After reading Joanne Wilson’s post on Gotham Gal about every woman choosing her own path, it prompted me to look back on my own meandering journey that led up to where I am today, running a high tech startup with loyal clients like the City of Albuquerque, the Mid Region Council of Governments Rail Runner, Media Matched, Roadrunner Food Bank and more. My own journey really does drive home the point that when we choose what is right for our own lives and for our families, we choose to thrive. I especially like this quote by Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, “It’s a ‘fool’s journey’ to try to achieve perfect balance between one’s professional and personal lives… (take) your entire life to find balance. You should have balance, on average, over time – not in a day or in a month.”
It wasn’t until my fourth pregnancy that I was able to carry a child to term, so when my daughter was born, I celebrated staying home with her while my husband pursued his career as an electrical engineer. I made his lunch every morning, had dinner waiting at night, and I didn’t feel at all like a woman stuck in the 50’s. I felt lucky. I watched my friends who worked – some by choice, some by necessity – and I was filled with admiration for how well they managed their time and how much sacrifice it took to run a family and home and a career. Our lives were so much simpler because I was home, and I wouldn’t trade a single day I had with my kids as a stay at home mom. I felt lucky.
Ten miscarriages and that many years later, we added two more children to our family. My days were filled with trips to the library – and literally a wagonful of books to drag home, visits to museums and parks, craft projects and plenty of time to explore my passion for cooking. And, looking back, I can confess that I was that mom when it came to PTA – I launched school newspapers, baked homemade snacks to stuff in teacher mailboxes, volunteered in the classroom, the school office, the work room, and chaired a boatload of committees. Heck, I created committees that I chaired. Even as a stay at home mom, I was an over achiever.
But when my youngest was born with health issues that meant I had to keep him away from crowds or even grocery stores, my world got very, very small and scary. I’d already spent months on bed rest trying to raise two other children. My brain felt like melting jello, and I knew I couldn’t take another day with nothing else in front of me except fretting over a sick baby, changing diapers, and catching sleep in two hour intervals. It was truly one of the most difficult times in my life.
It was actually my husband who suggested that I try something I’d always liked – writing. I could do it from home, and it would expand my world without compromising the needs of our new baby. With absolutely no formal training or understanding of the industry, I spent a day studying up on the local market, mocked up two business profile pieces, mailed them to the local newspaper editor and asked if the writing was good enough that he might want to work with me. To my complete surprise, I received a reply within days that simply said, “I’ll buy this one but not that one, and here are three more assignments. Articles should be 800 words and are due in one week.” I spent the next ten years learning the industry as I wrote for myriad publications locally and nationally, eventually teaching classes and writing articles to help others learn the ropes of freelance writing.
And when my youngest was finally comfortably ensconced in school, I was ready to dive full force into the professional world, launching my own tech company in 2009. I started out alone, once again with no formal training on how to run a company. My best tools were an indefatigable commitment to see through what I started and my passion which was driven by a belief that what I was doing would make others’ lives better. The first year was a huge learning curve, but with time I gained my first clients and determined through working with them that we had the right set of tools to meet a growing need in the mobile market. In the next few weeks, my first acquisition of another tech firm, my husband’s and his partners’ venture-backed startup Onqueue Technologies, Inc., should be final. Our combined team is moving into more permanent offices, and we’re raising a seed round of investment to grow our company quickly.
I have no regrets over the time I spent at home, and I have no regrets now for pursuing with full force the career path I’ve chosen. When we, as women, make the choices that are right for us, we choose to thrive. And we need to do everything we can to not penalize women for the choices they make, no matter how different they are from our own, because we all win when we, as women, can choose to thrive.