When Mom’s a Vagipreneur
She loved the sexual arousal business. But what to tell the kids?
Some working moms bring stories about their workday to the dinner table at night. The kids dig for details: was it fun going to Walmart headquarters in Arkansas? Did you have a cool hotel room? What “free stuff” did you get? Some moms hope their kids will follow in their entrepreneurial footsteps and take over the family business and carry on their legacy. Some kids can’t wait to do just that.
Well, I am never going to be one of those moms.
And my children are never going to be those children.
Until my daughter was twelve and my son was nine, I was a boring “consultant.” My kids were unsure about what I did for a living and they certainly didn’t care. As far as they knew, mommy went to work, to meetings, back and forth to airports, showed up at PTA meetings, cheered them on from the sidelines during sports, organized their lives, and drove them to birthday parties. My professional life was just background noise.
Then eight years ago, my business partner and I bought a company that produced a topically-applied product for female arousal, desire, and satisfaction. As the daughter of a psychotherapist—and a fan of openness—I thought carefully about the words I used to speak to my kids about intimacy and love. I always used the scientific names for human body parts. I said “when people love each other very much and they are married [note: I didn’t have the courage to tell them people had sex outside of marriage], their physical relationship is very important. Sometimes, they do not enjoy the experience. Mommy’s company makes a product that helps a couple enjoy each other.”
I didn’t know whether to be happy or devastated when my 9-year-old son looked at me innocently one day and said, “I get what you do. My autobiography could be called, ‘Diary of a Pimp-y Kid.” Not my finest parenting moment for sure.
And then my business with the female arousal product called Zestra took off. I became a VAGIPRENEUR overnight. Yes, that is the term a savvy journalist used to describe people who work in the area of female health. And the name stuck.
Creating a female sexual health brand isn’t for the faint of heart. We built the business by talking shamelessly and factually about Zestra on television and at dinner parties. We had to argue with network executives to accept our ads and speak to rooms of male venture capitalists who made the same inappropriate sexual comments they would have made in a seventh-grade lunchroom.
It was hard but it was fun. We were the first people to say the word “vagina” from the podium of the very stuffy Harvard Club. And after one satisfied consumer exclaimed, “This stuff really works. Thank you, God!” – I took license and began to say that I was doing “God’s work.”
Our efforts paid off. A story about Zestra appeared in the New York Times, on The View and Good Morning America; it even became a trending topic on social media. All of a sudden, my partner and I were doing an 8-minute segment on Nightline.
As the business grew, however, so did my children’s mortification. As a result of my new, titillating career, strangers, friends, and yes even the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers stalked me—literally—to ask the most outrageous, intimate and personal questions– and in the most inappropriate settings. I mean, I was minding my own business in the carpool line one day, when a chatty mom with a semi-booming voice asked me whether Zestra was safe for vaginal dryness given her recent cancer treatment (which it is). The only problem? My son happened to be sitting in the car and looked at me in horror. Another time I was at the gym trying to squeeze in a few extra miles on the treadmill at the crack of dawn. An acquaintance (not a friend) approached me and whispered conspiratorially: “I heard you have stuff in your car.” Seriously? Now I am dealing sexual enhancement drugs out of my SUV? Several women asked: “This stuff is topical. Does that mean I have to be on top?”
Well, let me tell you ladies, I have done the research. I know the answers to these questions and many more. And what I don’t know I can find out. But I am not interested in sharing ANY OF IT in technicolor—in front of my kids!
I learned to set and enforce boundaries by creating, “No Zestra Zones.” I literally interrupted people who started to talk about their stuff in front of my kids. I left rooms. I drove away. I was not subtle. I told everyone who attempted to cross those boundaries, that they could say whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted to their kids, but that the intimate details (or often lack of intimacy) about their personal lives were not welcome in my home or near my kids.
So how did it all turn out? The year I bought the company, both of my kids switched schools. Coincidence? Doubtful since the new schools also meant that none of their new high school or middle school friends knew what their mom did for a living.
Today, my kids are now 22 and 19 and are happy and productive human beings. I was never hauled off to a prison for irresponsible mothers or penalized for creating an unsuitable environment for children. Oh, and we did sell the business to a pharmaceutical company that continues to market Zestra internationally. I continue to work enthusiastically for many companies in the “vagina space” and speak about it publicly because I believe the conversation about women’s sexual health is so important.
And my kids are mature enough to head for the hills if they even get an inkling that “old” people might be about to start talking about sex. They adjusted to, forgot or forgave the teenage angst my career caused them, and they generally seem to respect my business accomplishments.
So here’s my question: When do you think is the right time to tell them that my book, Orgasmic Leadership™ will be published?
Why I Decided to Pose Nude at 55 (June 2018)
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