As busy families everywhere prepare for the school year ahead, I’ve found my phone a-buzz with texts and calls from fellow parents and frenetic friends and family, all asking the same question:
“How do you balance being a successful entrepreneur and a nurturing mom?”
This question comes from women and men of all ages across various industries. It comes from folks exploring if parenthood is for them and parents mired in what I refer to as the “juggle-struggle,” the physical act of trying to balance many day-to-day responsibilities and activities for three kids under the age of 10. Sometimes it even comes from within, as a busy, working mom trying to drink from the never-ending fire hose of amazing life opportunities and adventures in work and family.
Interestingly enough, the advice I offer in response is as if the worlds of entrepreneurship and parenthood collided. It’s the same guidance I’d offer to a budding entrepreneur or venture capitalist, advice akin to what I’d share with a newfound mother:
Don’t sweat the small stuff, and try to embrace the chaos.
While it may seem trite at first, parents and professionals everywhere can benefit from relinquishing control, practicing acceptance, and understanding that success lies beyond what we can physically achieve as parents. It lies within your psyche, where your parenting approach and professional perspective meet.
Balancing a fulfilling family life and successful career is as hard, and exciting, as it seems. My husband, kids, and career are all very important to me, and that’s been true from the moment I launched Rent the Runway until today. With an intimate understanding of the push-and-pull professionals and parents endure amidst the weekly grind, here are some guiding principles to complement the mantra above.
Neither your career nor parenthood is a chore.
Each comes with tremendous opportunities for continued professional and personal growth, and I’m a firm believer that everyone should be learning every day. I often find myself talking with fellow female venture capitalists and founders, and we reflect upon our unique vantage point that we as women get to experience entrepreneurship and the miracle of life. That’s so special. Just like Beyonce says, we’re “strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.” The bottom line is that If you want to have kids, and you’re excited about it, don’t let your career stop you. If you want to start a business and you have kids, go after it. In life, as a mom or an entrepreneur, you can figure it out as you go.
Accept that being a working parent is a blend, not a balance.
The word “balance” refers to an even distribution of sorts. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a parent steering multiple kids and carrying several backpacks while talking on Airpods en route to a doctor’s appointment … but to describe it as an act of balance is a stretch. Aiming for a healthy blend — incorporating family into work and work into family — can lead to beneficial outcomes.
For example, my kids are fascinated by my business trips. They love hearing stories about my career, the places I go, and the people I meet. Sharing those anecdotes brings us closer together and opens the door to positive, learning-oriented dialogue about business at an early age. I also have realistic conversations with my kids when I need to prioritize work. Being aware of the situation allows them to understand that certain work obligations are simply a part of our lives.
The trick here is that the door swings both ways. As much as a family can benefit from line of sight into a day in the life at work, prioritizing family can contribute to positive office culture and working relationships as well. Take something as simple as bringing kids into the office.
This happens from time to time at Volition Capital, and getting to know colleagues’ families creates a feeling of community and provides a well-rounded perspective. It also illustrates that the challenging roles of mom and career woman can co-exist, a powerful and inspiring message for those looking to find level ground between work and family.
Becoming a parent forces you to up the ante on your prioritization skills at the office and at home. Identify the most important activities, events, and experiences in your life, and be accountable to those commitments. Though a fire drill or milk spill can happen in an instant, not everything can be a 9-1-1 emergency. Know what you are and are not willing to sacrifice. Guard and cherish what is special to you, and say no when necessary.
And last but not least:
for every kid you have, add a cup of coffee.
Now I have three kids and three cups of coffee.
My mom empowered me to bring my all to every situation and seize every opportunity to live life with no regrets. So do your best to not overthink every little thing, and focus on optimistically embracing the creative problem-solving that parenthood and your career will bring.