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The not so rosie-tinted view of mother-led growth
The reality of being a founder, mother and advocate for a better life.
For those that don’t know, I’m an indie founder, mother to 5 and I’ve also unschooled my kids for the past 12 years. I grew Ministry of Testing to “7 figures” and then handed it over to someone else to run.
It’s honestly been a non-stop journey with little time for breathing with all the things life has been throwing my way. Partly I joke that I like doing things the hard way. The reality is that life for people like me always seems to be on hardmode.
In the process I shared some of my story on Indie Hackers, which is where the below screenshot comes from.
I shared this screenshot recently with a bit of tongue and cheek.
Partly I’m proud that I’ve been through this (relatively) positively. My youngest is now five and it’s only in the past couple of months that I feel like I’m out of the having a baby and very young kids stage. It only took me 20 years! 🥴 On the another angle is me looking back and saying “holy shit, I did that”.
That was a wild, stressful and often kinda bloody stupid.
Over the years I’ve been asked questions about how I did it. Of course I know how it happened, but on the other hand it is such a blur.
“Why did you choose this founder path?”
Erm, I didn’t. I felt like I had no choice. Everything was ok until I literally shared details about my first pregnancy with my boss. Getting employed after that was an upward trending struggle. People seemed to not to want to hire a woman with young kids. It was like I was no longer compatible with the world. Tell me, what would you do in such circumstances?
“How did you learn how to do it?”
I made everything up and had a bias to action. I watched what others did, not what they said. I found places and people to be inspired by. I created boundaries for the life that felt right to me.
“How did you plan your days?”
Honestly, quite literally day by day. And often going a bit mental at times. I’ve had to take life one day at time and loosely planning for no more than 12 months at time. I guess 12 months is my long term planning these days. There’s no point planning more than that, and usually it’s more a 3 month max timeline th
“What courses or books do you recommend?”
Er, I wish I had the time divulge myself in those activities.
“How many hours did you spend per week on it?”
I didn’t have the ability or privilege to track the hours! My work was squeezed in at any opportunity I could get. How the heck can I track that?
Sometimes it was during hospital check ups. Often it was whilst kids were playing at the park. A ton of it was done whilst I was breastfeeding, on a mobile or iPad. A laptop was simply too difficult to work on. I spent many late evenings working. And I don’t say this with a badge of honour.
“But how can you be so productive, what’s your framework for getting things done?”
It’s called working to deadlines. I had no framework. Nothing out there aligned with what I was trying to do. I had to make sure that every action counted towards growth. And if nothing counted towards traction then it was time not spent well. This meant that many things were far from imperfect and messy.
“What about maternity leave?”
From some angles, maternity leave was pretty much non-existent, the effort to train someone up to allow me to take time off never felt like it was worth the investment. I would end up planning less around those times as a way to make it more manageable. I
From other angles, I did whatever I pleased. I had no meetings. I slept when I needed sleep. I worked when I had energy to work. Events were sometimes tricky, but often only once or twice a year. Essentially, I designed it around what I felt I was able to cope with.
In some senses, it was stressful. In other senses, it just flowed in a way that felt right.
“How did the business grow?”
By ignoring other people’s advice and focusing on what worked for me. By looking at everything I shipped and then looking at the numbers for the next 1-7 days. If the needle didn’t move I would re-evaluate. I didn’t have the privilege to waste resources or time.
“How did you find money to hire people?”
I waited years to hire anyone full-time. It felt like too much of a privilege. I did much of the work myself and hired freelancers to fill in some gaps. The first person the came on board full-time was my husband. We basically did shift work with the kids.
“What help did you get?”
Accounts and design. Managing money is just not my thing, so I had help with that from day one. I appreciate good design and brand. I hired a designer to help me. He’s still my go to person today.
But mostly, all the support from my husband. He never once told me I’m crazy or to stop. Only, “what can I do to help?”
“Don’t you love the culture of no meetings?”
Yes, but no. I wish I had the luxury of time to meet people and the time to build better relationships. I didn’t do meetings because I literally couldn’t schedule them in around my kids. It wasn’t because it was the latest fad advice. I’ve only started having time to talk to people recently. I’ve culled most of them and mostly stick to friendly and community chats that have a focus on supporting and learning. Or consulting calls that pay for my time.
“You must manage your time really well, is that so?”
Maybe we need to define what managing time well means. If it is me doing an hours focused work whilst my kids are at some activity and all the other parents are chatting away, then I guess so yes.
If it means that I can schedule luxury blocks of 4-8 of work time and ship things always on time. Then it’s a no.
“Do you adopt an inbox zero email strategy?”
Hah, I wish I could. My inbox is where my conversations go to die. Email for me sucks, mostly because it’s too much of a big ask and often I feel I need to be at my MacBook to write and add what is required or expected of emails. Slack and chat helps me action things quicker.
“Do you use your phone when you’re with your kids?”
Hell yeah, I hold no shame, and who are you to judge? Do I really have to be 100% present with them at every moment in time? I can think of things that are a lot worse. One such thing is not having the ability to put food on the table.
I honestly believe mobile phones have been a godsend for mothers all across the globe. We are able to communicate everywhere we go, it means we get pretend to be super professional, productive and run businesses on the go. We can pretend we have everything together, just like men. Urgh, yes, I just said that, the pressure to conform has been there. I don’t really care these days.
However, it also goes to show that a lot of business stuff can be done through simple communication, which is what a mobile phone facilitates. It was far from ideal, but it was what it was.
Why am I sharing this?
It’s been bloody tough. Of course it’s made me stronger and I wouldn’t wish it any other way, but my struggles are not represented. And as mothers we are still lagging behind with real support from society as a whole.
In my non-tech world of mothers I am the only crazy one doing things to this extreme. People don’t really understand what I do, but they also don’t understand what is possible. So many of us get stuck not advancing our careers or becoming a confident income earner. It’s a real problem. And it often shows up with women getting sucked into MLM schemes.
It’s not even about being a founder, it’s about us finding our paths to indiependence. So many mothers are over reliant on their partners, which doesn’t seem like a problem at first, but often relationships break down and the women are the ones left at a disadvantage.
Now imagine what I and others could have achieved if we didn’t have to juggle so many things and had a bit more support and understanding along the way.
The Indiependent an exploration of life as indie founders