There is never a good time to have a child. And there’s never a good time to start a startup. We hold these truths to be generally self-evident.
But to start a startup while starting a family? That’s a particularly bad idea, most would say.
Three years ago, I would have agreed.
Today, I say that parenthood is actually an incredibly motivating event to push you into the energizing, frenetic, paralyzing, uplifting fray of entrepreneurship.
Why? Here are five reasons.
1. The bar is raised on where I spend my time.
We all spend a lot of time at work — more than the awake hours with family and friends. Before having kids, if I had a bad day or an unproductive week, I would just say #TGIF and move on.
Now, I find myself needing to work on only the most worthy things that are pulling me away from my daughters. Something that I could look at my girls and say: ‘This, incredible thing I’m building is why I’m not there with you during the day.’
Sitting in never-ending meetings and building endless powerpoint presentations didn’t clear the bar for me. That bar varies for everyone. But, after kids, it does get raised — and you will end up being a lot more discerning with your time.
2. I ruthlessly focus on the 20 percent that drives 80 percent of the value.
Before kids, I thought I was pretty darn efficient. However, now I am ruthless at cutting out the fat. Because, there just isn’t enough time. I’ve gotten incredibly good at zeroing in on what’s going to be worthy of doing and what is just superficial fluff — nice to do but not entirely necessary.
I let things go, and I lose zero sleep over it (parents are already sleep deprived enough). That’s a pretty useful skill as an entrepreneur.
You have way too many demands for too little time and you can’t obsess over what you’re not doing. Just get the most important stuff done and move on.
3. Success and failure is tempered by having unconditional love waiting at home.
It’s funny to think back on what I used to think was disastrous or worthy of texting my friends before having little minis running around. Now, true worry involves sick children. True joy involves some crazy thing my three year-old uttered with the drama and solemnity that only toddlers can possess.
And I know: This too shall pass. Whatever good, whatever bad. At home, at work, it’s all a phase. The key is to take it in stride and appreciate where you’re at. And when things aren’t going my way at work, I know that I can just head home, pick up my seven month old, nuzzle her soft neck and all will be just fine.
4. I’m a better mother because my daughters see me doing what makes me happy.
I bring that positive energy back into the house and into our family. There are so many days that my three year old implores me not to leave and I wonder why I am. But then I’ll get a note from a mom whose day I saved because I was able to find her a last minute caregiver or I’ll have a coffee with another incredible founder who understands this insanity that exists within us, and I realize: this is who I am, it’s what make me, me. To pretend otherwise, doesn’t do justice to anyone around me.
Plus, I want my girls to understand that ultimately only you can make yourself happy and fulfilled. Not anyone else. Not parents or spouses or even kids. This journey has taught me so much more about faith in self and creating my own destiny than anything before. And I need to role model that lesson for my girls.
5. Becoming a parent provided the motivation and inspiration for my idea.
Being a parent today is so incredibly hard. Everyone says that it takes a village to raise a child, but we’ve lost the villages.
We’ve either moved away from them or lost touch with them or haven’t been able to build them. Now, so much of the joys and burden of raising these silly sweet kids falls solely on the shoulders of the parents. And every parent I know has felt the panic and anxiety and agony of not having someone to turn to in a pinch. I know we have.
But I find that not enough start-ups are being bold enough in tackling some of the hardest issues we all face. Things like childcare and community and connection. And that intrigues and inspires me to want to take it on.
Maybe I could have started down the entrepreneurial path at 25, when I was unencumbered by mortgages and nanny payroll and sleepless nights and having my kids always hovering at the edges of my consciousness throughout the day.
But then I think of how fortunate I feel that I’ve come to this point where I am so excited to launch a new startup. I most certainly wouldn’t have felt compelled to, or have been able to, build my startup at 25.
So, in the same way that having a family is exhausting and exhilarating and fulfilling and daunting all in one jumbled ball of nerves and emotions, so too is a startup. And I can’t think of a better time to have embarked on both, discovering new facets of each, every single day.
It doesn’t diminish my commitment or question my resolve. If anything, it doubles it.
So bring on play tables and bring on cap tables, first words and first investors, farmer’s markets and market research.
It’s a privilege to have you both in my life at the same time.