Is being an entrepreneur the modern working mums equivalent to selling Tupperware?

Growing up I had a stay at home mother, as did most of my friends. One friend from high school had a mother who worked at a bank four days a week. This was so far out of the norm for me that for years I assumed she was the Bank Manager as there could be no other explanation as to why she worked so much!

I admit that I had very few working women as role models when I was younger, but I have always been incredibly driven and ambitious. I guess that drive is part of my personality, because it wasn’t something that I witnessed and wanted to emulate as a child. Perhaps it was the lack of financial freedom and little money that my family had that has ensured that I want to avoid financial stress.

During the 80’s my own mother and her friends would often have side projects to give them ‘pocket money’ as they often referred to it. This was usually as part of a multi level marketing business such as Tupperware or Mary Kay. Some of these women were very successful with these businesses and continued with them long after the children had gone to school.

I started my business, The Tenant Company, when my daughter was a little over a year old, as working full time in my corporate job put a lot of pressure on my home life. The job was very demanding with little flexibility but I was paid well for it. I had the business plan done, the financial forecast and website up and running. I didn’t intend to earn the six figures that I previously had, but I anticipated that by working around my daughter I would still make a comfortable income. Fast forward two years and I will honestly say that the financial predictions I made have not eventuated. So what’s going on? I see entrepreneur’s spruiking themselves as having made a fortune almost overnight – how giving up the corporate world set them free (and let them tell you all about it – for a fee). Is it just me going through this?

Instead of beating myself up about this I approached a group of female entrepreneurs and asked the question “Who earns enough money from their business to support their family?” It might surprise you – perhaps it doesn’t – but most don’t. Most of these women are working to cover business overheads, pay staff or pay themselves ‘pocket money’.

So why do we do this to ourselves? With my own adventure into running a business, and sharing insights with other mothers doing similar I wonder

“Is Entrepreneurship the modern day equivalent of selling Tupperware?”

Why is it that women are busting their arses to run businesses that aren’t making any money? Some of the women I spoke with told me it gave them a level of freedom they wouldn’t otherwise have working for someone else. Others are laying the foundations of a good business whilst their children are young, with the intention of expanding on this when the children go to school. The very few who told me that their businesses are providing them with a substantial income are those that have been operating the business for a number of years and their children are now older.

It seems that some women are spending 4 -5 years running businesses making very little money instead of working part time for someone else because very few part time positions exist. These women are highly skilled and want to make a contribution to the work force, but their request for part time or flexible working hours aren’t being fulfilled.

I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you think it is possible to pay yourself a market wage from a business whilst working flexible hours? Are we just working for ‘pocket money’. Let me know in the comments below.




How to work from home with a toddler

Working from home with a child or children can be difficult, exhausting, inspiring and exhilarating! It all depends on how you manage it and of course what type of work you do. Being in charge of my calendar means that on the days I work from home I schedule calls at certain times when I’m least likely to have a toddler at my feet.

Whether you work from home full time, work for yourself, or your employer allows you to work from home, it’s all about being organised. I certainly don’t have it all worked out, but I am learning, and as time moves along so is Eva.

Eva doing her 'work'
Eva doing her ‘work’

She understands that when mummy is in the office on the computer she is working, and she also knows that I have an open door policy.

Here is what I’ve learnt over the past twelve months of working from home.

  • Your child will cry at the most inopportune time – usually during a phone call. Be open with those on the other end of the line that you are home with your child, as most people will understand and appreciate your honesty. I often say to clients, lawyers, real estate agents or whoever I’m on the phone to “I’m working from home today so I apologise now if you hear the nabber of my toddler in the background” This usually gets a giggle and the other person won’t be surprised if you suddenly have to put the phone down.
  • Be productive during the ‘quiet’ time. Eva still sleeps for around two to three hours of an afternoon (I might cry when she eventually drops this sleep), and during those hours I am more productive than the rest of the week! I also know that she loves to watch Doc McStuffins at 8am so here I am sitting at my desk hammering out this blog post before the show finishes at 8.30!
  • Use technology to your advantage. This is a topic that seems to elicit strong opinions from parents around the world, and people feel differently about this. We allow Eva to have an iPad and I give this to her at times during the day whilst I’m working. She is extremely proficient with it (she’s actually taught us a few things – I never knew you could switch between apps using four fingers) and we’ve downloaded a number of educational apps that she loves to play with it.
  • Try not to make your child hate your work. If Eva comes into the office whilst I’m on the computer I will stop what I’m doing and pay her some attention. Usually all she wants is some acknowledgement or a quick cuddle. The two minutes to look at a toy or have a little chat will be shorter than arguing with a toddler to let mummy finish her work.
  • Stop feeling guilty! Whatever your reasons are for working, own them and accept them. We put so much pressure on ourselves as it is; we need to stop the mummy guilt.

Do you work from home? What tips or advice do you have for other working parents?