For the past several months, I have been toying with the idea of starting my own small business. My method of trying things out is to talk to as many people as I possibly can. I read whatever I can get my hands on. I go until I am saturated with stories, then I add a couple more just in case.
I make a decision, but I don’t take action. I try it on to see how it fits.
Then I take a break. I lay on the floor with the cat and stare at the ceiling. I take walks. I read trashy novels. I eat jelly beans for breakfast and stay in my pajamas until noon.
And then I put the decision back on to see if it still feels right.
Sometimes it does, but more often, it needs some altering.
I shared last week that I have been through some heavy lifting recently. I will admit to being a bit of a change junkie – emotional discomfort must mean something externally needs to change. My family jokes that they know it has been a bad day when they come home to find the dining room turned into an office, the office a guest room, and the sofa is nowhere to be found.
When I decided to quit working last year with the transition to my husband’s new job, we bought an 1890s Victorian Cottage in need of updating. We honestly thought the “project” would ease my transition to full time stay at home mom.
I should have stared at the ceiling more.
While the house has been wonderful and certainly kept me busy, it did not even come close to filling the professional gap I was left with. I have tried desperately to hang on to a professional identity, while still being available to pick my children up from school every day, supervise their homework, make sure they eat something healthy before driving them to whatever activity the evening holds, monitor screen time, set up play dates, and keep the toilets clean.
When asked what I am doing these days by former professional contacts, I mumble something about taking care of hearth and home, and add “a little bit of consulting” to the end of my parenting duties.
A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I was talking with a wise woman who has been exactly where I am now about the possibility of opening a small store. At one point in the conversation, she referred to a small business she owns as a “hobby”. It didn’t mean much to me at the time, but it stuck with me enough to make me think harder about my own goals.
I realized while eating jelly beans one morning that was exactly how I have been treating my consulting work.
I have been angry with my family for discounting the value of my work, when I am the one who has set that example. I have turned down work, put impossible conditions on my hours, and tried to work only in the “free hours” I have. I have bent over backwards to make sure my working has almost no impact on our household, holding all of the pieces tightly together so that nothing slips.
In doing so, I have given them and everyone else permission to dismiss me as a professional. I am the one who questioned the legitimacy of my work, not the people around me.
I have also denied them the opportunity to step up to the plate and share the ownership of the household. My husband is great about making meals, taking the kids to appointments when he can, and driving the kids to school every morning. My kids can make their own lunches, feed the pets, and take care of their own laundry. They can even – GASP – ride the bus home on occasion.
When I worked full time, we all pitched in to make sure the big stuff got taken care of. No one died from the small stuff that got missed. I am a great mom, but a miserable full time household manager. And that is OK.
The good news? I don’t have to start a brand new business to gain my professional identity back. I just need to treat the one that I have as a business, and not a hobby.