Showing Pride - in Myself, my Business and my Community
Right now the global spotlight is shining on the queer community after the tragic events in Orlando, Florida where 49 people were murdered in the nightclub Pulse on June 12th - it was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. This caused my partner, Alana, and I to take pause. It caused us to question our safety, if even for a moment. It was a strange and new experience. I have rarely felt scared or ‘othered’ as a lesbian, in fact, quite the contrary.
Let me take you back to my mid-twenties. A cervical cancer scare caused me to make a knee jerk decision to have a baby. With a boy. The good old fashioned way. Trust me, this will be relevant. Feeling like I was caught up in a whirlwind of very grown up activities, like having a baby with someone I had dated for only a month or two, I felt like the only responsible thing to do was to marry him, reluctantly. You see, I had not quite figured out my sexuality piece and I felt “in over my head”. My postpartum depression was terrible, I had chosen a partner that was far from ready for the adult responsibility of a family. It was terrible all around. Shortly after my daughter was born I started my first doula business. I was worried about the terrible financial state of my household and I felt trapped in a marriage that I did not want to be in, with a partner that was rarely present. After Gray was born, I fell in love with the role that my doula played as opposed to my OB/GYN and I abandoned my medical school dream and started my doula business.
I felt a charge of life and energy flowing through me during my first year with my business. I met amazing women in the industry I had just joined. I was kicking ass with my little company and I made enough money to contribute substantially to the household expenses and I could start squirreling away some emergency fund money, just in case. My business was exactly what I needed to feel whole and purposeful again. It worked so that my daughter could be home with me and not in someone else’s care, something that was really important to me. My mother-in-law helped me a lot in the first year. My daughter’s dad got more resentful the more I had to work.
As his support declined, interestingly, my business and my role in my industry just kept growing which left me drowning under a mountain of home care, parenting duties, work responsibilities - and resentment. Around this time I sat on a Board of Directors for Doulas of Ontario and I met Natasha Marchand, my now fabulous business partner, and we grew our private practices into bebo mia inc. which was the largest doula agency in the city at the time. After taking a moment to stop moving, since I literally never stopped at that time, I discovered that as much as it pained me to raise a daughter in a ‘broken home’, I could not do it anymore. Oh, and I was gay. So, I came out (again) and moved out with Gray into our own home.
Since meeting my partner Alana, the absolute love of my life, I am shocked at the difference I experience on a daily basis. I feel so much joy and gratitude and motivation and passion and hustle. My business just continues to grow at a staggering rate since having a partner that fully supports everything I do, and I her. I have a co-parent for Gray, something I ached for and never got in her father. Our daughter Gray is being raised in a household where her physical, emotional and spiritual needs are attentively met. She is so loved by her two moms. Alana and I are sprinting together and it feels so good.
The reality is, more women who are entrepreneurs and mothers live with partners like my former one, where the support level is low and the resentment is high. I cannot tell you how many mom entrepreneurs I work with explain that their husband is their greatest barrier with their business success, and not their children as most people would believe. Researchers at the Harvard Business School studied this and came up with the same conclusion earlier this year. This is a regular topic on the private business support pages Natasha and I host. Dozens of women share that their husbands do not support them having their own business, they do not like the time it takes, and they do not want to help with the child care at the level that is required for the mom to get to her business work. This breaks my heart!
Now, I am not suggesting that all women in this situation follow in my footsteps and leave their husbands and find themselves great wives. I am suggesting, however, that changes can be made at home in order for women to do all of the things that they are passionate about, even when they have children. I am passionate about being a champion for women as they face challenges associated with being a self-employed mom and wife. I want to support them through their education and business support and through tough conversations that need to be had in order to get everyone on the same page in your household. I want women to know that they are powerful and to tap into that. It is such a gift to demonstrate your passion to your children and show them that you are going for it!
I have created as many ways as possible to get out there and support mama entrepreneurs as they start or grow their businesses. I also find myself doing business consulting for people who want to ensure their business and materials and language is inclusive for the LGBT community, something that is frequently overlooked.
As we come into the week of Pride here in Toronto, I am grateful. I am grateful to be a part of the fun and quirky queer community. I am grateful for finding true love. I am grateful for the support I feel from Alana around everything I choose to do. I feel grateful for my brilliant and lovely daughter who has so much love around her. And of course I am grateful to Natasha for being my partner in business during this tumultuous decade of life, learning and growth. And finally, I am grateful for standing in my power and authenticity and making hard choices, because in the end, it was the best thing that I ever did!
Bianca Sprague is co-founder of bebo mia inc. and Baby & Me Fitness inc. She also has a passion project that talks about the issues discussed in this post at biancapsprague.com. Photo by Grant Henderson.