By Christina Shepherd McGuire
Reestablishing a work routine after having kids takes more than just returning to your desk. Priorities and commitments shift and you suddenly find yourself struggling to maintain a suitable work-life balance. Additionally, a job you once thought compelling now may only bore you. Instead of trudging through a status quo existence—lacking inspiration and laden with too many glasses of vino—embrace your true passions, re-brand your existence, and turn your unique talents into a moneymaking endeavor.
We all have it, an internal dharma, the reminder of our destined life’s work. But the multifacted mommy role can become overwhelming, often clouding your true vision. The natural route involves falling back on past employment that financially supports you but fails to fulfill your soul. If you find yourself wrestling with a fruitless work position—while stricken with that infamous tinge of mommy guilt—read on. By first assessing your unique talents and skills, you can pursue a job that serves both you and your family, allowing for true contentment to blossom.
Now, you may be one of the lucky ones who can pinpoint your passions. Maybe you make killer jewelry or your journal reads like a novel. But for those of us who struggle to define our enthusiastic outlets, we need to start with cultivation. Like a garden, our passions take nurturing to bring them to full fruition.
Let’s start with a visual list of basics, or “mind map” as marketers like to call it. Make a list with three columns or graphically illustrate it. In the first column, list your natural abilities. These are the tasks your peers regularly compliment you on. Next, write down your hobbies. For most of us living in this recreation haven the second list comes pretty easy (don’t worry if most of your hobbies have taken a back seat to mommyhood; list them anyway). Lastly, focus on a list of items that truly gives you a sense of meaning or purpose.
Once your mind map is compiled, locate the complementary elements present in all three lists. Make connections between the elements. Maybe you harbor stellar organizational skills, you love to cook, and you find purpose in creating a healthy environment. A career as a personal chef, meal planner, or family health consultant could be calling. Or, if you’re good with numbers, obsessed with fitness, and excel at life coaching, maybe you should pursue a career as a personal trainer or nutritionist. Shape a few scenarios, then sleep on it. Visualize yourself in this position. Is it your highest and best use? Will it complement your more important role of mother and wife?
Building a "Mommyfesto"
If you wince at the word “entrepreneur,” or if you find savvy marketing jargon incomprehensible, the mere act of creating a manifesto equates to earning a master’s degree in yourself. Your manifesto—or “mommyfesto” in this case—is the backbone of free enterprise. Once you’ve decided what venture you want to pursue, building the mommyfesto shapes a mantra for your life. Let’s bang it out in a two-step process.
First, get your business manifesto on lockdown. Think of it as the cooler, hipper big sister to your business’ mission statement. Refer back to your mind map. Contemplate your intentions, your core values, and your focus, then compile five business statements that reflect these inner truths. Once done, wear this messaging on your sleeve as a roadmap of your objective. Think of it as fuel that will help you muster up the courage to launch into uncharted waters. Revisit and tweak your manifesto as your venture unfolds. You never know, someday this messaging may squeak its way onto your website.
The second part of the mommyfesto is your ode to yourself. Part two carefully outlines and defines the calculated strategy needed to juggle your profession, while also providing for those you love. Jot down the specifics on paper, being sure to outline the days and hours you’ll dedicate to work, those you will reserve for family, and those saved to nurture yourself. Use a spreadsheet or calendar if it works best for you. If not, bullet-point lists and segmented journal entries work well as gentle reminders. This exercise provides encouragement when the pressure builds and stressors start compiling. Plus, the detailed outline assists you in shutting down the computer when your son needs help with his homework. It nudges you to cuddle more and check your inbox less. Above all, the personal mommyfesto helps you keep it real, with a clear path and an unclouded vision.
Laser-Target Your Audience
Think about businesses that try to be everything to everyone. Now forget them. Part of being successful as a startup is a sharp focus on a target consumer. And no one knows this audience better than you! Re-read your manifesto, then put a face and a name to it. Maybe your target consumer wears stilettos, designer jeans, and drives a fancy car. Or maybe she’s the busy type who hasn’t opened her mail in months. You could be targeting small businesses with fewer than thirty employees, or using your corporate knowledge to lend crucial consultation services to large firms. Wherever your target lands, define it thoroughly and zero in on this person or group.
Laser focusing on a group helps establish your branding and eliminates second-guessing. You’ll never wonder if your product or service is too hip, too boring, not detailed enough, or lacks an edge. This streamlined approach helps you create a bigger following than you ever imagined, with a unique and unwavering brand.
Check Your Coat—But Not Your Jammies—at the Door
With modern technology at your fingertips, you can now sit back and enjoy the pleasures of working from home. True, you might have to take a few courses along the way. Sharpen up your social media skills, learn how to tweet with the best of ’em, and maybe even launch a blog that speaks to your audience. While these tasks may sound daunting, rest assured that they can all be done from home and in your pajamas. That’s right—no high heels, corporate suits, or makeup needed for this endeavor. All you need is a laptop computer to use the kids’ naptime as a work outlet.
If you have an artsy product to sell, open an Etsy store. If you provide a consultation service, branch out virtually by building a baseline website and offering e-seminars. Copywriters, graphic designers, and web developers can join Elance, an online freelance service linking companies with creative people. There’s an endless supply of online resources that makes it easy for you to zero in on what works in your field and get the most out of the energy you devote to your endeavor.
In many cases, tackling the virtual world is step two, and comes naturally after first developing a healthy clientele. Before you expend all your resources by going out on an “e-limb,” go back and tweak your mommyfesto to allot time for gradual business expansion. Pencil in one hour a day devoted to building an online presence by developing a website, a company blog, or an e-commerce page. Once completed, build residual income off of integrated webinars, online workshops, or an affiliate program. The payoff may be slow, but down the road the residual online income will free you up so that your work life no longer encroaches on your family time. And the hobby list you wracked your brain on--while making your mind map--will now have a higher priority as you carve out a niche for refilling your tank.