Startups and Parenting: A Match Made in Heaven

Cynthia and Iris-4

One entrepreneur offers three ways being a founder and a mother benefit each other.

By Cynthis Jaggi (Chief Practical Idealist, GatherWell)

I’m a mother and the founder of a startup using technology to democratize and disrupt leadership development. I started up both “projects” at the same time.

Being a founder for me is a huge opportunity to model for my daughter what it means to have a clear vision and the will to go after it. Yes, it’s a challenge, but what I’ve realized is how much being a founder and a mother benefit each other.

Here’s how you can get those benefits too.

Solve Problems Playing

My daughter is great at reminding me what a lean startup looks like. She experiments with everything. What doesn’t work gets tossed out. What does work, she focuses on completely and repeats until she nails it solid. That’s exactly the approach I’m taking in rolling out a new way to cultivate leaders.

When you have so much to get done, there’s a risk that you’ll think of time with your child as slowing you down. But children are full of wonder and exploration – qualities that can help you solve problems in new ways. My daughter constantly shows me extraordinary ways to look at the ordinary.

Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” Have fun with your child while holding a specific challenge in mind. Let it simmer while you play. Take a moment to reflect afterwards. What new perspective did your play bring?

Get Intentional About Time

You probably have moments where you feel literally torn in two. You want to be with your child. You want to work on the next big idea. Get intentional about your time by understanding how your energy works.

Map out the hours of the day and what your energy is typically like during different periods. Mid-afternoon? Not a time for me to get great thinking done, but I love to swim or walk. Late night? Produces new ideas and room to expand on them.

Link your energy map with parenting and business activities. Use creative combinations wherever possible.

For me, mid-afternoon is great time to swim with my daughter, which gets me active and gives me quality time with her. There is such a temptation to barrel through the day and cram in as many emails as possible or one more phone call. But I know that this physical time and the restoration it brings ultimately makes me more effective. I’m often in the middle of a swim when a new addition to our curriculum pops into my head.

Look over your energy map to identify where you need more support. Ask for it. My husband is in charge of the evening routine so I have that time to focus. As a founder, you often have the ability to create the schedule that lets you shine in all areas of your life. Use it!

Remember You ARE Doing It

“You’ll never get any sleep.”

“Forget about doing any work from home until they are toddlers.”

I was pretty shocked by some of the things people said when I shared that I was starting a company as a new mother. Often the naysayers are coming from concern for you. Appreciate that they care. If they are personal relationships, direct the conversation to what did work well for them as a parent. If it’s someone who is interested in your business results, refocus them on what you’ve already achieved and point out that you’ve been able to do it while parenting.

Remember that you already are doing it! You don’t need to defend what’s working for you.  You are the kind of the leader the world needs now. One who models being an incredible mother while leading a remarkable new organization. Reminding yourself of that can grow one of your biggest assets – your confidence. Don’t let what others say shake it.

Do you feel being a parent benefits you as a founder? If so, how?

Cynthia Jaggi _3About the guest blogger: Cynthia Jaggi is the Chief Practical Idealist at GatherWell, the Think + Do Tank for Practical Idealists. She’s passionate about cultivating leaders for good who have the inner resilience and the entrepreneurial skill set to make change happen. Cynthia was formerly a partner at Fitzgerald Analytics.