For all its joys, being a hands-on mom can be a relentless, exhausting, and sometimes even thankless role. You can go from moments of love and contentment to feeling like you’re stuck in a “Groundhog Day” scenario of ear-splitting cries and soiled nappies.
So it’s no surprise that more and more we are seeing mothers, both seasoned expats and recent arrivals, taking advantage of the industrious climate that exists here in Beijing and starting up unique businesses. They’re breaking free from the “trailing spouse” label that so often gets attached to moms who have had to give up their own careers for the sake of their husbands’ deployment in China and finding a sense of accomplishment and purpose in entrepreneurship.
Founder and CEO, Boldmoves China
Cindy Jensen came to Beijing from Canada with her husband and then four-year-old daughter in 2002. They made the decision to move as her husband’s entrepreneurial venture had taken off, and they saw an opportunity to experience life in a completely foreign culture. She left her corporate job for the move and found it a bit funny when people labeled her as a “trailing spouse”, as she truly felt that they had made this decision as equal partners with similar aspirations, and she was just as excited about all the opportunities that lay ahead for her.
“As soon as my daughter was settled into a school that she loved, I was ready to go!” she told us. “I thought to myself – Where does my passion sit right now? For me, I had a really good corporate career which spanned over 10 years cross-functionally. I loved the work I’d done in the past, loved the challenges, diversity across functions, and industries. I have a good professional network, and opportunities came through colleagues and networking at events. I felt comfortable navigating through the corporate environment here, especially since a lot of Chinese organizations were so keen for Western expertise from someone like me. This really gave me a boost of confidence to start my own management consultancy.”
The biggest challenge she faced before getting started was gathering the confidence to just start.
“Oftentimes as entrepreneurs, we create our own barriers,” she said. “For example, one might say, I’m a foreigner who can’t run meetings in Chinese companies as I hardly speak the language. But here I was, with very basic conversational Chinese, working closely with organizations to help them get where they wanted.
“Be careful about what limitations you create for yourself. Question and test these limitations daily.”
We asked her how she defined success.
“This has changed over the years,” she replied. “For me, now, it’s about happiness, really enjoying what I’m doing, intellectual curiosity, being challenged, and giving back to the community.”
On balancing family and work she said:
“My family is deeply supportive of one another, of each of our strengths and passions and we encourage one other to pursue them wholeheartedly. The other day my daughter said to me, ‘Mom, you love that, keep doing that!’ My husband is a hands-on Dad too. All these factors gave me the courage to move forward. I may work long hours, but I’m fully present with my family when we’re together.”
On a daily basis, she manages to stay focused and motivated by making time for rest and relaxation.
“Think about where your source of energy comes from,” she said. “Scheduling in time for rest enables me to rejuvenate myself. I also find that involvement with the community and connecting with people keeps me motivated and energized.”
Jensen’s truth-bombs for Mompreneurs in the making
– Everything can be figured out along the way. You don’t need to know everything to get started.
– Flip your own questions, from “Why it can’t happen” to “How can I make this happen?”
– Have lots of conversations. Talk to everybody, both like-minded and those that are very different from you. When you have good working relationships, you’re able to figure out much more easily how to navigate them and find desired solutions that work for everyone.
– Be mindful about how to make your business profitable.
– Define where your support system comes from. What is it that enables you to do what you want to? With that, you can continue to push the limits and see where that takes you.
– Make time in your schedule for rest and relaxation, and be present daily with those you love.
Each mom we talked to found their own path, and for many, mothering and family management are challenge enough. However, if their stories have inspired you to reach out to that part of yourself that dreams those sometimes silent dreams, then be reassured that even the most successful women were exactly where you are now. Remember that everything is “figureoutable!” Work for what you love and try to make the process joyful.
As the poet Cleo Wade says: “The beauty of you is not where you are perfect. It’s where you are fearless.” Go forth and be brave, Mama!
This article appeared in the beijingkids November 2018 Beijing Makers issue
Photo: Courtesy of Cindy Jensen