I was sitting on my patio this morning, savoring my precious moments of early morning silence and beauty, when I heard a little voice:
“Mom. Will you come in? I want to cuddle.”
There was my 6 year old, in his underwear, standing at the upstairs window.
I had spent a few minutes just soaking in the peace and loveliness with my coffee, and then I had checked messages and facebook posts and was just starting to look at my to do list for the day. So many boxes left unchecked. But I stopped.
“Yes sweetie. Of course I will come in and cuddle with you.”
At 6, I know he’s not going to ask for this much longer. We won’t be able to fit in the “cuddle chair” together forever. His legs are still short enough right now that they stick nearly straight out, and his knees are that dark brown that is the combination of end-of-summer pool tan and dirt from intense outdoor play. We fit perfectly with my arm around him, rubbing his head occasionally, while the other hand holds my (still desperately needed) coffee.
Our days together like this are numbered.
As a home-based business owner, one of the biggest challenges for me is that my kids will always come first. That’s as it should be, and true for most parents. But it’s harder for me to separate it out, because at home I can’t easily put aside the role of “mom” to shift completely into “business owner.”
But in a culture that worships productivity above all else, this is a struggle that all of us caretakers face. The many hours we spend caring for our kids (or parents, or spouses) are not really valued by society. And so it’s easy to feel like we’re not doing anything of value, not getting anything accomplished, not worthy, failing.
But I’ve come to see this as part of hyper-capitalism. Our lives are not here to serve our businesses; it’s the other way around. When we worship profits and growth above all else, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re doing it all in the first place. Profits are supposed to make our lives better.
We love the idea of family businesses in this country. Of women-owned small businesses, of “mompreneurs.” But if we really want to support these kinds of businesses, we also have to make space for the owners being actual people, not faceless corporations.
And so that means if my kid is sick, well, I’m not going to get all of those products made today, I’m going to snuggle with him and bring him juice. I’ll squeeze in what work I can when Dad gets home to take over. And during summer vacation, I won’t get nearly as much done as I want to, since I’m endlessly driving him from one camp to the next or trying to convince him to entertain himself. And I might wrap those soaps in the morning instead of tonight (while I count down the days till school starts).
I want my business to be an extension of my desire to do good in the world, to leave it a bit better than I found it. And sometimes that means paying a little more attention to my kid than my business. But it means lots of other things too:
I want to support other local small businesses as much as I possibly can.
I want to have good relationships with other local business owners, helping to foster a sense of connectedness and community.
I want to have as little impact on the environment as possible.
I want to donate extra products to local non-profits, like the women’s shelter.
I want to connect in a real human way with my customers.
I want to help women--especially overtired, underappreciated moms--feel that they are valuable and worthy just as they are, and they deserve to take care of themselves.
I want to make quality, beautiful products that deeply nourish the skin and the spirit.
I want to avoid harsh chemicals that can be harmful to our bodies and our world.
I want to put some of my heart into all of my creations and share them with the world, along with my gratitude.
I want to build something I can be proud of, and do it with sincerity and integrity.
And yes, I want to make some profit. Not to be a slave to that profit, but as a medium for my larger goal of connecting, contributing, and leaving the world a bit better.
Those are lofty goals, I know; and I am not naive. But I strongly believe that these strange times of upheaval we are living in are calling us toward a new path. A path that leads us back to the connection and community that so many of us seem to have lost; a path to our better selves. But it’s up to us to create that path, even when we don’t know where it will take us.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend some time in the cuddle chair with my favorite six year old, while we can still fit.