Cyndi Thomason has been described as that friend who’ll add “’just a touch’ of tequila to your coffee, because it’s the right thing for right now.” She’s also the owner of a seven-figure accounting business, a mother of one, and the author of the newly published book, “Motherhood, Apple Pie, and All That Happy Horseshit.”
The book’s title is a phrase that was uttered verbatim to her by a board member at her previous corporate job. She had just given an impassioned speech imploring executives to build a less hierarchical, more human workplace. The board member had dismissed this idea as hokum—i.e. “motherhood, apple pie, and all that happy horseshit.” But Cyndi was undeterred. As a gardener, she happened to know that manure is also fertilizer.
Cyndi reclaimed this phrase and believes that nurturing, a function often denigrated by sexist societal norms, is actually essential to running a successful business. “We care for our team, and in turn, they care for our clients,” she says. She wants to empower working mothers to tune into their own individual needs and ambitions, then design the balance of work and parenthood that makes them happiest.
Below, Cyndi shares four essential lessons for mompreneurs, including why you need to find their own “sacred space,” how not to undervalue your own services, and why previous models of working mothers have been outrageously flawed.
1. Trust yourself to speak with conviction when it really matters
When pitching her ideas for a revamped work culture, a puzzling sensation came over her. She went off script and spoke in a heartfelt and eloquent way she’d never been able to access before. This experience taught her that she had a power she didn’t realize. “That was the first time I was speaking about something I really cared about, and the words flowed naturally and came from a bigger place than just me,” says Cyndi. “What’s really cool is that I’ve learned to depend on this instinct and ability.”
Earlier in her career, Cyndi recounts over-preparing for everything. While she still prepares and puts effort where it counts, she no longer overdoes it. “There’s a point where if you spend so much time and anxiety worrying about something that you end up actually lessening your energy to handle things as they come,” she says. “I’ve learned that I don’t have to have every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed. “If I’m speaking about something that comes from deep within, the right stuff will come.”
2. Accept that there’s no single model for successfully balancing career and motherhood
Cyndi feels obligated to critique outdated depictions of empowered women. For example, a popular 1970s ad for Enjoli perfume told women they could both “bring home the bacon” and “fry it up.” While it was intended to be an inspiring affirmation that women were as capable of work outside the home as men were, combining this with an unmitigated load of housework was actually an exhausting and unrealistic proposition. Meanwhile, the more recent “Lean In” model popularized in 2013 has been widely critiqued for many reasons, including that it assumes work as the top priority, and doesn’t meaningfully contend with work-life balance.
Cyndi doesn’t believe that a single model can supplant these outdated, flawed views of empowered women. “My ideal new model is really much more individually focused. The right balance will look different for every woman,” she says.
Cyndi encourages women to start with identifying what’s important to them and what they value, and then to find their own meaning based on the clarity that emerges from that place. “I’ve spoken to so many women who don’t even know what they like,” says Cyndi. “They’ve been in this position of giving for so long—giving to their family, giving to their work—that they’ve totally lost track of what it is that lights them up.”
“It’s extremely draining to always be giving, especially if you are not in a position where you’re also taken care of,” says Cyndi. “And nobody’s going to do that for us—we have to do it ourselves. It’s really hard to do, but it’s worth it.”
3. Find your sacred space to get clarity to make big decisions
In order to nurture oneself, Cyndi recommends that women find what she calls “sacred space.” She believes that when you nurture yourself with joyful experiences, it enables you to bring your full potential to your work and to your parenthood. Your space can be gardening, it can be making art, it can be going for runs. “Whatever form it takes, it’s that space where moms can really connect with who they are. When you find that centeredness for yourself, suddenly you gain the clarity to figure out what the next right step for you is,” she says.
For Cyndi, she made time to garden—a sacred space where she felt grounded and powerful. Through nurturing herself (and her hydrangeas), she determined that it was crucial to her to make sure that her daughter, who has dyslexia, got the best education available. But the best tutors were a two-hour drive from her home in Arkansas. So Cyndi set out to create a business that had a lot of flexibility. This was the impetus for creating bookskeep, her now seven-figure accounting business.
“Everyone’s sacred space is different. And every woman’s balance of priorities will look different. What’s important is to be in touch with yourself so you can really evaluate what’s important for you and your family,” says Cyndi.
“Figure out a way to take some time every day or at least every week where you work at getting in touch with who you are. This doesn’t mean sitting down and sticking pins in your fingers. It’s doing something fun,” she says. “We get back in touch with ourselves by doing that thing that brings us joy. By doing this, it balances out the whole rest of the equation.”
4. Don’t undervalue yourself by charging less than you deserve
Cyndi has observed a troubling pattern amongst many mothers who start businesses. When they’re starting out, they feel like they don’t have enough experience, so they price their services inexpensively. “The problem is that it becomes hard to succeed with those rates. And it’ll immediately be a burden on your family budget,” she says.
Worse still, Cyndi says that it attracts clients who don’t value you because these are the ones looking for something cheap. “As you then start to grow in your experience and feel more confident, it’s really hard to raise prices on those people that have come in at a lower rate.” Cyndi recommends looking at the service you’re going to be performing and evaluating what that’s worth in the marketplace. “Don’t start out with the perspective ‘I’m new and inexperienced, so I’m going to really discount things.’ Ask yourself what your services are truly worth to your customers.”
Chances are, it’s more than you think.