The Story Exchange is a global video project by Karin Kamp about empowering women to start their own businesses. It’s all about women inspiring women. By telling the stories of successful entrepreneurs from all walks of life and sectors it encourages others to gain economic freedom, create the lifestyle of their choosing, and uncover their full potential. This week, they take a look at motherhood.
While on the campaign trail last week First Lady Michelle Obama said that the conversations she has with American women are “completely therapeutic” for her as a working mother. “Being able to hear about the challenges, to be able to share our ups and downs in life, these kinds of conversations become one of the favorite things that I get to do as first lady,” Obama said.
Like many working mothers, Mrs. Obama, a lawyer by training, has struggled with raising children while working a full time job (President Obama mentions the First Lady’s struggles in a White House Forum on Women and the Economy.) In 2007, she decided to go part time to spend more time with her children and work on her husband’s presidential campaign.
For some women, changing to part time work or more flexible work agreements is the way to spend more time with their children while maintaining a career. Others, like entrepreneurs Becky O’Neil and Lyn Lee, told The Story Exchange they started businesses because they wanted to develop their own schedules, on their own terms.
Starting a business explicitily to raise children sounds like one too many projects, but a growing number of women make it work. Being behind the steering wheel of their own ventures allows women to take detours (to the school play, doctors and grandmas). In fact, Integrating work and family is one of the top reasons why women start businesses, according to research. Here’s what O’Neil and Lee told us about the realities of starting a business while starting a family.
When Becky O’Neil became pregnant she knew she wanted a change because the office hours “were just too long to really be the kind of parent that I wanted to be,” she said. She returned to her childhood passion — animals – and started her business by walking dogs. With her seven-month-old son in a baby backpack, Becky walked dogs all over northern Virginia. Her company, Becky’s Pet Care, became a success and today she employees 85 people. Becky says starting her own business has allowed her to spend a lot of time with her two children and given her tremendous flexibility. “I volunteer in the classroom, am involved in the PTA (she’s president this year), go on field trips, andcan do many other things they need from me.”
Lyn Lee, founder of Awfully Chocolate, says she started a company so she could start a family and raise children on her terms. In reality she’s not sure that she spends more time with her three children than other people, but she says the flexibility of being her own boss has been an advantage. “I don’t have that stress that I hear some of my friends talk about when they say, ‘My kid is sick … and my colleagues are not going to be sympathetic because they have to take my workload.” Thirteen years after starting her company, Lyn has 90 employees and miraculously, she does not seem too stressed out either.