By Jen Sterling, an EO DC member and Chief Red Head at Red Thinking LLC
Female business owners have challenges that men don’t have. This isn’t a sexist, feminist rant. It’s just simple biology. Women have babies— beautiful, new beings that demand and deserve all that you can give. Some women also have other “babies” vying for their attention— their businesses. Much like a newborn, a business demands and deserves nearly all of your time and energy. So how does a “momtrepreneur” balance the two?
I recently spoke to a female business owner who was facing one of the greatest quandaries of her life. She said, “Jen, we’ve spent almost 12 years building our first baby (our company), and I’m concerned it may suffer now that we’re awaiting our second baby (our first child).” This frazzled entrepreneur wanted advice, and she needed to know that everything would be alright. Her need for answers reminded me of my own decision-making dilemma; namely, whether or not to even have a baby and still try to run my company.
Wanting to help this fellow entrepreneur, I shared how I had tackled my doubts. I had decided to e-mail 20 female business owners across the country, seeking their advice on an effective work/life balance. Surprisingly, I received an outpouring of encouragement from these strangers. Every person wrote back to me, providing new insights on how to be both a successful mom and entrepreneur. In the spirit of helping other women struggling to balance their babies, here is how I’ve learned to balance the needs of multi-million-dollar clients and still be home in time to read Dr. Seuss to my daughter:
Get plenty of rest
When you’re not at work, make sure that you rest. Do not use every minute the baby is sleeping to squeeze in one more business call, handle your e-mails or follow up on an assignment. In the beginning, sleep when the baby is sleeping. Yes, I’m serious.
Know your environment
Be aware of what resources you have around you. Getting out of the house and office is both difficult and rewarding with a new baby. Plan a “field trip” to the grocery store or take a long walk between conference calls. You’ll find a lot of opportunities to unwind and stretch your legs.
Don’t always work in the business
Instead, focus on the business of being a family. If you’re always obsessing about details, such as how many ounces the baby drinks or how many hours they’ve slept, you will miss out on opportunities to regain your sanity or bond with your spouse and staff.
Learn how to delegate
You can’t do it all alone, so don’t even try. Coordinate schedules with your partner, both at home and at the office. Make sure that tasks are balanced by strength and time available, and space out each task to allow for oversights.
Budget and plan for short-term help
Whether it’s an unpaid intern or a high-end consultant, plan to hire an assistant. Get your staff up to speed and working prior to your rest period. You’ll find that having someone to screen your calls and take care of the administrative work will drastically lessen your workload.
You need the right people on the bus
Sometimes you need to ask family and friends not to visit for a few weeks, so that you can get your systems in place without well-intentioned suggestions and opinions. At work, you need people who can operate without your constant supervision. Hire the right team, and stepping out to be with your family will be a lot easier.
Prepare for curve balls
Kids get sick. It happens. They also act as carriers and will bring you any illness that comes within five miles of them. Have a plan in case that happens. With two working parents, how do you decide who stays home and who goes to work? If one (or both) of you gets walloped with the plague, who takes care of the baby? Plan ahead.
Give yourself a break
Above all, recognize that some days you will be a bad business owner and some days you will be a bad mom. No one is perfect. Don’t kick yourself for it.
In the end, it is hard work trying to juggle both a business and a baby, but it’s wholly rewarding. My daughter’s kindergarten class recently held an “I have a dream” exercise for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Her dream was to “be a big boss like mommy,” only her company would give toys to kids who don’t have any. To me, that made the balancing act worth it. I work hard because I love what I do, and because I want my daughter to know that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
Jen Sterling is the president and chief red head of Red Thinking. E-mail Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org.