July 20, 2017

Not Code Words

A strange realization hit me recently. It appears I’ve gotten the reputation of being a stay at home mom. Fellow daycare moms have made that assumption, former colleagues have. At my dental checkup the dentist even said to me “well, at least you’re not working so you don’t have to worry about maternity leave” when I told him about my pregnancy.

I’ve always been open about my work at Sarah Tyler Data Sciences, and on Datayze. I’m not the best at self promotion, but I do talk about the major milestones I hit on social media. It seemed odd to think how common this misunderstanding of what I do was, but to be honest I have never really thought about this impression I’m giving others until today reading the story of another mom-turned-entrapuener.

This other entrapuener had worked on her side business for three years before leaving corporate world to turn her side business into her main business, all when her kids were very young. Despite the success she was having, many friends and family assumed her own business was just code words for being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and not wanting to admit it. In their eyes it was a vanity project, resume fodder to hide the fact she wasn’t working. Others in the comment section reported the same experience. Suddenly all those past interactions I had been having made sense.

To be honest I was more than a little annoyed. I have nothing against SAHMs, or corporate moms, or moms that somehow bridge the divide working from home and watching the kids, or moms working from mars for that matter. If you’ve found a formula that works for you – great! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But when you assume I’m not working, you’re assigning zero value to anything I produce. If Datayze is a vanity project, then by definition it only serves my vanity. All those hard long nights, all that effort, all worthless.

I realize this is partially a monster of my own making. I have been very open about the flexibility to divide my time between my business and my family the way I want to has been one of the perks I enjoy about this life. I’ve even mentioned how having datayze as “resume fodder” was reassuring, should Sarah Tyler Data Sciences go south and I need to return to corporate world. If you’re the time to believe “running my own business” is code for “not working”, I can see how I might appear to fit this mold.

Which begs the question: how do I combat this perception? Do I brag more about the successes? Humblebrag about how busy I am? Sharing the details of how much I’m earning probably isn’t helping but many startups and small businesses are not profitable for the first couple of years. That shouldn’t be held against me. Or do I point out the inherent stereotyping behind of this kind of assumption? That would probably offend the assumer. For that matter, for those who want to believe that a new mom’s self started business was just code words to hide being a SAHM, would anything I say actually dissuade them of that belief?

I guess undeniable success is the only way to go.

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