Location: Henri Montrose HQ
It’s almost Mother’s Day, and while celebrating the many precious moments of motherhood, I also find myself wondering out loud about what it means to be a mom and entrepreneur in today’s busy and virtual world with time as our biggest impediment. I decided to share my thoughts and questions with Sophie, best friend and fellow mom-entrepeneur-wife-woman (with the order of importance depending on the time of day and amount of absorbed caffeine).
Q: How do you combine motherhood and entrepreneurship?
Sophie: After quitting my day job to dive into e-commerce entrepreneurship, I decided to take a small step for man and a big step for momkind and start from home. I have a home office but I must admit that I often find myself sitting behind my laptop in the kitchen. I’m literally building a company from the kitchen table! Frederick jokes that my subconscious drives me to the kitchen because it’s where the coffee is.
Speaking of coffee, I like to compare life as an entrepreneur-mom with hazelnut lattes! To make one, you can’t separate the syrup from the milk from the coffee. You throw it all together to get a taste so much better than drinking hazelnut syrup straight out of the bottle (don’t try this at home). People often assume that when you are a working parent some part of your life will have to suffer. Instead it’s not about deduction but about addition. It’s about adding the value of all of your life’s elements to create a better tasting blend.
Feeling free to be all that I am, instead of separating one from the other, has definitely helped me to make work, work for me instead of the other way around. I like the freedom to go for a run when I feel stuck in my thoughts. I come to great answers to work challenges when I literally take a distance from my desk. I also like the freedom to create some mental space by taking a 5 minute mental break and read something unrelated to work. Reading helps me to open my mind to new ways of thinking, which is a great boost to creativity.
Grace: Freedom and trust are definitely two key elements that make the motherhood-work combination something to enjoy rather than stress over. I love working from my office but I also embrace flexibility and working remotely. I’m of the opinion that people feel more engaged with their work, are more passionate about solving the challenge at hand, when they are seen as the multi-dimensional men and women they are. There’s work, there’s parenthood, relationships, there’s life outside of the office, and all has to blend together. It’s not necessarily balance the modern-day men and women are after. All activities are integrated, not separated. Instead we’re after a supportive environment that understands that we are not one OR the other at different times. We are not mom or dad until 8:30am, tough negotiator from 1-2pm, friend from 7-8pm, novel writer from 11pm till midnight, and themselves around 2am. We are all at one, all the time, which is a tremendous asset not a disadvantage.
Technology has enabled us to be engaged remotely. You don’t need to always be physically present in the office. I give my team the freedom to work where they want. Whether this is from a table at your son’s field hockey club, the library, or Starbucks. I trust my team’s drive and expertise to perform excellently no matter where they are, and they would never abuse the privilege.
Q: Has motherhood changed how you work?
Sophie: Motherhood has made me much better in setting priorities, and in doing these priorities great. I started out wanting to be perfect in work, motherhood, marriage, friendship, not dropping any hat I was wearing, until I realized that I felt out of touch with every single aspect of my life. I learned —slowly but steadily— that time is not a matter of HAVING it, it’s a matter of making time. Instead of spending time, I think of how I can use it best. If this means going for take out food two-three times in a row to finish a work project and enjoy my time walking Wally with Parker in the park, then that’s what I’ll do. You gain macro-vision as a new super power!
Parker has been a great help setting my priorities straight. Watching him shutting out the world when he is engaged in building one Lego skyscraper and seeing him proudly look at the outcome of his focused effort as exactly the masterpiece he had in mind, taught me to work smarter and be more decisive.
Recently, Frederick watched a documentary about a single mother of three, outperforming professional hedge fund managers during the financial crisis. Whereas the industry dealt with an average loss of 5%, this mom made a 2,5% profit. Somehow, it didn’t surprise me. There’s no time for bullshit and you can’t take no for an answer when you must prioritize, schedule, make things work and ensure that every family member comes out of the hustle alive. As the saying goes…If you want to get something done, give it to a busy mom!
Grace: It’s almost like living a well-edited life. As an editor you take out what’s not really needed, what doesn’t move the story forward. When you don’t have kids there is so much time and you’re busy filling it, even if what you fill it with is not necessarily making you really happy, or really enables your personal or career growth. After Poppy was born, I had to make an edit of my life, and it has turned out to be a much more efficient and effective version of my life. Of course, there are days where I lose my phone while talking to it but it’s about having a macro vision indeed.
Q: They say life happens when you’re busy making other plans. How do you deal with life happening when you’re busy building a business?
Sophie: I think it’s a matter of finding your own rhythm and not defining your life as a continuous and draining effort to meet obligations. Busy doesn’t need to feel bad, multi tasking doesn’t need to feel scattered, family isn’t an obstacle to work and vice versa, when you acknowledge the importance of making mistakes (it’s not a mistake if you learn from it) and celebrate the little wins in every aspect of your life. Sometimes Parker runs into my office to ask for my urgent and immediate opinion about which hair color to use for his portrait of Poppy. Instead of telling him, “Not now, I’m busy,” I take a moment to select and point out my pencil of preference. His drawing matters as much to him as my work project of the day does to me. Acknowledging what’s important to him by giving him five focused (and enjoyable) minutes of my attention, makes him feel validated and with that more confident. I had a little mental break and all of a sudden I see the answer to a web design riddle. It’s a win-win!
Grace: Poppy has her own mini desk in my office, and sometimes I feel that she’s running the show, not me! I love taking her with me on trips around the world. Seeing the fashion shows together in Paris, is one of our favorite mommy-Poppy things to do. It’s work, it’s family, it’s me-time, all in one.
I like to focus on what my team and I accomplish rather than how many hours we’ve spent in the office. And with accomplishments I not only mean to make all our deadlines, and add that major advertising account. I also talk social support, problem solving, creating opportunities, sparking enthusiasm, cultivating curiosity, setting an example. Many people throw titles around as proof of accomplishment but real leadership has little to do with titles and everything with wanting to make a difference, supporting ideas and aspirations, celebrating wins and learning from failures. I want to create an environment in which great ideas can happen. At the end of the week I want to look back and see the mini-steps I’ve taken to enable that environment, both at work and at home.
Truth to be told, motherhood and entrepreneurship are closely aligned. Not unlike being a mom, the nature of being an entrepreneur means that you fully embrace ambiguity and are comfortable with being challenged regularly. In both entrepreneurship and motherhood there is no rule book, you just keep swimming and learn your parenting and leadership style on the go. For both counts that a stumble in the road doesn’t mean the end of the journey. It means to dry tears, put a plaster and a kiss on it and walk further. Both motherhood and entrepreneurship require you to listen to your gut, be you, do you, while going through all the trials and tribulations needed to grow into the person who will conquer the bloody mountain ….in the most family friendly way. To me, all mothers are entrepreneurs. And to all I say, “May you hustle hard, girl. I hear you roar.”
This month is all about motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day!