Sometimes you have this burning desire in your heart to create something, to start something. But then motherhood says, “No, not now.” Motherhood shows you that despite being ambitious about your desire, this season is not the right time.
Because I am ambitious about a lot of things. I want and need to have something outside of my role as a mom. But ultimately, I have to choose to do things that are the best for my family, and sometimes that means all the ambition in the world is not going to help me.
That is the motherhood struggle, finding something that allows you to follow your dreams and passions but also allows you to know your family is taken care of.
I co-hosted a podcast for 18 months. For the first 12 months, we brought in exactly zero dollars each month, but worked on the show anywhere from 20-50 hours each month. (And we can’t forget the six months leading up to the launch, where we worked on the show every free moment we had outside of each of us working 50 hours a week at our actual jobs.)
I was ambitious about that podcast. I had an insatiable desire for that show to be a success and to generate money.
The show launched in February 2015. In March 2015, after five years of riding an infertility rollercoaster, I found out I was pregnant.
I spend the first year of the podcast being pregnant and sick. So sick that I had to take a leave of absence from my paying job. But I kept powering through with the podcast. I didn’t want it to fail. I wanted it to be a success. My ambition for that podcast was probably the highest it has ever been in my whole life.
I have never thrown myself into something as deeply as I did with that show.
As we entered year two of the show, I felt like I had two babies: my actual daughter, and the podcast. The podcast gave me an outlet, a purpose outside of diapers and bottles. And the show could be considered a success. It had a large, loyal audience. It was growing each month. We were being recognized by our peers.
I was paying for my sister to watch my daughter two days a week. We were paying for a VA to do some of the admin work. We were paying someone to edit one of our two weekly episodes. We were paying for all of this out of our own pockets.
We eventually had sponsors for the show. This money paid for our VA, our editing and the normal monthly bills of a business, but it still didn’t pay us — or my child care fees. I was essentially paying for people to listen to our show.
If my ambition for that podcast was graded, I would get an A-. But ambition doesn’t pay the bills.
I think we can mistake ambition for actual hard work. We can desire to do something. We can know this something will require work. Yet someone can be ambitious and never actually do the work. I also think we assume that if we are ambitious about something and do the hard work, it will be a success. But there is no guarantee.
My first 18 months of motherhood have been a major time of self-reflection for me. And I’ve realized that I’ve told myself a lie: that only being ambitious about motherhood isn’t enough.
And because of this, it feels like I am swimming against the currents in motherhood and in my business journey. I’m avoiding doing the hard work in motherhood, because there aren’t quarterly goals to set and try to meet. And if I’m being honest, I’m afraid if I focus all my ambition on motherhood and I fail, I’ll have no one to blame but myself. If I focus all my energy on working hard on a business and I struggle with motherhood, I can blame the struggle on the business.
My ambition can’t let go of my life before motherhood. My ambition hasn’t yet accepted that raising our next generation of children is hugely ambitious and requires work you never imagined and is a long, hard and also beautiful journey.
When seasoned moms tell you that the first few years will go by in a blink of an eye, they are not exaggerating. I am leaning into the fact that these baby and toddler years are fast. They zoom by, and you don’t get them back.
But guess what? My ambition, it’s always there. It won’t go away. My job now is to use it in a way that makes me happy and allows my family to flourish.
In a few short years when my daughter starts kindergarten, that ambition will still be there. I’ll be in a new season where I can channel that drive to be successful in business. The really hard part is accepting that maybe I won’t ever achieve business success. What if my ambition never leads me to a societal business success story?
I think motherhood is teaching me that that’s ok.
Ambition and motherhood get sticky because we often associate ambition with paid work. We associate achieving success as receiving work awards, work promotions, creating businesses, and being in hustle mode 24/7.
But “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work”? This could be the definition of motherhood. And it IS the definition of ambition.
To me, they are one in the same.
MotherHustle panelist Jen Hatzung is a business strategist + podcaster (podcast currently on hiatus) who lives in Norfolk, VA with her naval officer husband, toddler and dachshund. She can be found drinking copious amounts of coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) while making lists and strategizing when she can fit in her next run. She currently co-leads her local MOPS group, has her own direct sales business selling lipstick, and does the preschool/naptime hustle helping small business owners with their online engagement. If there is any time left in the day she has her nose in a book or watching HGTV. Find her on Instagram.
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