This One Life

The Mom with No Title

momnottitleNecker Island, April 8, 2016

While on a entrepreneurial retreat with my husband and three children, I waited for the questions that always come.  Those questions that come when you are a mom running a family, but also running an entrepreneurial life.

You know those questions….

“Do you work?”

“What do you do in your business?”

“Do you run the business with your husband?”

“Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you do something else?”

“Yes.  And NO.”    I say.

It’s the all-in, in-between place.

How do you describe the all-in, in-between space in life?  The one that doesn’t have one title but that holds a significant place.

It makes me squirm a little everytime I get those questions.

Then, one night on this retreat, I found myself at dinner at a long wood-carved table that sat 40 people.  Folks with extraordinary life stories and businesses.  Sitting next to me was an amazing woman named Natalie MacNeil.  She has a beautiful view on entrepreneurship and contribution.  She didn’t ask me any of those questions.

Instead, she asked me, “How do you help people?  How do you want to help people?”

And I lit up, because that’s the question I could answer, and grow from.

The truth is “What do you do?” stumps lots of folks. Not just moms.  Not just entrepreneurial moms.

For the mom with no title or the CEO with a title in all capital letters, there is a shared understanding.  There is more to a person than what fits on the space of a business card.

A business title might trap us into a rigidity of role that doesn’t fill all that we are.  For a mom like me with other pursuits but without a title that is easily summed up, it can feel untethered.  Being in that space for a long time.  The one of not having “the one thing” you do that is simple to describe.   The thing outside motherhood that is the dream not yet manifested.   Or that you don’t yet get a paycheck for.  Trying to explain that place has made me feel phony.  Unrealized.  Unseen.

Then I remember that is my own BS.  Of feeling I need to fill in that space, or beef it up to check all the boxes of outward success.  I often look for a role to armor me during those times, instead of just being in that space of discovery and appreciation for the script I am writing for myself.

Jedidah intersection

So, how do I fill that human need for appreciation, clarity and acknowledgment of what I do?

I have to give it to myself first.  I have to ask for the words of love and appreciation when I need them and don’t hear them enough.  I have to write daily down what matters to me, what gets in the way and where I vision going.  I have to surround myself with people that get this life and get me.  I have to do the things I love and find meaningful even if those things don’t yield immediate gratification sometimes.  Like raising children.  Or writing.  Or going through the hurdles of raising a business family.

Most of all, I have gratitude for the blessing of having the choice to have blank space on a business card that I get to fill in each step of the way.

Roles can armor us.  They can tether us.  And they can also bind us from experiencing all that we are here to be.

In that conversation with Natalie, I stopped sweating how to describe my title for a second.

“How do you help people?” she asked me.

These are questions I know the answers to.

I help my kids know who they are and feel loved & honored in their skin.

I encourage and stand by my husband and his team at Simpler Trading to help people invest in themselves.

I support my family and friends in dreaming big and pushing through the adversity that comes along the way.

I offer sacred, beautiful spaces for families and friends to breathe and reconnect at my AirBNB’s.

I help families be brave explorers in learning and life again by sharing our own experiments and stories.

And thank God for the friends that help me.  They help me in creating a circle of support that gives me wings and sanity.  They give me the freedom to be Maria, not a title.

Right now, my family is my highest order of business.  My three children, my husband, AND me.  As a mom, I often mess it up.  As a family, sometimes we mess up. But from the mess-ups, we take the brave steps into the scary but magical spaces one at a time.

I don’t have a single business card.  I am not sitting at the conference room and the presentation tables I did ten years ago.  Some days I miss it.  Some days I don’t.

Right now, the dinner table is my table.  The picnic tables are my tables. The car I travel in with my 13-year old son wrapped in long discussions is my business meeting.  The bleacher my sister watches her daughter play softball from is her board seat.  The yoga floor my dear friend T restores bodies and minds from is her Chief Executive Offering.  If you are a mother, you are birthing and raising the children that will be sitting at those tables.

Today.  My writing desk. That is my table.

Our presence as mothers and leaders and compassionate humans at whatever table we find ourselves in to help ourselves and help others.  That matters.

The work tables just look awesomely diverse now.  May you take a seat proudly at your table.

Resource Links: Natalie MacNeil has an excellent video on this topic at her website, “She Takes on The World.” If you want to hear Natalie’s strategy on how to explain what you do to a 10-year old or at a business function, you can check it out here.

For an interesting take on the in-between spaces in life from an Astro physicist, Jedidah Isler, listen to the first 3 minutes of this TED talk.

Hint: Those spaces are usually where the magic happens in the universe.

Family Photo courtesy of Alex Kane, Photographer & Videographer.

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  • Reply
    Natalie MacNeil
    May 2, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I love this post so Maria, and I’m grateful we had a chance to meet and connect. I am in awe of how you so gracefully serve your family, your readers, your clients, and so many others in between. I bow deeply to you.

    • Reply
      May 2, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      Thank you Natalie! That means so much. You had a heartfelt impact on me. You are such a great catalyst for clarity, connection, and courage in business and in life.

  • Reply
    Evelyn Castellano Escamilla
    May 2, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    I loved this! I have run through all the phases of having a very defined job….to being stay at home mom….to being CEO of my own business (but I do often feel kind of phony with that title as a company of one. Lol. The State made me give myself a title…so I added Storyteller in Chief as it feels more authentic to me!) Even still, when someone asks me that question, it’s incredibly hard for me to answer and I often stumble because while I do have a title that fits on a business card, ALL that I do for my children and family as a mother just seems so much more important.

    • Reply
      May 2, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      Evelyn – you are an inspiration to me mama. I love the storytelling you create through media. Storyteller in Chief is perfect, impactful and so true! Loved seeing your Emmy coverage. All the best in rockin’ it all endeavors – mamahood, biz and life!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2016 at 4:16 am

    Wow! Such a powerful question and thought-provoking essay — thank you for sharing! I often struggle with what comes first (and second and third) in my focus. I find it shifts and sways, and I am constantly finding my new center for balance, often scrambling to make sure my family is still on board (and not overboard!) with me. I am loving the ride and am learning so much right now in my entrepreneurial endeavors!

    • Reply
      May 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Rebekah – you are probably one of the single most influential women in helping ME become a more brave explorer in learning and life. And in letting go of the conventional way of doing things one step at a time. You are amazing, and caring, and help so many with your gifts and generosity. Thank you so much for your sweet words!

  • Reply
    Linda Klugman
    May 3, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Maria. Its been a long time and lucky for me I stumbled upon your writing and was compelled to comment.
    Your essay is beautiful and thoughtful. I am a business owner with a business card and have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
    My desk is overflows with the tools of my trade. However, it is the other “tables” you so eloquently describe that strike a cord deep within.
    From raising my boys and watching them grow into thoughtful, compassionate men, to consoling loved ones and taking care of elderly parents, to walking through devastating loss…these are the parts of me, the many tables at which I have had the honor of being seated, that are most important. I treasure and protect each and every bit deep in my heart. Thank you for reminding me.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Linda, your words brought a tear to my eye this morning. I see so many lovely, strong women. So many tables they sit at that are never seen, or heard or known. Thank you for sharing this here. It resonated so much with me. I still remember the sanctuary of a guest room you created in our first family home. That iron scrolled headboard, the beautiful bedding, the oasis of my dreams. It began a love affair with design and sanctuary. Thank you Linda. I hope you are well and thriving and sharing your creativity still!

  • Reply
    Suellen Carson
    May 4, 2016 at 2:52 am

    I think I do something like this- “Then, we take the brave steps into the scary but magical spaces one at a time.”- Maria Carter
    Thank you for sharing this… so moved.

    • Reply
      May 10, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you Sue! You are a brave and magical woman!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2020 at 12:13 am

    I needed to read this again today. Love your words and the freedom they give! So glad this popped up in my FB feed.

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