Earlier this year, I spent four days in New York City for a seminar about story (a topic near to my writer’s heart) by a well-known creative writing instructor. In many ways, it was wonderful.
But, on day one, right before break, the instructor flung these words out into the spacious theatre:
“If you want to be a real writer, you have to be willing to risk everything. Your biggest enemies are the ringing phone and the baby carriage in the hall.”
It was like the floor had opened up and I had fallen through. I couldn’t believe it. I looked around– was anyone else as outraged as I was? No. They were getting up to stretch or smoke or grab a snack as though nothing had happened.
I was mad. I’m getting mad again thinking about it.
These messages are everywhere. I am so, so weary of it. But also– it lights a fire under me.
I couldn’t hop on that stage and grab the mic to say it then, so I want to say it now:
Everything we want is possible. Not “in spite of” motherhood. Separate from it, because we are who we are. And also because of motherhood; it builds some amazing skills.
No one gets to decide what’s possible for us. We do. And the key here– the most important piece of the business and life we’re each in the process of creating for ourselves– is to take the time to define what success actually is to us, and to be willing to redefine that ideal as we go.
Do we want the big house, the nice cars, the annual tropical vacations and the country club membership? Maybe. And maybe we want the cozy little cottage, the road trip, the membership to our local CSA.
Do we want the international business with hundreds of employees, or are we happy working alone in our small-town studio?
Maybe we want to pick our kids up from school each day, or maybe we envision ourselves happily greeting them as they step off the bus each afternoon, or maybe we’re happy to make it home for family dinner most nights.
Maybe we want a big, loud, expansive life, and maybe we long for small, quiet, intimate living.
As I’ve watched the community of female entrepreneurs shift over the past few years, I’ve noticed we have started to believe that this amorphous view of success is true for other people– that it’s okay for your mastermind BFF to define success differently, or that big-time industry leader you follow on social media– but you’re somehow locked into defining your own success in a traditional way.
You might still hold on to the idea that in order to be successful, you need something to happen that proves to the world that you’re successful– and THEN you’ll go for your own quirky, feel-good version of success.
But do you even want that first version? Why not head right for the good stuff?
When we move forward with a goal that is true to who we really are and who we really want to be, we find the missing piece we’re looking for: the pursuit of success becomes fun. It becomes as much about the journey as the destination.
When we’re aligned with that vision of success, we’re excited to reach it, and along the way, the things we build are in service and honor and joy to what we really want, too.
We care about what we have but we care most about how it feels. There’s no more fake it to make it. There are no’s to balance out the yeses. There’s less push push push and more flow flow flow, because we’ve intentionally built in the time and space to take a walk, dance in the kitchen, tuck our kids into bed at night. It’s not either/or, it’s and/both.
In the world of entrepreneurship, there is a lot of talk about six- and seven-figure businesses as though that represents success, full stop. Certainly, that represents significant financial success, but it’s only part of the picture.
We are mothers, and our business vision has to take into account our vision for our life, and our vision for our life has to take our business into account.
You can soak up all the advice that’s ever been written about creating and growing a business, but in order for any of it to really work, you’re going to need to set it all aside, look yourself in the eye and say:
“What do I really want?”
Once you have that, you no longer need anyone else to define it for you; you can toss out the definitions that have bogged you down most of your adult life. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your version of success. It doesn’t even matter if a well-respected writing instructor stands on a New York City stage and tells you that you’ll need to put motherhood on the line if you want to achieve success.
After the instructor’s words faded, I wanted to storm the stage. I wanted to look him square in the eye and say, “Stacy Firth. Remember the name.”
I didn’t. I stepped out into the NYC sunshine and whispered two words that were both a challenge and a promise:
My own quiet words buoyed me. They weren’t for him. He might never understand the kind of success I’m after, the kind that may or may not include my name up in bright lights, but will most definitely include a joyful family that lights up my world. My words were for me, an affirmation to myself of what I know to be true:
We are magical, mamas, and if our dreams have an enemy, it’s not the baby carriage in the hall. It’s believing someone when they feed us that old line of bullshit.
MotherHustle panelist Stacy Firth is a writer and content strategist who helps moms who are small business owners and solopreneurs create online content that keeps it real. She also leads workshops that help mamas lead a lit-up life, and is mama to two. You can find her on her website or on Instagram at @stacyrfirth.
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