I attended the BlogHer conference in Chicago this past weekend. I also had the privilege of leading, with my business partners, a roundtable discussion about midlife bloggers. This, after just two years in the blogosphere. It was a very empowering experience.
The conference was attended by around 5,000 women (and a few men), and keynote speakers included Guy Kawasaki, Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), and Sheryl Sandberg.
In Sandberg's keynote, she talked about the importance of women supporting women and leaning in, which has become the mantra of 21st century feminists since the publication of her book, Lean In. She has an enormous following and a platform and track record that are powerful and impactful. My initial response to the lean in concept was skepticism, as I've always told my daughter that she can -- and should -- do anything she wants to. However I see that it empowers so many women, and that's what matters -- if leaning in is what propels you forward, then by all means, lean!
My perspective is also different because I spent the years I was raising my kids as a stay-at-home mom, and never had the need to lean in to ask for a pay raise, a promotion, or a job. The leaning in I did was focused on making my children's lives as fulfilling as possible.
However, there are many things I did learn as a stay-at-home mom that have been helpful to me as I've grown from a personal blogger to the co-founder and editor of an online magazine, Generation Fabulous.
1. Nothing is impossible.
As a stay-at-home mother I spent many days in what felt like impossible situations. From having a sick baby hospitalized at 9 months old for six days, to flying across the country with two toddlers, to dealing with my oldest child's severe separation anxiety at pre-school, to my younger child's multiple surgeries on his eyes, there were situations that seemed beyond my ability to cope -- but I did. As an entrepreneur I am faced, nearly every day, with difficult decisions and conversations -- but I get through them. And, like my kids, I'm better for having made it through the difficulties.
2. Believe in yourself.
To be a stay-at-home mother is to be undervalued by society -- that's all there is to it. To be happy and successful as a mother who doesn't work, women must believe that what they're doing is worthwhile. The same goes for entrepreneurs. In the beginning, it's a challenge just to have faith in your dream.
3. Advocate for what matters.
All mothers know that they are their children's best advocates, whether they stay home or work. Be it an abusive sports coach or a lazy teacher, a schoolyard bully or a friend who is a bad influence, there are many times when parents must step in and use their adult-ness to correct a bad situation. This isn't helicoptering -- this is parenting. As an entrepreneur, I've learned to stand up for what I believe, whether in discussions with my business partners or when talking with writers. People will respect you if you speak with conviction.
4. Perserverance is essential.
Nothing can be accomplished without commitment and focus. From potty training to filling out college applications, encouraging our children to stay the course is a consistent message. As a stay-at-home mother I was hyper-focused on these things because being a mother was what I did, all day and every day. As an entrepreneur there is no substitute for hard work and consistency. No one will do it for you, just like no one can potty train your kids for you.
5. Relationships are the number one key to success.
As a stay-at-home mom, my relationships with other moms, teachers, coaches, baby-sitters, family members and more were the fabric of my safety net and my soft landing pad. Stay-at-home moms can feel isolated and cut off from the world unless they make an effort to get out in the community and connect with other people. Entrepreneurs also depend on the success of relationships to help build their businesses. Whether it's for encouragement, mentoring, publicity, finances or more, relationships are an undeniable part of an entrepreneur's resources.
Learning how to use these skills as a mother has been, surprisingly to me, very helpful in my second act as an entrepreneur. I may never have had to lean in, as Sandberg advises, but I've had to bend over backwards many times to make my life work as a stay-at-home mom -- and now as an entrepreneur.