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Guilt-free millionaire overnight? Busting mompreneur myths

From writer and entrepeneur Mary Ann Schwanewede

Lots of moms like me have a similar story: Before we became moms, we were professionals. We had important jobs, nice offices and equally nice paychecks. There were business trips, and fancy dinners — often on the company's dime. We made big decisions and shared our opinions with rooms full of people who cared (or at least pretended to). It was great.

And then we had babies.

Suddenly, the job didn't seem quite as important, the dinners were inconvenient and the travel was a nuisance. Many of us struggled with childcare and, of course, massive helpings of guilt. One mom friend of mine, who had negotiated a three-day schedule at her company, told me that she felt she had the worst of both worlds, feeling as if she was doing a subpar job both at her office and at home.

Then we heard about the magical mompreneurs. You know, those clever ladies who managed to hatch a brilliant business concept, invent the must-have baby product or stuck a trinket in her daughter's shoe and voila!, a man shows up at the door with an oversized Ed McMahon-style check and a fistful of balloons. Bam! They're millionaires, but still making the soccer tournament, chaperoning the field trips, staying home when the stomach flu strikes ... and all while raking in the cash!

It all seemed so perfect. I too, one thought, could have it all — accomplished businesswoman and nurturing earth mama. I would juggle chicken nuggets and conference calls with ease. I would be fulfilled, personally and professionally! I would be the perfect stay-at-home/work-at-home hybrid.

As is the case with most myths, my reality was not quite so easy. I happen to be one of those moms who invented a new product as the answer to her own dilemma. As an apartment-dwelling mom, I found no suitable solution for storing my stroller and therefore invented the StrollAway — an over-the-door stroller hanger. It seemed like a great idea. There was nothing else like it and people who weren't even related to me agreed that it was a home run.

The StrollAway has been a success, but by no means been an overnight success. The entire process was far more involved than I ever could have imagined. It took four years of research and development, with trial and error and blood sweat and tears to get the StrollAway onto the shelves of major retailers. While I have had a flexible schedule and been my own boss, I have not escaped the mom guilt or the office guilt. When I worry about the company revenues, it is mine and my husband's savings that I see increasing and decreasing. My children demand to know why the baby sitter picked them up at school and not me when I have a meeting with a manufacturer.

Once, I was exhibiting at a trade show in Las Vegas during my son's first day of school. He was asked by a classmate where his mother was, to which he casually replied "Vegas." I bet that sounded great to the other parents and teachers.

Truth is, there is no magical, perfect situation for any of us, but being a mompreneur can be incredibly empowering and satisfying. I may have to answer e-mails at 3:00 a.m., but I can also volunteer for the class cooking project. I may sweat the finances, but I will always be able to say that I invented something that had not existed before, and put it on the shelves of retailers across the country. That is what being a mompreneur has meant to me: freedom and accomplishment.

Fortunately, our opportunities as mothers and professionals are multiplying. The mompreneur community is growing in strength and numbers and it is a supportive and nurturing community, kind of what you'd expect from a group of moms! It has been my experience that these women are more than happy to share their experience, send you the number of their licensing agent, or introduce you to a potential retail account. The resources are everywhere — mompreneur books, Web sites and networking groups are easy to find. It may not be perfect, but for me, it's about as close as it gets.

Mary Ann Schwanewede is a writer, mom of three and inventor of the “StrollAway.” You can learn more about Mary Ann and her pursuits and creations by visiting her site: MetroTOTS.com

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