There are a few things in life that are guaranteed:
1) Your body and mind will change after having kids
2) You will feel mom guilt at some point in your child's life
The first thing, although it takes some time, can be managed relatively easily. Exercise, eat well, sleep well and take some time for you.
The later part, the mom guilt, is something that despite all efforts will find its way into your life whether you feel like you deserve it or not. There are many reasons behind this; conditioning (how you were raised and your parent's expectations of how you will parent), pressure from friends and your community, social media, outdated norms, discriminating laws and rules around going back to work, mat leave, and so on.
To overcome mom guilt takes discipline, self-awareness, and letting go. And this is just what Trivinia Barber has done in letting go of her mom guilt while raising her four daughters and growing a business
1. What do you do?
I’m the founder of a company called Priority VA, where we help entrepreneurs find their secret weapon Executive Assistant and get their time back. I’m also a mom of four daughters, a wife of 18 years to my husband Chris and a scuba diving junkie.
2. What's your zone of genius?
I used to say that my zone of genius was finding the right fit for someone, but I believe more than ever that my zone of genius is asking hard questions. Typically it’s those answers that help me find the right fit assistant for someone. I read a book once that said we need to ask the question behind the question, and I try to always do that.
3. How do you manage running a business and raising a family?
I live by the mantra “Don’t do it alone”.
Whether it’s in my faith, my parenting, or running my business, gone are the days when I think I need to be a martyr and make every lunch, trim every rose bush, answer every email or fold every sock that comes out of the laundry.
I had to come to a place where I realized that I needed mentors to help me talk through difficult life or business decisions, and I had to ‘yell uncle’ to get the help I needed.
I’ve enlisted help in the form of house keepers or nanny’s at different periods in my life that required more of me when I was actively scaling the business, and at other times, like this season, I’m doing most of the “house stuff”, myself.
I have a wide age range of children (6-16), and right now, I need to be heavily involved in a lot of the things they are dealing with, so that means that in our business, I needed to find and hire the right team to take over important pieces there, so I can be in “mom mode” more often in this season. I’ve been joking lately that I need maternity leave now that I have tweens and teens, than I ever did when they were in diapers! I know that will shift again at some point, but for now, I’ll fold my own laundry (or have the kids help), so I can put our resources into the business that will allow me afternoons off work to be there when my teenager needs to vent about her boyfriend).
“I think every working mom probably feels the same thing: You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible—oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.”—Tina Fey
4. How do you overcome the feeling of guilt of being a mom and entrepreneur? Or how have you overcome this?
I don’t know that I’ve overcome the guilt at all. But I can confidently say that it’s gotten way better in the past year or so. One way to help overcome the guilt is by realizing that all kids, the rich ones and poor ones, the ones with present parents and absent ones, those with divorced or married for 60 years kids, ALL have junk they wish their folks would have done differently. We will scar our kids. They will have some wound that we wish we could have prevented by making a different choice. The goal for me, in this time of my life, is to be sure that I’m making my time count. So, if it’s 15 minutes in the car on the way to church group, I am engaging them in conversation. I’ve got out of bed a little earlier so I’m less cranky when they wake up if I’ve not had my coffee. I am proactively engaging them in the littlest of moments and I’m realizing that they are more understanding of the times when I need to be gone for a work trip… because I’ve finally stopped working 24/7 and telling them to “shhh” because I was on a work call, or needed to think to answer an email. Creating boundaries has been the absolute best thing I could have done for our family. I end my day at 3pm. I do not work while my kids are awake after school. For me, that meant moving to a tiny town 3000 miles from home, where I have a “work cottage” on our property. That 100 yard walk back home after work is the transition I need to go from CEO to mom and wife. It’s literally been life changing. That 100 yards strips away the guilt I used to be buried under.
5. Do you have any tips for moms who are new to entrepreneurship?
The best advice I can give (that I wish someone would have told me), is that this IS hard. It doesn’t HAVE to be so hard, but in our pursuit of ‘making it’, we can oftentimes create massive obstacles for ourselves that are challenging to untangle. Your best case scenario should be your first line of defense. What do I mean by that? If your best case scenario is that you start your day at 9 am, then why do you wake up at 4am and grind all day long into the night? We can unintentionally create a culture of overworking ourselves long before we ever have a business or a team. Create the culture you want for your life from the beginning, so you don’t have to “undo” all the habits you created while ‘hustling’. It’s hard, because we’ve made a religion out of being busy. If you can really embrace the fact that entrepreneurship is your opportunity to create the life you want, then work hard to create it from the beginning. I said I could “work like this” (14 hour days, 6-7 days a week), for one year. Four years later, I’d lost the heart of my kids… and myself. I had a great business, but at what cost? Design your business to give you the life you want, instead of building a business that designs a life you may regret.
"The phrase, 'working mother,' is redundant."— Jane Sellman
6. Anything else you could add?
I’d add simply that I believe there is a fine line between giving ourselves grace, and speaking the hard truth to ourselves that we might not want to hear. I didn’t want to hear (and would argue), that I was hurting my family by working so much. I was convinced I was doing this for them, and that it was worth it to provide them the Adidas I couldn’t have when I was a kid. While I agree that I was working to build something that would support them, I had a deep misunderstanding that I was also building a wedge between us. It didn’t matter if we had financial security. If my 10 year old didn’t have a mom to turn to when someone made fun of her buck teeth at school, then none of it matters. If you’re struggling to build a business, without losing your family or yourself in the process, I implore you. Get a coach, a mentor, or a friend that will speak truth to you, help you reimaging your business in a new way so that you don’t have to give up your passion for business to fulfill your role as a parent. It’s hard. It takes discipline and hard work, an intentionality that we don’t want to admit we need sometimes, but stepping back to evaluate what success really looks like, and the impact your business might have or is having on your family, might be the very thing that saves both of them.
About Trivinia Barber
Trivinia is the founder of Priority VA <— special bonus offer for my readers! --where she matches speakers, authors, entrepreneurs, podcasters and bloggers with high-quality virtual assistants so they can focus on what they do best.
The mother to four girls, married to an incredible man for 18 years, and a kick ass entrepreneur.
Her podcast Diary of a Doer is a must subscribe!
Header image: George Domouchtsidis