Friday, August 30, 2013

Lack of Confidence, Fear of Failure Hold Women Back From Being Entrepreneurs

from Entrepreneur Magazine by Catherine Clifford, July 31, 2013

Women often don't think they are capable of launching their own businesses, which is one reason there are significantly fewer female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women's Report released today.

What's more, women report being generally more afraid of failure than their male counterparts, according to the research, jointly sponsored by Babson College in the U.S., Universidad Del Desarrollo in Chile, and the University Tun Abdul Razak in Malaysia. The 2012 GEM survey, the 14th of its kind, surveyed 198,000 people in 69 countries. The GEM Women's Report looked at 67 of those economies.

In all but seven of the countries surveyed, women represent a minority of the nation's entrepreneurs. The seven economies where there are as many or more women as men entrepreneurs are Panama, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Nigeria, Mexico and Uganda, the report says.

Comparison of female and male total entrepreneurship activity rates by region.

Click to Enlarge+
Lack of Confidence, Fear of Failure Hold Women Back From Being Entrepreneurs
Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2012

To be sure, cultural expectations of women affect the likelihood that they will start a business. For example, in Chile, women are largely expected to take care of their children and parents, making it much harder for women to take an active role in running a business, the report notes. Moreover, many nations have longstanding cultural traditions that both discourage women from working outside the home and from taking leadership positions. In the Republic of Korea, for instance, women face significant hurdles in breaking into what is a very male-dominated business culture.

In the U.S., there are fewer overt barriers for women to become entrepreneurs, but there are still "covert" barriers, the report says, specifically in gaining access to capital or winning government contracts. "These covert practices are subtle, and sometimes not even recognized by entrepreneurs, in that they have to do with status expectations or gendered roles," the report says.

One classic example is the expectation in the U.S that venture capitalists will be men, the report notes. Lead author of the study and Babson professor Donna Kelley points to studies that show women are less likely to receive venture capital funding. "The fact that those making the investment decisions are primarily men can be one influencing factor," she says. Also, there has been previous academic research showing that fast-growth, high-tech entrepreneurs in the U.S. tend to be men, which is partly because women are less involved in science and engineering in general, says Kelly.

In all parts of the world, women entrepreneurs are more likely to run businesses that work directly with the consumer, like retail businesses, the GEM data shows. The data suggests women may choose these consumer-related businesses partly because they have lower aspirations for growth than men. Male entrepreneurs are more likely to gravitate toward capital-intensive manufacturing businesses and knowledge-intensive business services, the GEM data shows.

Even while more than 126 million female entrepreneurs were either starting or running new businesses in 2012 in the 67 countries measured, they are less confident about their abilities than men. In every economy studied, women reported lower perceptions of their entrepreneurial capabilities than men did, the report finds. Women in developed regions of Asia show the lowest levels of confidence in their abilities. Only 5 percent of women surveyed in Japan say they have the skills necessary to start their own business.

Meanwhile, perhaps surprisingly, women in sub-Saharan Africa showed much greater confidence in their entrepreneurship capabilities. Four out of five women in Zambia, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria say they have the skills necessary to start their own business. Part of the higher levels of confidence in sub-Saharan Africa is because almost 60 percent of women know other women entrepreneurs. Having direct interaction with a role model gives women confidence, says Kelly.

The entrepreneurship confidence levels in sub-Saharan Africa are also related to the types of businesses being started, says Kelly. "The typical business started by female entrepreneurs in these countries are often small, necessity-driven, consumer-oriented businesses with few or no employees and lower growth projections," says Kelly. "The perceptions about the skills needed for this type of business are different from those that involve more innovation, growth, and in industries with capital or knowledge intensity."

In every region, women report being more afraid of failure on average than their male counterparts, the report says. The fear of failure is linked to their lower rates of entrepreneurship because of the inherent risk of starting your own business. "When a woman has a choice between being an employee, especially when this is associated with an attractive salary, job stability, good benefits and even high social approval, she is taking a greater risk in entering entrepreneurship; she has to forego this opportunity in order to be an entrepreneur, and therefore has more to lose," says Kelly. Some of the most developed regions have the highest levels of fear of failure, including developed regions of Asia, Israel and Europe.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Want To Be An Entrepreneur? You Need These Two Must-Have Traits

By: Laurie Penn-Moyer
The title Entrepreneur is often looked upon with respect and admiration. As children, many of us dream of changing the world in a unique way, or starting our own successful business ventures.  Then, along the way, life happens and we begin telling ourselves untruths like “I’m not smart enough,” or “I don’t have enough money” to follow those dreams.

Surprisingly, off-the-charts intelligence and flush bank accounts are not cited as the most important criteria for entrepreneurial success. Instead, thriving entrepreneurs often point to 2 crucial personal qualities:  Passion and Persistence.

Entrepreneur Jessica Herrin is the Founder and CEO of Stella & Dot, a boutique-style accessories company based in San Francisco. Jessica has been honored by Ernst & Young and Inc. 500 as a Top Entrepreneur.  In this short video clip, Jessica is speaking with Forbes on what it takes to find success as an entrepreneur.

According to Herrin, “I think entrepreneurship is ultimately persistence, and the willingness to seem crazy for a long time.” Jessica emphasizes that success doesn’t just happen overnight. She advises “sticking with it until you get the right incarnation of the idea… It’s just getting up in the morning every day and chasing what it is in your gut.”

Apparently, perfection isn’t a necessary part of the equation, either. “You can’t wait for something to be perfect to run with it. You have to iterate, you have to do it and build. Just doing something is better than doing nothing.”

At the 2010 D5 Conference, the iconic entrepreneur and Apple co-founder, chairman and CEO, Steve Jobs was asked what would be the single most valuable piece of advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs.  Jobs response? “You have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing… and it’s totally true and the reason is because it’s so hard… The ones that are successful loved what they did so they could persevere when the going go really tough.”
If you find yourself feeling a bit apprehensive about all this hard work and tenacity, find ways to continually stoke the initial passion that led you to this journey. And, remember Herrin’s sage advice, “It’s not easy - but it is worth it!”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pursuing Your Education With a Sense of Purpose & Service

I am a big believer that everyone has a purpose and destiny. In that journey to uncover our life’s calling many of us may get distracted by a number of influences, perspectives, fads and traditions that impede the true unmasking of our calling. Although college, professional school or graduate school may not be pursued by all; I have always been of the belief that pursuing a formal education can be a strong catalyst for uncovering one’s purpose.

When I entered college I have to admit when selecting a major I initially looked at things like “How much would I make with this degree?” “Was it prestigious?” “Was it marketable?”  “How fast could I finish?” “Was the major too hard or too easy?” Although questions like these are important to consider at times; I realized after a while that such questions only scratch the surface of identifying one’s calling.  Although it is wonderful to be knowledgeable, respected and compensated for what you do, I realized that if I was pursuing an education with solely those things in mind; I was doing myself and those around me a great disservice.

I must admit that the spirit I brought to pursue my college studies was quite different from what I brought to my graduate studies years later. And that is probably what has brought me to write on this specific topic. I noticed that although I earned my college degree and felt I had “direction” when looking back I realize that my educational pursuits were not fully devoted to living out my life’s purpose. Prior to transitioning into my nursing studies, I met a faculty at UCLA School of Nursing and we had a conversation that was very enlightening. It was one of the many light-bulb moments I had in my academic journey. She said “Purpose and service are not mutually exclusive. Nursing is a service role and when you are committed to service and serving another you are living out your purpose.” As I thought about her comment I thought of the doctors and nurses that provide care. The musician that provides music for a group to enjoy, relax and listen to. The teacher that educates a community of children. I thought of the scientist that pursues the latest technology to ensure lights remain bright in a city. Whether we realize it or not; all of these are service roles.  I truly believe that when we commit ourselves to being of service; does our purpose become actualized.

So as you consider your professional pursuits, or what degree program to enter I think you should keep the following questions in mind as you make your educational decisions.

Consider the following:

“How can I make a meaningful contribution to society?”

“What strengths or talents do I have?”

“What are some of the needs of my community?”

“What are the “nouns” (persons, places or things) getting in the way of me living out my purpose?”

“What causes do I strongly believe in?”

“If I could serve or help someone what would it be in?”

“What Challenges and motivates me?”

“What talents, passions or gifts do I have that could be used to serve or help someone else?”

As you enter your course of study I encourage you to consider these questions. And as you go along in your educational career make it your mission to pursue your education with a sense of purpose and service.


Ann Kiki Anaebere is a nurse and educator. She received her Bachelor of Arts in  Psychology  and Master of Arts in African Studies from UCLA in 2003. With a  commitment to  improving the  public health trends of low income populations, Ann decided to  pursue further  studies in Nursing. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2006 from  Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles; Master of Science  in Nursing in 2008 and PhD  from UCLA School of Nursing in their Health  Disparities Vulnerable Populations Research Program in 2011.  As a nursing professional Ann has worked as a Registered Nurse in Intermediate Care/Telemetry (at UCLA Medical Center), Primary Care/Parish Nursing (at Queenscare Health & Faith Partnership) and as a Nurse Care Manager (at Kaiser Permanente).  She has also held an Adjunct Faculty position at Mount St. Mary’s College, Department of Nursing.  Ann currently holds the RN Quality Improvement position at Denver Health Medical Center/Medical Plan. In this role Ann works collaboratively to support and develop initiatives to improve key national health measures for Denver Health's medical insurance plans. Ann also oversees the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Multicultural Healthcare (MHC) Accreditation process for the health organization. Finally, Ann is also a Professional Speaker through the HealthEDProject (

Monday, August 12, 2013

3 Legal Must Dos for Your Start Up

Another great article reposted from as part of their Start Up Week last year!

Forming a start-up is a lot like getting married. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, and to be successful, the founders’ individual interests have to take a back seat to the collective interests of the new company.

There’s also a lot of important legal stuff to tackle—it’s kind of like a pre-nup, only way more complicated. Unfortunately, though, many entrepreneurs are inclined to defer this paperwork until they get funded, or memorialize decisions on the back of a napkin. And while this might be fine for your business plan, it’s crucial that the major issues—ownership, control, and intellectual property, to name a few—are formalized before business gets underway.

But given  your limited resources, how do you prioritize which decisions require your focus, time, and (not trivial) legal expense? We’ve identified three of the most important issues to get right from the get-go.

1. Formalize Control

Before you start making any kinds of decisions, make sure you have control arrangements worked out between you and your co-founders. More importantly, get them clearly spelled out in definitive agreements (read: make it legal). If you wait until you have a disagreement among the founders to formalize things, you’re too late.

At minimum, these arrangements should include:
  • A voting agreement, which details how the company will be controlled and managed. This will govern items that range from appointing members to the Board of Directors to making strategic operating decisions.
  • A vesting schedule for equity, stating how equity is earned over time in return for service to the company. Note: make sure you write down equity in terms of a number of shares, not a percent. The meaning of “2%” will change over time—for example, when you raise funding and have to issue more shares to award to your investors.
  • A right of first refusal, which states that a founder who wants to sell her shares must first offer them to the company or the other co-founders before selling them to a third party.
The great news? There are resources, like Goodwin Procter’s Founder’s Workbench, which will help you prepare these documents for free.

2. Own Your Intellectual Property

Your company needs to clearly own (or have an adequate license to use) the IP you use to operate your business—especially if your company is technology-driven. The biggest risk to this is if you developed your ideas—or software—while still employed by another company.

For starters, if you or your co-founders started working on your idea while working full-time at another company, you need to review the agreements you have with your former (or current) employers. Often, those documents will contain an “invention assignment provision” which requires you to divulge any inventions that you created during work hours or which used that company’s confidential information, and may grant ownership of that IP to the company. You need to make sure upfront that no one on your team is bound by any provisions that could cause your company’s IP ownership to be called into question down the line.

It’s also not unusual for agreements with your former employers to contain a non-solicit clause (a prohibition on soliciting customers or employees) and a non-compete clause (a prohibition on competing in a similar market). Look out for them—these types of provisions may make it very difficult (if not impossible) for a founder to work on a new start-up in the same space as her old company.

Customers and partners may also insist on having ownership rights in your IP or IP escrow arrangements. Start-ups often have little negotiating leverage with their beta customers, but you should still tread carefully: Giving away these IP rights to your customers can severely limit your ability to operate and your value down the road.

Finally, you need to have your co-founders, employees, and consultants enter into invention assignment, confidentiality, and non-solicitation and non-competition agreements with your start-up (assuming the individual isn’t in a state like California, where these types of agreements aren’t valid). This will make sure that your company owns all of the IP that’s developed at your start-up, and is protected if any disagreements surface later down the road—for example, if a founder or an employee leaves.

3. Protect Your Secret Sauce

On one hand, you shouldn’t be keeping your great business idea to yourself—but you should be careful to only divulge as much information about your company and product as you need to, and to know who you’re talking to when you’re sharing those details. For example, in a conversation with a potential partner, it may be appropriate to discuss your idea (the “what”) but not the execution (the “how”).

It’s important to note though, that this may not be feasible with a prospective client, who will likely want to understand the details of your technology. In that instance, you may want to ask the client to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), a legal contract stating that confidential information about your company and its technology or business practices can’t be disclosed to third parties. This will allow you to share what you need to with your clients, but will protect your secret sauce from being shared with the public or your competitors.

Also, most investors won’t sign NDAs, but it is a good idea to do diligence on an investor (or anyone else for that matter) before providing them with confidential information. For instance, you should know whether a VC has a competing investment in its portfolio and get a sense for how particular VCs have treated confidential information in the past. The easiest way to do this is often to reach out to other founders who have taken funding from the VC in question—they’ll often be happy to share with you how well they’ve been treated by their VCs.

When an NDA isn’t appropriate, you should take steps such as writing “Proprietary and Confidential” on prepared materials, including a date and the name of the recipient. While this won’t give you as much protection as an NDA would, the more you indicate the confidential nature of your ideas and the efforts you took to protect it, the more likely a court is to side with you in any future disputes.

Getting married is fun—and starting a new company should be, too. There will be bumps along the way, but if you’ve focused on the tough decisions and legal work at the outset (rather than addressing them after an issue arises), you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Starting Your Career Later in Life

Reposted from

At a summer picnic, my mom and her friend started discussing their career history and their hopes for the future business they would like to launch. Both women initially worked but opted to stay home when they had children. Now, with the kids grown up, they’ve found themselves at a crossroads: They want to work again, and they have great ideas for start-ups, but they aren’t quite sure how to begin.

I have heard similar discussions all over the world from women ready to start something after their kids grow up, whether it be a noodle stand or a textile company or a food business. Many women of my mom’s generation (the Baby Boomers) are ready to “opt in” and transition to a career or business after having kids, but many women I talk to are too intimidated or overwhelmed by the prospect. Even women with amazing skills face this challenge: My Aunty in India, for example, is a world-class artist and sells many pieces, but won’t hold an exhibition of her work because she feels like she isn’t good enough.

But the truth is, it’s never too late to get started pursuing something you’re excited about. So, to anyone who has ever thought about jumping back in the game, but isn’t sure where to start, here are some basic—but important—things to remember.

Your Skills Are Valuable

I am always surprised by the number of women around the world who say, “I have no skills and no degree—who is going to hire me or take my business seriously?” And I want to say, “Hey ladies! Not only are you skilled in management, delegation, accounting, and a host of other skills, but if that work you did in the home for years was monetized, you’d probably be getting a pretty hefty salary.”

Still, many women I talk to don’t believe me. Around most of the world, work in the home is still perceived as women’s work (though there are definite exceptions to the rule, such as in Scandinavia), but just because this dated perception exists, doesn’t mean the skills you have garnered don’t mean anything. In fact, all of the experiences you gained as a parent are extremely valuable and practical, and you should own that. Raising kids, not only are you an executive team member, running the people in your house, but you are a project manager, development director (think fundraising for your kids’ baseball team), and a host of other titles based on your daily routine.

To ensure your skills are recognized, its so important to have family members or close friends surrounding you who can encourage you and remind you of the skills you bring to the table. You can also look to social media groups and blogs for inspiration and support.

Careers Aren’t One Track Anymore

“We didn’t have careers—we had jobs,” is something the ladies of my mom’s generation often say. And I think that’s the reason many women are scared to get started on a new career path—they looked at their early career as a “job” or “series of jobs,” and don’t think they can get started on a “career.”

But the truth is, a career doesn’t mean working in an office for 25 years and retiring with a fat pension anymore. Careers are often about gaining experience in what you love, even if that means that your proverbial career ladder is a zig zag or game of leap frog. And this isn’t being distracted or not knowing your path—this is about finding out your expertise and passion.

So, remember that you don’t have to start at the bottom if you haven’t been working for a while. Your previous jobs—no matter what they were—as well as all of the non-work experiences you’ve gained over the years, can be part of your “career” path.

It’s OK to Fail

When my mom and aunt rent out spaces for their artisan jewelry businesses, sometimes they do really well, and sometimes they don’t. At first, that was hard for them, but they quickly learned to move past those bumps in the road. Just because one show doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean they should get discouraged or give up—if anything, they should keep pushing forward and branching out to new locations to see what works and what doesn’t.

Yes, stepping out with your business idea or work into the world can be daunting, but don’t let that stop you: launch that food business, open up that Etsy shop, take on some freelance clients, or go for that interesting job. For one, you will learn from the experience whether it’s positive or negative. Plus, without taking the risk, you won’t know what you can really do. If the Millennial generation can teach Baby Boomers anything, it’s that mistakes will be made, and sometimes failure happens—but that’s OK. Don’t let that intimidate you, because it’s just part of the process.

Your Career Doesn’t Have to Take Over Your Life

One thing that many women starting a new business or career path forget, especially if they have been taking care of families for years, is that it’s OK to take time out for themselves. In fact, it’s critical to take time out from your daily routine to create your business plan or focus on your strategy for entering the workforce. I know a lot of moms would see this as impossible, but really, this is the first step in making your dream a reality.

Start building chunks of time in your schedule for you to focus and work on your next steps, even if that means you order take-out a couple nights a week. It might feel different than the routine you’ve had for so many years, but that’s a good thing. It’s your time to grow and cultivate your idea and make it work.

As I travel, I talk to a lot of women who share the same challenge—they want to launch a business or start a career later in life, but simply don’t know how to take the first step. But times have changed, and we don’t have to hold on to those same ideologies that once limited women who decided to stay home. I encourage women who are excited about starting something new to take the leap, and create a new career that suits you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Find A Founder's Network

Reposted from!

As a start-up founder (or soon to be founder!), you probably have more on your plate than even you want to think about. So adding another regular activity with scheduled meetings onto your calendar might sound, well, unnecessary.

But, there’s one that’s definitely worth your time: a founder’s network. No matter what stage you’re at in your business, joining a group of founders who meets regularly to support each other’s entrepreneurial ventures is one of the best things you can do for your company.

Here’s a secret: Running a start-up isn’t like anything you’ve ever done before. You’ll face different sorts of problems—finding a way to pay employees, acquiring users, raising funding —and it can get lonely. So it’s to your advantage to have a network of people who “get” exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the unique struggles you’re facing each day.

What’s more, being part of a network helps you develop long-term relationships with other founders, which is key when you’re looking to find (or refer) clients, a co-founder, or employees down the line. You can ask for help and advice from founders who've been there before you, and you can pass your own wisdom and expertise along to others as you learn. It’s a win-win.

So, where do you find one of these networks? If you know where to look and what to look for—you’ll be well on your way to getting involved in one that will be a great fit for you and your business.

Where to Look

There are founder’s networks, formal or informal, no matter where you go. And while many groups are open to anyone, others are closed, meaning you need to be invited by a member or meet certain criteria, such as the size of your company.

As with anything, one of the best ways to pick a network is to get a recommendation. But there are other ways to identify potential networks, too, especially if you’re new to entrepreneurship and your space:
  • Pose a question on a site such as Quora, or send a message to the relevant LinkedIn groups you belong to asking for recommendations.
  • Join online communities for founders (such as Sprouter, Startup Nation and Ladies Who Launch) and ask for recommendations from their members.
  • Search for “founder’s networks” or “women’s founder’s network” in your area, and comb through the search results to find relevant ones.
  • Join subscriber lists of events for start-ups in your area. (Check out for a list of great resources.)

What to Look For

Once you’ve identified a few groups that look interesting, how do you know whether they’re the right fit? In addition to figuring out whether the logistical details work for you (location, days and times of meetings, any cost), there are several important factors to consider:

Size Matters

First, think about the composition of the group. Is it a larger group or a smaller one—and in which setting are you more comfortable? Large groups will give you access to a larger number of voices and viewpoints, and you’re likely to make a larger number of connections. But many smaller groups act almost as mini advisory boards, where you can get focused time to share and get advice on your specific needs and challenges. For some people, it makes sense to join both types of groups, or to regularly attend a small group and occasionally attend events with larger ones.


Next, look at whether the members come from similar or diverse backgrounds. Are most people from your industry, or do they span a variety of fields? Are the founders at the same stage of their business (launching, growing, second stage) or do they range? Founders in a homogeneous group may be facing similar challenges, but a mixed group may provide you with a broader perspective and access to advice from people who’ve been where you are and succeeded. So think about what’s most appropriate for the stage of business you’re at. If you’re working on getting users on board, industry groups can be great. On the other hand, if you’re deciding how to set your company up, a wider range of viewpoints can be helpful—but a group that’s comprised primarily of established start-ups focused on growth might not be the best fit.

A Girl’s Club?

One of the biggest considerations will be whether you want to be part of an all women's founders group. For many women, this environment is more comfortable, plus it can be a great sounding board for the specific challenges you’ll face as a female founder. That said, don’t ever hesitate to be one of the only women in the room—there’s nothing wrong with mixing up the scene (the start-up world could definitely use it!). Plus, you can always encourage other women to join, too!

The Right Format

In addition to the composition of the group, see if the format of the meetings works for you. Are you required to go to every meeting, or is there some flexibility? What percentage of the meeting time is devoted to a formal presentation versus members having the opportunity to talk and ask each other questions? Also, look at how members interact online (via email, Twitter, Facebook) and how responsive they are to each other’s questions—at some point you’ll want to solicit feedback in between meetings, and you can learn a lot about the group dynamic from these online interactions.

Most importantly, remember that even if a group seems like it’s great from the get-go, you’ll probably need to attend a couple of times to make sure the format and the people are a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to try out several groups before you select one or two, or to join a new group if your current one isn’t meeting your needs—after all, these are people who will be integral in helping build your business!

Friday, August 2, 2013

What Makes Women Great Leaders?

Do you know a woman who seems to be successful in every endeavor she pursues? She gets every job she applies for or opens an at-home business that thrives. There are certain characteristics women possess that make them stand out from the pack and become leaders, and there are reasons why those women we know are good at what they do. Here are a few of those reasons:

1.                  She isn’t afraid to speak up for herself. Expressing your opinion in a big boardroom meeting full of men may seem daunting at first, but the leader sees this as an opportunity rather than a threat. She recognizes that no matter her status or gender, her ideas still have value and that as a member of her company, she has a duty to contribute. Breaking the ice at first will be difficult, but after you speak up, you’ll feel so much better.

2.                  She takes opportunities that get her where she wants to go. This woman has a plan, and she sticks to it. She may already have a stable job, but if another one comes around that will get her closer to her dream, she isn’t afraid of change.

3.                  She says yes. Leaders take on challenges every day and are not afraid of failure. They would rather make a mistake and learn a lesson from it than spend their life sitting back in their comfort zone.

4.                  She thinks for herself. In the end, life is about making yourself happy. Leaders recognize this and pursue goals that provide them with the most joy.

5.                  She finds value in others. Although she lives life for herself, she recognizes that success comes from connection and from value placed in other people. She does not forget the people from her past that helped her to where she is today, and she gives advice to other women who may be just starting out with their careers.

These are just a few characteristics of female leaders. Overall, a woman is a leader because she knows what she wants out of life and is devoted to getting it. 

April Fischer is a 20 year old junior at Arizona State University.  She is majoring in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and hopes to do PR for athletes after she graduates.  She is currently an intern for Fresh Start Women’s Foundation.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why Parents Must Rethink Free Time!

A great start to our month all about juggling being a Mom and building your career - this post is reposted from!

When I told a friend that I was writing a column for and about career-loving parents (a phrase I lifted from Lean In), her immediate response was “How will you have time for that?” And to be honest, as a new mom with a full time job, I’d asked myself the same question.

Of course I don’t have time. An “extra-curricular” activity that’s not part of my full-time job, even one that formed the core of my identity before parenthood, is my last priority. Like any other working parent, my week is consumed with pick-ups, drop-offs, and the endless chirping of email alerts, punctuated by brief moments of clarity when my son smiles at me from the baby swing while I sip an iced coffee that I made four hours ago and just now got around to drinking. Even with a responsible, loving spouse who fully shares all parenting duties with me, I don’t have much free time.

But I’ve decided that I must make time for writing, not just because analyzing the culture around me has always been my passion, but because I hope that in 25 years if my son is still as passionate about his Johnny Jump Up as he is now, he makes the time to engineer an adult-sized harness and giant-sized door-jam and jumps to his heart’s content.

Plus, it’s true that making time for the solitary (or, at least, child-free) pursuits you enjoyed before you became a parent is important for your mental well-being.

Now, I’ve read enough parenting literature to be able to recite the standard tips for maintaining your pre-baby activities: Wake up before your baby, carve out free time in your weekend and let your partner do the same, take advantage of grandparents, aunts, and uncles who want to spoil your kids. But I’ve also learned that making that time for our passions requires more than just a few calendar edits—it actually requires a seismic shift in the way we think about parenting in general.
Hear me out.

First, we need to really examine how we’re spending our time.

There are days when I collapse into bed at 8:45 and think, how can I be so exhausted when I barely got anything done today? I focus on what I failed to do—change out of my yoga pants, read and respond to an animated e-card my grandmother sent me—instead of the things I did accomplish: making a nutritious, semi-home made meal with my husband, working a full-time job, and keeping a child alive.

It’s true that, as a working parent, we sometimes feel we’re on a treadmill, working hard but going nowhere. And when we do get a free moment, we tend to want to make it as productive as possible: Wash the car, take the dog for a walk, make a meal to freeze.

Last week’s New York Times piece about working mom Sara Uttech and her hectic schedule elicited a number of responses from the blogosphere, but one I particularly agree with is that of Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrissey: “We tend to ask ourselves what we can do to make it work. What more can we do so that we can do more? If that sounds like nonsense it’s because it is.”

We are already doing a lot. A lot. And when we have a spare minute, we try to do more, even if, on the surface, it seems like we’re taking “time off.”

Which brings me to my second point:

We must rage against the increasingly narrow definition of “me time.”

This is especially true for mothers. A number of American media outlets—from television shows like What Not to Wear to magazines like Parents and Oprah—have shrunk our conception of “me time” to spa days and shopping. Their mantra is, “If you look good, you feel good. And that’s good for the whole family.” The implied statement, then, is: “If you don’t look good, you won’t feel good. And your family will suffer.”

While it’s a good idea to look professional at work, there’s an alarming emphasis on the connection between exterior appearances and interior fulfillment (and it’s no coincidence that the companies that create this connection are funded by advertisers that sell clothes and beauty products). Working mothers shouldn’t be guilt-tripped into spending their precious-little free time on tweezing, waxing, or staring at themselves in those awful three-way mirrors.

For me, a weekly mani-pedi may help me relax for 20 minutes, but it doesn’t leave me feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated. Likewise, I try to head to Target with brushed hair, but why wouldn’t I swap 30 minutes of getting ready for 30 minutes of reading or writing? Don’t give into the ridiculous expectation that spare time is for beautifying.

Finally, we must stop measuring our parenting skills in terms of our sacrifices.

In her book Bringing up Bébé, Pamela Druckerman contrasts the parenting styles of French and American moms and dads, pointing out that, unlike American mothers, French mothers do not glorify constant personal sacrifice as a motherhood badge of honor. Many American mothers, she argues, not only abandon their own personal pursuits, but see doing so as a sign of good parenting. The logical conclusion, then, is that any activity that doesn’t make you miserable (besides being with your child, of course) detracts from your overall parenting score.

Of course every good parent puts the needs of his or her children first. But we must abandon the idea that ignoring our own needs and foregoing any opportunity for personal fulfillment makes us good parents. Think about how this translates in your professional life: In your career, you’re both committed to your job, projects, and responsibilities, and simultaneously focused on developing professionally. Your ambition to get promoted, earn more money, and learn more is not seen as incompatible with your current role. In fact, it’s a sign that you’re a good employee.

We need to apply this philosophy to parenting: Wanting to develop personally, even while juggling 9,000 child-related balls in the air, means you’re a good parent (and person), not a bad one.

So, though it might seem a little crazy, I’m making time for my passion, and I’d encourage you to do the same. Making time for personal and professional development requires effort, planning, and a mindset that allows you to enjoy yourself—but it’s worth it. After all, if we don’t think critically about the culture of parenting that we live in, we’ll never be able to think at all—we’ll be too busy teaching our two-year olds geometry, getting microdermabrasion, and then feeling guilty about it.