Since my son turned two, I have been getting questions about when another baby might be on the way. But the fact is that I have already have a second baby….my start up. And I’m just barely kidding. My business demands only marginally less time than a baby and gets talked about only a little less than baby number 1 on my Facebook page.
However, I will say that this first business of mine is, as my second child, benefiting from my experience with baby number 1. What I knew about starting a business could have fit on a postage stamp when I began. But I had at least a modestly sized pamphlet’s worth on being a mother.
I have been expanding both knowledge bases as my two babies have grown and I’ve noticed a substantial amount of cross over. Here are my five rules about running a business….or raising a baby…whichever.
1. The best laid plans of mice and men end up in the diaper genie.
Before you give birth, you are bubbling over with theories, plans and rules. You know you would never ____ (insert naive pre-parenthood assertion here). There was a reason your friends with kids were giving you that smug, condescending look when you waxed ridiculous about your best laid plans. Odds are they had money on exactly how long it would take you to surrender to the disposable diaper or pacifier.
With start-ups, you need to be naive and idealistic or you would never kick one off in the first place. But adjusting your assumptions, learning from your mistakes and growing a thicker skin are all part of growing into your role as an entrepreneur as well as a mom. Adjusting doesn’t mean you are surrendering your values or goals. There is a reason “pivot” is the entrepreneurial catch-phrase of the year.
2. What to Expect When You Are Expecting also makes an excellent doorstop.
When you are pregnant, you read about how to sleep train, when to introduce solids, etc. There is nothing wrong with filling your bookshelves with helpful hints and professional opinions…as long as you trust your instincts enough to throw them all out the window. In so many situations, you know your baby best. There are more theories on when to introduce solids than you can shake a spoon of mushy peas at. Ultimately, you know your kid and you trust your gut.
The same goes for the startup. I have always been convinced that the answer to all my questions lay in my next amazon.com purchase. And while I have gotten remarkable insights from great books from talented authors and successful entrepreneurs, the way they did it might not be the way I will do it. You can drown in good advice. Confidence in yourself and in your concept is vital in allowing you to deviate from the well-traveled paths of others.
3. Other moms are your sanity and your salvation.
When my son was 2 months old, I took my first shower, wrapped him in the five layers demanded by the April weather, and drove 5 miles per hour to the local community center for a mommy & me group. It was a revelation. It is incredibly easy to sequester yourself as a new mom. Even easier as a new entrepreneur.
You tell yourself to put your head down, work hard, and fine-tune your product or project until it is perfect. For proprietary or self-confidence reasons, we are loathe to put ourselves out there, network or ask for help. But in the same way that the mommy and me group allowed me to reconnect with the world and air my fears in a sympathetic space, networking groups for entrepreneurs are critical to crowd-sourcing solutions to your problems, making vital connections and otherwise feeling less alone in the world. Showers are also requisite and considered good-form.
4. They are just going to keep moving the goal posts on you.
In child rearing as in few other places (entrepreneurship being a notable example) success is decidedly non-linear. The minute you feel you’ve got one thing all figured out, like sleeping through the night, or potty training – nightmares about snowmen or refusal to wear pants at all are going to come out of left field and leave you feeling like any steps you take forward are always accompanied by giant leaps back.
Meanwhile on the professional side, the social media strategy you think you have handled will suddenly hit a road block while your big PR coup turns out to be a bust and your accounting spreadsheet starts looking crimson red. What looked promising now looks bleak. What was the easy part now appears hardest of all. The ability to roll with the punches and breed success out of failure is what we have to do as parents because tossing in the towel just isn’t an option. We get creative. We bake snowmen cookies with smiley faces and declare the house a pants-less zone. Donning a similar armor to failure and arming yourself with creativity are vital to the stick-to-it-ness required of any entrepreneur.
5. You need a life outside your kid and your start up.
I love that little web meme that reads “Yay it’s Friday! Oh wait, I’m a mom”. It is in equal parts hilarious and depressing. Being a mom is not the hardest job in the world but it often seems to have the most dictatorial little bosses. Who else have you ever worked for that calls you at 3 AM and demands pancakes shaped like Thomas the Tank engine? The fact is there is no weekend, or vacation from motherhood unless you make it. Take the date night and don’t you dare feel guilty about it. Trade whatever favors or you-owe-me’s you can to get out of town for the weekend. Your sanity, like your time, is valuable.
Likewise in the start-up world, your 100% on duty commitment is assumed. I’ve heard it said that venture capitalists looking to invest in start-ups want to know that you are “all-in”…sleep deprived from trying to make your business work. Sleep deprivation? At that, at least I am an expert. But no one wants to do business with a zombie. And no inspiration or creative juice comes to one so deep in the tall grass they can’t see for weeds. A walk, a yoga class, a blog, or dare I say, an hour of guilt-free/phone-free playtime with your kids. Rounding yourself as a person and a mother is vital to working to live rather than the other way around.
How has being a mother impacted your professional outlook?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Natalia Rankine-Galloway who writes at The Culture Mum Chronicles.
Photo credit to the author.