April 07 2020 – Kathryn Wepfer
Working moms are disproportionally impacted by the the COVID-19 pandemic, oftentimes juggling full time childcare and a full time job. Is there room for finding new opportunities in the midst of such a stressful and uncertain time?
Today is day 27 of being at home, navigating this time of COVID-19, and like many working moms I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to get through this season. I’m an entrepreneur building a new ecommerce clothing brand, working toward a launch in the fall. Product development is the most important, critical path activity for me, and yet it’s on hold indefinitely due to the pandemic. So much of the logistics and launch planning cannot happen until product development is near complete, so this delay is hugely disappointing for me. I want to launch the business in 2020 and get my product into the hands of hard-working pumping moms, yet this unforeseen delay will significantly postpone my business launch. It would be easy to stew in my frustration and the uncertainty of it all, or even to give up entirely, and yet I’ve surprised myself by having a near obsession with finding something positive in all of this. I feel like I’ll lose my ability to keep moving forward if I don’t stay positive, and so I’m choosing to look for opportunity in all of this.
I feel like I’ll lose my ability to keep moving forward if I don’t stay positive, and so I’m choosing to look for opportunity in all of this.
My bottom line is that I’m still grateful to be on this entrepreneurial journey and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, so I will keep moving forward and try to maximize what I can get from this season. I’m asking myself how this delay in my plans – this lull, or in-between time – could be an opportunity rather than an impediment. How can this time be productive and fulfilling for me both professionally and personally? I refuse to let this be wasted time or a negative setback to my business, and so I find myself coming back to 3 key motivations as I journey forward each day:
Time: As an entrepreneur, there are an indefinite number of things I can be doing to build the business other than product development, even though that is my most favorite part. It’s always a challenge to prioritize my time and know what to focus on when it’s just me and there’s so much to do, so understandably things get pushed to the side each week. Now it feels like extra time has been created. The critical path is on hold, and that opens up opportunity to spend more time focusing on other important parts of the business, from getting PR, to getting my financial books in optimal order, to learning what makes the best product photos. I can now go deeper on those than I would have been able to otherwise, so this time could be a gift.
Facing my fears: Beyond tackling my running list of tasks I need to accomplish to launch the business, I want it to explore this opportunity even further. How can I push myself beyond simply checking off the to-do list and use this time to do something scary - something that will challenge me to go beyond my comfort zone and develop myself for the benefit of the business? For this delay to be worth it, I need to find something more. I’m reminded of many years ago, toward the end of my college experience, when my dad went through a period of trying new things. He decided to push himself to do something new each day. It wasn’t always something scary (one day he took his first bath since childhood!) but the idea was to get out of his comfort zone. This season feels like an opportunity to do the same. For me that area is social media and online community engagement. This is a critical activity for a new entrepreneur building a brand, and something I deeply admire in other people, and yet it feels so unnatural and terrifying to me. If there ever was a good time to hunker down and face my fear, this is it.
Family: And then there’s my family. How can this COVID season be an opportunity for us? I know what a shit show it feels like for so many working parents right now trying to balance professional and personal responsibilities while secluded at home all day with our kids, and I want to recognize that it is SO HARD. We’re all fumbling through and trying to navigate the new normal, but again I want to look for something different from what I experience in my “normal” daily life. As I interact with my family in these new conditions, I see opportunities in small moments I may have overlooked in the past. Before COVID, my husband’s work schedule was extremely busy and he traveled frequently, and there were a few months where we just didn’t see him very much. All of that has changed now as he works from home. He’s still very busy, but we get to see him so much more. He can put the little one down for her afternoon nap between calls (he’s a baby whisperer!) and put burgers on the grill for dinner, and I love that. We’ve missed him, and it’s so nice to be together.
With less hurried time between school and activities, I find myself engaged in more conversations with my 5 year-old where we have more time and space to just wonder about things. Whether it’s helping her understand the mentally ill homeless man who walks through our neighborhood each morning yelling at people and helping her feel compassion for him, or doing a spontaneous investigation into polar bears, or simply listening to her detailed desires for her birthday cake, the conversation feels a bit different these days, and the connection a bit deeper. I don’t know if that would be happening without this crisis, but it feels like an opportunity to me, and I choose to take it.
This opportunity-driven mindset is a new thing for me. I’ve spent the past year working with an amazing career coach who is truly the professional therapist I always wanted! We spend a lot of time working on mindset, and she always reminds me that a change of mindset can change your life. This pandemic feels like the ultimate test of that theory, and the opportunity for me to challenge myself to adopt a mindset that will enable me to thrive, even when it feels like the world is falling apart. It’s going to be a very long, challenging road ahead, but I’m determined to keep looking for the opportunity.
Where are you mentally and emotionally right now? How are you coping with this new normal? What opportunities do you see in your life during this time?