I have never been a single mom, but I know what it's like to be a mom managing home and business simultaneously. It's very challenging, and at times maddening, but I am thankful for the experience. I am also thankful for my family members and the other moms who rallied around me to help during difficult times. One of those women is Debbie Bilezikian, pictured here typing madly away in her office.
Debbie, a longtime member of the Indie Beauty Network, and a speaker at my 2006 women's business conference, encouraged me along the way. Because she is a fairly new single mom of two sons, ages 7 and 11, and because she is such a fantastic role model and business leader at Monave Mineral Cosmetics in Baltimore, Maryland, I asked her to share some of her secrets for for thriving as a single mom who is also leading a small business. Here's what she told me.
- Work Business Around Childrens' Schedules. Because there's no full-time partner I can rely on now, I understand the importance of being available to my children during specific times that are important in their lives. If you have a retail store, for example, the optimal times to be at your store will be after 3:00pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays and Sundays. I closed my retail locations because they didn’t allow me to spend those times with my sons.
- Choose A Business That Gives You Optimal Flexibility. You can provide for your children and have the flexibility to be able to pick them up from school, stay home on a sick day, and fit work around their bedtimes, so long as you choose a business and a business model that allows you to do that. If your new business would infringe on your ability to be flexible, pick another business. If you already have a business, you may have to make some changes as I did in closing my retail locations.
- Let Dad Step Up To The Plate. As moms, we often like to be in control, especially if we are the custodial parent. It's easier to keep our schedule than to delegate to dad if for no other reason than doing so allows us to keep our routine — and routine is very important to children. Sometimes, it's tempting to fall into the trap that we are the “better” parent, and that our kids will suffer if they spend too much time with the other parent. At the end of the day, loosening those reigns helps everyone, especially the kids' dad. Of course every parenting situation is different and there may be legitimate reasons to minimize the time the other parent spends with the kids. But barring those exceptions, it's always best to delegate parenting to the other responsible parent when you can. This will give you time to indulge your passions, including your business.
- Learn To Say “No.” Your time is precious. If something is not essential, don’t do it. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you served carrots for vegetables two dinners in a row, don’t feel guilty that your kids aren’t getting ample supply of their greens because they'll be fine. So what if their shirts are wrinkled one day, because you spent the evening getting a big order out, or taking care of a client?! Nobody is standing around commenting about what a bad mother you are, and even if they are, it's their problem, not yours.
- Encourage Yourself Every Day. Say something out loud that is positive about yourself every day. Say, “ I’m a great Mom because……”. Say, “ Even if I can’t take my kids to Disney World this year, we’re going to work toward a long weekend at the beach”. Say, “Although I never have enough money to buy my kids presents in between holidays, my ‘nos’ are a really important way for them to learn about managing money and the art of delayed gratification.” Stop beating yourself up! You’re amazing, and they love you.
- Don't Diss Daddy. Give up the disparaging remarks directed toward the kids' dad. And while you're at it, stop hating yourself for a failed relationship. Instead, focus on what's good about all of your lives — your health, a roof over your heads, shoes to wear, good food to eat and a business that pays the bills and allows you to be available to your kids. Focus on what's working, not on what's not. Use your energy to work on things you can control, such as creating an atmosphere for fun interaction with your kids and the world in general. Always focus on the positive, and that will increase the positive in your life. It’s a magic formula for success and happiness.
- Allow Your Business To Satisfy You. While a business can't take the place of another human being, sometimes, it's best not to have other human beings for a while. It's during these times that we can really grow our businesses and give them undivided attention. Being a business woman actually makes the transition from married to single easier. My business is my best friend at the end of the day, and fills gaps in time that might otherwise be lonely. Watching something grow and develop is a joy and the hard work, both intellectual and otherwise, keeps me young!
- Spend Time With Friends. The most important thing that I do to keep my sanity is go out with my best girlfriend at the end of a long day in a cute pair of boots, a newly put on “face” (my own Monave make up of course!), and enjoy a glass of wine and some good music. Baltimore has a lot of live music, and I live right in the heart of it. I'm also a musician myself, and I can’t think of anything that relieves stress better than good music. I get lost in that world of sound and beauty, and remember why I’m here.
Question: Do you know a single mom business owner who would be encouraged by this post? If so, please forward it to her with my and Debbie's best wishes for success. If you have some tips to offer, please share them with us.
* This article first appeared in the Bootstrap Babes blog on February 27, 2008. It has been updated slightly for context for this post.