Mother Run: Karen Liebner of Finding Your Momtra

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    Karen Liebner always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.  “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was five years old,” she remembers.  “I always played school at home and loved being at school during the day. I’ve taught in Philly, Hawaii, pre-school to graduate school.  I love engaging people in learning and figuring out what their learning style is.” Her calling to teach has recently led her down a new and exciting path toward entrepreneurship.  “I love teaching but every time I’ve started a new teaching position, after the initial excitement, I’d suddenly start to feel in my gut that it just wasn’t right,” she explains. “I kept pursuing degrees and certifications trying to find my niche.  I spent 10 years bouncing around in education. As a side note, I’ve always been into mindfulness, meditation, the law of attraction, etc. Once I became a mom I started to rely on my intuition and inner voice more than ever. When I went back to work when my son was eight weeks old I was miserable but I also really didn’t feel as though I wanted to be a stay at home mom (also, we couldn’t financially handle that).  After some soul searching, I just kept hearing the word ‘teach’ in my heart and couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to teach. In the months following my son’s birth, several of my friends were giving birth. I found myself being someone that they reached out to for support often. Suddenly, I realized that ‘teach’ meant I should be teaching (I use that term somewhat loosely here) moms about caring for themselves and showing up as their best selves for their families.”

    That message of ‘teach’ morphed into her new venture, Finding Your Momtra.  “This realization just hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” she says. “I was having a serious internal struggle-- trying to justify wanting more satisfaction in my career, wanting more freedom in my day to spend with my son, but also knowing that financially (and mentally) I needed to work.  I always felt called to teach but then I’d have a visceral reaction to having to report to a school every day and adhere to the bureaucracy that is education today. It just didn’t feel right. Suddenly, I had a major ah-ha moment, all of my experiences started linking together in my mind. I truly saw this picture coming together of people and classes and experiences and I realized that I never could’ve done this prior to becoming a mom so really it had all been building up to this.”

    The idea of Finding Your Momtra is that every person's Momtra is different.  Karen’s goal is to help mothers really see themselves, which can look different to each of us.  She describes what it means to her by saying “I’m still finding myself as a mom and I think that that is an evolution that continues through every season of motherhood.  You don’t just ‘arrive’ at the destination because you gave birth. Your baby changes, you change, the world changes and you adapt. Our mindset has so much, if not everything, to do with how we respond to this constant evolution.  I wanted to create a place where I could share my growth and provide support and resources to inspire other moms to share their stories and grow with me.”

    Finding Your Momtra began as a website and blog.  It was an entirely new type of work for Karen who just dove into learning everything she needed to bring it to life.  “All of it was very new to me since I have zero technology background or marketing expertise,” she says. “But my head was bursting with thoughts that I had to put out there before I even got my website to look as presentable as I’d like (that’s still a work in progress).  I’m researching and planning as I go. I’ve made some mistakes like signing up for services too quickly and then realizing it’s not the right one for me/my business. Thank god for free trials! For example, I started with one email service and quickly realized it was too complicated for me.  I thought that ‘complicated’ meant I’d be able to tinker around with every single detail until it looked professional. But instead it came through that I had no idea what I was doing. Since I’m still at the ‘beginning’ my struggle has been deciding what to focus on. Do I work on making my site more presentable today or do I build content?  I just sat down and wrote a plan for for the entire month of April [note: this interview was completed in March] and today I’m creating most of that content so when the day comes I can click submit, serve my audience, and have some free time to play around with website formatting, etc.”

    She soon realized that a website was not all she was meant to do and began work on a podcast in addition to the Finding Your Momtra blog.  “A podcast was definitely not the plan,” she explains. “I definitely thought I’d hide behind a keyboard and send out my words after carefully crafting and reading and rereading them.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk and I do consider myself a good storyteller. I was working on building my site and was listening to other podcasts about launching a business and it just dawned on me that I’d be much more natural at sharing my thoughts that way instead.  I have to say, if you listen to Episode 1 I probably sound a little stiff, but I’m getting more comfortable with each recording!” Starting a podcast with no tech background was another challenge she overcame to bring her vision to life. “I, again, had absolutely no idea what I was/am doing,” she says.  “RSS feeds? Royalty free intro music? A foreign language. But I’m learning and I’m finding it really fun to learn as I go. I’ve made mistakes, signed up for services I probably didn’t need, etc, but those are the normal growing pains of diving into something completely new.”

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    Starting a new business and mixing that with motherhood always comes with a few challenges.  “My biggest challenge has been fear at this point,” Karen shares. “I’m finishing the year as a school administrator and then setting out as a business owner to see what happens.  I’m a very driven person and one of the things that got me through my doctoral program was thinking of how I could tell my future children that I persevered through that challenge.  So I should say that part of the inspiration for taking this leap is my son. But also my fear that it will put us in a difficult spot financially is also tough. Thankfully, I have the support of my husband and we have other options if I need to take on other work.  I guess the answer to how I overcome this challenge is sort of metacognitive--I’m sharing my thoughts on meditation and mindfulness with other moms while at the exact same time incorporating this practice into my own journey of parenthood in order to overcome my own hangups.  My podcast and blog have always been about this full circle.”

    Another challenge she has encountered since the birth of her son in May 2017, has been “asking for and admitting I need help,” she says.  “I had a strange compulsion to make sure that my husband’s life stayed as pre-baby normal as possible. I thought that he’d think I was superwoman and could just do all of this without my mascara running.  And a few months into that charade I realized that that was insane and none of us were benefiting from it. Also, he chose to be a parent too so I feel like he also put some thought into how his life would change.  Once I started asking for help and being unapologetic about needing time for me, it was tangible how different I felt and how much more manageable and enjoyable life became.”

    We all have things that help us get through those tough and challenging times--both in the case of motherhood and running a business.  “Staying sane on challenging days is the point of my entire business, you know?,” says Karen. “Recognizing that is and will almost always be challenging in some way but also remembering that I have power over how this all feels for me is very liberating.  I can change my vibration in an instant if I decide to. My current ‘momtra’ in launching my business, blog, and podcast is to remind myself ‘to be of service.’ One of our big concerns in starting a family was that this world seems to be losing its collective mind.  BUT when you dive into this community of mindful parenting, etc. you realize, thank god, that there is a huge movement and shift going on of this new generation of parents who seem to be also raising their children to just be good people. We wanted to be a part of this movement in our home but then it dawned on me what a bigger impact we could make on the world if moms had a place where they felt supported in doing the same.  This helps me remember that all the work I’m putting in is in service to a much bigger picture, it reminds me that it is totally worth it.”

    One thing a lot of entrepreneurs have in common when they get started is that they often deal with doubt from those around them.  Those who don’t share their vision may not be able to see the value in what is being done and may inadvertently, and sometimes even purposefully, make comments that are unsupportive.  “This is something I think about constantly,” reveals Karen. “Not only is this not a ‘real job,’ I also don’t have a ‘real product’ in some people’s eyes. I’m pretty guarded with who in my family knows I’m doing this at this point.  The thing I remind myself is that they are not my target audience and so I don’t really need their approval. I actually got in a little bit of an argument with my dad about what exactly I’m doing and I ended it by saying, ‘You’re not my target audience, so I don’t need you to understand it.’  That’s been a sufficient answer for now. Thankfully, I have a ton of support both from people I know (especially fellow moms) as well as the virtual community that I’ve grown into.”

    Having a year of motherhood and a few months of business under her belt, she leaves us with a bit of advice.  “You are you and that is your power,” she shares. “One of the biggest things that held me back from initially hitting ‘publish’ on my first blog was that I felt like my message was overdone, like there were too many others wanting to do the same thing.  But I’ve learned that there’s room for all of us. We don’t all have the same vibe, or exactly the same message, and we definitely don’t have the same goals. Some moms are going to resonate with me and click ‘subscribe,’ others won’t find me interesting or appealing and that’s perfectly fine.  I can’t be that for everyone nor would I want to be. My hope is that we can all find support and leaders who fire us up and get us vibrating on a higher level. That’s what it’s all about in the end.”

 

Connect with Karen:

On Instagram

On the web

Finding Your Momtra Podcast on iTunes

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany