Despite being a parent for two years now and working at a startup a bit longer than that, I don’t think the idea of “Start-Up Parenthood” really hit me until earlier this summer. That’s despite my colleague Anita Andrews doing some very compelling and data-driven writing about the concept both on her own blog and our RJMetrics blog, The Data Point all this year.
I’ve learned there are two sides to the Start-Up Parenthood concept. One is the commiseration side – being able to discuss the ups and downs of parenting while also making a company profitable for the first time with your peers. That’s the same as it is for anyone in any unique industry.
The other side of the coin is the non-traditional, highly-flexible, very transparent world of start-up culture, and how that world accommodates your life events (or doesn’t).
The first week of July an avalanche of positive life events toppled onto the people close to me all once. They are not all my stories to tell, which is why this post is coming to you two months after the fact, but the upshot was that both our child care and E were suddenly unavailable to hang out with that toddler while I was in the middle of one of the busiest and most high-difficultly months of my career to date.
The answer? I left the office for a week with hardly any notice. Effectively, the least important aspect of my positive life equation was me physically being in an office from 9-to-5, or even working within those hours. From the CEO down to people reporting one manager below me, everyone at RJMetrics was okay with that. As a result, I got to spend an unadulterated week with my little girl, working during naps and in the evenings. It’s the most time I’ve spent with her in any one week since she was born. We had so much fun. I also did a lot of work. The thing that probably suffered most was my sleep.
My startup let me do that – it’s one of the many opportunities that come with the challenges of startup parenthood, an insane circus act of juggling chainsaws while swinging from a trapeze waiting to be caught midair in the mouth of a lion.
(And, I have the added bonus of my spouse, E, working in the same trapeze act – sometimes we’re bodies flying past each other through the air, others being the net that catches the other when we fall.)
Here’s the thing: I don’t think any of that exclusively has to do with me being a parent, or being married, or working at a startup.
I’ve seen these crisis weeks before. The week we bought our house. The month I was writing the first draft of my erstwhile book. The week E was recording and mixing an album with her collegiate acappella group. Some of my non-parental colleagues have had these weeks when they adopted a new pet, refurbished their house, or hosted family traveling from abroad.
It doesn’t take a baby to be busy, and it doesn’t take working for a startup for every second of every workday to contribute to the compounding future value of a business. Anyone can have a demanding job and everyone has a passion or a responsibility outside of work – and some of them can be as 24/7 and all-consuming as having a child.
I haven’t written about Start-Up Parenthood in so many words because I don’t want it to be a conversation just about a protected class of parents in exclusive unicorn jobs. It’s a conversation for everyone about flexibility and that the fiction of home/life balance is that you can separate the two from each other.
When we frame the conversation about a need for balance primarily around parenthood, it hurts everyone – parents, too. It makes it easy to turn the world into parents vs. not. I’ve never been interested in that world. My professional life was challenging and rewarding for a decade before having a baby, and it’s going to be just a vibrant for the following decade and beyond. I wanted flexibility pre-baby and never had enough of it, and now that I have it post-baby I am not going to hoard it from my colleagues who want the balance but not the baby.
Parents who work at startups are people who by definition have two unrelenting duties, plus many others. We can share and cope with each other while we give aspiring parents a glimpse into our lives. But we can also model what balance can look like for anyone – no matter their job or their family life. We can inspire anyone to find a way to do what they love in every waking hour and leave little time wasted.
I am going to start writing and talking about my own Start-Up Parenthood, and when I do I want you to know that it is a story about you, too, even if your hashtag would be #CorporatePolyamory or #ArtisticSingledom.
We all want love, success, happiness, flexibility, and balance, and #StartUpParenthood is just one model of having all of that and more.