After giving birth to my first child, Lev, I wanted to transition out of working in the fashion industry. At that time I was in the NYC retail scene. I always thought I wanted to go into fashion, but I began seeing how the economy was changing so rapidly. I really wanted to start up my own thing that would be internet based, flexible, and better for being a mom — something that I could do on my own terms and in my own way. I always knew since I was young that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. After I had the baby, it felt like the perfect time to commit to a new project and figuring out what my business was going to be.
I read some advice that said: “If you are thinking about what kind of business you should go into, you should think about things that came easily to you as a child.” However, I had a very stressful childhood. I found that it was really hard for me to think back to the things that came easily to me because it was such a stressful time in my life. So that advice was profoundly unhelpful to me!
I did end up finding a piece of advice that was very helpful. Someone said, “If you look at your bookshelf, you will see what things you are interested in and it might be an indication of what your business could be about.” I remember looking at my bookshelf, at all my books, and everything fit into different categories…
One of the categories being this obsession I had with understanding cognitive science, understanding individual differences, and optimized learning experiences. I was really trying to figure out what did it mean to have the learning difference that I had, what did it mean to be dyslexic, and what did it mean to have my kind of brain and mind?
I went to school and had a background in cognitive science and psychology. I’m really interested in neuroscience, but I didn’t want to be stuck in a room all alone reading scientific journals. I wanted to be interacting with real-life people that were on the cutting edge of science. To me, this area also seemed like a really underdeveloped and unexplored niche.
So I started a blog. As I started blogging, right away I realized that I hated writing. Writing was very stressful for me. I knew that naturally I am very good at talking and interviewing. I really wanted to get to the core of that driving question that was underlying all my work, which was trying to understand dyslexia.
Then I started a YouTube show, which eventually led to a podcast, which eventually ended up on an iTunes education list as the top #29 education podcast. After doing the podcast for a while, I kept getting emails from others that said: “I love your show so much, can we Skype? Can you help me with what’s going on with my family? Can you help me with my child?” As this continually happened, it morphed into a consultancy. Listening to the needs of the community helped me realize there was this huge gaping hole for supporting parents who are supporting children that are dealing with learning differences and the emotional ramifications of not being in an environment that is supporting their strengths.
I am the child of an entrepreneur — my dad was a very successful business owner. He really modeled entrepreneurship for me starting at a very young age. Because I struggled a lot in school, this was a lifeboat for me. It helped me realize that I can always generate success in my life and I don’t need to wait for someone to choose me. I realized that if I got a good job, it was up to me to deliver.
I am married and have two children, a 4-year-old boy, and a 1-year-old boy.
The biggest challenge has been coming to terms with owning my story and claiming my own experiences as a mirror to talk about things that are going on in millions of families around the world. It was difficult for me in the beginning because it felt like it came off whiny or melodramatic or like I was unhappy with my life.
Eventually I realized that if I was judging my own experience and judging my own pain and thinking things like “Well, it really wasn’t so bad; at least I had more opportunities that others didn’t have,” then ultimately what I was doing was judging the community and the pain I was trying to service. I had to fully embrace and acknowledge and feel comfortable talking about my own experiences and have the internal sense of compassion for what I have been through in order to really hold a compassionate space for everyone else in the community.
Something else I struggle with is figuring out how to transition between boss-mode, executive-mode, mom-mode and wife-mode, and having a fluid transition between these spaces. I am also working on understanding that some transitionary time is necessary. For example, having a 30-minute buffer between work and home so that I can shift energy.
Motherhood very profoundly influences both my businesses. A big part of my journey in being a business owner has been learning how to navigate the balance and the tension between home life and business; learning how to allocate my resources in a way that neither feels depleted and both feel attended to. Some of the hardest moments in my business have been the moments where I have had to go take a nap because otherwise other parts of my life would suffer. Every part of my identity and my desire for success really wanted me to keep going. I had to get in touch with an inner sense of strength that put my family first.
Of course with my business, because I deal with parenting and supporting parents, my own experience with parenting helps tremendously, but I think generally it also helps because it gives me an opportunity to step away from the business. I can get out of my own head and preoccupation with success and the business and pushing and growing. Motherhood allows me to escape and to have a life that is more dynamic than just my business. Motherhood ultimately ends up feeding my business in a very powerful way.
There has been a lot of research on top performers in their field. For example, Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology, found that most people do their best, deliberate work on their craft for about four hours a day. Their work tends to dwindle out after that. So because I have a life that pulls me out of the office, I can step away and not be wrestling with the guilt of “Should I be doing more?”. I think ultimately there is diminishing return on your efforts after a certain point, but if you switch to a new domain, for example parenting, you can add so much more to your life. To sum it up, I feel that by switching gears from business to motherhood each day, l I gain so much more in my life.
Stay in the game and keep showing up. We all overestimate how much can get done in a week and underestimate how much can get done in a year, or five or 10! Slow and steady always wins so don’t burn yourself out in the beginning. Get really clear on why you are doing what you are doing and how you want to feel doing it.
I think very often people go into motherhood expecting it to be extremely difficult physically, like they are going to be tired and run down, and it’ll be a big financial burden. But they underestimated how completely disorienting it is psychologically, for example: attaching to a new being, sharing your space, and being present. Being a mom brings up a lot of those psychological issues.
I think new moms should know that motherhood will be a tremendous psychological journey and will push both your physical and psychological abilities, like how long you will be able to stay up a few nights in a row. Expecting this journey on both fronts is helpful. Surrounding yourself with people that have been through it is extremely helpful. Making sure that your cup is always full is fundamental. You cannot give and you cannot fully be there for your children if your needs are not being met. So getting super clear on the ways you like to feel, knowing what are the things missing in your life, and finding creative ways to get those needs filled is paramount.
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Elisheva Schwartz is a dyslexia researcher, mother, wife, intelligence re-define-er and podcast host. She’s on a mission to decode the dyslexic mind and empower the dyslexic community to fully understand both the strengths and the difficulties of the processing style. These days, Elisheva travels the world to talk about learning differences, dyslexia, and self-esteem; has a podcast ranked number 29 on the iTunes category in Education; and a thriving online business (as well as two adorable children and a husband). Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
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