In our "Mompreneur series," I will be sharing experiences, tips and advice for being an effective mother and entrepreneur in the Middle East.
Ever since I became a mom, four years ago, I've worked at startups. I had my first baby a couple months before taking up a job at a youth-led media outlet, and then had my second child while working as the managing editor at Wamda. In addition to my full time job, I teach at two universities.
I have not yet lost my mind, but it's not easy.
Instinctively, moms think they can go it alone, and have everything under control. Yet your instinct can be wrong sometimes. You can’t have it all- both a family and career- unless someone helps you, and you need to ask for it.
The key to me remaining on my feet, building a career, and maintaining a sane body and mind, is having around me people who can lend me a hand.
Yet as an entrepreneur and leader, sometimes it's hard to ask for help. If you have a tough time asking for help, start small. Ask your mom or your sister first. That’s what family is for, right? Relatives, friends, and neighbours are the elements you rely on. A group of trusted people you turn to whenever you face a crisis situation at your job, or your household.
Here are a few tips for making it all work while running a business or working at a startup:
Find a full time nanny. Making a living is hard, and for people in their late 60s with no retirement plan, it's even harder. Unfortunately, in our societies, there are many women in this situation, hidden away without a lot of interaction in their communities. Ask around in the area you live in. Take initiative and suggest the job. It can be the neighbour of your friend or the relative of your neighbour. Her schedule- and salary- might be more flexible than a young nanny.
Live near relatives. If you decided to go live as far as possible from your parents during your wild teenage years, it's now time to move back. Living in the Middle East with extended family around is a luxury you should learn to make use of and appreciate. Older relatives usually have shorter work schedules and often love your kids, which allows them to babysit at different hours of the day and for different purposes. If you manage to live next to your parents, uncle or aunt, you can exploit these benefits.
Make friends with your neighbours. Your neighbours, whether you like them or not, can be your last minute saviors. May they be single, newlyweds, already parents, or grandparents, most of them won’t mind giving you a hand, by helping to grab the kids from the school bus if you are running late, or keep the kids for a bit if you need to have a 30-minute call. Remember, everyone loves babies.
Find a daycare next to your house. Some moms work long hours and need more babysitting time than a nanny alone can give. You can start by dropping your kids at daycare in the morning and having the nanny pick them up later, until you are back home. If the daycare is a walking distance to your house, a relative, nanny or neighbour can grab the baby and walk to your house without the extra drive and need for a car seat.
Engage in activities to meet other families and other entrepreneurs. Moms who face the same struggles as you are the most qualified to understand your needs, share ideas, and trade the help. In the context of social activities centered around the kids, it's easy to ask for help, knowing you will undoubtedly give it back. Go to a nearby playground or start small discussions with other moms who are dropping their kids at daycare. You never know- you may end up babysitting each others’ kids in a pinch.
Use technology. You do not have a minute to waste. You want to exercise, buy a dress for that urgent business dinner, grab a gift for a friend’s birthday, and find an activity to take your kid to this weekend, all alongside running your business. Often, you won't have time to step out of the house for any of this, so go online. Download exercise apps, visit e-commerce sites, and use local online event guides. Technology can make your life easier in so many ways. Use it.
Your team can be a support too. Being an entrepreneur and mother is tough. But it's also becoming more and more normal, and everybody knows kids get sick and emergencies happen. Show your team that the work is done even if you are stuck with a sick kid at home or need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. Make sure they are aware of the fact that daycares close at 5pm and you need to pick up your kid before that time everyday. Once you make them familiar with the needs of a mother who's an entrepreneur, they might be more supportive of other working moms, or maybe even help out with babysitting on one of those days when you have no alternative but to bring your kid to work.
Some days, no
matter how much help you get, your whole system will crash and you
will have to skip some work opportunities, or fun moments. But the
most important thing is to embrace the feeling of not
needing to do everything by yourself, and to not feel guilty.
You'll be able to let go of guilt trips as soon as you realize your
children are happy even if more than three individuals take turns
at babysitting them in one day.
Children spending time around other people then their own parents, grow a feeling of being independent, a quality most successful entrepreneurs have. You might just be raising a future entrepreneur!