This article was written by Narjit Patel.
As I write this, I am in my home office, sipping some homemade almond milk, and pregnant with my third child. This morning was busy, as usual—I woke up at 7:00 AM, made the girls’ lunches for daycare, prepared breakfast, drove the kids off to daycare around 8:30 AM, went to yoga for some “me time.” Although I’ve stayed on top of my Gmail and Chat messages throughout the morning, it’s now time to really start my workday as co-founder and Head of Delivery for my company, HiView Solutions.
Friends and family often ask me: “How do you manage your schedule as a business owner and parent of multiple children?” My husband is not a stay-at-home dad. Quite the contrary—he is an entrepreneur as well, and owner of his very own technical services company. So, the answer is a bit more complicated.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter 5 years ago, I was working an engaging but highly involved 60-hour work week as a Management Consultant specializing in Organizational Change Management (OCM). Still, I was absolutely thrilled about my daughter on the way, and already knew that being fully present in her life would be the highest priority for me.
In the U.K. (my native country), employers are required to provide up to a full year of maternity leave. Since I had just recently immigrated to the U.S., I knew this was not the case. I had a lot of thinking to do.
Since that time of uncertainty and excitement, I have co-founded a Google Cloud-focused technical consulting company, HiView Solutions. It has seen exponential growth throughout the ~5 years we have been in operation. At the same time, I have been the present, nurturing mother to my 2 (soon-to-be 3) children that I always hoped to be. I have learned countless lessons throughout this time, and am happy to share my findings to fellow parent (and prospective parent) entrepreneurs.
1. Keep an open mind
My first piece of advice is something similar to what I often tell HiView’s clients as I help them prepare for a major workplace plan. Rather than jumping to conclusions (i.e. “I can’t balance parenthood and entrepreneurship, so I have to choose between them”), take a look at your goals, and consider the breadth of possibilities that lie ahead for your future professionally and personally. You likely have far more options than you think.
To explore this, start by jotting down any and all ideas that come to mind, no matter how improbable or unconventional they may seem. For example, someone in my position when I was pregnant with my first child could make a list like this:
- Take 3 months of maternity leave and then return to the company, working in the same position with the same hours
- Return to the company and work part-time or as a contractor
- Leave the company and work somewhere else that would demand time and energy
- Leave the position to become a full-time mom, at least temporarily
- Start a new business after the birth of my daughter, and create my own schedule
Once you’ve created this list of potential paths forward, you can take some time to think through each of them thoroughly, and begin to evaluate each course of action.
In my case, I quickly dismissed the option of leaving my work altogether. Although caring for my daughter was a top priority, my professional life was too fulfilling for me to leave it behind. In spite of all the challenges and business that come with a career as a senior consultant, I made the choice to continue working to ensure our financial stability, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the role as a full-time caregiver for my daughter. Additionally, I enjoyed (and still enjoy) my work thoroughly; this is a major factor motivating me to give my all in every role.
After careful consideration of all the other options, I discussed the possibilities with my husband. I highly recommend recruiting your partner at this step, as having their feedback and support is always necessary. Together, you can determine what is best for yourselves and your children.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Something that created a world of possibilities for me as a parent and a professional was my husband’s and my openness to childcare assistance. Although daycare might not be the best option for everyone, it helped my husband and I not only because it gave us the time to focus on our businesses, but also because it has allowed our children to socialize with many adults and children on a regular basis. I firmly believe that this has helped them become more well-rounded individuals with social skills that excel.
Of course, in these pandemic times, daycare is a bit more complicated. When this is not an option, I would recommend considering even more of your virtually limitless options. Even post-COVID, exploring a combination of several childcare resources is key. Having a reliable network of childcare support allowed me to be confident in my decision to continue working, and has allowed my daughters to get all the love and attention they need to develop and thrive.
In my case, a healthy combination of assistance from a part-time daycare, a part-time nanny, the help of family and friends, and of course, my own time with my daughters has proven to be a wonderful balance.
3. Be 100% present
This tip has been instrumental for me as a parent entrepreneur: by blocking off hours on my work calendar strictly to spend time with my children, I’m able to ensure that I spend quality time with them, regardless of the work responsibilities that emerge.
Something I make an effort to do is ensure that I am fully present as both a parent and a business owner. This means that whichever role I am fulfilling at that moment, I am not distracted by the other role. For example, I seldom allow my daughters to see me working—instead, when I am with them, I am only with them. They have my full attention and know that they are my top priority. My eldest daughter recently inquired “Muma, why do you never work and daddy always does?” In response, I was sure to let her know that I do work (I want to ensure she knows that I can work too), although I am rather pleased to know that I seem to have kept my roles as “Muma” and “professional” separate.
Not only this, but blocking off hours also helps keep my mind in the right place; I can focus on homework and finger painting without being distracted by customer onboarding and payroll, and vice versa. Although it’s not foolproof, I have found that this method significantly reduces distractions and helps me stay fully present.
4. Confront your “mom/dad guilt”
“Mom guilt” was something I was familiar with before I had my first child, and I can understand how parents can find themselves feeling guilty about how they balance their time between work and parenthood.
However, I have been fortunate to avoid feeling this guilt too often, because I am confident that the childcare assistance I receive as well as my identity as a business owner make me a better mom. I would advise parents who are grappling with mom/dad guilt to consider whether these factors make them a better parent as well. In spite of all of the conflicting pressures you may feel, do not forget that your happiness and fulfillment matters, and also can in turn affect your ability to be the best for your family.
5. Become a time management pro
Since taking the leap to become an entrepreneur, my schedule has not opened up persay (I’m sure many entrepreneurs reading also spend a good deal of time working late at night), but I do have much more control over it. The combination of this agency over my schedule and the time management skills I have developed throughout my career has allowed me to budget my time in a way that works wonderfully for my family and me.
I have been able to build a role for myself that I enjoy so much that even now at 5 months pregnant with my third child, I am happy to continue to put in the work to help my other “baby”—the company—continue to thrive. I hope my story and advice helps others find this same fulfillment.
A final takeaway is this—you can make your goals a reality as long as everything you do aligns with that goal. The work-family balance that you want is achievable, and I am an example of that.
Narjit Patel grew up in the small town of Coseley in England and now resides in Orlando, Florida. She is a soon-to-be mother of three and the co-founder and Head of Delivery at HiView Solutions, a growing technical consulting company and Google Cloud Premier Partner whose revenue has more than doubled each year since opening in 2016.