Caring for an infant is one of the most stressful, time-consuming, and rewarding experience a person can have. So is entrepreneurship. How could you possibly combine the two and stay sane?
It sounds challenging from the outside, but according to a host of kick butt mom/founders it's more than possible. The key is approaching combining new parenthood and a return to startup life with your eyes wide open and your battle plan at the ready.
EdioLabs founder Annie Tsai wants to help her fellow moms (and dads) accomplish just that. On Medium's Moms in Tech recently she offered an in-depth guide to surviving startup life as a new parent, covering topics from considering your company's leave policies, to finding time to pump, to ways to nurture your network despite being up at all hours with a cranky infant.
The complete post is well worth a read in full if you'll soon be juggling startup life (or any kind of demanding gig, really) and caring for a small, demanding human, but here are a few tips in brief to give you a sample:
1. Come back on a Wednesday or Thursday.
Your first days back from parental leave are bound to be a roller coaster for both emotional and logistical reasons. Cut yourself a break and make sure there are only a couple of them to get through before you have a chance to catch your breath. "For that first week back, consider scheduling your first day on a Wednesday or Thursday," she suggests.
2. Consider a modified schedule.
It's not a possibility for everyone caring for an infant, but if you can swing it, consider working a slightly reduced schedule, suggests Tsai. There are a number of ways to do this.
"Many moms have recommended working an 80 percent schedule when they return to work (working 4 out of 5 days) for an extended period after returning from maternity leave. This gives you the ability to ease your way into integrating your two worlds," Tsai writes. "While I did not have an 80 percent transition plan, I did opt to leave the office at 4:15pm instead (and finish up my work after 7pm when we put the baby down)."
3. Be open about scheduling restrictions
Again, your exact approach to sharing the details of your new, more insane schedule with your co-workers will depend on your specific situation, but Tsai argues for defaulting to openness if you can. It worked for her.
"Consider sharing your pumping schedule with your manager so s/he knows that you will be unavailable for meetings during these times. When I returned to work, I blocked off my schedule and made the details available to view so everyone knew what I was doing," she reports. Not only did that perform the service about educating childless colleagues about the realities of working while breastfeeding, it also simplified Tsai's life. "I found that people really respected that time," she reports.
4. Plan for backup child care.
Based on my personal experience, I couldn't agree with this one more. Little babies get sick a lot (particularly when they're just starting daycare). You need to be prepared. "That first year my son was in preschool, he was out sick almost the entire month of January with back-to-back flu (it was an epic flu season). My husband and I really struggled with finding help and being out of the office as much as we had too," she reports as parents everywhere nod along in recognition.
"Make sure you think through alternatives for child care beyond the immediate day-to-day to reduce the chaos when plans unexpectedly change," she recommends.
5. Make a "No-list."
Being a parent will actually probably make you more productive, according to science. That includes making you more ruthless about how you spend your time. Tsai suggests facing these new realities early by consciously thinking about where you can trim the fat from your previous commitments. Tsai calls this a "No list."
What's on hers? "Doing things for people when they were perfectly capable of doing it themselves (finishing up a powerpoint, taking on a presentation or proposal, project managing something well outside of my scope, for example). These were things that I was doing just to be nice but had little benefit to my strategic goals. I also stopped 'sitting in' on meetings where there was no clear reason why I should be there," she reports.
Actually, those might not be bad things for everyone to cut from their calendars, but it's especially important for time strapped new parents to be more ruthless about saying no.