This is just one story in a magazine series on moms who run businesses (Poppy Barley‘s co-founder, Justine, is expecting her first baby in January 2016 and wants to speak to the experts!). See more posts in this series here, and find out Justine’s takeaways here.
San Francisco to Moncton, New Brunswick
Max, born August 17th 2012
Noah, born July 26th 2013
What is Onboardly?
We started in June 2012 and work with funded technology companies to help them gain visibility, brand awareness and ultimately get them in front of key stakeholders and customers. I started with a co-founder, but I recently bought out her equity stake so am flying solo and LOVE it.
How did you reconcile having a newborn and having a business in the first 12 months?
When I first found out I was pregnant with our first son Max, my husband and I sat down to map out a 1 year plan. We wrote down all the things that we wanted to achieve that year and what a perfect day/week/month looked like to us. We then compared each other’s notes and started a plan to support our visions. We included what resources we would need access to (daycare, childcare, investors, coaches, etc), what our monthly budget was (this is an incredibly important step), and who we wanted involved in each aspect of our lives. It seemed relatively simple and so we put it into action. Then …
When our second son came along 11 months later, we went back to the drawing board and got even more serious about scheduling. (Note: Dan and I hated schedules before we had kids. We were always so concerned that a schedule would mean for a boring life. Well we were wrong.) With two babies under 1 years-old now, we needed structure. We quickly learned that kids are suckers for schedules. They need it in order to thrive so we made sure that we would stick to one as much as possible. This meant that I would be responsible for the morning routine (feed, dress, pack lunches and bring them to daycare) and Dan would do that nighttime routine (daycare pickup, dinner, bath). We always have dinner together (I grew up in a household where this was a non-negotiable) as mandatory quality family time. The system worked!
Now, the tricky part was applying the same scheduling technique to our businesses. Dan, a three-time successful startup founder, and myself in the thick of growing an agency – which meant that hours were always so unpredictable – had to systematize the who/what/where/when/why of our respective organizations. We had to build contingency plans into everything that we did; what if a kid gets sick and needs to stay home from daycare, what if one of them has a doctor’s appointment, what if I forgot their lunch at home — again, ugh? Who will deal? In our instance, it was me. Dan took care of the household stuff (bills, landscaping, etc). But when push came to shove with a poorly timed doctor’s appointment or illness say, (Gosh I wish I could control those things — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the hospital on a panicked 2am sprint to make sure the wheezy breathing is nothing more than a cold) it was a matter of playing the game whos-calendar-is-most-forgiving-today? Dan and I would actually compare our shared calendars to see who’s meetings were more important and what could be moved around for the kids.
Our motto is family first, always, but when you’re boarding a flight to Minnesota to meet up with a client and your phone rings and it’s daycare, panic will always hit. If you plan it right (back up sitters with access to your car seats or make this a non-negotiable task for you hubby to do), then you should be able to catch that flight.
Oh, and the most important note here is this: Health is always #1. YOUR health as a parent comes first. Take time to breathe, relax, eat well, and surround yourself with positive people. It takes a community of friends and family to raise a child, no matter what type of company you’re growing.
What did you think it would look like pre-baby and what arrangements did you set up? What was the reality like?
We were naive, as most new parents are, in how hard it was. Most parents aren’t very vocal about their challenges with raising kids, (presumably to appear like they ‘got it together’), so we were rather clueless as to what was going to happen. Boy oh boy, we were in for a huge learning curve. I remember when we brought Max home from the hospital, I started having panic attacks (shortness of breath, headache, overall dizziness) and I couldn’t figure out the issue. Turns out I had the baby blues, and it sucked – so – bad! On one hand I had a newborn baby which I didn’t know what to do with and on the other hand I had a business to run, which was fine without me for a week, but needed me soon enough. On top of that, I was in a new town and didn’t know too many people so felt isolated and lonely. Needless to say, it was not a fun time. The fine act of balancing my sanity and running a business came into effect in full force. It was after about 5-weeks, when Max started daycare full time, that our planning (scheduling) was implemented and I started to feel human again. Reality was exhausting and had it not been for our pre-baby planning, I would have likely given up the business side of things.
Any advice/inspiration/warnings for entrepreneur moms-to-be?
What works: Scheduling.
When I was back to work, Dan and I divided the night into two shifts: 8pm-1am, and 1am-6am. I typically got the first shift so would go to bed at 8pm and Dan would bring me the baby to feed if I was breastfeeding at the time, otherwise I would sleep. If a baby awoke between 8pm and 1am it was on Dan to deal with regardless how cranky the baby was. The shift would switch at 1am and I would take over.
Saturday’s were always family days. No work, only quality family and visiting friends time. After Noah would awake from his nap (usually around 3pm) Dan and I would then each take a child and go on separate afternoon dates with one of them.
Sunday’s were for work and house stuff. Dan would get from 9am-1pm to work or run errands – “free” time. And I would get from 1pm-5pm to do the same.
What doesn’t work: Electronics as babysitters
A young child has the attention span of a small goldfish. To expect that a 30 minute show will tie them over while you get ready is quite impossible. They just want to be where you are, so prep your bathroom with toys and games to keep them occupied (Tupperware containers are a dream for babies.)
What else doesn’t work: Divided attention
Kids want your undivided attention most of the time, so if you choose to work from home when your children are there it will be difficult (unless you have a noise-proof office). I know I can’t concentrate on any detail-oriented work when I can hear my kids playing or crying. There is a mommy-instinct that kicks in and I shut off all focus.
I guess the absolute hardest part was the scrutiny from others. The things you hear like “I don’t want someone else raising my kid” or “Isn’t 5-weeks old a little too young for daycare?”, amongst others. It took some time but I got past it. You have to. A clear vision, focus and planning is the only way to balance work with babies.
More from this series…