Our hacks learnt so far on making space for seemingly simple but profoundly important stuff as 2 parents founding 2 startups.
Talk to my 5 year old kid and she’ll tell you about play-testing, equity, team building, investment, product development…. generally lots of startup stuff. Why?… because both her mum and her dad are working on startups.
While my husband and I have previously been co-founders on a startup together, this is the first time we’re doing it as parents. As a side note, being a co-founder with your spouse is intense but if you make it through the other side still together you will have a better relationship because of it. By the time our daughter came along we were like an old couple in sync with all our our thoughts and actions — ok, maybe we’re not quite there yet! ;)
This year felt like the right time to start working on some new ventures again and with a child in the mix it’s different this time around. The first time around we just threw ourselves at the work! Like many entrepreneurs in the 30–40s age bracket not only are there the challenges of being a decent parent but I’ve personally found the emotional and logistical challenges of having older parents at times overwhelming. With the average age of a UK entrepreneur being 47, my guess would be that many other founders find themselves with a family of their own, older parents to be there for and other life challenges.
Recently I’ve been asked by a lot of people what it’s like being a family with two new ventures on the go, so I thought I would share what we’ve learnt so far. Inevitably there are things that we are revisiting and tweaking regularly for optimising our time and making space for seemingly simple but profoundly important stuff.
We’re only a few months into this dual startup and parenting combo, so while the learning is ongoing, there are a few things we’ve already discovered that have helped us.
Home, school and work need to be a maximum of 10 -15 minutes of each other. The way we’ve done this is by living in a small rented apartment in a central location. By renting a smaller place we save money by not having to fork out cash for expensive maintenance or building work that owning a property would bring. We also save on cleaning time, buy less stuff due to a lack of space to keep it and have the best access to public transport when we do need to use it, as all routes run in and out of the centre.
I will confess that I go to bed between 9–10pm and wake up at 6am. Yes, folks, that is indeed about 8 hours of sleep and I love it. Sleep is when the body regenerates, rests and relaxes. It feels amazing to sleep this much and this early. Initially I was worried about the sacrifices to my social life. Having been on this routine for close to a year I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything important.
The benefits to a good long sleep are amazing, even addictive, and I’ve made more time to catch up with friends at the weekend during daytime hours. I came to realise that I don’t miss straining to hear friends in a crowded and half drunken bar. The side effect has been to catch up with friends at a better place and time where I can have more meaningful conversations with them. I actually got to know about their lives more not less.
This has been the most difficult challenge and is why our daughter knows so much startup lingo! It is so easy for my husband and I to talk about our own startups and also talk about all the stuff related to it — startup news, new tech, new business ideas, the philosophical reasoning on choosing to do this, social impact, environmental impact etc… It eventually becomes tiring for our brains and our daughter is a bit bored of our chat.
So, we made a rule not to talk about startups, tech, innovation or business at the weekend. I find this super difficult and have to keep stopping myself. I stop myself, I stop my husband, he stops me and sometimes our daughter stops us!
The more we manage to stop our startup banter, the better our weekend is because we have more fun and feel truly rested by Monday morning. It makes space to play with lego, read books, see new art, listen to music and catch up with friends. All this playing stuff is so nourishing and by allowing ourselves to do it we‘re living life rather than putting life aside to do a startup.
I’m 5 months in to doing a 1 hour yoga class each morning and my husband uses an app he can follow at home each morning. Mornings are the best time to exercise as it really sets us up for the day but it’s the regular routine that’s made us stick to it so far.
Exercise has made us sleep better, work better and play better.
We’ve reserved the recipe books for weekend cooking only. Following new recipes and gathering all the ingredients for them is time consuming. But eating well and economically are extremely important to us. So we buy organic veggies directly from a farm and get them delivered to make it cheaper. We roast a lot of these as it’s little effort for maximum taste. We also have a set number of easy meals we do over and over again — dhal and rice, chicken curry, baked potatoes with beans, roast vegetables with grilled fish, beef bolognese.
We cook dinner and lunch for the next day each evening. Every morning we heat up the prepared meal and fill up three thermoses for lunch. This way we can make sure our lunch is hot, healthy, yummy and cheaper than something stodgy from the local sandwich shop. We’ve found that a little bit of meal preparation each evening is a big win for the next day.
In short it’s quite exciting and we feel extremely lucky to be in a position to do this and be determined enough to ‘choose’ to make it happen. The logistics of taking entrepreneurial journeys while staying well physically and mentally as a family is something we’re learning about along the way.
I would love to learn about and perhaps steal some of the hacks that have worked for you, so do share them however big or small :)