My solopreneur journey began in 2010 when I sat down with my boss and told him I was resigning as VP of Sales to… “Start my own thing.” Except I wasn’t sure what that “thing” was, exactly.
I spent the next seven glorious days figuring out what to create. Then, on the eighth day, I discovered that my husband and I had actually created something together, and it would be arriving in approximately nine months.
From that moment forward, for better or worse, my solopreneur journey has been inescapably intertwined with the journey of parenthood. In 2011, I gave birth to our son. In 2012, I gave birth to our daughter. And in those first chaotic years, without a “job,” my career looked a lot more like a stay-at-home mom than it did a rising star of the YouEconomy. However, unwilling to surrender the dream, I dedicated all the nooks and crannies of my beautiful #momlife to building a business, and by the time I sent out the e-vite to my daughter’s fourth birthday party, my solo income surpassed what I earned at the job I left. In that moment, I was pretty confident I had everything figured out.
And then, 15 minutes into my daughter’s birthday party, it all fell apart.
The party itself checked most of the boxes: pizza, activities, cake and even someone dressed like Sleeping Beauty. There was only problem.
No one came.
Fifteen minutes into the party, I had a terrible realization: I sent the invitations, but never checked the RSVPs. In the craziness of my growing business, I had forgotten to see who was coming until the very moment when no one showed up. Sweating and on the verge of a breakdown, I started calling all of our neighbors. Party at our house! Pizza! Cake! Princesses!
In all the hustle, don’t lose track of what matters most.
That night, after the gifts were opened and candles blown out, I wept to my husband, Michael. How could I have messed that up so badly? How could I have been so focused on work that I failed our daughter? Sure, she wasn’t old enough to notice that attendance was light… but in the end, I was upset about the bigger issue: That I had become so caught up in my work I forgot the most important thing of all. It was the kind of a real, raw inescapable guilt that comes only with a lesson learned the hard way.
Mamapreneur Lesson No. 1:
If you’re not careful, success can come at a higher price than you are willing to pay. In all the hustle, don’t lose track of what matters most.
One year later with my daughter’s fifth birthday quickly approaching, we were on high alert. The business had doubled over the previous year and, to avoid anything slipping through the cracks again, Michael decided to take the party off my plate. He rented space at a local gymnastics facility complete with trampolines and requiring minimal effort for parents. “All we have to do is send the invites, check the RSVPs (wink), send the headcount, bring a cake and they do the rest!” he proclaimed.
I’ll admit. Despite the disaster from the year before, I was still a little nervous about the Birthday-by-Dad arrangement, but with an unrelenting travel schedule, I had little choice.
When we arrived at the party place, Michael marched confidently up to the desk. I held my breath as the woman confirmed our reservations. “Wonderful!” she said. “Let’s get you all set up! Did you bring your decorations?”
Michael proudly handed her a single butterfly-shaped balloon he had picked up on the drive over.
“Did you bring any other decorations?” she asked. I began to sweat. “Um,” I said nervously, “It was our understanding you provide the décor?”
“Oh! Oh yes of course,” the woman said. “It’s just sometimes… you know, parents want to bring their own themed decorations, plates, tablecloths, etc. But yes, of course. We can put ours out.”
A few moments later, she walked us back to our party room. The walls were blank. The tables had plain paper plates sitting on top of plain paper table cloths. In the front of the room hovered a single butterfly balloon tied to a chair.
My first instinct was to be horrified; I turned to face Michael, standing next to me, staring at the exact same sight… and grinning from ear to ear. He had done it! A birthday party. Then I turned to look at my daughter.
She wasn’t there. She was jumping on trampolines with 30 of her best preschool friends.
Mamapreneur Lesson No. 2:
Let go. Let go of perfection. Let go of the myth that no one can do it as well as you can. Let go of control and let the perfectly capable people who surround you take charge. In order to have it all, you have to let some of it go.
My daughter is now 6. And yes, we had a party to celebrate. The party was on a Saturday and I booked a trip to arrive home Friday night with plenty of time to celebrate. The event was in Vegas. We lived in Phoenix. No problem.
Except then we moved. To New York. And suddenly there were no flights that would get me home in time. Instead of panicking, I used what I’d learned the previous two birthdays. I let go of perfection and focused on what mattered most and we decided, in order to be together, the whole family would come to Vegas. We had friends join us and we celebrated her sixth birthday poolside at the MGM Grand. It was awesome.
And in that moment, another solopreneur lesson became very clear—my intertwined life looks a lot different from other moms. The hours are different. The responsibilities are different. The flexibility and freedom and restrictions are different. But though they might be different, this is our normal.
And as long as we never lose sight of what matters, let go of the nonsense that holds us back and celebrate together, it’s a pretty good life.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine.