If you’re pregnant, thinking about being pregnant, or a partner to someone who is thinking about being pregnant, I ask – nay, I beg you – do not, ever, Google “entrepreneurship while pregnant”.
Now, I know every single one of you is going to immediately Google this phrase, so let me try to curb your enthusiasm by showing you some of my own search results:
From Entrepreneur (1st result): “Being an entrepreneur means working through challenges. But running a business while pregnant comes with a unique set of challenges.”
From Entrepreneur (2nd result): “For many entrepreneurs, your business is your baby. … In a candid conversation, she shared her key struggles when growing a business as well as a tiny life.”
And to spare you from another Entrepreneur article, how about this gem from Inc: “How to Juggle Pregnancy While Running Your Business … at 1 a.m. Being a pregnant entrepreneur means working when you can — but taking …”
Okay, I think we can all see where this is going.
Before Marvin and I decided to have a baby, I was regularly looking up this kind of stuff. I wanted to know everything I could about how to keep a tiny business growing while also growing a tiny person at the same time. Yet these articles didn’t leave me feeling comfortable or ready. They left me anxious. Sure, they tell you how you can survive pregnancy and entrepreneurship. But that’s the problem: it’s the suggestion that there’s a challenge to overcome to begin with.
When I became pregnant, the anxiety didn’t get easier.
At that point I had read too much about women who worked twice as hard while pregnant in order to make sure their businesses didn’t fail, or women who abandoned their businesses when they had their children (both perfectly reasonable choices for someone to make, but not something I wanted for myself). What I kept seeing, over and over, was a sense of conflict: at some point, your child or your business will suffer. So which one will it be?
Just five weeks into my pregnancy, I took a trip to Washington, DC and hosted a Wanderful livestream walking around the National Mall with my friend, Leticia Barr. If you don’t know Leticia, she runs the award-winning Tech Savvy Mama, a website that discusses parenting in the digital age. Just before our tour, we had lunch together at the National Museum of the American Indian (which, by the way, is a great place to get food on the Mall if you’re looking for lunch).
It was there that I told Leticia my secret, and immediately unleashed a million questions, most of which followed the basic idea of, what’s it like being a parent and an entrepreneur?
She told me it was the best thing ever.
The job flexibility. The opportunity to follow her passion. The parental leave time. It was the first time I had ever heard anything remotely positive about the experience, and it was the first time I felt like, this might not be the worst thing after all.
Today, I’m 24 weeks into my pregnancy. I’m officially well over the hump (with the bump to prove it), regularly get kicked in the groin while writing up proposals, and am often invited to sit down while pitching (I stand). If anyone can tell you what it’s like being pregnant while running a growing business, I can. So let me tell you from someone with experience: it’s possibly the best job you’ll ever have.
I say this purely from a strategic and business-oriented perspective. None of that “having my baby is the best thing that ever happened to me” stuff (I’m sure that’s coming later, but for now this is Business Beth talking). If you’re pregnant, you would be lucky to be an entrepreneur. Here are 6 reasons why.
1. Unlimited Nap Time
During my first trimester, I slept like the dead. I would go to bed at 9pm, wake up at 9am, have breakfast until 9:30, go back to sleep, and wake up two hours later. Sometimes I took an afternoon nap if I felt especially tired after a couple hours of work.
If you haven’t been pregnant before, you won’t get it. I wasn’t being lazy. I literally couldn’t move my body. I wondered how people who work 9-to-5s ever survive it.
Running your own business gives you limitless flexibility. You can schedule your meetings around moments of exhaustion. If you want to sleep in one morning, you can choose to work late. Giving yourself the rest that you need also helps relieve some of those pesky pregnancy symptoms, especially morning sickness and nausea (according to my OB). Be easy on yourself – the tiredness will pass. In the meantime, enjoy your moments of rest. There are few other jobs that will let you do it quite the same way.
2. You Get a Hard Deadline…
As an entrepreneur, everything is self-run, for better or for worse. You are the decision-maker about so many different elements of your business. Yet when you become pregnant, one thing becomes clear: you are given a great, big, rock-hard deadline, and there’s no passing it.
Yep. No negotiation. No compromise.
As someone who is a sole founder and therefore has to make literally every strategic decision herself, I welcome an imposed restriction from time to time. It gives me structure and keeps me accountable. And in this situation, I’m given nine months to figure out how exactly I am going to achieve my business goals. Suddenly, I’m setting priorities and plans not for the next year, but for the next two to three quarters. I’m making sure that, come April, my business is running smoothly the way I want it to.
I am given the gift of a “sink or swim” moment. And I’m told exactly when my test will be. There’s a reason why the end of your pregnancy and the day your homework must be turned in are both called “due dates”.
3. …And You Have Every Right to Impose That Deadline on Others
Once you’re pregnant, the exact day your baby comes is the one thing that is entirely out of everyone’s control (with some exceptions, of course). No one can say to you, “oh, the date you’d like this project completed is really inconvenient for me, can we delay it a few weeks?” No. The project cannot be delayed, because I will be pushing a human being out of my vagina around that time and then recovering for a month.
Nobody tells the baby to push back the delivery date to better suit a project timeline. Not even Kerry Washington.
Use this to your advantage. Make sure people know upfront what their deadlines are, and stick to them. Keep others accountable as much as you keep yourself accountable during those nine months of prep time. Your business will thank you for it.
4. The Ultimate Business Viability Test
I say “your business will thank you for it” because there is one thing that we haven’t talked about, and that is the fact that your business will be stress-tested. You are given nine months to prepare for the test. Then, one day you will take temporary leave. Your business will be left to survive on its own – without you.
That means not only bringing your business to the point that you want it to be at, but making sure you have the team to support your business while you’re gone. Hiring the right people. Implementing the right procedures. Talking openly about expectations when you are away from the office. Managing your goals so that the company can continue to grow even with minimal strategic direction. It doesn’t matter if your business has one person on the team or ten – every entrepreneur will have to do this.
For many entrepreneurs, this is absolutely terrifying. But as we business owners know, the scariest things are sometimes the most gratifying. In this situation, we’re given the opportunity (granted, we don’t really have a choice, but whatever) to see if our business is independently viable. We take our hands off the joystick for a moment and we see if it can fly.
And if it does, my, what a beautiful thing you have created.
5. Choose Your Own Maternity Leave Adventure
How much time do you want to take off? Two weeks? Two months? As an entrepreneur, the amount of maternity leave you take is up to you. It’s also much less black and white. Perhaps you decide to rest for four weeks, then for the next four you work a couple hours per day to be available for meetings. Then maybe the next month you work part-time. Or maybe you wait and figure it out as you go.
You get to create – and test – your company’s new maternity leave policy. You get to build something that is manageable for your business, and for yourself. That’s not bad.
6. In the Meantime, People Think You’re a Badass
Let me tell you something: nothing commands attention like a pregnant woman in a suit. I tell you that from experience.
First of all, people are afraid to say mean things to you when you pitch them (some people may not like that, but I tend to favor positive reinforcement over sharp critiques so I always prefer people to be nice).
Second of all, this whole “pregnancy in the startup world” thing is very new. People are still learning how to manage it – from other entrepreneurs, to VCs, to support networks and services. Should we create a pumping station in the coworking space? How does a new entrepreneur manage the cost of childcare? There are a lot of questions that are beginning to become real issues, and you’re on the forefront of helping to find solutions for them.
I won’t lie to you and say that it’s always easy. I have heard stories of pregnant women pitching their startups for funding only to receive endless questions about how they’ll handle their business – and their priorities – when they give birth. It can be frustrating and angering.
But I will also say that there is a sweetness to the experience as well. Up until now, the business world has been almost entirely dominated by men. Now, when a male venture capitalist in his 50s sees me hustling with my baby bump, he softens a little. He remembers his own children, and what it was like when he first started his family. He realizes that what I’m doing is uncharted.
I have seen male colleagues in the business world get excited about my pregnancy and want to help me achieve my goals. Men who are fathers and have seen the strength of their own wives – the incredible miracles that the female body can create – and understand that I, bump or no bump, can move mountains.
I am grateful for those people and those moments. Yes, being an entrepreneur and managing a pregnancy can be challenging, but only because we are in a new era and it hasn’t been done before. Now is our chance to help entrepreneurship grow and evolve as a career track. And I will say it again: there truly is no other career track I’d rather be on.