This Mother's Day many of us will spend a bit of time reflecting on our own childhoods and the women who raised us.
My own mother, like many of her generation, completely gave up her career to raise her children. And like many of my own generation, I put off pursuing a career until our children were older.
And if statistics hold true, of today's women in the workforce who are on a career track, one out of every three will either pause or permanently drop out of her career once she becomes a mom.
Although 93 percent of these women have every intention of returning full time to their career, only one in four will ever do so, opting instead to not return to work or work part-time. Only 9 percent choose to become self-employed.
Here is why I think entrepreneurship should be a much higher percentage for mothers returning to the workforce.
As an entrepreneur, myself, who launched a company after spending almost two decades at home raising our children, I am well aware of the benefits and barriers of choosing the route of entrepreneurship as a mother.
In fact, when speaking at women's conferences, I've often joked that most women are overqualified as entrepreneurs because of the skills they've acquired as mothers.
I share that message at conferences because so many of us who took time away from careers to raise a family often are left feeling inadequate, underprepared, and uncertain about how to re-enter the workforce, much less launch and run a company.
But the truth is that parenthood can provide the ideal training ground for many of the soft skills needed to run a business.
Moms Have Survived Real and Imagined Terror
It still doesn't take much for my gnawing worry over one of our children not returning home on time or responding to a text or phone call for longer than expected for my imagination to run wild with every horrific scenario that might have happened. This experience is often similar to the 3 AM fears that strike every entrepreneur at one time or another. Learning to not believe or act on the darkest fears we have and to ride out the anxiety of uncertainty while pressing forward is one of the most important soft skills a founder of a company can have.
But just like parenthood, sometimes our fears are not imagined but because of a very real crisis or emergency.
But the reality is that the worst crisis we may encounter while running our own company will likely never come close to the sheer terror we experience when a child spikes a high fever or their lips begin to turn blue.
As parents and as entrepreneurs, we have to know how to hold our own terror at bay to focus on doing everything we can to mitigate any negative outcomes to the emergency at hand.
Moms Are Consummate Peace Brokers
I spent the first few years of entrepreneurship constantly second-guessing myself and believing I wasn't really qualified for it. But what I came to understand is that the skills I'd honed while negotiating with emotionally volatile, totally irrational and self-centric toddlers were the same skills I needed to address the wide variety of individuals involved with building a company
When our kids were little, we had a large throw-rug in the living room that soon become known as the "get-along rug". When squabbles escalated to unkind behavior, there was nothing quite so effective for bringing resolution to the problem as requiring that they sit on the rug holding hands until they were ready to work things out in a more civil fashion.
And while this method is definitely not recommended in the workplace, the same concepts and soft skills mothers perfect while negotiating peace with irrational toddlers can come in very handy when a de-escalation of emotions and anger in the workplace are required.
Moms Are Master Fundraisers and Organizers
When our first-grader's class was transferred to a brand new school mid-school year, the excitement of getting to be the first class in a new facility was soon replaced with the realization that there were no existing budgets for the school extras like field trips or art room supplies that are normally funded by parent volunteers. Within days, several mothers from the new school had formed their own PTA chapter, elected officers, formed committees, and assigned tasks to begin immediate fundraising. Within weeks, enough money had already been collected to provide classrooms with limited supplies and to fund the buses for field trips. I created a new school newsletter and negotiated sponsorships from local businesses to fund the printing costs to distribute the newsletter to the entire school community. The efforts I made as a mom to help out my son's new school turned out to be the very same skills I would need to raise venture capital for a startup.
This Mother's Day, while we are celebrating all that mothers have done for us, one of the best gifts we can give back is to support them in their endeavors to reenter the workforce in whatever way makes the most sense for their own lives. And for those who choose entrepreneurship, they are probably far more qualified than imagined.