By Angela Barbash, Principal
While waiting around for my daughter, our first child, to appear last summer as I kept my feet up in those final weeks, I did a thorough search online for tips for bringing your baby to work with you. I had prepped my business partners to expect a three month leave and then a ‘baby stepping’ plan (no pun intended) back into work for the following three months, unsure of how it would all turn out.
Our family manages two businesses — a research and development consultancy (Reconsider) and Revalue, along with Pavan and Eric. Both businesses are young. On the one hand, there isn’t a troop of employees to manage and a large clientele to satisfy; on the other hand, there isn’t enough cash flow to provide a paycheck that can support childcare. We’re in that awkward early phase where you’re still very much pushing the boulder up the hill. These realities resulted in a sort of flexibility that allowed, and demanded, me to bring my baby to work when I returned.
It’s now been six months and our little one — Delilah, 8 ½ months old — is still coming to work with me. I’m up to about 20 hours a week now, slowly increasing my calendar commitments as I get more and more comfortable with the logistics involved in this baby+work life. What I realize now is that I never did find any blog posts in those early days that could have prepared me for the gauntlet I would need to both set up and run now.
Just out of curiosity, I did another scan before sitting down to write this post, and came up empty handed again. There are tons of posts on bringing your baby to an office environment, but nothing really out there for women who are entrepreneurs, still actively hustling to grow their business, working in coffee shops and libraries and co-working spaces, and without helpful assistants or staff who can just ‘take baby while I jump on this call.’
So, ahead of my appearance at Michigan’s Money Smart Week Mompreneur Summit, I’d like to offer my advice if you too find yourself in my kind of mompreneur situation. Here are three specific tips that may set your mind at ease if you are also scouring the web trying to figure out how this new baby will fit with your existing start-up baby.
- Acknowledge your anxiety, then move through it.
There are a million reasons to be anxious in this situation. She’s going to be disruptive… People are going to be put off by her or think it’s unprofessional… What if she has a diaper blow out… What if I can’t get her to sleep… What if… What if… What if… The anxieties will keep coming. The best thing you can do is acknowledge them. If you’re anxious then you’re a normal human being, you’re a normal mom, you’re a normal entrepreneur.
What I’ve learned through this experience is that for every anxiety I’ve ever had, it never really materialized the way I thought it was going to in my mind. Don’t be shackled by your anxiety. Being an entrepreneur is anxiety-ridden as it is, so learning how to move through this (not around) will make you a better business owner.
- 90% of potential problems are solved by smart planning.
Babies are easy, to some degree. They have a handful of needs and beyond that they just want to be included in the action. Before meetings I make sure Delilah is full and dry. I prep a bottle just in case she wants more. Depending on the environment and what I need to do during the meeting (am I presenting? Do I need to write things down? Am I just chatting and getting to know someone?) I bring the proper equipment. If it’s a conversation or I’m presenting, I bring the carrier. If I’m at a table and need to handle materials, I bring the stroller. The proper equipment will allow the baby to sleep comfortably. If she’s tired and fussy and all I brought was the carrier and I need to write, I’m in trouble, because I can’t write around her.
People say that the best thing you can do is get your baby on a schedule, then plan work around the schedule. Have you ever tried to get a baby on a schedule? It’s harder than it looks, and while Delilah has been helpful in mostly sticking to a schedule, she also has a propensity to flip the script on me at her will. You will be surprised at how adept you’ll become at thinking on your feet in those situations.
However, I have found it helpful to schedule certain types of activities at certain times of the day. Here’s an example: her high active time is 11am-1pm, so I schedule conversations at places with carpeting where I can put her on the floor with her toys; she typically (special emphasis on ‘typically’) sleeps in the 2–4pm window, so I schedule phone calls at home where problem solving is easier in case she wakes up.
- Involve your baby.
Being an entrepreneur means being in sales. It doesn’t matter if you have someone else handling sales for your company, you are still always selling. You’re constantly selling your company’s merits to potential partners, investors, the media, collaborators, new employees, and new clients. I have noticed a marked difference in the tone of a meeting and the resulting relationship when I have the baby with me in the meeting, and especially when I involve her.
By involve, I mean don’t be afraid to ask the other person to hold her while you go to the bathroom, have her on your lap so she can be a part of the conversation, make your commitment to your family part of your conversation. I think the experience brings people closer to you, it makes you vulnerable to them by trusting them with your baby and your baby’s time, and that makes them in turn trust you more. Plus, what baby doesn’t love to be part of the action?
There are plenty of other experiences I could share, but my three tips should leave you with a good guideline of the expectations and reality of entrepreneurship with a baby. I don’t know how long our little one will be able to hang out with me at work, but so far it’s working and it’s an experience I will never forget. I wish you all the luck in finding happy solutions in your journey as well, and join me and many more moms at the Mompreneur Summit at Lawrence Tech University on April 28th 9am-3:30pm to find camaraderie among others just like you.