Entrepreneurship and motherhood: the challenge is real

Entrepreneurship and motherhood: the challenge is real

gender pay gap

It’s February – a time when we’re still finding our footing between the old year and the new. Many of us are remembering those New Year’s resolutions that are now low on the long list of priorities. Some of us have just settled children back into school. No doubt all of us are hoping COVID allows us to travel at Easter, or at least venture beyond our own backyards.

It’s also a time when International Women’s Day is just around the corner. As a speaker, I’d normally be booked up, planning a fancy-pants keynote speech to deliver on stage, rather than speaking to the masses on Zoom. At this time of year, I always find myself trying to balance my desire for a time when we don’t need an International Women’s Day, with a healthy dose of commitment to playing my part for equality for current and future generations. 

There’s no limit to what I have to say about the fabulousness of women. Look at everything we do, day in day out, credited or otherwise. Paid and unpaid. For my own part, I am an entrepreneur who runs a home, a global consulting business and a private coaching practice, along with some other initiatives I’m building, because entrepreneurs are also working on something new.  

Leaning in… and embracing the imperfect

As a single Mum to three teenagers, I mostly hope I haven’t messed them up too much and that they won’t need counselling as adults off the back of the ridiculousness that is our life. The Brady Bunch we are not. We often have milo and toast for dinner. There are no routines. And we rarely sit at the table to do homework together.

Life in the Stephenson household reflects the messy relationship that exists between entrepreneurship and motherhood.

Working globally means my children often go to bed listening to me on client calls and wake up to the same. I’m often away from home (when we’re not caught up in a pandemic). And I can’t remember a time when I slept eight hours in one night. But that’s my life as an entrepreneur  – a career choice many women make.

In 2020, Australia ranked ninth on the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, with more than a third of the nation’s business ownership attributed to women. Yet we don’t talk enough about the complexity, innovation and inspiration that comes from the women who are bringing everything they’ve got, and regularly in male-dominated environments.

Can entrepreneurship and motherhood successfully coexist?

The conversation around entrepreneurship and motherhood is often littered with comments and thoughts of women working part-time on their ‘dream’ or creating ‘side hustles’ – terms that annoy me relentlessly.

There is no side hustle. There is hard work, compromise and regular doses of mother’s guilt. And let’s not forget the constant juggle: to get the work done, to keep the fridge full, to maintain a social life and to have a house that’s vaguely tidy in case someone drops in.

Yet, in amongst all of the chaos and guilt there is a voice in my head that tells me I’m role-modelling to my teenagers that we are living in a world where anything is possible if you’re prepared to do the work, regardless of gender. I say to my daughter “I get to go to work today” not “I have to”.  

I wouldn’t want it any other way. The adrenaline, the sleepless nights and the constant drive to create the next opportunity. It’s not about multitasking or achieving whatever success is meant to look like. It’s about learning and doing what the 10-year-old girl who never knew what she wanted to do would be proud of. It’s being part of something that’s bigger than a single one of us. 

Find your people

As a coach, I work with women around the world and so many of the conversations we have come back to recognising that success is personal, and that it doesn’t happen accidentally. I encourage all women to invest their energy in the people and experiences that will grow, stretch and fuel them. To find purpose in their work. To find self-worth beyond the narrow boxes that we were once – and are often still – expected to tick.

Here are some coaching tips for women in similar positions to me:

  • When you get an awesome opportunity, take a woman with you.
  • Don’t diminish women who do and say it differently.
  • Love your girlfriends hard and tell them the truth.
  • Find someone who will hold you accountable to your own ambition.
  • Ignore anyone who tells you they are an expert.
  • Honour what your future self is capable of.
  • Search and search, for the people who will inspire and feed your head and heart.

Remember that the next time you feel like you’ve dropped the ball on the juggling act that is life, that’s what I call an adventure.

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