Give up the guilt. Be in the moment.
That is the sage advice given by Liz Lange, founder and creative director of Liz Lange Maternity whose life as a traveling entrepreneurial mom has taught her about balancing works and family.
“The key to being a working mom is that you have to give up some of the guilt. You do the best you can. There are so many pressures that you have to find whatever works for your family.”
The first clothing designer to make fashionable maternity clothes available to everyone via her collection for Target, Lange manages the stress of business travel without her kids by making sure that she and her husband are never away on business at the same time. Vacations are for family travel with the kids.
Juggling Work and Family
Lange was newly married when she started her business. She became pregnant with her son within that first year, and two years later gave birth to her daughter. Her children are now 10 and 8 years old.
Like many working mothers who travel for business, Lange performed the balancing act. “I was growing my family during most of my business journey,” she says.
Looking back, Lange believes that starting her business while her children were very young was easier. “Starting a business is like taking off in an airplane,” she says. “There are so many things to pay attention to in order to get off the ground, but if you stay focused you eventually reach cruising altitude. Raising my children, I found meeting their needs during the early years was manageable, especially since I was fortunate to have wonderful support at home. However, now that they’re older, their needs have become more specific. I need to be even more attentive and available for them.”
Lange feels that many lessons learned raising a family also helped her in the business world. For example, be careful what you wish for.
“As my business grew, I had to start to delegate. I realized not everything was going to get done exactly the way I would do it but that was OK. I needed to be OK with that.”
Flexibility Is Key
She also learned quickly that children, like businesses, don’t always go with the flow. For example, you may have the best-intentioned plans for a special outing to the park, but then one isn’t in the mood or another gets sick.
“You learn that to get anywhere, you have to be more flexible and relaxed,” Lange says. “You have to sometimes give in to things that are beyond your control, and in the end it usually turns out okay.”
Lange doesn’t like to use the word “balance” when describing her life as a working parent. “It sounds too organized and perfect,” she says. She prefers to use the word “juggle.”
“Juggling connotes the messiness and sometimes chaos that I find are more realistic,” she says. “Some balls are always falling, but it’s about getting comfortable with that. For example, you may find yourself at a school play when your mind wanders to the meeting you should be at. It’s going to happen.”
The most important gift you can give yourself, Lange feels, is to let go of the guilt of trying to do it all. “Do what you can and accept that you’re doing a pretty good job of it,” she advises. “When you’re at the office, be at the office. When you’re at home, be at home. When you’re traveling, be wherever you are for that time.”
The more you do it, she says, the more you get it.