Your children may be off to school for the first time this autumn, or perhaps they’re already well into their school years: either way you might be one of the mums currently thinking about what to do now the dependents are becoming less dependent. More and more mothers are thinking of starting their own business, each for their own reasons: they’d like to work from home; need flexible hours because of childcare restraints; desire a different experience to being an employee; have always wanted to be self-employed; or have an excellent idea for a business inspired by parenting and the parenting community.
Whatever the reason, it’s understandable to be a little overwhelmed at the prospect of setting up your business after time out from work. Even returning to your old workplace as an employee would be daunting enough! Your experiences as a mother, however, can actually help make the transition back to work a smoother one and can be of particular use in starting your own business.
We shouldn’t underestimate the value that our motherhood experiences can bring to other arenas, including business. The transferable skills you develop as a parent are no different in variety or value to the type of skills that can be acquired during other key stages of your life, such as getting married or starting that first job. Being a SAHM is, after all, one of the biggest challenges there is.
So how exactly can being a SAHM help you become a WAHM? Well, for a start, successfully looking after your children involves continuous multi-tasking, managing your energy levels and maintaining a laser focus, not to mention clear goal setting, calmness in the face of emergencies and the ability to think outside the box.
It’s really not a stretch to see how all of these skills are vital in the context of starting your own business and dealing with the pressures of being your own boss for the first time.
In an ideal world, you would be equally expert in all the above competencies. In the real world, no one can expect to be. Before looking at how you can transfer SAHM skills to business, you must first identify which of these skills are particularly prominent in your own unique skills set. Here are a few suggestions for doing this.
1. Take time out to think about which new skills you’ve developed. Try making a list of actions you take during the week and then listing the skills you use to do them. Consider the settings, pressures and essential outcomes. What did you do, why did you do it and what was the result? In what aspect of your start-up could these actions be of value?
2. Think about which skills you’re using whilst you’re actually using them, then consider how they could be used in business. For example, the next time you’re making up a bedtime story with your child, acknowledge the fact that this takes imagination and communication skills, which can be converted into innovative leadership and successful networking.
3. Get feedback from others around you, as they will have seen how you’ve developed as a mother and how parenting has added to your capabilities.
Once you have an idea of the transferable skills you’ve developed through parenting, you can set about using them to go from a mum to a mumpreneur. Here are a few ideas for doing so.
* Creatively use your parenting experiences to sell yourself to prospective business partners and customers. Explain to them how your parenting abilities will benefit your venture. For instance, as a parent you will have learnt to organise your finances in a way that acknowledges it’s no longer just about you, or you and your partner. Having to take dependents into account when you’re doing your own accounts will work in your favour as you start learning to balance your business’ books.
* Before really getting the ball rolling with your start-up, consider seeking out voluntary opportunities where you can test out your newfound skills in a context away from the family. Get involved with a charity or offer to do pro bono work for those you know. Getting leadership and/or project management training is also an option.
* Feedback from others can again play its part. Get suggestions on how your particular parenting skills can benefit your particular business from those who know you well. You could also consider consulting a career guide. There are many good quality career guidance services that not only help people in ‘employee’ roles, but also those who are self-employed or considering self-employment.
However you go about it, remember that both returning to work after a break and starting a business are major life events that take a lot of effort. Combining the two things requires patience and realism, but it’s not impossible. Don’t be too hard on yourself, ask for help when you need it, and know that it’ll be worth it once you’re a fully-fledged mum in business!