I have been procrastinating writing this for a couple weeks now. That’s a long time to avoid doing something for me, given that I feel an anxious itch every time I know there’s something I’m supposed to do and am consciously avoiding. I am of the get-it-done-ASAP-and-cross-it-off-the-list ilk; the crossing out motion gives me an inordinate amount of satisfaction. Perhaps I’m avoiding this because I feel like the theme is cliché. Or perhaps because I know that these truths of mine are not admirable or cheer-worthy. But I don’t think these are my truths alone.
Hi everyone, I’m Marlo. I’m a Mompreneur.
While spell-check doesn’t recognize ‘mompreneur’ as a word from the English language I am confident that 99% of people reading this will have seen the word before or can infer its meaning: I am a mother who is also an entrepreneur. I started a cookie company called Marlo’s Bakeshop in 2012 when the idea of marriage, kids & more profound fiscal responsibility seemed far enough off that foregoing a well-paying job in tech for a no-paying job in cookies seemed like a romantic and exciting idea. The syntax of this neologism interests me though because it implies that I am a mom, first, and an entrepreneur, second. It’s not entrepremom, after all. But I have very vivid memories from the first few hazy months of my daughter’s life in which I felt keenly aware – and guilty- of self-identifying as an entrepreneur first and a mother, second,- or even third, fourth or fifth after wife, daughter, sister. The social media I read and the articles fellow moms sent me confirmed that I should now wholly embrace my primary role in life as mother and parent. But there was inherent tension in this concept for me because my first baby – Marlo’s- was 4 years old and still very, very needy of my time, attention & emotional energy.
Despite the mompreneur label (and the first paragraph of this post), I don’t work twenty hours per day or refuse to take time off as some entrepreneurs do. I am a big believer in work/life balance and know that my work will sustain me and be sustainable if I approach running my own business with a modicum of sanity; I believe I am a better, healthier businesswoman for it. That said, when Lucca was first born and I didn’t have three months- or even 2 weeks- of maternity leave to bask in, I remember feeling this compulsion to try to multi-task and still maintain some semblance of a 10-hour workday as much as possible; I would insatiably check and respond to emails while nursing, then feel awful that I wasn’t cherishing the moment with my newborn; that I wasn’t content enough just staring at her face for forty minutes. I think I wanted more to confirm to myself that, hey, I am still an entrepreneur despite this new title, identity and mom body (the latter of which wouldn’t let me forget for a second that I had just bore a child: itchy armpits, a post-natal rash and, of course, chapped nipples).
I also grappled with the envy I had for the women around me who enjoyed not three, but often six month of fully paid maternity leave (this is Silicon Valley, after all). I was living the American dream of owning my own business, being my own boss, and making my own schedule, but that didn’t bring me any solace when I moped about not being able to attend a mommy and me class, go to music time at the library or even meet other new moms to start building out my ‘mom tribe’. Then I would feel guilty about acting petulant. And the circle went on and on.
I wish I could say that, months later, I have fully reconciled these feelings of guilt and envy but they’ve only slightly waned. I am trying to be better about savoring my limited moments with Lu and not stealing glances at my phone every time it pings, but sometimes it’s a struggle. Looking back on photos of her and seeing how quickly she is changing helps force me to enjoy the present when my mind wanders to balance sheets and purchase orders. I think my multiple identities elbowing each other out for the top podium now fosters a healthy level of self-competition: my business strives to win so that one day I’ll have more time to spend with Lu while my maternal side is becoming a sharper sparring partner with each additional bedtime, booboo and meltdown. Or maybe we should just make the word entrepremom, a “thing”.
By Marlo Giudice