Moms Making it Work: Kristen Brown, Hoot Design

Kristen Brown, founder of Hoot Design Co., is a multitasker.

Brown, whose Columbia-based business specializes in branding, web design and content marketing, talks to her best friend that lives in Switzerland while she works out in the mornings. Her 4-year-old daughter sits on her lap when she gets her nails done. She works nights and weekends while entertaining her kids, and all of this dichotomy is a result of the ultimate juggling act: being a working mom.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: What’s the biggest challenge of being a working mom?

Kristen Brown: There’s never really a good balance; I think it’s more about creating harmony within work/life. Balance implies it’s even, and I don’t think it’s ever really even, but one of the great things about owning your own business is that you have the control to create that ebb and flow yourself instead of having to follow a rigid schedule.

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MBA: How do you measure success as a working mom?

KB: I measure success in my workplace very quantitatively. Are we growing? Am I able to increase my income year after year? Am I proud of the work we’re doing? So in terms of work, it’s very black and white. And then of course, am I happy? You know, I don’t want to be dreading Mondays.

As a mom, I am very involved – like today I’m having lunch with my daughter because it’s her first day wearing glasses to school and as a 4-year-old, I think that’s overwhelming. … So to still be very, very involved with your children – I think that’s what success is to me as a mom. I want to feel like I know my children really well, and I’m a big part of their life, and I’m there for them when they need me.

MBA: Do you experience mom guilt?

KB: Yes, and I think that guilt is unique to moms. I know I feel a lot of guilt when I do something without (my kids). I especially don’t like to travel for work because it makes me uncomfortable to be that far away from them. And I know my husband, and many of the dads I know, they just don’t feel that. I think they feel very confident that their children are being well taken care of by other caregivers, and I think that they then are conditioned through society to believe that it’s their job to provide. So, they’re providing, what’s the problem? Like my husband – he’s a great dad, he’s really involved – but he just doesn’t have the guilt. I think for him, he’s like “oh, I wish I was there,” but he doesn’t have guilt about it.

MBA: How do you combat mom guilt?

KB: For me, it has so much to do with building your own tribe. … For me, it’s so important to have a group of women that I know understand and relate and get where I’m coming from. So I have three women in a group who are all business owners, and that has just been a lifesaver for me because I’m able to go to them and have discussions about mom guilt, about being on your phone too much. It’s so many things besides just going to work, you know, that’s one level of absence – just being physically away from them, but then there’s the getting back on the computer after they go to bed, waking up early to get on again. I don’t want them to think I’m on my phone because I’m on Facebook or something, so I remind them I am working and for me to be able to do things like leave early or go to lunch with them, it means I have to work at night or on the weekends too.

MBA: Do you think being a working mom influences your kids?

KB: I hope so, that’s really important to me. I think one of the most powerful things about being a working mom that I would like to show them is that I love my job. I love what I do, and that would be something that I really, really want for my children. I don’t care how much money they make, I don’t care what industry it’s in – if they love it, and they look forward to doing it, that would be what I want to demonstrate for them, and I hope that I am.

MBA: Do you have advice for other working moms?

KB: Recognize the guilt, and punch it in the face. Recognize that the guilt is not rational and that you are doing a great job. For example, my kids’ socks never match, and they get pissed all the time that their socks don’t match. And I don’t feel bad. I know I’m doing the best I can, and my kids’ socks not matching is not a priority and not something that I’m going to let myself feel guilty about. So if I feel that coming up, I just literally imagine punching it down.

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