When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was technically on maternity leave with my two-month-old son Andy – but like most entrepreneurs, I still felt compelled to answer some emails, usually one-handed, and take some naptime calls.
I also had my older son, three-year-old Nico, cooped up with us at home due to school lockdown restrictions. And just as so many other parents worldwide experienced during the pandemic, we were managing a lot of unknowns – without childcare or anywhere to go.
Thinking back on that time, I’m amazed at what we all went through and how well we handled it, considering how the deck was stacked against us.
But here’s the thing – surviving parenthood and surviving entrepreneurship are two exhaustive and overwhelming endeavors – even when we’re not living through a global pandemic.
In 2021, Americans gave birth to 3.66 million new babies and 5.4 million new businesses. Some of those births happened at virtually the same time.
As a person with firsthand experience juggling the demands of founding and growing a business while simultaneously managing pregnancy, childbirth, and new parenthood – I feel the pain of my fellow entrepreneurial parents. I see you and I applaud you. You’re courageous, amazing, and maybe a little bit crazy.
When I think back to how I survived becoming a parent (twice), while also keeping a business running, while also maintaining my sanity (most of the time), and occasionally managing a nap – a few bits of practical wisdom were incredibly helpful for me. I’ll pass these tips along to you, friend, in hopes it will make your journey a little bit easier:
1. Surround yourself with empathetic, understanding people.
This isn’t just wisdom for entrepreneurs and parents and entrepreneurial parents – it’s wisdom for all humans. If you want more peace and stability in your life, be extremely choosy about the people you select to join you on the journey. Prioritize empathy, kindness, grace, and understanding in not just your friends and partners, but also in the people you hire – and even the people to whom you sell your products and services.
It took me years to learn this lesson, and many more years to apply it, but I only work with clients today that will understand when life happens and family needs pop up. And truth be told, is that an everyday occurrence? Of course not. But when you need the time for family, you want to be surrounded by people who will support you. I just say no to working with people that don’t align with this. Put simply, those billings just aren’t worth the cost.
2. Make a support plan for work and home.
Smart people prepare and plan thoroughly and diligently for crises before they ever occur. And while founding a business and starting a family are magical, exciting, once-in-a-lifetime events – they are also highly stress-inducing. If you have the opportunity to get out ahead of challenges well before they hit, take the time to put a real plan down on paper.
Actually, write out what actions you’ll take proactively to make life easier at work and at home, and what actions you’ll take in high-stress scenarios and worst-case situations. My plan included bringing on a contract hire to backfill my role during maternity leave and a nanny for later, maneuvering our budget to allow for that, and leaning heavily on my wonderful husband. Your plan might include similar or entirely different support systems.
3. Empower and allow others to take the wheel.
The illustrious Steve Jobs said it best: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” This means we must empower and allow others to take the ball and run with it. Remember there’s a reason why you hired the people you hired. You don’t have to be in control of everything, and in fact, you shouldn’t even try to be. Believe in them. Trust them. Permit them.
4. Be very picky about your meetings.
We have long lived in meeting-happy work culture. We are a Zoom-obsessed society that prompts an endless array of memes and Tik Toks about our behavior. We love to meet to talk about things, such as all the other things we need to meet about. Part of the reason I went into business for myself was to disrupt and abandon the work culture I came up with. I love people, but I mostly hate meetings. Therefore, I’m extremely picky about the meetings I set and attend. In fact, I go without a meeting in every situation I reasonably can. If you want to safeguard your precious hours with your kiddo, I recommend you do the same.
5. Stop trying to check every box, perfectly.
Like so many others, I struggle with perfectionism. I’ve always loved checking items off my to-do list, fulfilling my obligations, and wrapping things up with a bow. But when I launched my business in 2010, I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to neatly clear my inbox in the same way I used to. I wouldn’t be able to prevent every little thing from slipping through the cracks.
Some things were going to slip. And once I had my first child on top of my business, I was outright dropping things. Forget slipping. I was actively dropping anything and everything that didn’t directly contribute to my highest priorities – the ones that were actually going to continue to propel my business forward. If you want to survive entrepreneurship and parenthood, the first thing you should proactively drop is your perfectionism.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur contemplating parenthood, expecting a first or second child, or you’re already in the thick of it and looking for tips that will keep you from spontaneously combusting, I see you. Take all this advice with many, many grains of salt.
Consider and apply what you can, where you can, in a way it makes sense for your personal experience. And no matter what you do or don’t do, remember that the work of running a business is hard, and the work of running a family is harder, and all that work piled up together means you most definitely deserve a hug and a drink.
Suki Mulberg Altamirano is the Founder of Lexington PR, a public relations and marketing firm that helps businesses develop brand identity, grow consumer trust, generate investor interest and drive greater valuations through the power of storytelling. Her firm partners with businesses to bring their stories to life through memorable messaging, creating engaging brand content across owned media channels, and securing earned media placements as well as executive bylines in top-tier outlets. Her firm has experience with both B2B and B2C businesses, ranging from global names to Fortune 500s as well specialty brands and early-stage businesses across an array of industries including tech, fashion, wellness, beauty, digital health, EdTech, supply chain management, and more. Prior to founding Lexington Public Relations, Suki held in-house public relations roles in New York City and San Francisco, overseeing media relations for global consumer and luxury goods brands, including Williams-Sonoma, Elizabeth Arden, and KENZO, part of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Suki is fluent in Spanish and received her Bachelor of Science at New York University. She has called New York City, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, and San Francisco home, and now resides in Seattle, her original hometown, with her husband and two sons (ages 6 and 2).
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