The child care crisis created by the global pandemic has launched working parents — moms in particular — into a crisis: Eight times more women than men dropped out of the workforce in September, with three out of four corporate level moms citing “burnout.”
One group hit particularly hard? Successful entrepreneur moms.
Entrepreneur moms represent 42% of small businesses, employ nearly 10 million workers, and pull in a revenue of $2 trillion. But the entrepreneurial path is grueling. Founders spend their time fundraising, networking, dealing with partners and distributors, and fighting to grow the business — all while giving themselves a limited salary. If they have children, it’s an added layer of complexity. Add a global plague into the mix and it’s an uphill climb.
What are the hardest problems successful entrepreneur moms are facing during the pandemic — and how are they managing?
#1 Finding Money for the Business
The road to funding is rough but particularly for women. In 2018, women-founded startups raised just 2% of venture capital. The funding gap is very likely due to the fact that 74% of firms have no investors who are women. However, for the successful entrepreneur moms that Parentology spoke with, it’s business as usual, regardless of babies or a pandemic.
“Fundraising is hard no matter what, whether you have kids or don’t. It is a constant grind and for every yes you get tons of no’s,” said Ashi Jelinek, the CEO and Founder of KidsLuv. “I don’t think I have found a difference with fundraising pre-babies and post-babies. It is one of the most important jobs to do and with kids or without it falls on you to get it done and keep growing your business.”
“The lack of networking in person is the biggest difference,” said author Cara Zelas. “Meeting new people over technology isn’t ideal for spontaneous connections. I look forward to in-person events, hopefully soon.”
#2 Work/Life Balance
One of the most common challenges has always been work/life balance. The lines are blurred when you work from home, and kids live in your workspace.
“There have been weekends when my co-manufacturer has decided to do a run, and as the only employee at my company, I have to be there to oversee it,” Emily Groden, Founder & CEO of Evergreen told Parentology. “Even on weekends when I don’t have to physically be ‘in the office,’ it’s hard to fully ‘turn off’ when I care so deeply about my business. As much as possible, I try to leave my phone in another room or out of reach so I’m not tempted to check it when I’m spending precious time with my family.”
#3 Making Key Connections
How are entrepreneur moms dealing with the networking part of the job, given that lockdowns have paused face to face meetings?
Slack communities and Facebook groups seem to be momentarily filling that gap. There are also groups like Heymama, where women can meet virtually and trade notes. Even the women’s coworking space, The Wing, which shut down all spaces during COVID, seems to be launching a digital community for professional women.
#4 Kid Care
Entrepreneur moms have the enviable flexibility to work from home, but not being able to hire a nanny or send the kids to school during the pandemic has made things almost impossible. It creates difficulties managing their children’s expectations, like having to draw boundaries between playtime and work.
“My daughter who was three at the time did not understand that Mommy had to work. She had all her regular demands and need for attention, while I was trying to do my day job,” said Lisha Bell, Sr. Product Manager at PayPal, and Dealflow lead for Pipeline Angels, a network of women investors that funds women entrepreneurs.
Some entrepreneurs were forced to quickly pivot to an alternative solution. Advertising and marketing pro Fionna Wright found one creative solution: “We recently decided to get a place with our cousins, another single mom and daughter duo, so the girls could be together and we could save money on rent and bills, since these are such uncertain times.”
#5 Emotional Well-Being
Moms are naturally worried about kids falling behind at school, or the effects of loneliness.
“My daughter is two years old and in a very important stage of her life where she should be learning to trust others and the world around her,” said Christina Kelmon, CEO and Co-Founder of beauty brand Belle en Argent. “I’m worried that the lack of social interaction could create a sense of mistrust of her surroundings.”
Innovating Family Solutions
Though this is a challenging time for these moms, successful entrepreneurs are also experts at creative solutions. Kelmon started incorporating lessons to family social time.
“We use FaceTime with family and friends,” she says. “My daughter actually learned her ABC’s Facetiming with her Grandma. It’s been a life saver.”
By keeping her phone away during non-work hours, Groden has found herself more fully present with her husband and daughter. “Personally, I’m a better mom, wife, and businesswoman if I’ve taken a short break during the day to squeeze in a quick workout or bake a recipe I’m excited about or take a long walk outside,” she says.
Kaitlin Soule, LMFT at Petaluma CBT — and entrepreneur mom herself — suggests moms create a plan that takes into account emotional and physical health.
“The most important thing we can do for our toddlers during these challenging times is to take care of our own mental and emotional health and access socially distanced connection as a family,” she suggested. “Actions caregivers can take range from facilitating Zoom sessions to creating a pod of one or two other families who agree to take similar safety precautions regarding COVID-19. Creating opportunities for safe social connection and physical play will help both adults and children get the human connection and experiences they need to thrive.”
There is no way of knowing the effects that the pandemic will have on working mom entrepreneurs, but one thing is certain: these women founders are facing these challenges the same way that they face challenges in their businesses — head on, and with ingenious creative solutions.