From Fiona's former blog Gypsy Journeys
My goal was to be a star mom, to deliver my daughter to soccer practice and piano lessons and birthday parties, on time and not in a frenzy.
For more than a decade, I lost sight of who I intended to be. Ironically, this happened by trying to be the best mom I could be. After my divorce, which happened when Natalie was three years old, I went back to work full time. I don’t mind work; in fact, I’m basically a workaholic. Work helped to prevent me from feeling sorry for myself, and it brought in a much-needed income. I had a job I enjoyed; it was challenging and sociable, and it put my talents to good use. However, there were drawbacks. I normally couldn’t go on field trips, stay home if Natalie was sick, or pick her up from school when I felt like it, instead of when my work schedule permitted. My goal was to be a star mom, to deliver my daughter to soccer practice and piano lessons and birthday parties, on time and not in a frenzy. Plan fun things to do, cook creative dinners, schedule play dates, and explore our surroundings. My work hours put a cramp on all these things. Determined to change my situation, I began soul searching. Each day during my lunch hour, I pounded the pavement, beckoning the spirits to help me find an alternative path. A path that would allow me the flexibility to be the mom I wanted to be.
One sunny day, walking down the street, I had an epiphany that I could start a granola company. I did know how to make fabulous granola. I had been eating it since I was five and baking it since I was fourteen. Did I have a business background? No. Had I ever seen a business plan or a feasibility study? No. Did I know how to formulate a marketing plan? No. Did I have a bakery I could use? No. Did I have money to start a company? No. Was I familiar with other granolas on the market? No. Did I have an idea for a logo? No. Did I know how to build a website? No. Did I have ideas for packaging? No. Did I understand pricing? No. Did I have a source for raw ingredients? No. Did I have an idea for a company name? No. Those questions aside, could I sleep after this idea popped into my head? NO. Did I become obsessed with such a crazy idea? YES. Would owning my own company accommodate flexible hours? Yes. Would being my own boss allow me to create my own schedule? Yes. Would I be more available to care for Natalie? I THOUGHT SO.
My granola company was more than my livelihood; it became much of my identity.
As it turned out, my granola company became more than my livelihood; it became much of my identity. The mom I was supposed to be got lost in the demands of production, distribution, hiring and firing, expansion, accounting, and building out a bakery. I raced from store to store, participated in continuous food demos and health fairs and farmers’ markets and educational events, and fell into bed exhausted each night, happy to squeeze in five hours of sleep. Getting Natalie to soccer practice on time was supposed to get easier. It didn’t. Getting her to birthday parties on time was supposed to be effortless. It wasn’t. Creative dinners ended up to be, well, not so creative. I did attend most school events, but in the back of my head was all the work still to be done that day.
Through it all, I did my best to make life fun for us. Natalie grew up at the Boulder Farmers’ Market and very much enjoyed it. She spent lots of time at the bakery, cheerfully settling in on top of 50 lb. bags of oats, with a pile of books at her side. She loved to help with anything I allowed her to do. She became a fixture at Whole Foods, adored by all, and welcomed by managers who offered their couch while I carried out my deliveries. We did have fun, and I hid my stress from her the best I could.
Finding self-forgiveness for not being as present as I wished to be, and for making too many sacrifices for the good of the business, has been a process. That I didn’t offer Natalie a more carefree childhood, one with less frenzy and fewer demands on my time, is a hard pill to swallow. The decision to sell my company was in large part due to those reasons. I feel proud for the success I experienced. Yet, I understand all too well the sacrifices that were made to get there. It’s bittersweet, to be sure.
Finding self-forgiveness for not being as present as I wished to be, and for making too many sacrifices for the good of the business, has been a process.
Natalie has always been mature, insightful, and precocious. She is fun-loving, friendly, and happy. Without a doubt, some of the innocence of childhood was taken away from her. In the end, did she gain more than she lost from growing up the way she did? I’ll never know. Whatever the answer, I’m now taking time off. I’m home when her school day ends. I deliver her to dance class, community events, parties, and school activities, on time and not in a frenzy. I’ve embarked on creative cooking, and we play tennis and watch movies together. She’s grown up quickly, right before my eyes. With the time that remains, I plan to remember who I am and what my priorities are.
Fiona Maria Simon
Fiona Simon is the former owner of Fiona’s Natural Foods, aka Fiona’s Granola. After 10 years of running the business, and a year of transition with the new owners, she is now revisiting one of her earliest professions, writing. Fiona’s other passions include travel, cooking, speaking Spanish, being outdoors, and exploring her own personal growth.