Going from a stay-at-home mom: picking up carpools, volunteering at the schools, helping with homework, and cooking dinner; to a single mom starting her own business has been quite a transition for my girls and I. We have learned a lot over the last few years and continue to learn from the process and from each other. Being a mother was always something I wanted. When I first started getting allowance, I would take my money to the drugstore and buy diapers, so I could change my dolls’ diapers. However, as we all know, playing mom and BEING a mom are two totally different things. Being a mother has been the most rewarding and challenging things I have ever done. Never in a million years would I have thought I could get up, wrap a birthday present, put dinner in the crockpot (HUGE gold star right there!), clean the kitchen, wake up my girls, get them dressed, feed them breakfast, and take them to school, all before 7:30am!
A single mother takes mothering to a WHOLE. Other. Level. Starting a business while trying to raise people…well that leaves little time for anything else. So much so that, on weekends, I find myself just longing for long periods of quiet… In April 2016, I started my private practice, Sparrow Counseling. When people ask me how my business is going, I often use the analogy that it is like having a newborn baby. Sometimes it sleeps and you get much needed rest, or you get nervous because it is sleeping too long and you have to check on it, or the baby smiles at you and you are so excited! But, like a newborn, a new business needs your constant attention. You often go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it. Here are a few lessons I am learning as I raise people and start my business:
1. Be teachable
I love to learn. I was a high school teacher before becoming a mom. When I started looking into starting a private practice I realized I have a lot to learn. I did not have to reinvent the wheel. There were a lot of REALLY smart people out there who had already done this. So, I started listening to podcasts and reading books. Below is a list of some of my favorite private practice entrepreneurial resources:
- Practice of the Practice blog and videos – Joe Sanok.
- FREE Podcast and webinars for therapists in private practice.
- Kelly and Miranda’s Business Bootcamp.
- Michael Hyatt does a lot with setting goals.
- Maelisa Hall – qaprep.com. Helping private practice therapists with clinical documentation.
2. Be Balanced
I am not sure I know how to do this, but I am slowly learning. Some days are better than others. I struggle with “mother guilt”, often, if I am not available for my children when they need me. However, I also believe that it is OK for me NOT to be at their beck and call. They need to learn how to be self-reliant and independent. This summer was especially hard because it was the first summer I was working on my business and NOT a stay-at home mom. So I TRIED working from home in June. That did NOT work. We were all grouchy. July was better, because I set limits on myself and hired some help. My biggest problem with balance is that I can’t stop myself from working. There is always something to do – like another phone call, blog, email, book to read etc. So setting limits on my day helps me find balance.
- Set priorities – I decided not to travel this year and save money for my business.
- Create lists/goals – daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly for direction.
- Hire help – Babysitter, Virtual Assistant, etc.
- Set time out for goal setting and BIG picture reflection twice a year.
- Set aside regular play time with your kids.
- Let your village help you with raising your people. It is good for them to have a community helping with this task.
- Use a TIMER when sitting down to do tasks. This helps me set limits on my time with certain tasks
3. Be Economical
I had no idea the amount of money it took to start a business. I kept hearing, “you have to spend money to make money”. That has been true for me! Early on, a good friend told me that in the first year most businesses are lucky to break even, and I have found that to be true as well. The money aspect has been quite a rollercoaster for me – emotionally – as I try and figure out what is best to spend money on and what isn’t.
- Do your research before buying something for your practice. I’ve made several mistakes. I kept seeing shiny new toys for my business. Some toys were great others were an utter, EXPENSIVE disaster!
- Find people who have successful private practices and ask them what they use.
- Learn to say “No” to some things and “Maybe next year” to others.
4. Be flexible
Being flexible is critical and HARD, at least for me. I like a plan. Starting a business and being a single mom, though, requires flexibility. Often times, I have a plan of work I want to finish only to realize that one of my daughters needs help with homework or it is time to cook dinner. Also, there are constant interruptions. Thoughtfully raising people takes time. When my girls argue with each other, it takes time for me to put down my computer and engage with them in their disagreement about having integrity when you borrow clothes from each other. This is happening right now as I write this blog. Learning to be flexible is a skill I have tried developing in them since they were babies. Motherhood has definitely been my teacher of flexibility!
- Is it really that important?
- Think about the big picture instead of micromanaging the small details. What kind of mother/woman/entrepreneur do you want to be?
5. Be present
Being fully present is probably the hardest for me to do, when I am actively thinking about my list. In 2007, I had some time to really reflect at a retreat and come up with three words I wanted my life to say about me. I decided then I wanted to be whimsical and a woman of faith and rest. I want my family and friends to remember that I was restful and playful and not stressed out or out of control. Being fully present with my people helps me achieve that BIGGER goal for myself.
- Having an active, ongoing, thriving spiritual life with my God helps me stay connected to my bigger picture and goals in life.
- Spending time with my family and friends that call out the best pieces of myself helps me feel grounded.
Being a mother and starting a business has been incredibly exciting for me. I hope my girls not only see my hard work in building my business, but also realize that they can do hard things too. But, like having a child, building a business takes time, patience and energy. And, sometimes you need to put it to sleep, so you can rest too.
If you want more information about setting up a private practice contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Dungan, Med, ALC, NCC, Certified Parenting Coordinator, Divorce and Family Mediator (Domestic Violence Trained) has her private practice called Sparrow Counseling in Birmingham, AL. She specializes in Parenting Coordination, Co-Parenting Counseling and Divorce and Family Mediation. Her passion is helping parents learn how to become successful coparents, so their children can thrive after their divorce. Contact Sara at email@example.com.
Sara is an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) under the supervision of H. Hobart (Bart) Grooms, M. Div, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Supervising Counselor.