The conflict between work and life is here to stay, as are a myriad of suggestions for resolving that conflict. What these solutions all have in common is the goal of “balance.” That word sounds even-handed, but it rarely works out that way in real life. Unfortunately for most American employees, striving for work-life “balance” still means work wins, at least if you want to thrive in your career.
Current surveys show that the American workforce is increasingly dissatisfied with this state of affairs. Rather than continue to sacrifice their personal and family lives, millennials (both men and women) are choosing not to lean in, but to walk away. They’re going to new companies that offer genuine flexibility along with career advancement, or they’re choosing to become freelance workers or small business owners. In fact, it’s estimated that 40 percent of U.S. workers will be freelance/independent by 2020.
Opting Out of the Career Balancing Act
I am one of those millennials. After I had my son, I had to make a choice. While I was ready to fully embrace my new role as a mother, I didn’t want to fully abandon my career.
I had worked hard (too hard, maybe) to climb the corporate ladder, and while I no longer cared about getting to the next rung, I fully intended to keep using the skills I’d gained.
Plus, I was in the same boat as more than 40 percent of mothers in this country who are the sole or primary source of income for their families. When I started my career, I followed my bliss and all the carrots that were dangled in front of me. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. We relied on my income after I got married, and I was fine with that. But I didn’t realize what it would mean later. After I had my son, I didn’t have the choice to not work.
But I also could no longer work in an industry or for organizations that didn’t understand the commitment that parenthood requires.
For me and so many other parents, entrepreneurship is a natural path for channeling our professional energies into something we care about—while preserving energy for the people we care about.
Still, without proper support, “parentpreneurs” (primarily women) will continue to struggle to take their businesses to the next level. The National Women’s Business Council points out that the growth rate of “women-owned businesses is almost four times the rate of men-owned businesses.” The vast majority of these businesses are sole proprietorships. But despite the explosive growth of female entrepreneurship, something is keeping women from achieving more. That same NWBC report notes that only “1.8 percent of women’s businesses scale successfully past the $1 million dollar revenue mark (versus 6.3 percent for men).”
Is it that women business owners aren’t as educated or smart as their male counterparts? Or could it be that those women who are moms are opting out of high-growth, high-revenue entrepreneurship to tend to their families in the same way that women are opting out of high-echelon positions in corporate America?
I believe that high-growth, high-echelon businesses, and strong connected families no longer need to be mutually exclusive. There is a better (more holistic) way. I refuse to choose between work and family. I choose both, and I’m not the only one.
Integration: the Third Option
Parentpreneurs across the country are trying something new. We are choosing to see our family and personal lives as an asset to our careers, not a liability. We are integrating every facet of ourselves into our work life where we can, and we are choosing to work with companies and clients who acknowledge us as whole human beings, not one-dimensional business professionals.
But this can be a lonely path. Few opt to make this choice, and even fewer understand it. Every parentpreneur I talk with reports feeling like a misfit, misunderstood by working parents and stay-at-home parents alike.
With some like-minded partners, I’ve launched the MORE Movement to bring these innovative parentpreneurs together so we can share best practices, support one another, and feel more connected. MORE Movement is for anyone who refuses to choose between work and personal life, who insists there’s a third option, and who believes they really can do MORE.
We invite you to join us. We’re holding our inaugural family-friendly business retreat this July in Arizona, where we’re demonstrating how we really can integrate family with business development. I’d love to see you there!