Today, The First Years has asked me to share how Mommy Shorts got it’s start, to help kick-off their new Parentpreneur Grant Program. They are giving away a total of $50K to help new and expecting parents make their dream jobs become a reality. The First Years is accepting grant applications through Oct. 31, 2015 at thefirstyears.com/grants in a variety of industries including technology, fashion, art, media, entertainment, travel, product development and services.
I have always been a career focused person but I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. My goal was to work my way up the corporate ladder in the advertising world.
Unfortunately, as I got farther up, I wasn’t sure I envied the lifestyles of the people above me. They traveled constantly, they seemed like they were under tons of pressure and I had very few examples of people who made it work with a family. Especially women.
I was at my company for 15 years and had been very successful there, but when I became pregnant I experienced firsthand how women can become sidelined. I had always been an incredibly hard worker so it was tough to feel so exhausted that I couldn’t give 100% on projects. I also had a very difficult pregnancy with many scares, so my focus was diverted. Obviously this is understandable, but since I kept so many of the details personal, my co-workers didn’t always know what was going on. At one particularly low moment in my pregnancy, I was rushed to the ICU for a week. Because of that, I dropped the ball on a major assignment. The interpretation by my boss at the time was that my priorities had changed as opposed to me being physically and emotionally unable to get my work done as effectively. At the time, I couldn’t wait to get back to my normal working self, but I never really got the chance because I was laid off a few months after my maternity leave.
Before the lay-off, I had just enough time to experience the guilt of going to work while you have a baby at home, juxtaposed with the guilt of leaving your team to go home when there is still work to get done at the office. I experienced the craziness of making time for breast pumping between meetings. The sadness of Face-timing with a 5 month old while away on business trips. And, getting passed over for assignments because I couldn’t stay late or come in on a weekend.
It’s not that I couldn’t do my job. I just couldn’t do it on someone else’s schedule. Corporate America, for the most part, is not set up for mothers.
I was let go as part of a larger round of lay-offs and fortunately, I was able to get a pretty decent severance package. It was that severance package that allowed my husband and me to keep our nanny as I figured out my next move.
I suppose a lot of people would have taken this opportunity to stay home with their baby, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. I find a lot of fulfillment through work and taking home my own paycheck. Taking time off would have made me resentful that I had been put in that position, especially since it was not by my own choice.
However, all of my advertising experience was in traditional media (TV, print and outdoor) and I realized that having no online experience (besides talking to my friends on Facebook) put me at a huge disadvantage in the job world.
That’s when I started brainstorming ideas for the blog, as a way to create my own online experience. Originally, I wanted to create short branded content videos for moms— that’s why I called it Mommy Shorts, like short films. If you look back at the beginning of my blog, before I got sucked into the writing (which I love), everything was super short— one or two lines with a picture or a video.
While I worked on the site, I started taking freelance advertising assignments while also looking for something full-time.
I remember going into interviews for creative director positions and seeing the faces of recruiters glaze over as soon as I brought up my “mommy blog.” My headhunter eventually instructed me not to mention it. Which was funny, because even though the blog was pretty small back then, I felt more connected to an authentic audience then I had ever felt by having a commercial appear on television.
After a year of freelancing (which ended up paying pretty decently), I realized there was no need to go back to Corporate America. Freelance provided me with a much more flexible schedule, allowing me to be way more present for my kids. Nobody was watching to see if you got in late or left early, and nobody questioned you if you had to take your kid to the doctor as long as you turned in your work on time.
Freelance advertising is really an ideal work situation for parents, if you can stomach the hustle of constantly chasing new jobs and proving yourself like it’s your first day over and over again.
Eventually, I started freelancing for two of my old bosses (both women) who had left my old company to start their own smaller agency. They loved what I was doing with Mommy Shorts, and they were fine if I split my time freelancing for them and working on my own site out of their office. They also understood why I needed to leave at 5pm to be home with my kids, and they allowed me to use a back room for breast pumping after I had Harlow.
And then the fateful day came when their company was successful enough to hire me full-time, and I had to make a decision about which direction I wanted to go. The ad job I always wanted? Or something a little more unknown but entirely my own?
I chose Mommy Shorts, and here we are today.
Mommy Shorts blends my career and my family life in ways I never imagined, and it gives me the most awesome record of my kids. I hope Mazzy and Harlow read the whole thing one day and understand how much they have given me. And I hope they know whatever time I spend away from them would have been tenfold, if I was still at my old job.
If I had never gotten that severance package, I would be in a much different, less family-friendly place today. Having the money to test the waters and build my own business from scratch (even if I didn’t realize that was what I was doing at the time) was invaluable.
The First Years Parentpreneur Grant Program
To all of my readers who are new and expecting parents experiencing sleepless nights, diaper changes and just everyday life with your family – while also trying to find the time and money to get a new business off the ground – I know exactly how you feel! I encourage you to head over to thefirstyears.com/grants to see how The First Years Parentpreneur Grant Program might be able to help. Individual grant funding of up to $10,000 is available, and applications will be accepted through October 31, 2015.
For more information on The First Years Parentpreneur Grant Program eligibility, and to download an application, visit thefirstyears.com/grants.
This post was sponsored by The First Years, but my story is completely my own.