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How Can a Working Mother Be Successful These Days? 6 Strategies for Success as an Entrepreneur and Parent In a perfect world, being a parent and being a business owner wouldn't conflict with each other. But the world is far from perfect, so this busy mother of five had to reenvision and redefine what it means to her to succeed in her two most important roles.

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Like most things in life, being both an entrepreneur and a parent is a delicate balancing act. It would be wonderful if the demands of business and family life could coexist harmoniously, but they collide more often than I'd like.

I used to think "success" in business meant a swanky office that would impress clients, stress-free multiyear contracts, a fat bank account and year-over-year growth. I had similar naive notions of what it meant to be a successful parent: reliable naptimes, lunch boxes packed with healthy, homemade treats, show-off-worthy report cards and always-happy kids.

But now that I've been juggling both roles for well over a decade, I've come to accept the realities of my real life, not an imagined, inaccessible existence in which I can always give 100% of myself to both my family and my PR firm. In the process, my concept of success has changed according to a new set of standards.

"Success" is a big word, laden with myriad expectations. But after much trial and error and careful consideration, I've come up with manageable and achievable goals that keep me on the road to success. See if these strategies work for you, too, in both entrepreneurship and parenthood.

Success Goal #1 — Acknowledge and validate your feelings.

First, you must identify your feelings about how your life is going — stressed? contentment? dissatisfaction? overwhelmed? confident? — and then simply accept that those are your true feelings at this time. When you allow yourself the thoughts and feelings you have instead of trying to tamp them down or deny them, you permit yourself to be a fully feeling, multifaceted human being. You validate who you are and what you're trying to accomplish, even amid all the hurdles you're facing and the flaws you inevitably possess.

This first, basic step alone — which amounts to practicing self-compassion: just letting yourself feel what you feel and not making yourself "wrong" for it — creates space to breathe more freely and perform your duties more effectively.

Success Goal #2 — Replace 'parental guilt' with 'parental responsibility.'

"Mommy, you work too much."

It tugs at the heartstrings and can trigger a wave of guilt that unsettles even the most driven of business owners. I've experienced a lot of parental guilt over the years, and so I had to find a way to deal with it without sweeping it under the rug, where I'd just trip on it on my way to a successful business.

In my case, I have five kids ranging in age from 4 to 15. They have a lot of needs — and that's exactly what I use to turn my parental guilt into parental responsibility. At different times, under various circumstances, I've explained to them that just like they have needs and wants, so do I.

I use age-appropriate analogies for my younger ones: "You know how you have to do your homework to get through third grade so you can graduate to fourth? Well, I have homework I have to do in my office right now, too, so I can get through my day and then come join you for dinner and game night." Or "You know how you have to clean up your room to earn your allowance this week? I need to clean up my inbox so I can make it to your track meet this afternoon."

For my older ones, I'm not above admitting that I take advantage of their consumer desires. The new phone they covet, the summer camp they want to attend, cash for Friday night with their friends, the designer kicks they just have to have … They're old enough to understand that money is what supplies all that, so they're remarkably forgiving when I have to go make a living to provide the quality of life they want.

Basically, there is now an understanding in my household that what I'm doing when I'm away from my kids is securing the life we want as a family through dedication to a profession I relish. I am responsible for creating the family I want; thus, I have every right to be fully present and committed to the work that makes our lifestyle possible.

Success Goal #3 — Recognize the shared, common struggle of working parents.

Navigating the intersection of entrepreneurship and parenthood is a continuous journey marked by challenges and triumphs. It's hard. It's demanding. It's also incredibly rewarding when you manage to pull off a win-win.

But you often have to make difficult decisions, either/or choices you'd prefer to avoid. It's the same for all of us. We're all doing the best we can to cope with competing tensions. Personally, I take great comfort in knowing I'm not alone in this, in recognizing that virtually every working parent the world over is grappling with this dichotomy. You are not alone. Learn from other parents and share with other parents.

Success Goal #4 — Reevaluate priorities.

Another step I took in redefining success for myself was taking inventory of what I value most. I came up with priorities like quality time over quantity of time with family, keeping my client list vibrant and interesting to me (not just growth for growth's sake) and earning a certain amount each year to enable future life goals (college tuition, annual vacations, retirement, etc.).

Here's what I recommend to devise your own list of priorities to help you define your own version of success:

  1. Reflect on personal and professional goals; write them down and rank them in order of importance.
  2. Identify nonnegotiable family commitments; incorporate them into your schedule, no exceptions.
  3. Set realistic expectations for both work and parenting based on steps 1 and 2. When you meet those expectations, celebrate yourself!

Success Goal #5 — Establish boundaries.

You'll likely need to draw some hard lines in the sand to stick to your identified priorities, demarcating clear work hours versus family time. That means delegating whatever you can to your staff and time-blocking your daily tasks. It also means communicating your boundaries to clients, colleagues, friends and family. They can't get on board if they don't know the game's new rules.

Remember what I said about discovering the value of quality over quantity time with my children? Being in the same space with them for six hours while I ignore them on my laptop is not better than spending one solid hour with them baking cupcakes. They've told me that, and I've learned that. So set boundaries and stick to them — it will keep your lanes to success in line.

Success Goal #6 — Embrace flexibility.

Lastly, take the wiggle room when you unexpectedly encounter some, and create some when necessary for your mental well-being. Yes, we all have an online schedule, a daily to-do list, reminders and notifications constantly buzzing on our screens. But meetings and calls are delayed all the time, soccer practices get rained out.

Take advantage of the things that can bend. Use found time wisely. Push things that can wait and let go of things that were never necessary in the first place. A successful day for me is when I ticked off all I had to do and yet still found time to squeeze in something I wanted, like completing a jigsaw puzzle on the floor with my kid.

These are some ways I maneuver the complexities of motherhood and business ownership. Make them your own as you work to find an integrated, sustainable balance that allows you to pursue your professional ambitions without sacrificing precious moments with your children. It doesn't have to be a perfect balance; it's just about finding a rhythm that beats in time with your family. As we muscle through our multiple roles each day, the composite of our lives can become more prosperous and more fulfilling as we continue to grow stronger and more resilient in the effort.

Emily Reynolds Bergh

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder at R Public Relations Firm

Emily Reynolds Bergh — vintage-shoe hoarder, cycling junkie, & lover of pink drinks — is a marketing & PR pro with 15+ years of experience under her belt. Now the founder & owner of the award-winning R Public Relations based in New York, she’s been featured in numerous publications & podcasts.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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