How to Embrace Entrepreneurship As a Parent

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At 28, I found myself married and expecting a baby while also founding and CEO of a quickly growing early-stage tech company. To say my situation raised a few eyebrows (and was met with a significant amount of skepticism) would be an understatement.

Day in and day out, I was being told things that simply didn’t make sense: “You’re too young to be a CEO,” “You’re too young to have a baby…” then suddenly, with the flip of a switch, one day the advice you receive changes to “you’re too old to have a family,” “you were selfish to wait.” For some reason, we have decided parenthood and entrepreneurship do not go hand in hand – not for women, anyway.

I’m certainly not the first person (and won’t be the last) to be presented with the choice between pursuing your biggest professional goals and your ultimate lifelong dream of becoming a mother. So here’s the thing: two years later, I can say this: both things are possible.

I want to take a step back and fully recognize how fortunate I was to have certain resources and support that not everyone does to help me through. Only 51% of women take five or more weeks off for maternity leave; worse, 62% of lower-income women do not take any maternity leave. A truly unacceptable outcome. We must be better.

Ahead of sitting down to write out my experience, I spoke with countless parents who covered a wide range of experiences. Ultimately, these were the takeaways: 1) there was a consensus that taking off more time would result in some penalty at work, 2) they felt like taking time off hurt their chances of a promotion and 3) some parents I spoke to couldn’t take time at all due to financial circumstances.

For people who feel they are in a similar position to me know that even though it will be difficult, you can and will get through it. And maybe, by using the platform I have been given, the conversation can get louder, and maybe it won’t be quite so difficult for those who follow. Maybe we’ll even become just a little more accommodating.

So, let’s talk about the reality of pregnancy and entrepreneurship — the parts nobody likes discussing.

I was told more times than I can count that investors wouldn’t want to back a pregnant CEO, that pregnancy was a deterrent for VC funding, that parenthood was the reason investors feared female-led companies, and that taking maternity leave would signal a lack of commitment to the company.

The advice was given: do not tell them you’re expecting, and take no meetings in person. Regardless, we forged ahead amidst the chaos of impending parenthood and business growth. We began discussions with potential investors when I was about seven months pregnant, and we officially closed our Series A just days after I gave birth. Yes, you read that right — texting investors while in labor is not for the faint of heart.

Related: Why Women’s Entrepreneurship is Booming Right Now

The days and weeks following, the struggles of diaper changes, navigating breastfeeding, and, as if that wasn’t enough, a broken tailbone from childbirth, all while running a company—these are the untold stories that leave women feeling isolated and unsupported. It’s time to dismantle the stigma and normalize conversations around the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood in the workplace.

As for my path, I didn’t take maternity leave until my baby girl was about 12 months old — I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to do so. But by then, I was exhausted and didn’t feel like I was doing either role particularly well. Ultimately, my three-month maternity leave was the best decision for me, my family and my business.

Not everyone is in the same position as me or will be as fortunate as me to take the delayed leave I did, but for those who may be struggling with work-life balance or the challenges of being a new parent, here’s what I’ve learned.

To those who think they don’t need the time off, or that their careers can’t afford the pause, let me be clear: that perspective needs a shift. You are not just entitled to this time; you need it. And it’s not merely about physical recovery — it’s about mental and emotional health, bonding with your child and adjusting to the monumental task of parenting. This isn’t just for birth mothers. Mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, all of us need this time. Why?

  1. Your child is paramount. Forget work for a moment. Bonding with your child is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that nothing, absolutely nothing, should overshadow.
  2. Parenting is the world’s toughest job. No corporate challenge compares to the early days of parenthood. Taking time helps you adjust to this new life phase, something I wish I had more of before diving back into work.

Related: How to Balance Entrepreneurship and Parenthood Without Losing Your Cool

And a few tips I have for those navigating this journey:

  • It’s OK to put yourself first. One of the best pieces of advice I can give: it’s ok to be ‘selfish’. This is the one time you can say no, ask for help and set boundaries — for all intents and purposes, the world should feel like it’s revolving around you.
  • Don’t be afraid to communicate openly with your team and clients. It’s easy to be scared and to be honest about what you’re going through. My advice: Be open and honest, and more often than not, you’ll be surprised by the support you get.
  • Plan and delegate. Before your leave, set clear expectations and delegate responsibilities. Empower your team so the business can run smoothly in your absence, minimizing stress for everyone involved.

It’s time to break the silence surrounding parenthood and entrepreneurship. Let’s embrace the complexities of our lives, challenge societal norms and pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive future.

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