Owning a business is like raising a child.
While your business may not ever poop down the front of your shirt or screech while you're in the middle of a conversation, it will still wake you up at odd hours and worry you every single day, no matter how well it grows. Trust me on this. I should know.
How would I know, you ask? Well, I’ve officially been what the media affectionately calls a “mompreneur” for about a year now, and it’s not the cutesy empowerment party everyone makes it out to be. Not totally anyway. It isn’t wearing comfy sweats and cuddling on the couch with my kids. It isn’t giggling gleefully as money just rolls into my account after a day of thumbing my nose at The Man. It isn’t sitting at a bright, clean desk while sitting at my own computer and cheerfully clutching a mug that says “momboss” or “girlboss” or “bossboss” or whatever the hell is “in” these days.
So let me tell you what it IS.
You don’t wake up or go to sleep without adding another one or two things to the massive to do list that your business constantly demands. You could be at a Massage and Ice Cream Festival and your mind will be abuzz at some point with the things you forgot to do, the clients you need to reach out to, or the inquiries you need to keep afloat that month.
It’s 7 day workweeks — nights and weekends included.
Most of us are forced to hold a “real” 9-5 as we build, because a) we need a way to finance ourselves until clients roll in, and b) this is just a rumor I heard, but supposedly kids like food, shelter and clothing.
So what do you do? You work. You take calls or answer emails during your lunch breaks. Then you come home and you work after your kids go to bed, and after your spouse goes to bed, and sometimes after your brain goes to bed. Because if you don’t get it done now, you won’t ever.
It’s a roller coaster of emotions, and not the fun kind.
You get an inquiry, let’s say by email. You celebrate with a little Someone Likes Me Dance. You send a reply. Your Brain Goblin (everybody has one. Business owners have big, fat loud ones with mega horns) suddenly tells you that you did it wrong and they’re never going to want to work with you. Your eyes widen and you feel your stomach drop. You refresh your inbox.
You refresh again. Nothing.
They haven’t answered you back in five minutes and now you’re a failure and a hack and no one will ever want to work with you and you’re good for nothing and that kid back in fifth grade was right when they called you a loser. This goes on for a couple hours. You may even listen to “Everybody Hurts” a couple hundred times.
Then they answer you back and they want to work with you after all. You do some Rocky shadow boxing and kiss your reflection because you. Are. Unstoppable. That is, until you start to really think about it and start to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Lather, rinse, repeat. About 90 times a day. Which kind of brings me to the next thing.
It’s guilt. Lots and lots of guilt.
Every time you miss a bedtime story, every time you have to get up from dinner to answer a phone call, every time you have to mention working when you’ve already worked all day, and every time you realize eyes are glazing over because you’ve been talking out business for the last 30 minutes, you will feel guilty. What if you fail? What if you’ve missed out on precious moments with your children for nothing? What if you REALLY mess up and your name is ruined? Your kids would grow up hating you. The money you sunk into your business would be gone with no real return. That’s money for college, for lessons, for provisions. You’re taking a risk, but you’re taking a risk that affects them, too, and that’s huge.
And you won’t let yourself forget it, especially when things don’t go well.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why the hell I’d keep going. “If it’s so terrible, Arianna, why don’t you just quit? Work your 9-5 and shush up then.”
Okay so first off? Rude. Settle down.
Second off? There are many other parts to this. For example:
It’s an experience like none other.
You’ll struggle, sure, but those highs are the best highs. And they’re victories you can claim as your very own. You made it happen, and there is no one to take that away from you (besides the Brain Goblin, but even that takes a break from time to time).
You appreciate the little things more than most.
While most would watch their kid dancing to the same song for the 20th time in a row and wish to be doing something -- anything -- else, you'll find that you could watch that dance maybe another five or so times. When you're all simply lying around doing nothing (for once), you catch yourself reveling in that moment, trying to savor it. The little bit of time you have tends to carry a weight it otherwise wouldn't, and it's for a myriad of reasons, the two most prevalent being that 1) it's not something you get often, and 2) your family is a major motivator behind your hustle. That's not to say they won't still drive you nuts -- it just takes a bit more effort on their part.
It’s a great lesson to your kids.
Every time you struggle and then continue stubbornly on, you’re proving to the little eyes watching that nothing worth having is easy. You’re showing them that loving something doesn’t mean that you won’t get fed up or scared or discouraged from time to time. And, probably most importantly, you’re teaching them that it’s possible to love your family, and to love yourself. The two aren't anywhere near mutually exclusive (for proof, see this whole damn website). And you’re doing this simply by living.
I’d say “easy peasy lemon squeezy” but we all know that’s a lie. But still...it’s valuable.
Probably most importantly, guys, it’s done out of love.
Most of us are aware that starting a small business could end in tears. A horrible 8 in 10 small businesses fail in their first 18 months (so even I still have time — yikes.) But we do it because we want to provide for our families in a way that still means something to us, that allows us to actually SEE the family that we work to support. We do it because we believe in something, and we aren’t happy until we’ve pursued it to the best of our abilities. We can’t have this better life -- our children can’t have this better life, if we don’t even try for it. Our families deserve no less.
So if you want to be one of us, know that you won’t always feel like a boss. You won’t always want to leave the comfort of your family to tend to business. And it won’t always be fun.
Except for when it is.
Arianna Bradford is a family, senior, and boudoir photographer living in Oregon. When she isn't obsessively checking her email or returning phone calls, she's spending time with her husband and two children. She is obsessed with sleep and, when she can't get that, coffee. She also runs The NYAM Project, and she really hopes you like it. You can see more of her work here.