Parent Entrepreneurs Strike Work Life Balance: Advice From Jennifer Toney and Carol Realini

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By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-In-Chief, Women 2.0) This week, Pemo Theodore interviewed Jennifer Toney, co-founder and CEO of WeMakeItSafer. When asked about being a "mompreneur", "balancing it all" and gender bias, Jennifer said:

"There tends to be a fear that moms aren't going to have the same amount of time as a single person, or someone without children, to spend on their startups. And to that, I would say everybody has something else that they're working on. By definition, if you are a successful entrepreneur, you are most likely an overachiever and so whether you are a marathon runner or a sailor, or you're sitting on boards of other startups, or you're trying to work on a charity and solve world hunger -- you're doing something else anyway. And so for a mom, your something else happens to be your children."

When Jennifer had kids, it wasn't the business, technology and entrepreneurship that took a sideline. Jennifer stopped gymming and running triathalons instead. She admits her schedule "changes but it doesn't mean you have less time to work on your business."

She notes that the people who question work/life balance are oftentimes people without kids and recognizes that "they feel like 'I know what I'm doing now, I know how hard it is, I know how much time I'm spending, there is no way I can have children.' And that's probably true in that mind frame and in that model you've set for yourself, you probably couldn't also have children and do a good job. A lot of work/life balance is being intelligently creative about your organization and changing your model about how things work and when you get things done." She concludes:

"You find a way to make things work... Sure you might not be able to do the 10am to 4am work-in-an-incubator with a bunch of people, but you are also not doing other things that take away from startups. On Thursday/Friday/Saturday you will never find me at a bar from 9am to 2am -- I am back at my computer working very hard and progressing on the company whereas my single entrepreneur friends will be out at the bar drunk-tweeting. Some of it is I'm sure helpful to their business and networking but a lot of is just drunk tweeting -- they're having a great time and it's great but -- those are hours, a lot of hours during the week that moms are spending, or people with other obligations, are spending on their companies."

If an entrepreneur has children, it doesn't mean that s/he has less productive time to spend on business.

As Jennifer points out, "If you were to compare productive hours, it would be very similar -- it's just that they are happening at different times in different ways."

Mobile payments startup Obopay's Founder & CEO Carol Realini has raised millions in venture funding in her career as a serial entrepreneur. She said wholeheartedly in a NCWIT interview --

"I have three children, and I love them and they're all successful. They're grown. They're in their twenties. I love them. I don't see them as much as I want to, don't spend as much time with them as I would like. I have a husband who I've been married to for almost 30 years. I love the outdoors. I'm very athletic. But the fact is when I'm doing this I would say that I don't have the kind of balance that would be the perfect balance, and I just accept that. That's the job. The job is to have a little bit of struggle with balance, because the job is going to be really, really demanding, and I've accepted that. I had five years off, six years off where I was able to spend as much time as I wanted with my kids and my husband. And I biked and hiked and skied 60 days a year. That was fabulous too, but, you know, there's nothing like building a company from the ground up."

Conversely, parent entrepreneurs pursuing meaningful "lifestyle" and brick-and-mortar businesses have a champion in Joanne Wilson, who thinks out loud about supporting "those businesses, again started by women entrepreneurs, [that] have a difficult time get funding" -- with an angel fund:

"If we could come up with something where more women are getting funded to create companies that could grow in range from $10M to $100M that are evenly balanced between men and women at the top and provide jobs opportunites for people who have chosen to stay home and want to work hours that work with their life style or want to re-enter the work place, the impact in the economy and communities could be significant."

XX Combinator, Anyone? XX Combinator was broached by Tereza Nemessanyi, Founder & CEO of HonestlyNow -- a Y Combinator for the people in their 40s -- whetting curiosity for alternative funding and startup incubation models.

In another vote for seasoned entrepreneurs, startup launch conference DEMO announced two scholarships for boomer entrepreneurs this year.

"People over 50 have an advantage because they have experience and knowledge. The investment community should keep an eye out," said Jody Holtzman, SVP at AARP for DailyWorth.

How To Get Started On Entrepreneurship At ANY Age

Focus your productive hours on your startup -- start tonight and apply lean startup and customer development methodologies to your best startup idea(s) for quantifiable results, learn a new programming language online at night, or even perfect your startup pitch to gain support for your business idea.

Women 2.0 is here to help. Let us know how we can help you ideate, build or scale your high-growth or high-tech business in the comments below.

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