My daughter reaches for one last hug and kiss. A goodbye that lasts longer than usual. Just enough to tug at those guilt strings loosely wrapped around my heart. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back. Love you.”
The irony of having to say goodbye to my 4-year-old each day in order to build a new business that helps other parents bring their children with them to work isn’t lost on me.
I know she will be fine in a couple of minutes, yet it still gives me a twinge. A momentary reflex that I have to shake off in order to push forward. I have to remind myself that she is part of my “why.” Why I want to pursue my mission to create a new idea in child care. Why I believe in giving others a new way to look at finding balance.
I am trying to be patient with myself because I don’t have everything figured out. What I do understand is that I am not the only one trying to balance entrepreneurship with parenthood. I have met many parents who are squeezing in work during nap time or working a second shift after the kids fall asleep.
These parents, like me, are dictating their own rules. And these parents are the reason I am opening Play, Work or Dash, a collaborative work space for parents with onsite childcare for their kids. They are where I was so many years ago — searching for a way to be with their children, while also sustaining an income. The “why” is clear and often right there tugging on their leg. It’s the “how” that sometimes becomes trickier.
My first foray into entrepreneurship started in 2006 as an answer to my desire to be home with my children while making an income. My oldest child was a first grader, and my second was a newborn. I felt like I was missing too much of my sons’ lives working outside the home. It was difficult for me to balance my job with my own vision of motherhood.
Back then I didn’t feel like there were many lucrative work-from-home choices. So I left my job in marketing and communications to open a daycare in my home. I learned about running a business, caring for children and supporting other mothers while also eventually welcoming two daughters into the world.
Running a home daycare wasn’t always easy, but it was right for my family at the time. Both that business and my own desires when I first became a mother to spend more time with my children while also working led me to this chapter of entrepreneurship that now requires leaving my home each day to open a brick and mortar location. But I’m figuring it out: I leave my youngest in the care of my mother-in-law every morning and sometimes rely on others to put my older kids on the bus. I order grocery deliveries and set multiple alerts to remember things like class parties or show-and-tell days. I am exhausted and am learning to let go of a few things – like deciding not to send holiday cards for the first time in my adult life.
Here is the thing: No one is forcing me to make these changes and I know that keeping everything the same would be the easier path. In fact, it is because of my children – not despite them – that I have the strength and desire to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship. I want them to understand that it is never too late to follow a passion or have vision or take a chance on themselves. I want them to understand that having a family and being a parent is important, but there isn’t only one way to do it and that doesn’t mean they have to choose only one path. I want my children to know that it is okay to create their own way of accomplishing goals.
Starting a business is difficult. It takes everything the entrepreneur has to give. Starting a business with young children is seemingly impossible because you have to give your everything to more than one priority. And ignoring your kids while focusing on your business is not an option – at least not for me. And so I learned another important lesson myself: accept help.
My husband is now carrying some of the load I have needed to let go of. He is there for the kids when the bus arrives each afternoon. He is there to make sure our kids do their homework. He is helping me in so many ways, and the kids are getting used to a new normal with Mommy working outside the home for the first time in most of their lives.
I have always worked and run my own business, but opening a location outside our home is a completely different from before. It is all-consuming. Every detail and decision is up to me. If I don’t do something – or hire someone to do it – it doesn’t get done. Raising a business is much like raising a family. It is about focusing your attention on what is most important and balancing priorities.
For my children, what is most important is that I close the computer and help adjust the dress on a Barbie doll when asked. Or attend their recreational basketball games. Or spend extra time snuggling up to say goodnight. Or watch a movie without checking my phone.
As I write this, my children are chasing each other in the next room. I can hear their laughter and know it is only a matter of time before the laughter turns into some sort of disagreement. I keep writing because I need to do what I have to do – when I can do it. I also keep writing because wanting to be near that background laughter is part of why I became an entrepreneur in the first place.
Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives outside Washington D.C. with her husband and four children. Nicole writes about life, family and finding herself amid the chaos on her blog Tiny Steps Mommy. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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