Extraordinary Women Balancing Career and Motherhood

Can you imagine yourself living a life that exceeds all of your dreams? Consider these scenarios: 1) Performing live on stage before thousands of people applauding you for an encore; 2) Walking away from your corporate job to start a business that became more successful than you ever thought possible; 3) Opening a successful business that receives major media attention. Now imagine achieving any one of these things while simultaneously raising a family.

Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg has been noted for saying that “Women aren’t ambitious enough to get into the offices and boardrooms of corporate power. Until women are as ambitious as men, women aren’t going to achieve as much.”

Ambition, drive, faith and being a visionary is how Quiana Parler, Shawn Brown and Natalie Gouche’ beat the odds and are at the top of their game - balancing high profile careers and motherhood. These ladies have a thing or two to say to those who believe that women aren’t ambitious and can’t have it all.

Natalie Gouche’ AKA “The Mogul Mom” shuts down all of the naysayers. As a Social Media Marketing Trainer from Los Angeles, Natalie showed just how much ambition she had by leaving a stable job in Corporate America to start her own business.

After the birth of her daughter, Natalie dreaded going back to work and leaving her baby - as most mothers do. She partnered with a health company that allowed her to work part-time or from home. Within 3 months (using social media), she was able to quit her job, and in 6 months tripled that income.

“I simply wanted to be able to bring in enough income to quit my full-time job and be home with my daughter," says Gouche’. "I was blown away by what social media did for my personal health business, so it was then that I decided to train others on how to use it to grow any business they chose. Now I train through online webinars and live events.”

Calling herself “The Mogul Mom” shows exactly where her mind for business is. “Mogul Mom is a term for us all. It simply came from the fact that when people think of a mogul, they think of a successful business man. Why can’t women be successful in business and at home as well? WE can!  I am just an average mother with a crazy passion to help other women and to be the best business woman and mom that they can be.”

While Natalie’s story is one that is easier said than done, most women are afraid to walk away from a guaranteed paycheck to start their own business for the fear of not being able to financially support their families. Natalie advises these individuals “to stay committed to whatever idea, business or venture” that they are interested in. “It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Thinking of all of the things that come from owning your own business should empower them enough…time, freedom, income, etc. I currently help mothers build an online business (or grow a business) with a blogging platform that I personally use for internet marketing training and I enjoy a very healthy residual income.”

But what happens when life gets in the way of a woman’s ambitions? What happens when things get tough and your ambition is placed on the back burner because we are just “trying to make it” from day to day? What happens to a woman’s ambition when they are single moms and they do not have the support to help them raise their children and chase ambition?  Does her ambition get put on pause? Tai Goodwin, a Career and Success Coach says, “As a working mother, and definitely as a single mother, there is every excuse as to why our ambition gets put on pause: We are doing everything by ourselves, there’s not enough time, money, support, etc. You fill in the blanks. But the excuses don’t stop our heart from wanting.”

Shawn Brown could have filled in that blank with the word “tragedy.” Her first tragedy occurred when she was pronounced dead not once, but twice at the scene from a head on collision with a drunk driver.  In that accident, her ten-week old son, Jakori was killed. She suffered from a skull fracture, crushed bottom jaw, and broken femur. Additionally, the roof of her mouth split down the middle, her tongue was cut and several teeth were blown out.  Her injuries were so extensive that the doctors asked her mother for a recent picture because they needed to reconstruct her face. She had to have botulism shots injected into her eye muscles to try and correct the double vision and straighten her eyes. Nineteen years later, she is still suffering from injuries related to that accident that include:  arthritis in her foot, some double vision and eye muscles that are still paralyzed.

Shawn went on to give birth to her daughter three years later. Premature and weighing only 1 pound 11 ounces, Milan Elisa Wicks is now healthy and strong at 15 years old. More tragedy struck when in 2008, Milan’s father Kevin was killed by police who went to the wrong house when responding to a domestic violence call. Shawn remained strong in her faith- positive and ambitious through all the heartbreak and tragedy that life had bestowed upon her.

“Our tragedies are not meant to break us.  Our tragedies are life lessons, or sometimes called hiccups, and sometimes these lessons are not for us but for the people around us. We are supposed to use these lessons to help other people,” says Brown.

And help others is exactly what Shawn does. In addition to volunteering with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), she speaks publicly to others about surviving the loss of a child, helping a child deal with the loss of a parent, forgiving in order to live, and taking the past and making a future, among other topics.

Through all of this tragedy, when many would have given up, Shawn, now a single mom of 3, turned her love for cheesecake and her grandmother’s sweet potato cheesecake recipe and opened her own bakery, CheeseCaked in Conyers, Georgia.

“Baking warms my heart and seeing the expression on people’s faces after they eat one of my treats brings me joy. Once the cupcake industry started to explode and Crumbs Bakery made it to the NYSE, I thought “hmmm I wonder if I could do the same thing but with cheesecake.” I started researching and CheeseCaked was born. After having a life full of tragedy, I have managed to have a sweet business.”

Both Natalie and Shawn are perfect examples of having die-hard ambition and desiring more success. It's about working hard and being fulfilled. Whether you desire more money, more sales, more prominence, or more applause; if you put the work behind the ambition, you can have it all.

Speaking of applause, ambition earned Quiana Parler just that. The songstress from Charleston, South Carolina began singing professionally at the age of 10 at the Carolina Opry in Myrtle Beach. Born to parents who were both singers (Her father was a member of the band “Soul Drifters”), she grew up watching her mother and father practice for weddings together which she says, “helped to mold me vocally.”

In 2003, she earned a spot in the Top 48 on American Idol and the applause did not stop there. “During the audition process for Idol, I became friends with a guy by the name of Clay Aiken and we spent the entire audition together up until I was cut. After being cut we still kept in touch and one day we were instant messaging after I saw him on The Ellen Show and I made mention of one of his background singers having the same hairstyle as I was wearing and he replied, “Oh really? Do you want to sing backup for me?”  The rest, as they say, is history.

Aiken flew her out to California to audition for his tour with Kelly Clarkson and “from that day my life was never the same. What I thought was going to be a day of auditions, ended up with me singing with him on The Tonight Show, as well as with Kelly Clarkson on The Tonight Show… all within a two-week period. After that, we started rehearsals for the tour, then TV promotions, which landed me on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The View, The Tyra Banks Show, Saturday Night Live, The Megan Mullaly Show, and many more.”

When you are in such demand and your life is moving at 100 miles a minute, one wonders just how these women are able to juggle such busy schedules and motherhood. According to Your Self Improvement Plan.com, “Career women often have problems juggling work and their relationships. This is because, unlike men, they are expected to continue to nurture children, care for elderly parents, and stay in touch with friends, no matter how busy or hectic their business lives become. It is commonly believed that a truly successful business woman is one who can do all of these things and succeed in all of these things. Realistically, however, this can become overwhelming, and women do need help juggling work and relationships.”

Quiana agrees that help is needed, especially when you are a single mom to a busy 7-year old son who attends karate 5 days a week and tutoring 4 days a week, drum and piano lessons.  “I have a strong support system (my parents) and that means a lot.”  When asked does she follow a schedule, Quiana laughs. “A schedule, what is that?  I try hard to stick to somewhat of a schedule with my son.”

“My day typically consists of me working out, returning emails, meeting with brides, as well as future clients. Let's not forget making sure the house is cleaned and the other projects that I'm currently working on. The easy part for me is getting on stage and performing. I often think people forget that I'm still running a business. I am STILL trying to figure out how to juggle all that I have going on.”

Natalie, on the other hand, has no problem juggling work and family. “I juggle business and family by putting everything in its place. Hubby time isn’t work time, daughter time isn’t business time and business time is BIZNESS time. As much as I’d like to say I have mastered a schedule… I can’t say that I have. I do my best but my life is crazy and I kind of like it that way!”

Keeping the balls in the air without dropping them is imperative for Shawn.  “Running a business and being a single parent is the most exhausting job in the WORLD! However, I take it day-by-day. When I get home from the bakery, I try to spend good quality time with my children and making our time special. On my off days I try to plan an outing with the kids, and I let them pick where we go (within reason). Everyone has a bed time and a chore schedule.”

Many women shy away from being “so ambitious” because they are not willing to sacrifice the time that it takes to “get to the top.”  Sacrificing motherhood is often the sacrifice that many women who want to “get ahead” make.  For those women who say that they can have it all - the family and the career, are still expected to be everything to everyone.  And when you are trying to build your own business, things can get a lot harder. Shawn advises women who are interested in starting their own business that “having your own business will not give you more time with your family in the beginning, but if you vow to take ONE step everyday towards your dream, one day your dream will be closer than you think.”

“Act like a man” is often times what women are told they need to do in order to move up in the business world, but when they do they are chastised for it.  Working in the music industry, Quiana knows all too well, what it takes to maneuver her way through business and it’s not by “acting like a man.” She says that in order to be respected in the music industry, she had to earn it.  “By showing that I am a professional, serious about my craft, that I know the business and that I am no nonsense. I am firm believer in not mixing business with pleasure and I know for a fact that taking this stance has played a major role in my success. By having set high standards and sticking to my boundaries, I have earned the respect that I receive in this business.”

Quiana, Natalie and Shawn have gone against the grain proving that each one of them is ambitious and extraordinary. They have ignored all of the people who said that because they were women, mothers, wives or single moms, they wouldn’t be able to fulfill their dreams but they did. All successful and fulfilled in their careers, they can all agree how important it is to set positive examples for your children and teach them to be respectful, helpful, loving people who know that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to.

"After being pronounced dead twice, having my face reconstructed, learning to walk again and losing my first born, if I can stay positive and ambitious and continue to press through for my living children, I think ANYONE CAN,” says Brown.

The next time that little voice in your head starts saying, “who do you think you are to deserve more?” Feel free to retort: Who do you think you are to say I don’t?