It hasn’t happened for a while, but I’ve been hit by a case of insomnia tonight. It’s past 3am and I haven’t slept a wink since I turned off my lights at 10.34. I blame the cacao-mint protein ball I ate on the way home from work this evening.
So what have I been doing for the past few hours. Tidying my office of course – at least I’ve been moving piles of stationery and invoices from one spot to another. That’s a version of tidying I suppose. I’ve also been scrolling Instagram, which I honestly haven’t looked at since before Christmas, and that in turn inspired me to, quite literally, dust off my cameras.
I happen to have two very, very good cameras in my possession. And I haven’t touched either of them for so long I can barely remember. I certainly haven’t taken more than a test shot with either of them since we moved home to Adelaide two and a half years ago. So yes, I’ve had thousands of dollars worth of Nikon DSLR cameras and lenses simply collecting dust at the bottom of my wardrobe. Any photographers reading this are sure to be shuddering right now.
But it was while cleaning out my ‘very stylish, but very expensive and purchased before I had children, while I still had a full time income and plenty of disposable cash’ camera bag, that I found these:
My photography business cards.
Relics from another lifetime. Another incarnation of myself. Me. Before marriage, before children. A time when I decided I was going to pursue a more creative career and dipped my little toe into the waters of professional photography.
Fast forward six or seven years and all that has changed.
It will hardly come as a shock to those who know me that the thing I struggle with most about motherhood is my lack of freedom. Freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Freedom to be 100pc self centred and to think of no-one but myself. It may sound narcissistic, but it’s the truth.
When I became a mother, actually, even before I became a mother, because this all started while I was still just pregnant, the indulgent narcissist within me began to bend and bow to a more pragmatic force.
As we moved interstate when I was four months pregnant, I was forced to make the decision between seeking clinical work at our new destination, or pursuing a more creative outlet – because I knew my poor pregnant brain simply didn’t have enough bandwidth to do both – at least not to do both very well. Unsurprisingly, the practical mother took over and the more reliable income of a health professional easily won out over the highly unpredictable creative venture.
It’s not really a decision I regret, particularly when I look back at what I have built and achieved over the past two years with my private practice – which in many ways has been a massive creative undertaking. And what I have now is a career which is so richly rewarding in the fact that I get to work with and support other women every day.
But I often wonder whether I made the “right” choice? As in the right choice for me, my creative self. Did I deny the ‘real me’ in favour of the ‘practical mother me’ once I knew I would soon be responsible for another human life? Is the current “After” Sarah the real Sarah, or is there someone else I was supposed to be?
And why has it been so hard to reclaim that creativity, that artistic flair that was building inside of me just a few short years past. Where did it go? Why did motherhood so quickly extinguish my creative fire?
It’s a question that will forever go unanswered, because I simply can’t go back six years re-write the past. But I look on my current situation with intrigue, because lately I’ve started to wonder just how different it could have been.
My husband has a little analogy he uses when he talks about parenting. He says it’s like walking through an invisible door. Once you’ve stepped through that door you’re in a whole new place – and you can never go back.
And it’s true. You can’t go back. You can’t have what you had before.
But you can move forward. You can have something new. And I can still create, and it doesn’t have to be as a profession. It can be creation simply for the sake of creativity. Something Elizabeth Gilbert encourages in her wonderful book, Big Magic, which I read last month, and which is probably the reason I’ve been pondering my lost creativity lately.
Of course I can still create. Which is why I just finished dusting off my cameras in the wee hours of the morning.
And maybe that’s exactly the reason why I couldn’t sleep tonight. I’m sure Liz Gilbert would say that Inspiration and the Universe were conspiring to awaken a little flicker of creativity within me, and that’s what kept me up tonight.
Perhaps it wasn’t the protein ball after all.
Perhaps it was #BigMagic
Until next time.
Psst. Wanna be a Mumpreneur? Want to live the ultimate lifestyle and work on your own terms? Want to set your own flexible hours so you create your business around your kids and never miss another Book Week parade or Sports Day? Yeah, I know you do. We all do.
And it’s so tempting right? It’s so tempting to tell your crappy, insensitive boss to “Shove it! I’m outta here and I’m going to open my own business!”
Yeah, go sister! Woman power! Mums can do anything!! Whooohooo!
But hold on a sec there honey. Do you really know what you’re getting yourself in for? Do you really understand what it means to be a woman, who also has children, who also happens to run her own business from the kitchen table? (and who may or may not also have to hold down a regular “dayjob” while she gets this Mumpreneur thing off the ground). By the way – I’m not a huge fan of the word “Mumpreneur – but I’m using it here because “woman, who also has children, who also happens to run her own business from the kitchen table” doesn’t quite have the same SEO ranking. (And don’t worry, if you don’t yet know what SEO is, you will soon!)
I’m not saying don’t do it. Don’t become a “Mumpreneur”. I can’t say that, because I’m doing it right now – and you know what – it is great. And I can see amazing things on the road ahead. But right now. About 12 months into my self-employed sojourn. It’s freaking hard. And it’s an awful lot of work. And it’s costing money. And, and, and – so much else.
Mumpreneur in action. Yes, this is what action looks like sometimes.
In these past 12 months I’ve learned a thing or two about running my own business while simultaneously raising two daughters, running a household and, yes, holding down another part time job to ensure we can still pay the mortgage! So I thought I’d do you a favour and list a few very important questions you should ask yourself if you’re thinking of making this big scary, crazy, amazing leap into Mumpreneur-dom.
Question 1: Is my significant other on board?
Because if he (or she) isn’t, strap yourself in for some drama. Cue arguments about “getting a real job” and “stuffing around on facebook isn’t going to make any money” and “no, we’re not spending $6K on a business coach”. Starting a business is a crazy tough slog, it’s no surprise so many start up businesses fail. If you’re serious about starting a business it’s going to take time, money and sacrifice. You’re going to need the support of your partner, because you’re going to need them to pick up the slack around the house. You’re going to need them to be okay with the fact that they’re doing the dishes for the sixth night in a row because you’re tapping away on the laptop trying to figure out how to install a WordPress theme to your blog. You’re going to need them to be okay with the fact that you won’t have as much time for them anymore – at least not right now. Get them on board early. Explain your passion. Share your plans and goals. Keep them involved. And hopefully they’ll be supportive.
Question 2: Am I prepared to resent my children at times.
Gah! Yes. I did just ask this question. Please stop calling me names.
This is the dirty little secret of Mumpreneur-ship. Because as much as you love your precious little cherubs and think to yourself, “I’m creating this new business for them, for us, to create our dream family life”. I absolutely guarantee that you are going to resent the socks off of them at least once while creating your new business (probably more than once, to be perfectly honest). Perhaps it’ll be the night before your big launch/meeting/presentation – when your teething baby keeps you up all night. Or the day you miss an all-important webinar because you’re cleaning blue paint-coloured poop off the carpet at the exact moment it goes live. (True story, not mine, thankfully!!)
The fact is that young children and start-up businesses don’t mesh nicely. They’re both unpredictable, time consuming, and, yes, frustrating. When you’re starting a business there are going to be days when you simply need to “GET STUFF DONE” no matter what. But guess what, you can’t always rely on your children to be perfect angels on those days. Even if you have childcare and supportive family, you’re still going to have to find time to do work at home – and the kidlets under your feet are going to get in the way. There are going to be days when you want to spend more time on your business than you do on your kids. You will feel like this. And you will feel guilty for feeling like this. Are you prepared for that?
Question 3: Am I prepared for the haters, the trolls and the poppy-loppers?
Not everyone is going to think your business is a great idea. Lots of them will try to dissuade you – “Don’t you know how bad the economy is, why on earth would you start a business now?” The thing is, these peeps are generally well meaning, they honestly just want you to be safe and secure, and not broke and homeless. They just have a completely different mindset and view of life than you. So they’re not as bad as the haters, the ones who will try to tear you down any opportunity they can. Why do they do it? Mostly they’re jealous. Maybe they want the kind of life and business you’re working towards. Maybe they just don’t have the guts to take that leap of faith. That makes them feel shit. So they take it out on you. #hatersgonnahate
Question 4: Am I prepared to replace most of my friendship group with another one entirely?
The truth is, I now spend way, WAY more time with my new business gals (who I didn’t even know a year ago) than I do the best friends I’ve had for 20 years. Starting your own business can be seriously isolating. Not a lot of people do it, and it’s scary and intense and there’s sooooo much to learn. So we business chicks have to stick together – we seek others out so we can network, learn, brainstorm and absorb business advice by osmosis. Most new Mumpreneurs figure that out pretty quickly and start surrounding themselves with other business minded folk. This isn’t to say that you won’t, or can’t, ever see your friends again, but just beware that friendships are likely to change. See question 1 and 3 for prime examples! Plus, because of all the extra work hours you’re putting in – it can often be quite hard to find time for all your friends – you’ll start prioritising them. Sad but true. The good news is, the ones who are really, truly your friends. They’ll stick around. They’ll stand by you. They’ll understand when you haven’t spoken for them for the past two months. Because that’s what TRUE friends do. (ps, for the record, I still love my old friends even if we don’t get to see each other as often – you know who you are!)
Question 5: Am I in it for passion or profit?
Really you need to be in it for both. If you’re not passionate about the business you’re trying to build, you’re simply not going to have the motivation to stick with it.
But you also need to want to make money. Which means you physically need an income stream – ie. you have to have something to sell!
But you also need to believe that you’re worth the money, that you deserve to make money and that your product is valuable enough for people to pay you for it. So really, you need three things: Passion. Profit. And a passion FOR profit.
Question 6: Am I ready to be transformed?
This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT question of them all.
“Am I ready for a complete soul makeover?”
This is what you don’t think about when you’re first starting out. You just think to yourself, “Oh I’ve got a cool idea for a business, let’s start a blog and make some money”. You never think to yourself, “Gee, I feel like undergoing a complete and utter transformation of my personal and professional development, my mind, heart, body and soul, my view on the world, my belief in the concept of abundance and laws of attraction, my self-concept of who I am as a person and what my true calling and purpose in life are.”
No-one ever thinks that.
But that’s what happens. I’ve met so many amazing entrepreneurial women over the past year while I’ve been building my business. And while they come from all different walks of life, run completely different businesses and are at a million different stages of business growth and development – they all have one thing in common. Change. They’ve all undergone somewhat of a transformation. Some to the point where they barely recognise themselves from the person they once were. Some to the point where they’ve realised that they need to leave their husband because they’re not willing to put up with a sub-par relationship anymore. Some to the point where they’ve lost friendships because their old friends either “don’t get them” anymore, or got too shitty that they weren’t available for Friday night drinks every week anymore.
Are you willing to go there? Are you willing to make that much of a change. Are you willing to be utterly and absolutely transformed. Are you prepared to barely recognised the person you’ll be in 12 months time?
Then welcome to the club.