While on a entrepreneurial retreat with my husband and three children, I waited for the questions that always come. Those questions that come when you are a mom running a family, but also running an entrepreneurial life.
You know those questions….
“Do you work?”
“What do you do in your business?”
“Do you run the business with your husband?”
“Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you do something else?”
“Yes. And NO.” I say.
It’s the all-in, in-between place.
How do you describe the all-in, in-between space in life? The one that doesn’t have one title but that holds a significant place.
It makes me squirm a little everytime I get those questions.
Then, one night on this retreat, I found myself at dinner at a long wood-carved table that sat 40 people. Folks with extraordinary life stories and businesses. Sitting next to me was an amazing woman named Natalie MacNeil. She has a beautiful view on entrepreneurship and contribution. She didn’t ask me any of those questions.
Instead, she asked me, “How do you help people? How do you want to help people?”
And I lit up, because that’s the question I could answer, and grow from.
The truth is “What do you do?” stumps lots of folks. Not just moms. Not just entrepreneurial moms.
For the mom with no title or the CEO with a title in all capital letters, there is a shared understanding. There is more to a person than what fits on the space of a business card.
A business title might trap us into a rigidity of role that doesn’t fill all that we are. For a mom like me with other pursuits but without a title that is easily summed up, it can feel untethered. Being in that space for a long time. The one of not having “the one thing” you do that is simple to describe. The thing outside motherhood that is the dream not yet manifested. Or that you don’t yet get a paycheck for. Trying to explain that place has made me feel phony. Unrealized. Unseen.
Then I remember that is my own BS. Of feeling I need to fill in that space, or beef it up to check all the boxes of outward success. I often look for a role to armor me during those times, instead of just being in that space of discovery and appreciation for the script I am writing for myself.
So, how do I fill that human need for appreciation, clarity and acknowledgment of what I do?
I have to give it to myself first. I have to ask for the words of love and appreciation when I need them and don’t hear them enough. I have to write daily down what matters to me, what gets in the way and where I vision going. I have to surround myself with people that get this life and get me. I have to do the things I love and find meaningful even if those things don’t yield immediate gratification sometimes. Like raising children. Or writing. Or going through the hurdles of raising a business family.
Most of all, I have gratitude for the blessing of having the choice to have blank space on a business card that I get to fill in each step of the way.
Roles can armor us. They can tether us. And they can also bind us from experiencing all that we are here to be.
In that conversation with Natalie, I stopped sweating how to describe my title for a second.
“How do you help people?” she asked me.
These are questions I know the answers to.
I help my kids know who they are and feel loved & honored in their skin.
I encourage and stand by my husband and his team at Simpler Trading to help people invest in themselves.
I support my family and friends in dreaming big and pushing through the adversity that comes along the way.
I offer sacred, beautiful spaces for families and friends to breathe and reconnect at my AirBNB’s.
I help families be brave explorers in learning and life again by sharing our own experiments and stories.
And thank God for the friends that help me. They help me in creating a circle of support that gives me wings and sanity. They give me the freedom to be Maria, not a title.
Right now, my family is my business. My three beautiful children, my awesome husband, AND me. As a mom, I often mess it up. As a family, sometimes we mess up. But from the mess-ups, we take the brave steps into the scary but magical spaces one at a time.
I don’t have a single business card. I am not sitting at the conference room and the presentation tables I did ten years ago. Some days I miss it. Some days I don’t.
Right now, the dinner table is my table. The picnic tables are my tables. The car I travel in with my 13-year old son wrapped in long discussions is my business meeting. The bleacher my sister watches her daughter play softball from is her board seat. The yoga floor my dear friend T restores bodies and minds from is her Chief Executive Offering. If you are a mother, you are birthing and raising the children that will be sitting at those tables.
Today. My writing desk. That is my table.
Our presence as mothers and leaders and compassionate humans at whatever table we find ourselves in to help ourselves and help others. That matters.
The work tables just look awesomely diverse now. May you take a seat proudly at your table.
Resource Links: Natalie MacNeil has an excellent video on this topic at her website, “She Takes on The World.” If you want to hear Natalie’s strategy on how to explain what you do to a 10-year old or at a business function, you can check it out here.
For an interesting take on the in-between spaces in life from an Astro physicist, Jedidah Isler, listen to the first 3 minutes of this TED talk.
Hint: Those spaces are usually where the magic happens in the universe.
Family Photo courtesy of Alex Kane, Photographer & Videographer.