In light of Mother’s Day, I’ve been asked to blog about being a mom and an entrepreneur, which is sort of akin to being an eagle and an inchworm, or at least being the robin looking to eat that worm.
I say eagle because an eagle’s perspective is truly necessary when organizing a business venture: you have to see long, you have to see far and you have to know when to dive, gut in your mouth and eyes pierced on your goal.
I say inchworm because sometimes, even though you’re working very hard, it feels like the distance you’ve travelled is measured in inches. And I say robin because you really do have to be up early to make the most of each wonderful, beautiful and challenging day and each opportunity held within that day.
My mémère (grandmother) was a schoolteacher who ventured North to make her way. She taught, ran the farm hands and the gas station, and had her kids in toe working beside her. My pépère (grandfather) worked as a “bucheron” (logger), so there were lots of times when my mémère took over caring for the family. In listening to her rich stories I always felt that you didn’t choose between work and family. Work and family were what life was about and they were intertwined.
When we began planning for a family I moved my legal practice into our home. I just knew that being near the children we were hoping for was how I wanted to parent and work. We bought a large home with a separate area and entrance for a spacious office and greeting area. This is where I now work on our Fly Technologies (ad)venture.
I come from a line of strong, adventurous women, and I never really thought that balancing a family with a venture was a questionable choice. They’re just different “babies” of sorts. Pondering this, I wondered how many similarities there actually were between the two (ad)ventures.
Similarities between being a mother and being an entrepreneur
First, it helps to have a supportive spouse. I have one in spades: a man who trusts my instincts and backed my choice to leave my career as a lawyer to lead a new company. As a parent, you can’t have a risky career and a new (ad)venture without one partner holding a steady job.
Likewise, you need supportive business partners, which I’m also lucky to have. Brent Cordner and Glenn Hibbard have been known to attend meetings with my twins in the room, and to hold a baby while we discuss strategy or technology. Brent has probably done a feeding or two and we sometimes break from meetings to put the kids to bed. My children are sure to be adept at strategy, law, accounting, corporate taxes, intellectual property, business plans, manufacturing licenses and more.
Second, patience and resilience are two necessary characteristics for being both a good parent and a good entrepreneur. We’ve had our knocks—our expectations shattered, our plans revisited—and you have to take those knocks and keep at it. It’s the same steely grit that you need to feed that baby after she’s vomited for the umpteenth time because of an incompletely formed esophagus. It can be frustrating not to be where you’d like to be, whether that’s in business or in parenting. I can tell you that when the alarm goes off at 2:00 a.m. my first instinct is to swear, but then I move my limbs and by the time I see my daughter, Madeleine, I’m so grateful to have the energy to hold and love her and feed her that damned bottle.
Third, I’ve found that both jobs are milestone oriented. We’ve recently improved the manufacturing of our polypropylene honeycomb, creating predictability in its formation, which has led to a new patent co-operation treaty application and the promise of scale manufacturing in the foreseeable future. This allows us to boast another advantage over products that are currently in the marketplace. This was one of the milestones we set for 2013 and we have met it in the first quarter. Now, when Madeleine sleeps through the night, I’ll have hit my next quarter milestone.
Fourth, you never stop thinking. You’d be amazed at how consuming a new business is and what kinds of issues need to be addressed. It’s a character trait that I’ve always had: I never stop thinking. I used to read my math problems, go practice the piano and then sit down and write out the answers without knowing when I’d solved them. It’s like that in business. You wake up and you’ve found a way to address a problem with the assignment consent you’re negotiating or you take a shower and think of another way to feed the twins the food they prefer to throw. “Kaizen” has become a new motto for me.
Fifth, the risk-reward scenario could be similar. I certainly felt that the future was unpredictable when I found out that I was pregnant again only 10 months after giving birth to our beautiful twins! But let me tell you how much heart I had when I saw my daughter in the ultrasound or felt her kick, seven months pregnant in business meetings, or saw, heard and held her for the first time. I’d like to have comparable, if less intimate, rewards with Fly Technologies.
My kids are never far from me. Alesandro loves a calculator and pens and paper. Sienna loves a phone and pretends to have her own conference calls. They both know my lawyer voice and my mommy voice, they follow instructions and we spend our coffee and playtime breaks together.
People have asked me how I manage right now, with a one-month-old baby and two toddlers. Sometimes I don’t bother answering the question. I’ve evaluated that the energy I’d expend explaining probably isn’t worth it. What I can tell you is that I work out every morning for my sanity and I can multi-task like a diva. If the bottles need to be sanitized or the laundry done while I answer emails or read patent applications, so be it. The caller on the phone doesn’t have to know that you have baby spitup on every other square inch of your “outfit.”
Finally, you make sacrifices for both of these (ad)ventures that you would likely never think you could do. I’ve given up personal time, there’s no such thing as lounging and my dancing days are to a fit-mom video or some Teletoon with the kids.
I’ve never really liked the word “mompreneur.” It has such a sexist orientation to it. Evaluate me in business if you’d like, my kids and husband will let me know how I’m parenting. I keep my two identities separate even though I’m tough minded and the same woman all the time. I’m a mom, I’m an entrepreneur and life is an adventure! I’m just pretty lucky to be able to have great business partners, a great life partner and the opportunity of the job of a lifetime being a mom.