Monday, April 15, 2013

Am I a Mom or a Businesswoman?

For more than a decade, I lost sight of who I was meant to be.  Ironically, I lost sight of who I was as a result of trying to be the best mom I could be.  After my divorce, which happened when Natalie was a mere 3 years old, I had to go back to work full time.  I don’t mind work; in fact, I’m basically a work-a-holic.  Work helped keep my mind off feeling sorry for myself, and it brought in a much-needed income.  I also had a job I enjoyed; it was challenging and sociable, and used many of my talents.  However, what didn’t function was the fact that I couldn’t make my own schedule, take time off if there was an event at Natalie’s school or if she was sick or if I wanted to pick her up when I felt like it, instead of whenever my work schedule allowed.  My main goal was to be the best mom I could be, to get Natalie to soccer practice or piano lessons or playdates or birthday parties, on time and not in a frenzy.  Make creative dinners and do fun things together.  My work life was putting a cramp on all these things.  So I decided to do what any Boulderite would do: no, not yoga, but I began soul searching.  Pounding the pavement each day, beckoning the spirits to help me find an alternative path.  A path that would allow me the flexibility to be the mom I wanted to be.

One sunny day, walking down the street, I had an epiphany that I could start a granola company.  What’s that?  Start a granola company?  Yes.  After all, I did know how to make really great granola.  I had been eating it since I was 5 and baking it since I was 14.  Did I have a business background?  NO.  Did I know what a business plan was?  NO.  Did I understand what a feasibility study was?  NO.  Did I know what a marketing plan was?  NO.  Did I have a bakery I could use?  NO.  Was I familiar with other granolas on the market?  NO.  Did I have money to start a company?  NO.  Did I have a logo?  NO.  Did I have a website?  NO.  Did I have ideas for packaging?  NO.  Did I understand pricing?  NO.  Did I have a source for raw ingredients?  NO.    More importantly, could I sleep after this idea popped into my head?     NO.   Was I obsessed?    YES.  Would owning my own company allow me flexible hours?  YES.  Would being my own boss allow me to schedule my days as I saw fit?  YES.  Would I be more available to Natalie?    I THOUGHT SO. 

As it turned out, my granola business became my life, my identity, my livelihood.  The mom I was supposed to be got lost in the demands of production, distribution, hiring and firing, expansion, building out a bakery, dealing with unscrupulous business partners, racing around from store to store, falling into bed exhausted each night, functioning on 5 hours of sleep for years on end, and participating in countless food demos and health fairs and farmers markets and educational events.  Getting Natalie to soccer practice on time was supposed to get easier.   It didn’t.  Getting her to birthday parties on time was supposed to be effortless.   It wasn’t.  Creative dinners ended up burritos and spaghetti.  Really creative.  School events were a treat, but in the back of my head was all the work I should be doing at the moment.      

Through it all, I tried my best to make life fun for us.  Natalie grew up at the Boulder Farmers Market and really enjoyed it.  She spent lots of time in the bakery with her pile of books, cheerfully settling in on top of the 50. lb. bags of oats and sesame seeds.  She loved to help out with anything I allowed her to do.  She became a fixture at Whole Foods, adored by all, and made welcome by managers who offered her their couch while I did my deliveries.  We did have some fun, and I did my best to hide the stress from her. 

Finding self-forgiveness for not being as present as I should have been, and for making too many sacrifices for the good of the business, has been a process for me.  That I didn’t offer Natalie more of a carefree childhood, one with less frenzy and fewer demands on my time, is a hard pill to swallow. The decision to sell my company was in large part due to these reasons.  I know I can be proud for the success of my business.  But I also know the sacrifices that were made to get there.  It’s bittersweet, to be sure.

Some of the innocence of childhood was taken away from Natalie, yet she has always been a mature, insightful, and precocious child.  But did these attributes come at too high a cost?  She is also a fun-loving, friendly, happy, and delightful person.  So in the end, did she gain more than she lost?  Maybe I’ll never know.  Whatever the answer, I’m now taking time off work.  I’m home when Natalie gets home from school.  I get her to ballet, to appointments, to parties, on time and not in a frenzy.  I’m embarking on more creative cooking and suggesting enjoyable activities we can share.  She’s grown up so fast, right before my eyes.  With what little time we have left together, I plan to remember who I am and what my priorities are. 

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