I am a business owner and the mother of three daughters. They are now grown, well-educated, married, mothers themselves and building careers. I’d like to think that my example helped a bit.
The way to empower other women is to affirm whatever life choices they make. Staying home with children is a full-time, demanding job that requires energy, skill, research and planning to do well. (Why else do you think good child care costs so much? It isn’t easy!)
Launching a career and climbing the corporate ladder isn’t easy either. Women who can divide childcare with their spouses or find excellent daycare are to be praised, not scolded for leaving their children behind.
Working at home, often as a freelancer, with children in the background is no piece of cake. Children can’t just be parked on a shelf until you have a free moment. Their needs are immediate and often push work tasks back into late evenings and nights.
In a simple sentence: Children complicate life.
My daughters were a bit puzzled when I first said, “I’m a business owner!” They were use to me translating, of course. The move from independent legal translator into agency owner was a gradual slide as I learned to subcontract and how to market a bit.
It wasn’t difficult until I stopped translating and went full time running the business. That they saw. I now had regular office hours which I couldn’t simply cancel. I sometimes worked in the middle of the night, communicating with linguists in other time zones. Instead of talking about the documents I was translating (in general terms, of course), conversation around the dinner table now included discussions about the virtual teams I’d put together and which ones were having trouble meeting deadlines.
Corporate taxes, insurance, hiring staff, finding office space followed quickly. As did the recession following the September 11th attack. My daughters saw me react and make hard decisions, sometimes in tears. But they also saw me rise to fight another day.
I wanted them to see me succeed. I want them to know that if I can do it, they can do it. They can start a successful business, yes. But they can also tackle other difficult, complex tasks. They can take an invention to market; they can complete a PhD; they can start a non-profit; they can write a novel and sell it; they can adopt a foreign infant.
Today is International Women’s Day. Ask the women business owners you know why they started a company. You might be surprised at the answers!