Military spouses sacrifice a lot so their service members can place country first — one of those sacrifices is most-likely a career. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation conducted a comprehensive study to see just where military spouses are working, living, and how that impacts military retention.
According to this study, 31 is the average age of a military spouse, and only 38 percent of military spouses are employed full-time. So, what does age have to do with employment? The answer is: everything. This age is the most pivotal point in your professional life. Lifetime wage growth happens within the first 10 years of a career. Meaning, your salary at retirement is ultimately determined within your first 10 years in the workforce.
“The typical earner can expect to see her wages grow the most between the ages of 25 and 35… Between 35 and 55, workers shouldn’t expect much of a bump. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that the median wage earner doesn’t see earnings growth at all during those years,” according to Fortune.
Plus, 25 percent of military spouses are placing family first as at home caregivers, which we know is a full-time job in of itself. This means that the majority of military spouses are missing a critical career growth period.
So when the economy won’t support our transient lifestyle, military spouses and moms are using their strong educational backgrounds and resilience to create a career path of their own — as momtrepreneurs.
How a Momtrepreneur Can Balance Both
You’ve started your own company, and you’re raising a family — what could go wrong? While in the past, women have had to choose between career and family, we’ve outlined some tips to help you succeed at both.
Set a Foundation for Success
Start-up companies experience a lot of trial and error before hitting the jackpot with angel investors. Though we may have traded Silicon Valley for Twentynine Palms, our businesses experience the same trials. Devote time to the boring paperwork below, because one day your business will fall back on it.
- Register your business — To secure your company name, you’ll need to register your business with the state in which you’re residing.
- Create contracts — You’ll save yourself plenty of headaches with future customers by establishing the rules of service and payment up front. Services like consulting, photography, graphic design, or a business that requires a significant financial investment up front should all have signed contracts before work begins.
- Get insurance — Business insurance is relatively affordable, considering the personal liability you take on without coverage. It’s also important to research disability insurance if you plan to start a family or have more children. This will allow you to have a supplemental income while taking unpaid maternity leave.
- Develop a business plan — Your business plan is your roadmap for success, and it keeps you accountable for where you would like to be in six months to three years. Establish your company’s goals, determine your target market, and set a budget. Though all of this is in your mind today, establishing your company’s objectives on paper solidifies your direction. It not only serves as a great point of reference for you, but also serves as a great onboarding resource when you hire new staff.
- Create standard operating procedures — As your business plan provides strategic guidance, your standard operating procedures (SOPs) provide tactical guidance to staff or contractors. You’ll want to develop SOPs for all areas of your business, like digital marketing platforms, e-commerce pricing and shipping costs, customer FAQs, and social media branding. A simple way to tackle SOPs is to record onboarding meetings with new staff and have them create tutorial videos or a resource library for the whole team to reference while you’re away.
- Have a maternity/OOTO plan — When your water breaks, the last thing you want to worry about is how your clients or customers will manage while you’re away. If you have a team, SOPs will help bridge the knowledge gap while your away. Establish a chain of command so that one of your managers can make business decisions while you’re away, but be sure to let the managing director know at what decision-level you should be consulted. Managing maternity leave might require a little more reading, but we have you covered with a whole article about it.
Nix Fear of Failing
As a new mom, you’re terrified of what can go wrong throughout pregnancy, infancy — hell, the fear probably never leaves. Well, the same goes for business. If you aren’t willing to step outside of your comfort zone, your business will never grow. JK Rowling hit the nail on the head during a commencement ceremony speech, “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”
Develop a mogul mindset now. Think about all the creative ways, physical and financial limitations aside, your business can expand. Place these ideas into a list of business goals and categorize them by what’s achievable this quarter, this year, in two years and in five years. Nix your fear of failing, and accept that a business owner cannot reap reward without risk. Once you start viewing yourself as a CEO, others will too.
Need a little voice to get yourself in the right mindset? Tuning into a podcast or two each morning, especially Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger, can help set the tempo for the workday.
Balancing Personal and Professional Obligations
When your spouse’s career comes first, it’s very easy to overstretch your commitments to your business and family. Finding balance is much easier said than done, but it is possible with a little bit of discipline.
First, determine your goals for business and family for the next year. Are you working from home? If yes, are you hiring a nanny or sending your child to daycare? You’ll need to establish your schedule so that when your little one does arrive you’re not overwhelmed with deadlines and diapers. Schedule blocks of working time and personal time in your weekly calendar. You’ll appreciate the downtime you get to spend for yourself or household chores if your child is at daycare or enjoy mom and baby time if you’ve hired a nanny at home. But don’t over-extend yourself to manage a baby and a business on your own. You’ll need help for feeding, diapers, playtime, and naps. Plus, your business will need extra attention once you return from maternity leave.
After the arrival of your precious newborn, extended family will start planning trips to meet your new addition. This is the ideal time to set expectations for visiting your family and your office. If you’re able to take extended maternity leave, it’s easiest to incorporate family visits into this time so that client calls or company time don’t overlap with quality time together. If you’re unable to take extended leave, let your guests know that your home office is open during their stay, and you would appreciate their help with the baby while you work. Family is the best babysitter.
Finally, be transparent with your clients or customers. While you don’t have to say you’re away for maternity leave or away to care for your newborn, establish clear office hours and deadlines for current projects. Set away messages on your email when you’re not available or place a notice on your website when work will resume. It’s always a good idea to add in a little buffer time for existing projects because for the next month you’ll be balancing personal health, baby needs, visiting family, and a new schedule.
Cash In on Free Resources
Military spouses are experts at working on a bootstrap budget, but they may not have the luxury of funding for professional development like a big-city CEO. That’s where Creative Live comes in. This professional development site hosts live tutorials every day on different software programs, leadership training, creative design, and even money management. If you’re unable to attend the live session, you can purchase the course content on demand for as little as $17. Also, many military bases do offer educational courses for active-duty families. Check with your family-readiness contact to see what professional opportunities are coming up this month.
Stock photography licensing fees can quickly add up to thousands of dollars when you’re designing your own marketing materials. If you’re in a pinch for professional images and don’t have a knack for photography, websites like Burst and Pexels allow you to search for commercial-use, high-resolution imagery.
Did you fail art class in high school or avoid every unit crafting social? No problem, Canva practically designs graphics for you. This creative platform provides simplistic, professional designs with customizable templates for Facebook images, Instagram templates, flyers, email headers, and more. Want to do a little designing on your own? Creative Market is an online storefront for unique fonts, photos, graphics, and digital templates. Better yet, they give you six free downloads every week!
Bouncing ideas off the dog or newborn baby will only get you so far — thankfully there’s Rising Tide Society. This group connects entrepreneurs on social media platforms and provides free resources for small business owners. Their Facebook group is most helpful for polling a new product or asking for business advice.
Finally, don’t be afraid to turn away business. After all, you became a momtrepreneur to follow your passion and to make your own schedule. While the extra cash is always tempting, you’ll need to set boundaries for your business to avoid burn out. You also don’t want to look back in five years and wish you had more time with your baby than on client conference calls. After all, as military spouses, we know how precious time together is.