Working mothers and fathers know how difficult it can be to balance a career with caring for children, but when they’re parentpreneurs running their own business, it becomes a whole different ballgame. Here are five brutal truths about managing two labours of love.
(1) Qualifications don’t cut it
Entrepreneurship and parenthood cannot be taught at school. There are no qualifications that can set you on the right path, and parenting or professional training courses pale in comparison to learning on the job. From the second you get that positive pregnancy test or the first round of funding for your business, your whole world will change, and once you’re committed, there’s no turning back.
Your only option is to learn quickly, develop a strong sense of self and accept the sacrifices you are about to make.
(2) You will let people down
I’ve missed first birthdays and school plays because of pitches and last-minute trips, and I’ve missed stakeholder meetings and deadlines because of A&E visits with my children.
Sometimes, as parentpreneurs, you will prioritise a meeting with an investor over your kid’s first day at school, and sometimes you will miss the biggest meeting of your career to stay home and hold your child’s hand whilst they cry. You’ll feel like a failure no matter which path you choose, but you will have to accept the ramifications of your decisions and realise the bigger picture.
Raising children and growing a business are both about creating something you’re proud of, so spreading yourself a bit thin at times and dropping the ball occasionally is necessary to getting the best of both worlds. When your children are old enough, they will understand this, and at the office, your staff – if you keep them close – will know how important your kids are to you. People do understand.
(3) Pride goes out the window
The help of others – family, friends and colleagues – is integral to the success of parentpreneurs. If you’re a parent and decide to start out in business, or even if you already have a business and decide to have children, you must accept that you cannot do it alone – if you try to, you will compromise both your children and your business.
Yes, you might be “the parent” or the company’s “founder” but you don’t have to suffer in silence and you can’t afford to alienate those close to you. When commitments surface that you can’t miss, the people you can trust and rely on – whether a business partner, exec or even a junior – will be the ones you can call on. They will also grow and thrive from this responsibility.
I sold my last company to set up Fleximize with my business partner, and I was lucky enough to have eight of my staff follow me. Without these amazing people, Fleximize wouldn’t be what it is today, and I’d have missed out on so much more with my children.
(4) You call the shots
One of the things about being an entrepreneur – and I still don’t know if this is a pro or a con – is that your brain never switches off, and the emails never stop. So, should you not be in the office for half a day, that’s okay because if your team really need you, they can still reach you.
Unlike a 9-5 job where you report to a manager and abide by an employment contract, you organise your day how you want it. Yes, there will be times where you can’t be in two places at the same time, but for the most part, you arrange your day.
The really great thing is that you don’t have to apologise for having children. You leave when you need to pick them up from school and your day starts when you’ve dropped them off.
(5) Other relationships might suffer
This one is particularly true for anyone in a romantic relationship, but the same goes for friends and family. With commitments like running your own business and raising your child, you may notice that other relationships suffer from the burden of stress and lack of time.
Time together with your partner will be reduced, but the best way to combat it is simple: make time – even if it’s a few hours in the week – and communicate everything. Looking back at having kids and a company, so many arguments could have been avoided if I just shared how I felt at the time.
All you can do is be brave and believe in your decisions wholeheartedly. Just because other people may doubt you, it doesn’t mean you should doubt yourself.
The main thing to bear in mind when the weight of the world does feel like it’s on your shoulders is that this is all temporary. Be mindful of your time as parentpreneurs, manage expectations of those around you and realise what is important to you. Once you’ve done these three things, running a successful business and a healthy household will fall into place.
Peter Tuvey is co-founder of alternative finance provider Fleximize