(Image credit goes to TheMuse.com)
There is an irony in the amount of scheduling and rescheduling it took to get this post written. I have no more real example of #StartupParenthood than the past two weeks. But more on that later…
This post is the first in a series this year wherein I will talk about what makes startups and parenthood work for me as a female executive at a so-called “hot” tech start-up, with an almost 3 year old. Why am I writing about this now? Last fall, I looked around and felt pretty damn content and optimistic about this mix (note I did not use the word “balance”) of work life, family life, and me life. And I wondered how I had gotten here. What were the elements that made it so that I could be someone who really enjoyed all these aspects of life, while still having some very frustrating and draining days – yet feeling supported through most of it?
I mean, I knew the answers – at a superficial level. My strong-willed 2 year old girl was in a good place; my marriage was on an upswing; my work felt rejuvenated; I was doing a lot of the professional speaking and mentoring I so love; and I had great friends in my life. But I knew those things didn’t just happen. There is a special recipe that created this, and I wanted to understand it better. I wanted to understand what made it work. I wanted to know how to teach my daughter she too can have this type of feeling about her own “mix”.
I also wanted to share the recipe with others. In my work with TechGirlz, I come across so much content on the “macro” policy side of mitigating the challenges for women (and parents) in the workplace (especially tech), but I had seen very little about what it takes on a individual or small group basis, the “micro” level, so to speak. I read about amazingly unique progressive companies in books like Overwhelmed, but that seemed a bit far-fetched for most of the people, families and companies I know of – at least today in 2015. I did a quick Google search for parenthood and startups and came up with content written in 2013 and well before.
So that led me to where I am today: embarking on these 12 posts on this site to talk about the realities of startups and parenthood – both the craziness that is laughable, and the elements that make for my sanity. I plan for there to be 12 posts here on my blog, and 12 posts on the RJMetrics blog. On the RJ blog, we hope to do what we do really well – interesting data journalism pieces that involve parents near and far, all on this journey of #StartupParenthood.
For today, let me share with you what I have found to be the secret ingredient: flexibility. When I was considering taking a position with RJ a year and a half ago, the one thing my husband advised me to ensure I would have was flexibility. I have read plenty about how important flexibility is as a piece of the puzzle of better gender and parental equity in the workplace, but I am here to say that I think it’s *the* ingredient to focus on. Flexibility actually means the manifestation of a whole lot of other important traits: trust, value of results over time spent, open-mindedness, and so on.
I also like honing in flexibility because it’s something we – individuals and company leaders – can make happen today…without the government, without big policy, and so on. I have come to the conclusion that the driving force for most change – whether it’s in the individual, the family, the workplace, or the community – is in the every day actions of people. More often than not, it cannot be proscribed. We can each create additional flexibility right now. It starts with you opening up your mind to what could be done differently.
Oh yes, the #StartupParenthood story I mentioned at the beginning: I was supposed to write this post the first week of January. That was also the week my daughter was starting a new preschool, which has a phase-in process of going only until 11:45 am on Monday and Tuesday, until 3 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and until the normal 5 or 6 pm on Friday = a potential YIKES moment for two working parents. That was also the week booked full of meetings since it was my first week back in the office after two weeks of holiday-related flexible time working from home. It was also the week that I was scheduled to kick off our 2015 goals and plans with my amazing Customer Success team at RJMetrics – and needed to have my sh*t together. No sweat – I had figured out the delicate balance of all that scheduling with my husband and my team. I knew we would make it work. EXCEPT, Wednesday morning, the kid woke up in a weepy mood, and a 102-104 temperature. That delicate balance went CRASH-BOOM-BANG.
So, what must come is flexibility. I held on to the bare minimum “must-do’s” of home and work, and let everything else go. New year’s energy for working out got pushed out a week or two. I shuffled a lot of meetings around. I interviewed an important potential hire over Skype (while putting it on mute when I ran upstairs to see what an eerily quiet sick kid was doing upstairs). Several sleepless nights later (where I slept in her room so as to reduce the amount of running back and forth as she cried out in the night and I wondered exactly how long my immune system could fight off the petri dish of her room), I got into the office at 6 am to pull my 2015 kick-off together, and left at 10:30 am right after it so my husband could get to his meeting. And so, we made it through. Two weeks later, the waters have calmed down and here I am kicking this series off. #StartupParenthood – it’s bumpy, and fun.