Life happens. The phrase has never rung truer than when you’re having a baby while launching a business. Or as I once put it, having your first human baby while still nurturing your business baby.
I learned that the love of our lives, our now 1-year old baby Alina, would be gracing us with her presence just after returning from a trip to Silicon Valley to pitch new investors for my start-up Le Souk. My personal happiness was interspersed with professional, and somewhat existential, questions.
Can women really have it all? And actually, come to think of it, what does having it all mean anyways? Are we really supposed to operate under the premise that there’s a single definition of “all” in this expression?
Luckily, our generation of “mompreneurs” has a crop of role models to turn to inspiration and proof that you can have it all, whatever “all” may mean to you. Countless women show us that you can be massively productive on a day to day basis, even while another (human) baby is dependent on you for, well, just about everything.
Below are just a few of the tips I’ve followed and learned along my own journey of motherhood and launching a business. Each of these lessons has played a role in my daily mounting confidence that I can have everything I want to have (my own definition of “all”) while being a happy mom to both of my babies.
Work in shifts.
My mompreneur role model, Tory Burch often recounts putting her boys to sleep before settling in for her second night shift, where she would catch up on emails and work with factories until the wee hours of the night.
The daily double shift has been key to maximizing my productivity. My time in the office from 9 to 5 is about interacting with our team, clients and partners. My evening shift, after we put Alina to bed, is about emails, proposals, strategy and administration. The clear delineation ensures that I’m maximizing working hours to interact with our buyers, suppliers and engineers around the world who all make the Le Souk platform what it is.
Yes, the 9-midnight shift can get tiresome, but it’s a small price to pay for quality family time in the early evening. And pen in frequent “nights off” or “date nights” to reward yourself for all your night shifts.
When people offer to help, say yes.
When members of your team ask to take on increased responsibility, say yes. Let go and let your colleagues step up to the plate so you can get a full sense of their professional growth and capabilities. Having a team member take a first pass on a proposal or a product spec will not only facilitate faster employee advancement and foster a work environment they want to be a part of – it will also save you time. Refining a team member’s work is always less time consuming (and much more collaborative) than starting from scratch.
At home, when your partner offers to take your lil’ one out or do a night shift, also say yes. Now, this was admittedly the hardest for me. I already felt guilty that I was working and simply wanted to spend as much time as I physically could with my newborn. Yet the reality is as a mom, and particularly as a nursing mom, you will spend more time with your baby than anyone else. You will physically have to. Why not optimize your support network to be as well-rested and present during that time as possible?
Your home partner is as important as your work partner.
The person you pick to be your life partner will be a huge determinant of your success in life. My husband Nimesh and the role he plays in being an equal parent has allowed me to take last minute business trips to Milan, man trade show booths in Vegas, or simply catch up on sleep. Make your home team as tight as your work team.
Be screen agnostic.
Being a working mom is physically exhausting. It takes stamina. And sometimes the mental energy of opening up your computer at 11 PMis just too much. Luckily, phones today are actually mini computers, so use them that way. I can operate Le Souk any time and anywhere thanks to the mobile apps Slack, Salesforce, Asana, Helpscout, Evernote and more.
Catching up on your phone can provide a much needed mental respite from your computer screen. So instead of starting up your laptop, make yourself a tea, take a breather on the couch, and check in on your phone. Once you master it, you can be just as, or more effective as you are on your other screen.
Make your baby a part of your entire life.
Finally, don’t be limited by your baby or your a sitter’s schedule. Instead, include her in your work and provide some variety to her daily routine. Our sitter arrives every day at 8:30. Can I take a 7:30am breakfast meeting with our CTO at the local coffee shop? Sure – it’ll just include Alina. Expose your baby to your work life as early as possible. Not only will they meet new faces, but they will see from early on that women are multi-faceted, and play a myriad of roles from mom to wife to friend to CEO.