By Deborah Sweeney
The year 2020 was especially difficult for working mothers and fathers. While trying to care for their children, many parents struggled to keep their jobs or were forced to leave their jobs. One in five (19.6%) working age adults were not working because the pandemic “disrupted their childcare arrangements,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Working mothers especially have had to bear the brunt of this problem. “Of those [adults] not working, women ages 25-44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to childcare demands.” In addition, The Washington Post reported that “one out of four women who reported becoming unemployed during the pandemic said it was because of a lack of child care—twice the rate among men.”
But there is an upside to these setbacks: entrepreneurship can provide new opportunities for moms of all ages. The pandemic has not deterred people from starting new businesses. Last year more than 4.3 million applications for employer identification numbers (EINs) were filed. These are the tax IDs which enable entrepreneurs to open business bank accounts and are a requirement for hiring employees. Essentially, having this tax ID preps individuals for starting small businesses and becoming entrepreneurs.
If the broader economy is unable to support working mothers, then they may find entrepreneurship affords them the necessary flexibility and autonomy within their career path. Let’s take a look at what positions working moms for success as entrepreneurs.
Self-employment enables independence and the ability to take control of your future
In February 2021, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a report called “Economic Engagement of Mothers: Entrepreneurship, Employment, and the Motherhood Wage Penalty.” The report covers how we can support mothers’ access to opportunities to engage in the economy. Further, it details easing their access to opportunity through entrepreneurship.
Why do mothers want to become entrepreneurs? According to the report, mothers who have chosen entrepreneurship over the last five years have several motivators on their side. Of the women surveyed, 57% said they made the leap so they could be their own boss; 52% said they wanted to make more money and essentially obtain a higher standard of living.
The ability to be independent and control their future is a huge driving factor towards women starting businesses, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. One of the defining traits of Covid-19, according to psychiatrists interviewed by The New York Times, has been burnout. While burnout is impacting all levels of workers, from those on the frontlines to the ones working remote, the despair felt by working mothers has been soul-crushing. Mothers are faced with making impossible choices that impact their mental health to the degree of feeling powerless.
While there are some strategies that can ease the burden, such as cutting out extra tasks and trying not to berate themselves, starting a small business enables working moms to take back their sense of power.
There’s flexibility in entrepreneurship
Becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t mean an end to caregiving or fulfilling the responsibilities of being a parent. The Kauffman report makes an interesting observation that working mothers and entrepreneurs have a lot more in common than people may realize.
Working moms make great entrepreneurs because they already have a similar mindset when it comes to combining the responsibilities of managing a household with the responsibilities of a paying job. Much like someone who runs their own small business, working mothers must constantly prioritize caregiving responsibilities, and balance demands on their time between family and work—all while keeping financial considerations top of mind. As the report states, “These factors shape the types of opportunities mothers have as entrepreneurs, their access to resources and networks, and their financial and growth outcomes.”
The report also found that the third reason why mothers start businesses (46%) is the ability to gain greater flexibility. More flexibility is one of the chief benefits of being in business for yourself; entrepreneurs have the ability to create sustainable work-life balance in their lives. The traditional employment landscape, one that maintains a “first-in, last-out” mentality as a means for rewarding those who work the hardest, is irrelevant for entrepreneurs. Working moms have the rare opportunity to create their own schedules. They can flexibly structure their days based on their needs and the needs of their growing business.
Support for working mothers is key for Covid-19 recovery
The aftermath of Covid-19 will not be like flipping on a light switch and seeing the former world exactly as we left it. Rather, there will be a dimmer switch effect. The light will eventually come on slowly and the world around us will look different.
What will life look like in the next normal for working mothers? While working moms make great entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Some may choose to become entrepreneurs while others may explore returning to the workforce.
The path moving forward will be different for everyone, but we will not be able to recover unless we go all-in and support mothers—and all women facing inequities in the economy—with equal opportunities for work, salary wages, and the resources necessary to provide for their needs. Then, and only then, a sustainable path can be made that moves us forward.
About the Author
This article was originally published on AllBusiness.com.