Dana Malstaff is the founder of Boss Mom, an organization that works to help women nurture their businesses and children simultaneously.
Malstaff, who’s based in San Diego, is a mother of two, and she can sum up the biggest challenge of being a working mom in one word: guilt.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Business Alert: Do you experience mom guilt?
Dana Malstaff: To me, guilt is when we’re not positive we’re making the right decisions, so guilt rears its ugly head when we do things in our life, meaning we spend time at our business or we spend time with our kids when the other one needs attention, and we feel guilty about whether or not we’re making the right decisions. … So the challenge becomes, how do we find the community and the resources and the empowerment to feel confident about our decisions so that we can be resilient but also enjoy the time and the space that we have with the decisions that we made?
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MBA: How do you combat mom guilt?
DM: First, I surround myself with people that get me, so that I’m not constantly being asked to defend my choices by people that don’t understand my decisions. I also always have a mentor or a coach, someone that can help guide me in the particular area I’m at in my business. Third, I continually assess what I’m doing so that I can either clarify that it is what I want to be doing and make conscious decisions, or I can pivot or tweak as needed.
MBA: How do you make time for yourself?
DM: I demand it. I make time for myself by making time for myself. The only way you’re going to do it is to commit. I condition the people around me to expect that. People expect what you give them, and if you give your kids the world, then they will take the world, and if you give your kids half of the world, they’ll take half of the world. So, teach your kids that you’re the kind of person who has mommy space, and they will give you – gladly, happily – mommy space.
MBA: What is mommy space?
DM: Mommy space is the time when you just get to be an adult even when kids are around, which is not very common. Oftentimes we think we have to be “mom,” and the kids are the center of our attention, and I’m a firm believer in that it’s not healthy for anyone to be put in the center of anything. We should teach (kids) that they are not the center, that they are part of a family ecosystem.
MBA: Do you think being a working mom influences your kids?
DM: I think it positively influences my kids. It shows my kids that work isn’t something that is linear. It shows my kids that work is actually something that can be a positive, exciting word – that creativity, creation and work all thrive in the same environment. And it teaches them that they can be involved in it at a very early age because I include them in the process.
MBA: Do you have any advice for other working moms?
DM: The more that you can know that you have limitless love and ability and the more that you know that doing what you love is important for your children to see and is empowering for your children to see, then the more you’ll recognize that it’s important that we create things outside of just having children.