The Prodigal Daughters of Business
Feb 15 2012 / Parenting
Guest blog from www.FlowerPowerMom.com
It was back in 2008 that I found myself, at the age of 47—a published writer, former spokesperson for TV and radio, once well-known in my field—mopping up splattered spaghetti sauce from the kitchen floor and catching watermelon pop-ups, while two small children took their best shot at killing each other from across the kitchen table.
As far as the business world was concerned, I’d hopped a flying egg-beater to Outer Mongolia and was forgotten with crushing ease and rapidity.
What had happened to my life?
As intensely as I loved my children—as blessed as I was by their very presence—becoming a SAHM sometimes felt like an unexpected demotion. A “lunch-bag let down.”
Of course, I would then start beating myself over the head with a guilt stick for not embracing a Madonna-like serenity in my new ‘round the clock role of nurse, short-order cook, janitor and taxi service for two little people with a sense of innocent entitlement in knowing their parents owed them a good life.
Often, I was gasping for the sanity-sustaining air of business camaraderie and a sense of achievement more profound than was afforded by a successful potty training session.
Ironically, it was my son Alex, then five (and Lizzie two), who threw me a life ring providing the inspiration for launching Flower Power Mom—an opportunity to marry my two life passions into a common cause, at once greater than the sum of its parts.
(Never underestimate the profound wisdom of a child.)
Since then, I have met with many former career women who fear they ‘threw it away in their forties’ to become mothers, and can never make it back as the prodigal daughters of business.
Now 45, Heather Aguilera—who was an IT Project Manager “earning six figures” at a major Canadian bank before she left to become a SAHM—was eventually reduced to thinking she “would have to work in a donut shop.”
After taking a “handsome” settlement package, Aguilera settled in at home for more than five years to raise her children, having the last at 39.
When she tried to get back on the job market after 7 years, she said “a headhunter said that there was nothing he could do for me.”
For Aguilera, that was just culmination of events, each more damaging to her career persona and self esteem, in her journey as a SAHM.
“The transition had a great impact on my personal relationships” she says. “I used to make more money than most of my friends and my husband.”
She began to worry that her husband might find her “dull” or that if they went away alone together, they’d have “nothing to talk about but the kids.”
Heather Aguilera remembers going to a Christmas party to meet new neighbors and having little conversation after telling them she was a SAHM.
“They’d say ‘Wow, that’s great!’ and the conversation ended shortly after.”
That’s when she realized: “I needed to redirect my energies towards something I could be proud of” and took courses to set up her own business as a Doula and Childbirth Educator in Ontario, Canada.
“I have gone through a great transformation in priorities”, says Aguilera, “and how I measure success and quality of life.”
Suzanne Muusers—a 49-year-old Business Coach with international experience based in Scottsdale, Arizona—says that the stigma of Aguilera’s plight is common to women re-entering the job market after being a SAHM.
According to Muusers—who claims 40% of her clients are women over 40, both business owners and women returning to work after raising children—the crucial ingredient to success is planning ahead.
“Taking computer courses, contacting their network, updating their LinkedIn profile, and finding a local Toastmasters club to practice public speaking”, are all things midlife SAHMs can do to boost skills, confidence and job marketability.
However, with 70% of her clientele opting to become entrepreneurs, Suzanne Muusers adds: “I’m a firm believer in women taking full control of their lives by starting their own small business.”
“Women with a passion for what they do are unstoppable.”
Along with her website, Prosperity Coaching—which features reading and resources on small business start-ups, including “how to create a 30-second commercial”—Muusers coaches many older women with successful, home-based businesses.
“I love to see more women invest in themselves” she says, “and determine the course of their own lives.”
Cathy Curtis—who pilots her own investment advisory firm specializing in the finances of women out of the San Francisco Bay Area—made the personal choice to “go it alone” and become her “own boss”.
Curtis, now also a mentor for the Hatch Network which “provides needed education for women entrepreneurs building businesses” (also in the Bay Area), says that 75% of her clients are over 40 who “want to become financially independent”.
She agrees that starting a home-based business is likely the only way a midlife SAHM can realistically achieve that independence.
Old skills can be rejuvenated, and new ones acquired “through reading, attending seminars, or joining a program like the Hatch Network” where female entrepreneurs who “have succeeded against all odds” mentor new hopefuls.
“Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart” she cautions, “it takes guts, determination, the ability to change course with things don’t turn out the way you thought, and the ‘stick-to-itiveness’ to succeed.”
Both Curtis and Muusers emphasize the importance of business networking—by joining existing networks like Toastmasters or Hatch, or starting up one on your own—as well as the value of having a strong Business Coach.
Cathy Curtis says: “I’m a big fan…having a business coach is one of the fastest ways to get yourself out of the thinking phase and into the action phase.”
As midlife moms who once gave up the brass ring (some larger than others)—and so became the prodigal daughters of business—we may be walking a long journey ‘home’, but we are not walking alone.
Notes for this blog:
Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom.com—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40. She regularly campaigns for more supportive attitudes towards women having children in midlife and more awareness on the realities (social and physical) of being a later life mother.
Angel also hosts “A Child After 40”, an online community to empower all women on the journey of motherhood after 40. She gave birth to her children at 41 and 44 after conceiving naturally.