As any parent knows, the word “balance” is a loose term. Whether you’re working a full-time job, starting a business or working as a stay-at-home parent, you always sort of feel like you’re on a see-saw that literally goes up and down all day. Sometimes you’re on top, doing all the things, feeling like you’re conquering life… but more often than not, your see-saw is down on the ground, heavily weighted by the responsibilities of the day. Quite the picture I’m painting, huh? In this episode, I’m getting real about parenting and how to start or grow a business if you also have tiny humans you’re responsible for growing, too.
Okay, so as any parent knows the word “balance” is a loose term. Whether you’re working a full-time job, starting a business or working as a stay-at-home parent, you always sort of feel like you’re on a see-saw that literally goes up and down all day. Sometimes you’re on top, doing all the things, feeling like you’re conquering life… but more often than not, your see-saw is down on the ground, heavily weighted by the responsibilities of the day. Quite the picture I’m painting, huh? In this episode, I’m getting real about parenting and how to start or grow a business if you also have tiny humans you’re responsible for growing, too.
So a little personal background if you don’t know me, I’ve been an entrepreneur for 13 years and I’ve been a mom for five years. I had been running my current business, Factory45, for four years before I had my son.
Before I became a mom, I had the luxury of time. My days truly felt endless – I could take a noon workbreak to go to yoga, I could meet a friend for lunch, I could end the workday early and go to happy hour with my husband. Worst case scenario, I could always hop back on my computer at night if a work task didn’t get done during the day.
And then motherhood happened. And let me tell you, the days still felt endless but for a completely different reason. In the early days, I was lucky if I got to shower. But as my son got older, and eventually went to daycare and then pre-school, my days started to feel a lot shorter. I had between the hours of 8:30am and 2:30pm to get everything done before he came home from school.
And I started to get really good at time management. Which actually, became a silver lining of parenthood… I learned to prioritize. I got more efficient at identifying what needs to get done in the workday versus what would be nice to get done but isn’t really necessary.
Parenthood was also great for my perfectionism – I no longer had the luxury of trying to make everything perfect so my mantra became, “done is better than perfect” which is a crucial lesson for any entrepreneur. Parenting forces you to make the most use of your time – before having kids, I could let three tasks take the entire day. Now those same three tasks take a couple of hours.
Here’s another silver lining of having less time due to the demands of having children: you learn to find, what I call, the “in between time.” The procrastinator in me used to love to saturate my to-do list with the tiniest tasks. I was the queen of the daily long list: Write an email to that person, change the link on my Instagram profile, pay that bill, write a caption… these are all things that take around the same time to write on a to-do list as they do to just complete them in the moment. Becoming a mom has helped me make the most use of the in between time by getting things done when I think of them instead of waiting.
When I had my daughter back in April, I spent the first few months after my maternity leave, getting everything done for the day in four 45-minute naps. I would put her down in her crib, open my computer and focus on completing just one task during that 45 minute block. First nap of the day: answer any pressing questions or review requests from my team. Second nap of the day: write a podcast episode. Third nap of the day: write Instagram captions for the week and review our social media calendar. Fourth nap of the day: Tie up loose ends for the day and answer some emails.
Is this “start and stop whiplash” throughout the day ideal? Probably not. But when you’re an entrepreneur, and a parent, you have to figure out how to optimize your time in either spurts or in blocks of time when you know you won’t be interrupted.
You could say the same for starting a business while working a full-time job. The key there is also finding the in between time – or blocking off your nights and weekends, depending on what else you have going on in your life.
That’s all to say, despite the obvious challenges of having kids and trying to start a business, there are some ways in which parenthood is helpful for entrepreneurship. And I will also say that you’ll get better with practice – just like anything, the time management will feel hard at first but eventually you’ll find a rhythm and routine that works in your favor.
And that’s exactly what I’ve observed through the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with in Factory45. The most successful graduates to launch their brands are often parents. There is some very strong mom energy within Factory45 – we have a lot of women in the program whose kids are starting elementary school and they suddenly have some free time back – and they are the ones who have usually already mastered time management, so they know how to get things done. And after six years of having kids at home to wrangle, they have an appreciation for their newfound freedom and want to make the most out of it. I love working with other moms for that reason – we don’t overthink, we tackle the task at hand and we get it all done before school pickup.
I would be remiss to not mention, though, that help is required. It would be very difficult to run the business that I do without other caregivers around to help me. And that’s why it’s so important to have your partner on board and supportive of your entrepreneurial goals. Because starting and running a business takes time, and you’re going to have to lean on them to free up some of your time so that you can work on your brand. If they’re not supportive of your business goals, then that’s when resentment builds as well as feelings of inequities in the relationship – so it’s definitely a conversation worth having and continuing to have before and throughout your entrepreneurial journey. My husband is 110% the coparent I need him to be and in the early days of motherhood, we also had both sets of parents around to help out before my son started daycare. Now that my son is five and in pre-school and we have our 9-month old daughter, we also have the help of a full-time nanny at our house. Yes, it’s expensive and yes, there is privilege that comes with having that level of help. That’s a conversation for another day but my point is, in whatever capacity you can get it, there is some help required. Unless of course you’re superwoman : )
So to sum it up: Prioritizing is a non-negotiable (which means you also have to say no to things), find the inbetween time, try to get one thing done in the blocks of time available to you and get help wherever you can find it – maybe it’s grandparent help, maybe it’s a full-time nanny if you’re lucky, maybe it’s daycare, maybe it’s your partner or maybe it’s just a twice weekly playdate with a neighbor. Get it wherever you can find it.
If you’re interested in hearing more about how other entrepreneurs balance parenting and entrepreneurship, join us for The Fashion Business Summit on January 26th. Natalie Freed, founder of MSL Bags, will be talking about the challenges and silver linings of raising kids while starting her product line. You can register to attend the Summit for free at factory45.co/summit – the link is in the show notes below. This is the industry event to kick off 2023 as a fashion entrepreneur, so I hope to see you there.