My take on Alyssa Aldersley’s The double life of being a parent at an early stage startup

Josep Martínez just sent me via twitter this very nice nice article and I recommend that you read it too:

Alyssa Aldersley: The double life of being a parent at an early stage startup

After finishing it, I thought that it would be interesting to comment. After commenting, I thought, well, now that I’ve written all this, it could very well post it in my own blog!
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So, here it is:

Hi Alyssa,

Thanks for your post, I will definitely try theming (I’m doing it in longer “cycles” so far, lean startup style) but there are other things escaping my radar and that system looks worth trying!
Regarding keeping all balls in the air… I have now two kids (6 and 2) and I am now on my second startup (while still involved with the first). A few years ago I founded my first startup while my daughter was one. I thought that that way I would have more time for my daughter and for me (naive, maybe, but it took me where I am). So, I took of these balancing work-family courses. What surprised me the most is that it was about how to take work home. I remember thinking: I have a one year old! What I need is to get work out of my family life. Turns out, I was already doing most of those things, and I wanted to stop doing some of them.

Learnings

Leave the house

One of the things that helped me the most was to get an office away from the house. Close, like John Fawcett said in his comment, but separate. In that way things that need doing in the house (as in: get food, reduce chaos) do not get in the way. Sure, they have to be solved, but in their own time. Also, I found that I needed to talk to adults about things unrelated to my work. It will help you fight the cognitive dissonance between cash flow statements in one hand, and wet diapers in the other.

Manage priorities and energy, and time will follow

One of the things I learned the hard way is NOT to do some things. Your time and energy are even less limited, so it’s crucial to choose what you will personally do, and what you won’t.
  • Not everything that someone throws in your plate is your responsibility, or needs doing at all.
  • Not everything that you did at the beginning needs to be done by you, always.
  • So you do the most important things first (and last!) and leave the rest to others, or in the “someday, but I won’t kill myself over it” pile.
One thing that parenting and entrepreneurship have in common is that you’re steering your babies/startups to independence. You need to be less and less critical everyday (in your children’s case, over 18 years —in your startup, hopefully way before that).

Train to be stronger

Another thing that nobody tells you about entrepreneurship or parenthood is that it’s a long marathon, and that you need either to increase your strength and endurance.
This is not a metaphor!
You need to be stronger than you were before if you’re about to try harder things. You cannot run a marathon by trying harder, or by getting a one-time 3 hour block of spare time. You need to be able to do more in less time at work, and keep your mind work-free during play.
Starting a business is draining (and sometimes, brings you unexpected, great bursts of joy).
Parenthood is draining (and sometimes, brings you unexpected, truly spectacular and life altering bursts of joy).
You need physical and mental strength to face the challenges they bring. In my case, I’ve now set aside half an hour a day for sports training, and it has helped me enormously (in my experience, it’s easier if it’s everyday at the same time). Contrary to intuition, this will give you more energy. In my case, it has improved my mood and and concentration. I was very tired in the afternoons, and now feel more energized for playing and can deal with the kids tantrums for a bit longer.

Challenges

I still need to find the help I need to go out more with my spouse. He’s a great dad and I’d say our tasks at home are evened out. It helps that his job as a university professor has some built-in flexibility, and that we got some house-cleaning help. Still, sometimes it’s all too much and all we want to do when the kids fall asleep is to go and sleep too! I wrote about my timetable here (partially in Spanish). The main point of that blog post is that you cannot compare your training with other people’s highlight reels, that you should “never compare your inside with someone else’s outside”. I remember Sheryl Sandberg saying something about her daughter shouting “don’t get on that plane, mom” —and I can imagine that this is only what she feels secure by sharing.I think we all struggle, but we chose this because we couldn’t live any other way —not now, in any case.

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