The Tough Journey of Raising a Family and Growing Your Business: How We Can Have Both, Successfully
The same can be said about starting a business.
Now put them together and you’ve got a whole lot of ugly going on (If you’re a parent-preneur, you get this).
It’s tough. My husband Dan and I built two houses, had two kids, launched two businesses (one a VC-backed startup), all in two years. Most people do that in a lifetime.
Let’s just say we redefined the term “insanity.” But the lessons learned were priceless. How we survived all came down to three main things: nonnegotiables, schedules and systems. The methods we often applied to our businesses, we used to plan our family life.
Physical and Mental Health
First, as any great leader would say, put yourself first. Your health and wellbeing are paramount to building a successful business and nurturing your family unit. You’re selfish if you don’t take care of yourself first. This means exercise (Yes, even at 2 p.m. if that’s when it suits you), massages, walks in nature, sleep and eating well.
This is tough for a new parent, especially those who are simultaneously running a business, or two. But put it this way, the business and your baby cannot survive if you’re barely holding on yourself. Schedule time for YOU. Banish the CEO-mommy/daddy guilt and schedule time away from business and baby; rock climb, get your nails done or join that barre class.
When you’re first starting out with both with your business and babies, you and your significant other need to make a list of non-negotiables. Mine include Crossfit two or three times each week, free time every other evening (I love baths… alone!), a cleaning lady and someone to do our groceries. I use Evernote to make this list and then plop everything into my shared calendar with my husband. We review every Friday during our “Martell/Warren Clan Lunch” meetings.
Google Calendar FTW
I cringed at the idea of applying systems and processes to my family life. All those Gantt charts and spreadsheets I wanted to check at the door when I got home. Well that isn’t the case if you want to run a business and raise your family successfully. My husband and I decided very early on that we did not want to have a nanny. We put our boys into daycare when they were both five weeks old (it was so hard), but we all survived. I was responsible for morning routine and Dan was responsible for nighttime routine, every day. If I was travelling, it was my responsibility to find help for the portion of the routine I was away for, and vice versa.
Sleep schedules for parents with newborns
Newborns are so unpredictable, especially with sleep patterns. It wasn’t fair that I had to be completely exhausted every day and go to work just because I was still feeding my babies. So we decided on nighttime split shifts. I got from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. to sleep. If a baby woke during that time to feed, Dan would simply bring me the baby to nurse and he would take over from there. He had from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. to sleep. When he was travelling, we had a night nanny come in a few nights a week to help. (Night nannies are easy to find. Just look for someone willing to stay overnight. They usually only charge a flat rate fee outside of their waking hours of work. It’s absolutely worth it in those early days.)
Keeping to a schedule is key. Here are some things that we have inked in place on a weekly basis:
- Dinner as a family every night.
- Friday: Martell/Warren Clan Lunch (We get together every Friday at lunch to review three things: 1. How we are doing as a couple, 2. Our finances, 3. Our travel schedule). Even if things are going well, this meeting happens.
- Family day Saturday.
- Quarterly disconnected retreats. Dan and I choose a new destination every quarter to get away for three or four days with no devices. Here, we plan out either the next quarter or the year ahead. We exercise, go out for dinner and otherwise act as complete tourists.
Family Operations Manuals
The “Playbook.” That’s what we call it. It’s our family operations manual where you can find details to everything such as the family doctor, daycare contact and fees, lawn guy, general repairman, vaccinations and more. More importantly, it lists the procedures on how to deal with situations whether it’s related to the house, legal or health. While we openly communicate these things on a regular basis, it’s important to have it documented so we can refer to it and update it when we need. Use whatever platform works for you (Basecamp, Trello, Evernote, Google Docs), and consistently keep it updated. Include things like children’s weight and height on a monthly basis, important business dates that will require extra time away from the family, anniversaries, Halloween costume ideas, favorite recipes and even birthday party plans.
I know too many women (especially) who are teetering on the fence deciding to choose between running a business or raising a family, and I believe you can have both. It’s all about non-negotiables, schedules and documenting the procedures. You will have to compromise, you will have to do things that may seem to go against your nature at first, and you will lose sleep. However, if you take the time now to create these systems and negotiate with your significant other to determine who will do what and when, then you will have some autonomy to keep what will seem like that tiny little bit of yourself that still remains. Remember that person, as he/she is the one that got you here.
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