A little boy is bundled in a puffy winter coat. His tiny hand is clasped in a teacher's gloved one as he stands on the sidewalk. As the next car pulls up, his whole face lights up, eyes twinkling as his mouth forms a single exultant, "MOMMY!" After five hours of juggling all the tasks of running a business and running endless errands, the moment that her now 5-year old son first catches sight of her after preschool is the single best moment of Ria's day.
She has spent the last six years as a full-time mom to her two children and the last two as a business owner on top of it. Any momtrepreneur knows that this double career requires at least six arms, four legs, two brains, and a 36-hour day! But here's the rub. Come January 2, 2009, Ria officially will be a divorced, single mom of two. Now it's "go" time. Her business has to financially support her within 12-18 months or she will have to give up this dream of self-employment and get a full-time job. Although it is certainly not the end of the world, the thought of missing out on that carpool reunion is like a dagger in her heart.
The convoluted path that led her to "here" is one that is well traveled. Ria had a successful career in advertising and marketing. After her first child was born, she and her husband mutually decided that she would give up her career to become the "Chief Household Officer." Although she loved being a mom, Ria found herself becoming lost, isolated, and under pressure to conform to a lifestyle that was not in alignment with her own dreams. And yet, she felt so guilty about feeling this way. After all, she had asked for it and she and her husband led a comfortable, manageable life. The gnawing feeling that something was amiss, would not go away. She did everything in her power to find fulfillment and contentment within the parameters of her situation but the increasing distance between herself and her husband became the elephant in the room.
Ria had always been a "good girl," eager to please the authority figures in her life and therefore, doing everything that was expected of her. As a child in a dysfunctional family, Ria was always aware of her own painful desire to belong to a "normal" one. She excelled academically throughout high school and college and then continued to succeed in the corporate world. After a few years of proving herself career-wise, she married a good man from a good family and achieved her goal, by all external measures.
However, over the years Ria realized that in her efforts to "belong," she lost herself. She woke up one day and realized the typical American Dream was not really her own. Maintaining the illusion began to eat at her soul. When Ria began to experience health problems she knew that she would not survive, let alone thrive to any ripe old age at this rate. Yet, she was so scared of all the pain she was going to cause and of how she could possibly still be a good mom to her two little ones.
At the height of her career, Ria was working on high profile national accounts, traveling extensively and generating $3 million annually for a boutique marketing firm. However, after five years out of the workforce, her own confidence in her marketable skills was diminished. In addition, she had never been able to juggle motherhood and her career to her satisfaction.
At 13 months old, her younger child was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. Because of his condition, Ria invented a medical alert shirt. She started a company called Check My Tag and developed a website to promote it to other food allergy families. In the process of growing her food allergy business, Ria became an online health advocate. She learned how to navigate the emerging Web 2.0 world — applying social media and blogging techniques to spread awareness about food allergies. It opened her eyes to the power of the online community. She began to realize that her passion and enthusiasm was really in this area of online marketing rather than in manufacturing and distribution. She launched another website to test some of the marketing tactics that she was learning. After a few months, this website was generating more traffic than her main site! Ria started helping her friends with their online marketing. She started to realize that she knew a lot of people with specific passions and messages to share and that her passion was connecting them with the people who needed to receive these messages.
Although Check My Tag was self-sustaining and got a lot of great press, it did not generate enough income to support her. Her youngest was still a year away from kindergarten. Yet something told her it was now or never. While in her car one day, she caught the words from a Christine Kane song. "Dream and the way will be clear. Pray and the angels will hear. Leap and the net will appear." So she did.
In the middle of the chaos of her personal life, Ria launched a brand new site. Together with a partner, her mission with My Mommy Manual was to "connect moms with practical and inspired tips." Her vision for the site was one in which she and other moms shared their authentic and real experiences, much like you would with a sister, a friend, or a daughter. Ria envisioned having a response for every "how to..." search query that a frustrated new mom might type. Ria wanted to create the community she missed when she herself was a new mom, far from family. She was not an expert per se, but a friend — one that empowered other women to realize that when it comes to mothering, women already have innate and collective wisdom within them!
After just three months, the conversations are just beginning but already, the comments from readers offers Ria the sense of relevance she was missing. Her Practical Mommy persona is one that more and more new moms are turning to for tips, both "practical and inspired."
Now, Ria's professional challenge is developing and committing to a career path that will financially support herself and her two children. Ria sees several different options: 1) She can focus on growing My Mommy Manual into an income-generating venture 2) She can grow her internet marketing consulting business, or 3) She can look for a full-time job at a marketing firm. Her challenge involves deciding which of these options will most likely generate the income she needs within her time frame. She is aware that she cannot put energy behind exploring all three without compromising her ability to successfully move toward any one of these goals. Another consideration is her original company, Check My Tag. She has a loyal following within the food allergy community and a sponsorship from Dey Pharmaceuticals but the demands of maintaining that business are making it challenging to focus on her other opportunities.
Ria's true inspiration is her two children. She sees the importance of her work on My Mommy Manual because she believes that inspiring other moms to "choose love over fear" (as she wrote in a recent article) is in fact, her life purpose. She is also fully aware that her preference to pursue self-employment rather than continuing to climb the corporate ladder is due to her children as well. Having a flexible schedule is essential to her own mothering needs.
Ria is a typical Type A personality. This served all her previous employers quite well since she could never get her brain to shut off. She would wake up in the middle of the night with eureka moments for her client's next ad campaign. As an entrepreneur, this also served her well in the sense that slacking off on a random Wednesday was not really appealing. However, it did pose a challenge when a brilliant idea hit her at 5:00 pm when she should be making dinner but has thought of the perfect closing to that article or at 7:00 pm when the kids are turning into raisins in the tub....
What craziness is this? While her readers look to her sage advice on motherhood, she finds herself marginalizing her own children's needs to deliver it! The irony of these situations come into sharp focus when she finds herself telling her daughter yet again, "Hang on. I'm working. I need five minutes."