As women, we are often expected to answer the call of motherhood, irrespective of our own dreams and desires. And in my own experience, I’ve learned that there’s no right or wrong with what you decide to do – so long as it’s a decision that is true to you.
While there are many significant differences between raising a child and being an entrepreneur, I want women – and the world – to start to see that the skills we praise in mothers are the same skills well worth developing in business. And that rather than using calendar occasions like Mother’s Day to celebrate women within a single context, we need to add seats at the table to celebrate all women and the diversity of opportunity, choice, and legacy, increasingly available to them.
Around Mother’s Day, I usually find myself looking back at the progress that’s been made as a result of the versatility, resilience, and adaptability of women. I have always been acutely conscious of the different caps women have to wear, and the different ways in which the world tries to undermine or reinforce various gendered traditions – irrespective of its impact upon a woman. In my own journey, I’ve made choices that weren’t always easily understood by others because they went against the societal expectation of what a women should be and do. But the good news is that I don’t regret a thing.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years. My first real job was in an advertising agency, which eventually led me to launching and working in a corporate clothing business. Never one to sit idle, when I eventually sold the clothing business, I qualified as a Pilates instructor and started to educate myself on healthy food for a healthy lifestyle. Dogged by the idea that I wasn’t doing enough, my husband’s offhand suggestion that I write a cookbook set me off on a new path that has brought me to where I am today – an author of several highly successful recipe books.
From the very beginning of my professional life, in my clothing business’ factory, I was attuned to an all-encompassing concept of motherhood. At the factory, I often felt as if I was fulfilling a motherly role when it came to the care and concerns of my employees. In a literal sense, my mother actually worked with me, and she still does, although in a different capacity. I also employed a number of mother and daughter employees, which enhanced the sense that we were working together, like a professional family, towards a shared common goal. With the theme of (somewhat non-traditional) motherhood as a foundation upon which I built my businesses, I quickly realised that this ethos greatly benefited the business and the people with whom I worked.
Throughout each of my career developments, it was reinforced for me that my ‘motherly’ instinct to nurture was never lost as a result of my decision not to have children. On the contrary, I was able to utilise it in a way that benefited my businesses. I often joke that my businesses were my babies and my career was my everything. And now, having been fortunate to enjoy entrepreneurial success over many years, I have also been afforded a clarity that comes with the passage of time and retrospect, so that I can say for certain the choice I made was the right one – for ME.
Some women choose to be mothers, some choose to be entrepreneurs, and some choose to be both. The limits that previously existed on what women could and couldn’t do have lifted – and continue to do so. I believe that it’s these sort of societal developments, which see women set free to discover, define and fulfil, their OWN potential, which are well worthy of celebration.
While I may not have become a mother in the traditional sense, my experiences in work and in life have shown me the importance of investing in the development of skills in business that are commonly attributed as being ideal for motherhood. Perhaps often viewed as ‘weaker’ skills, these ‘motherly instincts’ are skills that I feel will put you in good stead, irrespective of whether the intended objective is the growth of a human being or a business. Or even both.
Here are four such skills I consider well worth developing and why:
- Juggle, juggle, and juggle some more. Being a woman, and specifically a mother, demands that we wear many caps – and often from a young age. This ability to multi-task and juggle tasks and responsibilities at the drop of a hat is invaluable to entrepreneurs and business owners. While others may find rapid change and development somewhat overwhelming, for women who hone this skill, adaptability can quickly become business-as-usual, priming everyone involved to make the most of every opportunity to arise.
- Care. And I mean, really care. Mothers are considered to be people who care a great deal about everyone around them. And emulating this ability for empathy will put you, as an entrepreneur, and a woman, in good stead. Taking the time to really listen and try to understand your employees and your customers’ needs and points of view can be a fundamental factor of your success. This also contributes to the development of a positive work culture, which is important when building and leading a team.
A gut feeling. They say that there are few things in life that activate your gut instinct quite like becoming a mother. And in business, the ability to trust your gut is a skill that’s well worth sharpening. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, there really is no road map to success, so your ability to evaluate opportunities and potential risks in a single moment is one that will set you up for success when it comes to the longevity of your business.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. A skill that entrepreneurship and motherhood share is the ability to focus on the things that matter. In both contexts, crises can arise at any moment in the day, as can the need to split your focus, time and energy between multiple things. Being able to retain your composure when there are fires to put out helps to ensure that you’ll more quickly bounce back when things don’t always work out as intended, which is key when it comes to pushing through challenges as and when they arise.
For more info on Chantal Lascaris, visit https://chantallascaris.co.za/.