Female entrepreneurs are a fast-growing club, and as we navigate our way through the startup life, we inevitably grapple with the b-word: balance. It’s important to share our experiences, our successes and our failures, not only with each other, but also with those who will come after us. I’m starting with my daughter, and in this letter I share some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years, some of the realizations I’ve made and most importantly, the hope I have for her wide open future.
Repurposed article posted by Entrepreneur in 2017
As I watch you grow from a sassy, confident, intelligent little girl into a young woman, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along my own journey.
The first thing you need to know is that you’ll never have just one role to play. You’re a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter now, and someday you may be a wife, a mom, and an entrepreneur. And on balance, you’ll never feel like you’re perfect at any of these roles, and more often than not you’ll feel you suck at most of them, most of the time. You may feel pressure to do it all — and do it perfectly — or else feel like a failure. As a woman, a lot of responsibilities will fall on your shoulders, both in and out of the office, which makes it damn near impossible to be perfect.
But, know this: In reality, you don’t need to do everything and you aren’t a failure and you are perfect, just the way you are.
Being your mom has brought so many things into focus for me. It’s taught me the true understanding of hard work. It’s shown me that I have to be a role model for you, to teach you that when you want something, you have to earn it. You have to sacrifice for your dreams sometimes. It’s shown me how important it is to define roles in the home that are right for our family, rather than societal norms — your dad and I are partners in raising you, and he bathes you, dresses you, cooks, unloads the dishwasher and other domestic duties just like I do. I hope I’ve given you a strong foundation for being a partner and an entrepreneur, and shown you that anything is possible for a woman.
If there is one thing I can particularly prepare you for it’s the challenge of being a working mum. The work/life balance is something I’ve spoken to other working mums about extensively, and it’s the one thing we feel we struggle with the most. I once read that being a mum is like having 50 windows open on your computer at any given time, and they are all-consuming.
Outside the four walls of the office, working mums are scheduling and organizing family meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner); keeping track of the family’s social calendar (after school programs, weekend plans); and waking up with sick kids or kids frightened of the dark in the middle of the night. Even in the most balanced households, these duties often fall with the mum. And when you combine it with the work and worries in the office, suddenly it’s no wonder that glass ceiling is hard to crack.
Being a woman who works, well, you sometimes feel like you’re drowning. But, you keep swimming, because it’s important to show your daughter — to show you — that I’m here, I’m involved and I care about you more than my work, no matter how important my work is to me, and I will make that work/life balance work for me, and for you.
It sounds tough, being a working mum, and it is. But, I don’t want you to grow up so focused on achievement and career that you wake up one day and realize it’s too late to start a family or become a mother (if that’s what you want to do). Because truly, it’s the greatest career of all.
In the same breath, I want you to know I wouldn’t have it any other way and I am truly blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to experience both the joys of mothering you and your brother and an incredible career. Being a working mum is a choice, and it’s a choice that I happily made, and continue to make, because being a working mum gives me the balance I need. I’m a better mum for it, and I’m a better entrepreneur, too. Everyone is different, but for me, I need both to keep my cup full.
Ashley, as my daughter, you know my honest imperfections, and you see and learn that mummies make mistakes sometimes — and that’s OK. But, I hope you also see and learn the values that will help you on whatever journey you take. They’re not fancy. They’re not sexy. They’re just good, true values that will help you as you grow:
- Be on time.
- Have a strong work ethic.
- Always give 100 percent.
- Be aware of your body language.
- Bring positive energy.
- Watch your attitude.
- Have a passion.
- Be coachable.
- Do extra.
- Be prepared.
Call me old-fashioned, but these are things that I think so many people are missing as they enter the workforce today. For me, these key attributes are the foundation of my success, and I hope you, too, will emulate them. (And I predict you will, as I’m already seeing them start to take shape!)
I’m so excited for you, my daughter, because I know in the years to come so many more opportunities will be available to you, even more than I had. And I will be there to help guide you, help you realize your dreams and help you understand that sometimes you don’t have to, or you can’t, balance it all, have it all, or fit it all in as perfectly as you imagined — and sometimes it’s even better that way.
I want you to understand what it means to work hard — and yes, you will get a job as soon as you are legally allowed to! — have a career and reach your full potential. I also want you to understand that that’s only half of it. Family, relationships, children — those are the things that fill up your glass, your spirit and your soul. Don’t lose sight of that.
Keep your glass full and learn from the mistakes when the glass spills over. And it will spill over — many times — but know you can always refill it as often as needed.
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