Now that I have a nine-month-old, I feel sufficiently qualified to speak up about topics related to life as a parent in a way that I didn’t before. I’ve now been through this rodeo for the better part of a year and, while I’m still learning, I’ve also been through a good share of the early trials and tribulations that have earned me a few stripes.
As an entrepreneur, I have embraced parenthood and the adventures that come with it. I have written about how entrepreneurship can be one of the most rewarding and most flexible career tracks for pregnant women and parents. I strongly stand by that perspective and have felt so grateful to be able to build my company while raising Nora, and realize that not everyone has that luxury.
However, let’s be clear: I am not a mompreneur.
I don’t often sweat over terminology – it’s not like me to stress about details. You will see that in the past I even used the term “mompreneur” many times myself.
But it’s been during these first few months as a parent that my opinions about the word have changed.
They changed because, as I have embraced this new adventure into parenthood, I have also noticed a substantial difference in the way people talk to me in regular business conversations the moment they discover I have a child.
I have been asked time and again if I am ready for entrepreneurship, a tiresome and unforgiving career (as if I haven’t been doing this for four years already). I have been told that I won’t be able to dedicate my life to both my career and my kids and will stress over which priority to pick. I have been advised by well-meaning strangers to make sure I have good childcare.
Of course, my husband has never been asked if he is ready to be a management consultant, if he’ll be able to dedicate his life to being a dad, or if he has someone to help him with the day-to-day tasks of parenting. Of course not. Apparently, that is my burden to bear.
Certainly this hasn’t been the experience with every single person I’ve talked to. I have been lucky to have met countless parents in the startup world who are raising kids while building billion-dollar companies. Seeing Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix ring the opening bell with her son in honor of the company’s IPO was a small step forward for entrepreneur parents everywhere.
However, in a substantial number of encounters, I have found that mentioning I am a parent has added a chip to the shoulder of my polished entrepreneurial career.
As if being a parent somehow makes me less serious about what I am building.
For me, the word “mompreneur” does just that. It confuses my existence as an entrepreneur with my existence as a parent, as if they are one and the same. As if they cannot be separated. Being called a “mompreneur” discounts my achievements as an entrepreneur – as well as my identity as a mother.
We as a society do it for no other career track. A pediatrician who is also a mother is not a “momiatrician”. An architect who is also a mother is not a “momchitect”. So why are entrepreneurs who are also mothers casually referred to as mompreneurs?
It would be absurd for my husband to consider himself a “dadsultant” just because he is a consultant who is also a father.
It would be ridiculous for my brother to be a “brogrammer” just because he’s a computer programmer and also a brother at the same time (actually, we do use the term ‘brogrammer’ but the meaning has nothing to do with having a sibling!).
Why do we modify our job title when we have children?
I think about under what circumstances we might call someone a “mompreneur” and under what circumstances we might not.
I am more likely to use the word “mompreneur” when talking about a woman who takes care of her children from home while also managing a career or a side hustle than when talking about a woman who checks in at an office who uses outside childcare.
I have felt my own hesitation when people have asked me where my office is, as if somehow offering that I work from home is my way of admitting that I’m not committed to my career (rather than, say, smart and conservative with our business expenses, or a trendsetter in a world of remote work and teams).
Yet it is a failure on my part to pass judgement (on myself or others) about the work someone does based on where he or she does it, and not on the nature and accomplishments of the work itself.
Am I not serious about my company because I don’t yet pay for childcare? Or is the fact that I have built a strong, remote team and a profitable company from the ground up without needing to pay for an external office proof of dedication, financial restraint, and careful decision-making?
Does it matter that I do it with a child at home? If all else were equal and I had no child, would it change your answer?
Our society is experiencing a monumental change in how it works as more and more adults choose to work from home. How that affects our identity as parents, as professionals, and our need for childcare is yet to be determined. This is the chapter that our generation gets to write.
I am proud to be an entrepreneur, and exceptionally proud to be a mom. Don’t shortchange the work I do by combining both.
Also published on Medium.