On “mumpreneurs” and other labels

I read a lot of business writing and recently the term mumpreneur (mompreneur in the USA) seems to have become popular, increasingly being used to describe any female who manages the amazing feet of running a business having reproduced at some point in the past. I had a mini-rant about this on Twitter, and was happy to discover it wasn’t just me who thought this term unnecessary at best, patronising at worst.

If you define yourself as a mumpreneur, why do you do that? It seems to be implying limits for your business from the outset. Limits on how serious you are as a businessperson, how large your company will be, the hours you might work. I know many men who manage to run businesses while still doing a large share or all of the childcare for young children, they are not labeling themselves dadpreneurs. They are men who run businesses and are also dads. Their children may well define the hours they work and what they can do at the moment but they don’t seem to need to label it in the way women often do.

I started my company as a single mother, with a daughter who was only in pre-school in the mornings. I supported myself and my daughter financially from day 1. I made no secret of the fact I was a mother although many of my clients would probably have be surprised at how much of their work I completed late at night once my daughter was in bed. However my status as a mother or as a woman has not defined my business. Equally relevant are my personal values, the things I think important and the other facets of my life. My only recently overcome fear of public speaking has probably been more relevant than anything else in the opportunities I have and haven’t taken up as a business owner.

The thing is, even if your reality at this moment is that you are a mother of small children who need you, this will change. Your reality today is that you can only work between 9am and 3pm and a bit in the evening, your reality is worrying about schools and not going to meetings with milk stains on your shirt, this will change. In the blink of an eye it will change and you’ll have self-sufficient teenagers whose main concern is if you will pick them up from a friend’s house on Saturday morning. Will you want to be defined as having some sort of mummy business when your kids are big enough to take care of themselves? Will you be able to change that label you assigned to yourself and your business then?

Shaping business or work around family or anything else is a great idea. Making choices – such as that you are going to try and always be there after school for your children – is excellent. Labeling oneself, especially in a way that implies limits, does not seem such a great idea as especially where family life is concerned things change very quickly and we change too.

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