Lessons Learned as a Single-Parent Entrepreneur
As being an entrepreneur or a single parent didn’t have enough challenges to keep you on your toes … let’s do them both at the same time!
You’re the CEO, mailroom, marketing specialist and head of business development — and oh yes, you’re the company’s IT director. You’re also the chauffeur, tutor, chef, cleaning service and scheduler for your kids.
As a single parent entrepreneur, this barely describes all of the hats we wear on a given day. We are responsible to keep both the home and business running — food in the fridge, lights on, kids fed and new business opportunities secured. At times, it can feel impossible to do both at once. How can you pour into the growth of your business and be an engaged, available parent at the same time? Will the kids feel left out if they see you working all the time? Will your business suffer if you don’t?
Here’s some good news: the answer can be no to the last two questions.
My son and daughter are teenagers now, but I’ve been a solopreneur since they were small. And as a wedding planner and floral designer, my job required long and unusual hours to oversee a wedding day, meet clients when they were free in the evenings and unpack floral trucks at 2 a.m. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about the joys and challenges of balancing entrepreneurship with single parenthood:
- Let your kids see how hard you work. When my kids were young, I didn’t want to miss one moment with them due to work or even household tasks. I remember that I would save the chores and grocery shopping for the evenings when they were sleeping, or cram everything into the days they were at their dad’s. My perspective shifted when I realized that I wanted them to have a model of hard work, and to value the responsibilities and creativity that it takes to run both a business and a home. If I continued to shield them from my work, they would grow up with completely unrealistic expectations of real life as an adult. So I started intentionally letting them in on my work, from meal planning to bill paying to prepping flowers.
- Engage your kids. The best way for them to understand your vision and your passion is to engage them directly in your work. Maybe they can help you with some small tasks. Maybe it’s simply a conversation about your latest project over the dinner table. I hire my kids for small projects — like assembling origami decorations or wedding invitations — and pay them for their work, which helps them to understand the value of their time. Even the tasks that no one wants to do can turn into a teachable moment. Recently, my kids and I were all working hard to prepare for a wedding, and we were exhausted. One child (who shall remain nameless) was getting a bit sassy. So I explained that this work is not just “Mom’s business” — it’s what allows us to go to Disney World and eat three meals a day. And their perspective shifted when they realized the business had a direct impact on the quality of their own lives.
- Think about your succession strategy. And make one that doesn’t include your children. Personally, I would love to think that I’m building a legacy, and that at least one child would be interested in carrying on my business into the future. But I have to be willing to hold this with loose hands. They have their own dreams, and that might not be to carry on my business. So, even at the beginning of your venture, think about your exit plan and what that looks like regardless of whether your children are involved. As a parent, you’ll be able to encourage them a little more freely in their own passions. And as a business owner, it’s smart to have an exit strategy before you launch the business, because that will shape some legal, tax and financial decisions.
- Take time to invest in yourself. I know that time may be your most precious commodity. And while “self-care” is a popular buzzword today, don’t let that distract you from its (very) real value. When you prioritize a little bit of time for your own rejuvenation, joy and creativity, you will begin protecting yourself from burning out. And I believe you may even feel like a stronger parent and smarter business owner as a result.
P.S. If this resonated with you, you may be interested in checking out the FREE online Single Parent Summit I’m hosting from July 24 — August 2. Through 40+ speakers over nine days and our private facebook group, we’ll be learning, supporting and inspiring each other through all aspects of the single parent life.
Originally published at toniaadleta.com on July 11, 2017.