For some reason, an article published in The Atlantic in 2012 entitled, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, has always fueled me. At the time it was written, I had a 3-year-old daughter and I was pregnant with my second child. I wanted nothing more than to prove that article wrong.
I wanted the career and the family. And not just the token two children, but to actually be the one who volunteered in their classes and screamed at them to stop picking flowers on the soccer field.
I found that being employed by a large consulting firm and having layers of people above me made it very difficult to control my schedule. I always had to sheepishly ask for time off to go to a school play or a Halloween parade. Additionally, I didn’t have the ability to effectively influence the hiring and benefits allocated to my team members, whose talent and execution on projects I relied on for my flexibility.
I recall a statement in the article that read: “The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.” Well, I didn’t don a cape, nor did my parents offer me a silver spoon, so I had one choice according to the writer’s theory. I had to start my own business.
Women can have it all
In April of 2013, four months after giving birth to my son, I did just that. I started a business. Now, I’m not declaring that every mom should work. I wholeheartedly respect and applaud all stay-at-home moms. I think it is one of the hardest jobs in the world.
However, I want to illustrate that we have a choice. I have a personality that requires a hectic schedule. I like to work and I want to work, but I also want to be there for my family.
Three and a half years later, my company has 130 employees and is closing in on $20M in revenue in 2016. On this journey I have learned five important lessons. Women can still have it all and it starts here:
1. Marry rich (in support)
As you go through life, surround yourself with positive, supportive people. When you start a company, you want to be next to people who are rooting for you and are proud of you. Don’t settle for people who regard you and your career as an afterthought.
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg stated, “When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious.”
My husband’s work is demanding, but he is an extremely present dad, covers for me during work dinners, and still spends the time to talk to me about how to handle work matters. The best thing he ever told me was how happy he was that I was such a great role model to our daughter in terms of what she can achieve as a woman. He believes in me, and that has been an absolute blessing.
2. Find partners you value (and who value you)
I genuinely believe that it is far easier to start a firm when you have other partners who you can lean on. I know my weaknesses, and being able to rely on others who fill those gaps allows me to focus on my strengths. Look around and ask yourself, “Who do I trust? Who has similar values and skills that complement mine?”
I have worked with the other three co-founders for almost 15 years now. We picked each other. They are incredible family men with whom my values align with from a business and personal perspective.
3. Build your squad
Find other parents at your children’s schools who can become an extended family. They live near you and their children have the same schedules, so being able to rely on them for child pickup when you’re late because of a client emergency is so important.
Make the time to go to parent outings, arrange play dates and attend birthday parties, and you will find people who are going through similar stages. Become great friends with them. It really does take a village to be a working mom.
I am extremely fortunate to have found a group of moms at school and beyond (some who work, some who don’t) who have been incredibly supportive. We have to be there for each other to make this work. It’s just that simple — and an occasional happy hour get-together is also a necessity.
4. Find an outlet
Life as a working mom is incredibly stressful, so find an outlet for relief and commit to it. Whether it is yoga, a workout class or even just writing a journal, spend at least three to four hours on yourself a week.
We prioritize ourselves last on the list, so find an activity and block time off on your calendar. It will give you that extra dose of patience when a deal falls through or your kids put Play-Doh in the washing machine.
5. Count your blessings daily
After a long day, those moments when I lay down with my kids and watch them fall asleep are everything. I never want to let them down. I always want to be there for them. But I also have to realize what is important to me and make room for it.
I count my blessings that I have both my career and my family. I may misplace my phone almost every day, or find a sticker stuck in my hair on the back of my briefcase occasionally, but I wouldn’t trade these moments for the world.
This article has been edited.
Candice Lu is a Founding Partner at OnPrem Solution Partners, a consulting and product development firm located in Los Angeles, New York, and Austin. Connect with @OnPremSP on Twitter.
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