And why a mompreneur is not always the same as a business woman
About a year and a half ago I was PR executive, working for a global firm in South Africa’s busiest city, Johannesburg. Each day I dropped my son at preschool by 07h30 and then after work race frantically through traffic to get back to his school before closing time at 18h00. Sometimes I would make it, often I would not. Once I only arrived at 18h45. My son was barely three years old. Sitting at school, after the sun had already set.
My son often spent 10-11 hours at school. He was barely three years old
It broke my heart. But then there were times that it was demanded I work on weekends and this particular agency did not pay overtime or give back an extra day of leave. We were expected to work all hours, all days.
A woman was hired, senior to me, and a new mother. She drove a flashy BMW with one of those brand new red Ferrari car seats in the back. She was from Durban, and every Sunday night she left her months old baby and drive to Johannesburg. She would stay in the big city until Thursday and then drive back to Durban. Her suits did not quite fit properly, she looked uncomfortable. My thought was that, like all women who had recently given birth, her body and its proportions had changed. But instead of embracing those changes, her baby and the downtime, she remained in her past life carrying on as always; a high flying executive, in branded suits. But it seemed an impossible imbalance.
One day she came running over to my desk to tell me how she had been awake all night thinking and planning out the new campaign for client…I just did not understand it. Everyone gets to make their own choices, so please do not think that I am judging this new mom, it is just that I did not understand her priorities. BUT, no one in the office understood ME either. Why would I want to take Monday off (to spend with my child) when I had worked on Saturday and Sunday? Why did I shuffle anxiously at a meeting that was heading towards 8pm (I emergency called my cousin to fetch my son from school that day, which she had done although she did not have a car seat for him).
I was tired of apologising for wanting to put my child first
As anyone who knows me can attest, I am not good with rules anyway, and I was tired of apologising for wanting to put my child first, so realising that I may be different, these are the reasons why I finally decided to forge my own way, despite critics and queries about how I was going to feed my family.
1) Time with my child: This is obviously my number one reason; not only does my child no longer have to be at school for 10-11 hours a day, we do not need to get there early either. That means we can have a peaceful breakfast (often outside, wrapped in blankets if its winter, eating breakfast in our pyjamas, waving at our neighbours as they race off to work). We take time to walk around the garden, look at birds and see if the veggie plants have grown overnight. And we can wait until traffic has cleared before we leave.
2) Make time for special events: Taking time to watch my son’s events at school, soccer awards or Christmas show is no longer dependent on the Big Boss granting permission. I am an adult now, and I can make decisions on my own.
3) Traffic: Traffic is my worst, an eight hour day can suddenly become a 12 hour day when faced with Johannesburg’s N1 route. Now we stay mostly within our suburb and meetings are planned around traffic…and our leisurely breakfast (see point 1).
4) Free to set financial ceiling: This is a really big one for us. On the one hand, working for someone else guarantees a set pay cheque every month and with that is the freedom to budget and actually have spending money! It also allows for benefits and bonuses (some pretty great ones at my last job). Working for yourself guarantees, well, really nothing in the financial realm, and certainly not in the beginning. However, with the right action plan, a good product or service, and a lot of perseverance, you can literally start writing your own cheques down the road, and earn more than ever before (and get some nifty tax breaks if you have the right accountant).
I am so blessed to be surrounded by women who feel, at least on some level, as I do.
So while we plod along day by day, I feel so blessed to be surrounded by women who feel, at least on some level, as I do. Women who, for whatever reason, choose to start their own business while continuing to have a strong focus on their children. And that to me makes all EntrepreneurMoms super stars in my book.
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