As a writer, I’ve built some of my own brand reputation on the fact that I am a “mommy blogger.” I love being part of this community – most of the time. When I’m bidding on a new writing project, however, I often don’t list the link to my parenting blog. Since I do not know the background or personality of the person who will read my bid, I don’t take the risk of assuming he or she finds my daughter’s potty-training journal entertaining or my hunt for the perfect baby carrier intriguing.
I send potential clients links to my professional side; the part of me that says “I can research, write and deliver your e-newsletter like nobody’s business.” Some of my most loyal clients have been surprised much further down the road to learn that I have four kids under the age of 7. They seem shocked that I can still manage the quality of work they have come to expect while putting in my due diligence as a mom. By the point that disbelief sets in, I’ve already proven myself. My work speaks for itself. My kids are not a deterrent because they have been there all along.
Parents should be careful when it comes to branding though, for personal or professional reasons. You know your kids are the greatest thing since cable television and that being a parent is insanely awesome, but others may not concur. Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve gleaned on building your brand and family at the same time:
- Don’t tell strangers your life story. It seems sort of ironic for me to say this since I have a blog about my life that anyone can find in a search engine. Feasibly the people who land there have some sort of common interest with me though. So they are strangers but ones who are looking for answers or camaraderie in what I post. When I send a writing bid, or interview for a project over the phone or via Skype, I make no mention of my kids. In fact, I schedule those for times when my husband can corral them all outside or it is safe for me to walk to the farthest room in the house and close the door tightly. What sounds like a perfectly harmonious home to me will undoubtedly sound like disorganized chaos to the unconverted. You wouldn’t bring your kids along on a traditional job interview; the same is true of any direct electronic or remote forms of brand building you do for your career.
- Do talk to your kids about your career. I deliberately seek out work that can be done at odd hours (typing this at 4:55 a.m., by the way) and work that can wait if I need to handle a minor household emergency. I do the bulk of my writing when my kids are at school, my husband is home or everyone but me is sleeping. That being said, there are times when I need to edit something quickly or respond to a client email within minutes. Instead of holing up in a closet so my kids don’t see me working (the shame!), I make my expectations very clear during that time when work calls. No asking for snacks. No fighting. Quiet voices. In order to enjoy the life we have, I need to work sometimes. And if they can support that fact through actions, I will be a better mom and worker.
- Don’t forget your priorities. Every parent views the work-family balance differently but I know it can be easy to take out my career frustrations on my kids. I know that triggers like lack of sleep, approaching deadlines and a full moon can make me grumpy but none of those things are my kids’ faults (okay, I’ll blame the first thing on my youngest). Your brand image is incredibly important but so are the fleeting years you have to raise your family. A dream job does not always ensure happiness. Don’t ever sacrifice who you truly are to chase a career aspiration, whether you are a parent or not.
Bottom line: keep your work and family life separate. Save the cute stories about what your kids said for your personal social media accounts. Being a parent is part of your core but you can successfully brand yourself outside those limitations.
Katie Parsons writes for ChamberofCommerce.com where she specializes in business news affecting major markets. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses with online growth. Plus, it facilitates connectivity between local firms and over 7,000 Chambers worldwide. She is also the creator of a community blog for moms.