When entrepreneurs refer to their startups as their "babies," they aren't being entirely figurative. As one Aalto University research project showed, the love founders feel for their companies mirrors that of parental affection. It only makes sense: Why else would anyone nurture a business to the exclusion of his or her financial and physical health?
This may be manageable for entrepreneurs without kiddos, but what about entre-parents already bringing up a family? These folks need to figure out how to stave off the sibling rivalry between flesh-and-blood children and a fledgling organization. Otherwise, they'll throw off their balance and risk alienating everyone and everything that's important in the process.
Facing the Founder's Dilemma
Randi Zuckerberg, founder, and CEO of Zuckerberg Media minces no words when she says that personal sacrifice is part and parcel of entrepreneurship. Based on her experience as an entrepreneur, investor, author, tech media personality, and mom, Zuckerberg avers that founders should expect to spend less time with friends and family if they want to succeed. Case closed.
Zuckerberg's words may ring true for successful movers and shakers. At the same time, imbalance shouldn't be seen as a necessary evil of entrepreneurship. For instance, many people fall prey to the belief that success comes at the expense of massive burnout: That's a myth.
Sure, burnout happens sometimes, as any parent can attest -- especially women who feel societal pressure to "do it all." However, a constant flow of debilitating stress shouldn't be the natural state for anyone, whether a mother on the playground or an executive in the boardroom. Anxiety doesn't lead to smart parenting or wise management.
Striking a Balance
As an entrepreneur with kids at home, your goal should be to find that delicate balance between parenting children and building a brand. Start by reminding yourself of a few truisms.
1. It's OK to prioritize family time.
Your business won't atrophy simply because you decided to take a Saturday off to go on a hike with the kids or rake leaves in the yard. Actually, you'll be a better founder if you spend time away from the daily grind on a regular basis.
To be sure, you may have trouble finding hours to be home when you're trying to run a company. That's where your calendar comes into play. Schedule family time and self-care into specific time slots and stick to your appointments. You'll be able to invest in all the things that matter without giving too much of yourself to your company.
2. Spend the best time with your kids -- even if it's not the most time.
On the other hand, remember that you're allowed to work. Get your business tasks done so that when you turn your attention to your children, you're not dumping entrepreneurial anxiety all over them. Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, observes, "As kids get older, when you ask what bothers them, it's not that their parents are working, it's that their parents are so worried, and that worry creeps into them."
Stay mindful about where your energy is best spent. Maybe you don't have to eat at the breakfast table with groggy teenagers. Perhaps that time could be used to answer emails so that you can cheer at their lacrosse games instead.
3. Let mistakes be learning opportunities.
No one can be a perfect parent or entrepreneur. Kids will have tantrums, and businesses will also have bad days. Leverage the errors you make when running your brand and running your home to become a stronger person.
Aimee Werner, the founder of natural skin care company Whish, recommends using faux pas to boost your acumen. "I remind myself all the time about getting past mistakes because they're the name of the game in business," she says. "After all, nothing is perfect," Werner recalls a time early in her company's history when a huge partnership nosedived. While it took her years to realize that it was for the best, the incident helped her company become scrappier, leaner, and more competitive. For your babies and your business, take today to learn and tomorrow to turn things around.
4. You're entitled to ask for what you need.
Parents and entrepreneurs have DIY mentalities that can set the stage for major responsibility overload. Learn to delegate and communicate at every turn, asking for help when it makes sense.
Although it can be tough to admit you need assistance to clear your to-do lists, you'll find that people -- including partners and children -- are more than willing to help. Plus, as an added bonus, you'll have more time to spend relaxing because you won't be "on" 24/7.
No one said being a mom or dad would be easy. The same goes for setting up shop. Take your entre-parenting role seriously and search for balance wherever possible. Your business and home life will benefit -- and so will your mental health.