an emotional post for me, and that I probably interpreted parts of it different than others did. But I still felt the need to say my part, and didn’t feel comfortable writing it on your site. It actually hit right on my biggest insecurity, and probably the biggest insecurity of most moms trying to do something (run a startup, help the family business, work for someone else, or even just work out!) other than just be “Mom”: that if we are doing something other than raising children and cleaning the house, that we are doing our children a disservice. I feel it every time I sit down to write a post, or chat with a client, or leave my kids to go to a learning event. Yes, sometimes I am going to choose to follow my profession over them. They’ll always come first, but not every minute of the day.

    I’ll stand by my thought, though, that if you and your husband are blessed with children one day, that you will find a way to make it all work. It may not all be perfect like you would like, but I do believe that it is possible to be a great parent, a healthy person, and a successful businessperson all at once. It’s just one more challenge amongst all the others you’ve already overcome…

    Thanks again, for your post and reply. I’d be more than happy to help with your follow-up post. Have a nice night =)

  • Gini Dietrich

    THIS is the best articulation of the issue that I’ve seen. It’s a HUGE issue that, as women (even if we aren’t moms), we feel like we HAVE to do it all. Just because you do something for yourself doesn’t make you a bad mother. In fact, it makes you a better mother. But our society puts so much pressure on us to do it all…and all of it really well, with flawless grace, that we feel guilty if we can’t do it.

    And I think that’s the bigger issue – I know, for me, I wouldn’t want to have to report to investors with a newborn at home. Talk about feeling guilty! Perhaps my blog post was a “hey all you jerks who keep asking me why I don’t have kids – this is why.” But really it’s because I know that the last six years of my life will go down the train as soon as I hold that peanut in my arms. And, unfortunately with investors, they could bankrupt us personally if i don’t hold up my end of the bargain.

    I think the next blog post is about the pressure we feel as women and as mothers that you’ve articulated so well here.

  • MJ Tam

    Hi Heather,

    I didn’t read Gini’s article and although I see her point, I can also vouch in having it all. I run a successful web business and have 3 children. I lose a lot of sleep and even beyond what Moms already lose sleep from parenting. You mentioned having a great support system at home and that’s also what I have. It can happen. It will happen. I am often asked, “how do you do it?” – Well, I just do. I really believe that you will only know how to do it when placed in that situation. No sacrifices to be made, just learn to understand and alter your thinking that a so called norm or balanced life for yourself and your family has to change its form according to the present situation.

  • heatheracton

    Thanks for that comment, MJ – it really means a lot! I was derailed for a bit after reading her article, mostly because it built on insecurities I already had. I’m back in the game now, though, and while I may not have a multi-million dollar company or anything, I have great kids, a supportive hubby, and a fun business – what more could we ask for? Can’t wait to meet F2F soon!!!

  • Clare Parkinson

    Hi Heather

    I’m a WAH web developer & mother of a preschooler. I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything at all; I feel like I have a great life. I think entrepreneurship is ideal for working mothers because it gives you more control over your own schedule. You may be less available to your family than a mom who doesn’t work, but what you lose there you gain in financial stability, intellectual stimulation, self-esteem, all kinds of areas. And I’m not saying that being a full-time office worker mom is bad, or being a child-free entrepreneur is bad. There are so many paths available to women today, and it’s great to find one that works for you and your family. I feel fortunate that I live in a time where I have the opportunity to raise a child and pursue the work I enjoy at the same time, while avoiding a commute (I hate commuting!).

    I may not ever have a hugely successful business, but my day-to-day life is great, and I consider that a success.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for your comment, Clare. That means a lot! I wrote this post a while back and after a couple days feeling icky about it all went right back to pursuing all of my dreams – family & career alike.
    On another note I see you were a #WCChicago attendee! Hope you had a great time this weekend. Let us know if you have any feedback for next year.
    Thank you!

  • Clare Parkinson

    It was my first wordcamp, and I had a great time! Thanks so much for all your hard work organizing it.

  • Sylvia Lima

    Wow. I read your blog post & immediately got emotional. Yes, I’m one of those that tears up easily but I’m ok with that =).  As you know, I too am a SAHM but I’ve always found that acronym a bit condescending and certainly misunderstood. MI hear and agree with you loud and clear and knowing what little I do about you, you are an amazingly dynamic, talented and hands down an inspiring mom and entrepreneur.  Little Miss Fancy Pants ain’t got nothin’ on you!

    Btw, WordPress has been such a blessing. Sounds hokey but it’s the truth. It’s helped me keep my sanity! 

  • Larry

    Can you fix your contact form? It is showing up in code, not the form. Then would you please contact me for some web work/meetup info. 

    larry@@saltboxproductions:disqus .com

  • Daniel Milstein

    That is so true. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said “I’m ready to pull together my team and rally for financial backing to make my professional dreams come true”. I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you’re talking about. Can’t wait to read more from you!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Daniel! Best to you in all of your endeavors in 2012!

  • Rachelle

    Thank you! I know the article that you talk about and after I read it, I called my girlfriend and told her about it and she laughed. She said that she admires me for having four kids (one 1 year old, a 2 year old, a 4 year old and a 7 year old) and running a business. She admires my patiences (even though I think I could use a lil more patience) I couldn’t imagine giving up on my dreams just because I chose to be a mother of four. As a matter of fact I chose to get my kids out of the way because I didn’t want to have to worry about being desperate and now I have a loving husband (my support system of course) and 4 kids that I am so proud of . It gets hard but I will always continue to push, be strong, persistent and patient as my business continues to grow

  • Heather Acton

    Thank you so much! It is so helpful to know there’s others out there just like me =) Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors!!!