May 15, 2020
Two months and a lifetime ago, parents around the world quickly pivoted the way they work. Those lucky enough to have the privilege of transitioning from offices or co-working spaces began unexpectedly working from their homes. Many of these parents found themselves doing so alongside a shift to homeschooling and with a sudden lack of childcare.
Now that moms and dads have been at this for a while, they’ve had the chance to make plenty of mistakes, learned some lessons, fallen into routines, and even found some hacks that allow them to make it through the day while finding small pockets of time to get things done. The adjustment has been hard for all working parents, but in many cases, the extra burden tends to tilt more towards working mothers. I spoke to a number of mom founders to see how they’re seemingly doing the impossible – balancing running their companies from home while parenting.
From setting up structure to embracing the unknown, everyone is getting through this in their own way. Here are eight takeaways collected from my conversations with these inspirational women:
Tip 1: Secure your space.
Dr. Leslie Meserve, founder of CurieMD, points out the importance of a lock on the door. “I have two fantastic kids who can read quite skillfully – except when it’s a sign on my bedroom (office) door saying “Mom’s on a work call. Don’t come in unless it’s an emergency.” It’s as if instead I’ve written, “Please loudly barge in and in your loudest voice ask me why the milk’s all gone and why you have to unload the top of the dishwasher.” I started locking the door for calls, and it’s working beautifully! I’m sad to report this system of hiding from locking your children out will not work with younger children, but perhaps it’ll work for those with older kiddos like mine.”
She also invested in equipment to mimic her office space. “Hoping for the best, I clearly underestimated how long this stay-at-home order and ‘distance learning’ would last. I initially didn’t think it was worth the expense to duplicate my large computer monitor, my comfortable wireless headset, and my ergonomic desk set up at my home. I was wrong. I’ve now ordered them all and am looking forward to increased comfort and efficiency while working from home.”
Tip 2: Invite your kids to join (some) meetings.
Allison Evans, cofounder of Branch Basics does exactly that and encourages her employees to follow suit. “We have an understood ‘company policy’ during this unique and challenging time: all kids allowed! So our team conference calls occasionally consist of giggles, demands, tears, whining, interruptions, and kindhearted reminders to ‘please mute your phone,’ This is a time, more than ever, for us moms and parents to extend ourselves grace upon grace. We can do this, we will do this, and we will be stronger for it.”
Allyson Downey, CEO and founder of stellarreviews.com has a similar system. “The day school was cancelled, I called an all-hands and encouraged kids to join. We still often have kids join our morning stand-up as quiet (or not-so-quiet) observers. For me, I’ve found that if I assign a time that I’ll be available to them (like, ‘At 11 am we can do an art project together’) it reduces the interruptions beforehand.”
Tip 3: Include your kids in your actual work.
Bethany McDaniel, founder of Primally Pure actually has her toddler provide input on her products. “If I’m experimenting with a new product or testing a formulation I always let our 3 year old try the product, smell it, etc. to bring her into what I do.”
Sandra Oh Lin, Founder and CEO of KiwiCo shared a story about how her daughter overheard a video conference call and noted afterward that her mother’s voice sounded different. “My first thought was that it was amusing to have my kids around to critique me at work. Then I came to appreciate the fact that my kids now have this unique opportunity to see more of who I am and what I do. As we shuttle in and out of our respective calls and meetings for work and school, there are more touchpoints and greater visibility to learn about each other’s days. I think it’s pretty cool that kids who are sheltering-in-place have this newfound appreciation for just how multidimensional their parents are.”
Jeanne Pinder, founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts actually hired her own daughter when the pandemic hit. “My 26-year-old daughter recently moved back to NY from LA, planning to reconnect with the city she loves while job hunting. What actually happened: Coronavirus. And now she’s living here in her childhood home, working for my no-longer-startup, and developing journalism chops. Phoebe’s a great reporter and writer, and I’m glad to have her here. If you can include your kids in your work, it’s great for them, for you and for the business.”
Tip 4: Let routines offer a semblance of sanity.
The Riveter’s Amy Nelson has always advocated for balance while running her company with four young children at home. “I’ve changed my schedule in a few major ways. I wake up and spend time with the kids until 10 am. In the pre-pandemic world, I was always working by 8 am. But playing outside with the girls, eating breakfast, and drawing is an amazing way to start the day. I can’t be productive from 8 am to 6 pm at a desk on zoom calls. I find that if I break the day up, I’m more efficient as a founder and more present as a mother.”
Ariane Goldman, founder of HATCH takes this approach as well – both during working hours and outside of work. “I find that a sense of routine helps all of us in various ways. For my husband and me, it’s starting each morning with a moment of stillness, like a quiet walk outside or just a few breaths that help prepare us for whatever the day (and news cycle) brings. From there, we look at our schedule, which helps us stay on track among various assignments and Zoom lessons. It’s also vital to close out the day with a small ritual so that ‘working from home’ doesn’t become ‘working 24/7.”
Paulette Pantoja of Blu Digital Group says her most important rule has been consistency. “We wake up at the same time, get all ready in our day wear, have all meals at the same time, and then go to sleep each night at the same time. This has been critical for us to ensure that there is some amount of normalcy. With both my wife and I working full-time jobs, our boys are left craving for more attention than we can give, unfortunately. It definitely has been tough! We keep them occupied with activities such as a water table and bounce house (weather permitting) and also educational games on their iPads to keep them entertained but learning at the same time.”
Tip 5: Embrace the chaos
Kimberly Lapides, founder of Eatsleepwear.com points out that everyone is doing their best, and that’s enough. “I wish I had that magical formula for how to perfectly balance being a working mom at home, but that would be a lie. There is no balance. There are great days, and not so great days. The key for me is to utilize my son’s nap time or grab a glass of wine and my laptop at night and dig into all the things I didn’t get to because mom life always comes first. Before I had kids I never truly appreciated just how much free time I had. But now that I have a tiny human (happily) running my life, I have become oddly productive in the limited hours a day I get to work.”
Deepti Sharma of FoodToEat.com wants to encourage everyone to “Embrace the mess and be ok with it. People keep asking me about what I’m doing about self-care and honestly between two kids and two companies being run out of our household we haven’t had time. So for my self-care, I make the kids a part of my routine. They work out with me. We do my yoga and mediation and then we do their workout videos. They’re usually all over me but somehow it’s better than me being stuck in my room working on my laptop all day.”
Lynn Harris, founder of GOLD Comedy, infused some humor into this impossible situation. “This is a perfect time for mom founders to be working on their startups if their startups are all about making it easier for working parents to get absolutely nothing done. Assume you will be able to move your company forward at a snail’s pace. A Snail’s Pace is the gin and pickle juice cocktail you invented on day 47.”
Tip 6: Accept that this is hard, and know there will be good and bad days.
Kristy Wallace, CEO of Ellevate Network shared her ups and downs. “I’ve come to realize that my children are much more resourceful than I thought. I’ll make a list of things for them to do like read one book, solve this math problem, and ask them to complete the list before lunch. Homeschooling is really tough, especially for type A moms. I like to map out my to-do list and tackle it like a champ. So adding on classes for 3 kids — the art, STEM, PE, music, reading, math, phonics, and more has been daunting. Teachers say that some are optional, but what does that mean for overachievers? I feel like I’ve failed if I don’t do it all. But doing it all is breaking me.”
Jean Miller Truelson, CEO and cofounder of Dogpatch Tech notes that “Every day I have to shut down the ‘I should be doing this…’ and radically accept that we are where we are, and we are doing our best. My daughter suggested that we talk about the things we are grateful for at dinner. Doing the mental exercise of acceptance and gratitude is still brutally hard though. It is much easier on paper. The reality is more like wrenching your ego, ambitions, and dreams out of your chest with a crowbar and setting it down on the coffee table to deal with another day. I am grateful we are alive, healthy, and generally happy. I just wish I knew when we could see our family and friends again.”
Tip 7: Be easy on yourself
Clover Baby & Kids cofounder Shannon Weiss acknowledges the need for this. “We have to set realistic expectations. We are not required to create Pinterest worthy art projects every day. Doing nothing is doing something. My family is finding the joy in being safe at a home rather than being over-scheduled and rushed.”
Fatma Collins, cofounder of Ten Little sets small daily goals for herself. “Honestly, most days are chaotic with two working parents, a 3-year-old, and no childcare in a Brooklyn apartment. I try to pick one important thing I want to accomplish each day. That one win a day helps me focus, gain a sense of accomplishment, and of course, impact my company positively.”
Her cofounder, Julie Rogers, agrees. “For Mother’s Day, I want to remind all the moms that they are not giving themselves enough credit for everything they are doing during these unprecedented circumstances. I get at least five texts a week from different friends telling me they are ‘being the worst mom’ because their kids are watching too much tv, eating too much junk food, or any other trivial reasons. These things do not matter. What matters is that you are giving them a safe, loving environment while keeping your family safe and healthy. In the end, your kids will probably remember the extra time spent together and the special memories made between the chaos.”
Tip 8: Remember that this will end.
CurieMD founder Dr. Leslie Meserve says, “I’m trying to imagine what my future self will wish I’d done more of during this time. I feel certain I’m going to look back and wonder why I didn’t rest a little more. The slower pace of nights and weekends sans carpooling/meetings/outings is a gift I might never have given myself, so I’m trying to remember to soak up these family dinners where all four of us are home, the family walks, and the time to read before bedtime each night.”
Candice Cook, founder of The Cook Law Group, says, “I have found balancing working from home without the usual support of grandparents, child care, preschool, or friends to be an exercise in both resiliency and prioritizing. In the best of circumstances, working and parenting are difficult. In a pandemic, the magnitude of difficulty is amplified by the stakes—our health, our financial security, our reputations, our mental sanity. I have learned that we have to celebrate the small victories. We will be okay. We just have to be flexible and grant grace about what okay looks like.”
This article was written by Amy Shoenthal from Forbes and was legally licensed by AdvisorStream.
© 2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved
This Forbes article was legally licensed through AdvisorStream.