I promise you that I’m taking deep breaths as I type this. I’ve also blown into a (beautifully crafted tote) bag, put my head between my knees and partaken of a hefty tot of rum but still I’m smashing my noggin against the nearest wall. You see yet again I have just heard the term ‘mumpreneur’ and it makes me want to set fire to kittens now as much as it did the first time I ever heard it. I mean, has there ever been a tag that’s more patronising, sexist, demeaning, condescending and indulgent than ‘mumpreneur’? Well I bloody well haven’t heard it and that’s because ‘mumpreneur’ is a term that’s been coined solely to reduce we women to the productivity of our wombs.
Want me to explain? Oh, go on then. You see, more and more of us women are feeling empowered enough to start our own businesses and more often than not it’s in the months and years following a child exploding from our fevered underparts. Essentially it’s a response to the career wasteland we’ll face upon going back to our day job after maternity leave because, you know, the male-dominated business world is still full of uterus deniers. So rather than being slaves to a system that treats us unfairly we decide to go it alone, often transforming a skill or hobby into a business.
We’re revolutionary, independent, intelligent creatures who can rustle up a batch of new orders while we leak milk and scrabble around for a fresh maternity pad. We grow arms and legs and businesses simultaneously, something to which no man can ever lay claim, however much the yoghurt-knitting dilbert insists that he feels the pain of childbirth. And what does society do? Does it call us Boggling Women of Wonder? Does it crown us Magnificent Creatures of Business Nous? Shit, no. It calls us mumpreneurs and all because – and here’s the nub – we should never forget that our place is in the home.
What, exactly, is wrong with us just being entrepreneurs? Why does our uterine state have to be dragged into the way we train sales teams or build tables? I mean, I’m the husk that brought forth Kraken Junior but her existence has zero impact on how my business is run. I network, sell and make up orders just like any other business person and at no point do I have to, say, email a customer to explain that their commission will be late because I have to fashion a tea party set out of playdough with a seven year old instead. Seriously, tell me. At what point do customers actually need to know that I am a mother?
Not convinced that it’s unfair? Well when was the last time you heard the term dadpreneur? How many self-employed male builders, IT consultants and tree surgeons do you know who have been reduced to the enfrothment of their scrotes? Zero, that’s how many. Even if they became self-employed as a reaction to the birth of their kids they’re not forced to put the word ‘dad’ on their business cards in the way that we women are expected to do.
Women are simply expected to be different because it’s easier for society to believe that we belong in the home, especially a society that is still run along patriarchal lines. Tell someone you are an entrepreneur and they ask lots of questions about your determination, profit margins, motivation and goals. If you tell them that you’re a mumpreneur they ask lots of questions about your kids and your kitchen table. Labelling yourself a mumpreneur is the equivalent of being an astronaut but telling people you just have a vague interest in space.
And look, I know some women are proud of being mumpreneurs. I see one twitter biog after another than reads “Mum of three who creates glasswork when she has a chance”, and that’s fine if you want your fecundity to take precedence over your business. What is not fine, though, is that so many women are NOT taken seriously as businesspeople because we are labelled mumpreneurs even when we take our businesses as seriously as any man.
Perhaps I’m enraged about this because after the birth of Kraken Junior I felt as if my identity had been stolen, beaten, driven to the border and left for dead. After having a successful career as a freelance journalist I was reduced to sum of the stitches that held together my ragged fundament. It was devastating to suddenly feel as if no part of my life was mine and mine alone. In fact, for years after her birth I barely had time for a hobby. So now that I have actually started my own business with nothing but hard graft and my bare hands I’ll be buggered if I’m having that handed over to the mantle of motherhood too.
The fact is that I want those of us business women who are also mums to think more highly of ourselves. I want us to reject the trope that we women can never be separated from the needs of our kids, even when we have a job to do. I want us to stand equally alongside self-employed men, to be treated with the same respect that they are. No one asks a self-employed man how they fit in business and kids and it’s time no one asked women that question either.
So I beg you, the next time someone calls you a mumpreneur, correct them. Tell them that you are an entrepreneur, a business person, self-employed, an artisan paper-cutter/ woodworker/ sewist/ baker. Tell them anything that doesn’t have the word ‘mum’ in it. Tell them that your business efforts will not be reduced to a CBeebies programme schedule and a rough stab at potty training.
It’s time we business women raged against the term mumpreneur. We’ve made humans and we’ve made businesses. It’s time we made things fair too.