Teaching by Example

Mothers and daughters discuss the impact of entrepreneurship on their relationships.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As women entrepreneurs continue to make giant strides in business, they strive to be positive role models to their children, particularly their daughters. Here, two business owners and their daughters speak candidly about their relationships and how entrepreneurship fits in.

"When the school would call and tell me I had to pick [Laurel] up because she was sick, I sometimes had to set up a sleeping bag in my office for her to rest on until I could go home. She remembers these things as 'normal' and does not feel slighted, while I reflect upon them with a great deal of guilt," recounts Yvonne Tocquigny, 48, president of Tocquigny Advertising, Interactive and Marketing, a $5 million firm in Austin, Texas.

Growing up along with Tocquigny's 23-year-old company, her daughter, Laurel Pantin, "saw the struggle of my entrepreneurship as a limit to our freedom," Tocquigny says. "She saw me tired and worn down many times. But she also saw the positive side-the celebrations of our success, the parties in our home for employees, and the happiness it gave me when the business was working."

"Since I was a little girl, I have always imagined [my mother] as a superhero in a little black suit, taking on the problems of the office and stunning the clients with her superhuman creativity and intelligence," says Laurel, now 17. "[She] is a major role model to me because she was able to do everything she has done on her own."

"I try to be a [good] role model by living a life that demonstrates that anything is possible," says Marjorie Brody, 58-year-old founder of $2 million-plus Brody Communications Ltd., a business training and executive coaching firm in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. "As a single parent, [my daughter] saw that I was excited about what I was doing. And it afforded a lifestyle we would not have been able to afford otherwise. The downside was that she saw I was working a lot and was not always available to do the things she wanted to do."

"I have always imagined my mother as a superhero in a little black suit, taking on the problems of the office."

"I remember my mom talking about work all the time," says Brody's 28-year-old daughter, Julie Muchnick, an environmental consultant. "I remember her wanting to talk about projects, although I wasn't always interested!" Now that she is an adult, Muchnick has a greater appreciation of what her mother has accomplished. "I think she's awesome. I don't see her in everyday deals, but I see what she has created, and it is inspiring."

While both mothers and daughters describe their relationships as strong and positive, they are also open about the challenges. For Tocquigny, being too consumed by her business was a problem in the past, leading her to spend too little time connecting with her daughter. "I sometimes had a difficult time adjusting to the slower, gentler pace of home and was impatient and less nurturing than I should have been," she says. Tocquigny says having a business coach for the past year and a half has helped her better balance work and parenting.

Brody, for her part, admits her daughter may have been resentful of the time she spent nurturing younger employees at the business. And she acknowledges that she tends to "over-advise" Muchnick, who says, "[I wish she would] sit back a little more and let me live my life and make my own mistakes."

Though both daughters spent time helping out at their mothers' businesses, neither plans to work for her mother. "It's not that I don't want to be in the family business," says Muchnick, "but I've got to do what I've got to do-find my own passion." Perhaps that's the biggest lesson an entrepreneurial mother can pass on to her daughter.

Aliza Pilar Sherman (www.mediaegg.com) is an author, freelance writer and speaker specializing in women's issues.

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