Moms in Tech: Taking Care of Business in the Office and at Home
This is a guest post by Victoria MacLean, co-founder of BeauCoo.
When I complained of boredom as a little girl, my mother would look at me and say, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”
I guess I took that advice to heart. In the last seven years, I’ve started four companies and two nonprofits, all while raising a kid. I’m definitely not bored now.
It’s not easy being a mom, no matter what kind of work you do. It’s hard to know how to prioritize everything: kids, work, husband, friends, volunteering, and time to just breathe. Women in a male-centric environment like tech have another unique challenge. We have to be hard-asses at work. When we’re the bosses, we have to be in charge, demand the best from everyone around us, and drive hard bargains with suppliers.
That attitude doesn’t transfer well to family life. Kids need a nurturer, not a boss. How can you make sure you’re being a leader at work, but also in your kids’ lives? Being a parent and an entrepreneur is a wild ride, but both roles are extremely rewarding ones to fill.
Work with an Understanding Team
It can be difficult to expect employees or team members to work late on a deadline while you have to attend a school concert or deal with your kid being bullied at school. But as a mother, you have to accept and integrate all the pieces of your life, rather than try to balance them.
Sometimes, it’s OK to answer an email or send a text when you’re waiting in the gym for the kids to file in — as long as you set down the phone and give your full attention when the concert starts. A good team will understand your responsibilities and priorities as a parent.
Letting your team know how you work as a parent will help you work well at your company, too. Be honest and upfront with them if you have a family commitment. If you can’t be on your phone for a few hours, give them plenty of notice so they can prepare for your time away. An understanding and hard-working team gets its tasks done together, no matter the circumstances.
Be a Stay-At-Home Entrepreneur
One of the great perks of being a tech entrepreneur is being able to work anytime from anywhere. Kids get sick, and sometimes they just need Mom to be there while they watch TV. The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you have more leeway to work from home (or wherever you might find yourself in parenting) during these times.
When I worked in a corporate environment, it was still frowned upon for a woman to stay home with kids or leave the office early for soccer. That’s not the case now! If you can get your work done efficiently from home, do it. Your children will benefit, and your work will not suffer.
If you choose to work at home, try to integrate some rules with the kids so they know your office or workspace is designated for work. Work in increments, and take time to check in with the children. Let them know that although work is important, they come first.
Separating (or Not Separating) Family and Work
The idea for my company, BeauCoo, came to me when I was pregnant. In a city of a million people, I couldn’t find stores that sold clothes over size 12 for pregnant women. I had to wear sweats and stretchy clothes — definitely nothing fashionable. I felt awful about my body, but becoming a mom made me realize that I couldn’t let negative body image control me. Having a child who was much taller than kids his age also made me realize how sensitive I had to be about body image and how my own experiences were transferring to him.
BeauCoo was born as a way for fashion-forward girls who aren’t a size 2 to connect and celebrate their unique bodies. It’s also a family affair. My husband and I are co-founders. This is tricky when we have important meetings together and no childcare, but I always know my partner values my family as much as I do. We also love bringing our son to the office when he’s out of school. He’s been a part of the start-up community his entire life, and that exposure to entrepreneurship at a young age is worth every tradeoff we make.
Of course, it’s tricky juggling it all. But throughout the years, I’ve found a few things that really make things easier.
1. Find consistent support. Not every mom in tech can co-found with her husband, but it’s important that he’s supportive. It’s also vital to find help — family, friends, or babysitters — that understands crazy hours and can be flexible.
2. Schedule family time. As entrepreneurs, we schedule everything else. If we don’t make family time as high a priority, it will never happen. When it is family time, put your phone down and walk away from the computer. Really engage with the kids and be completely there for them.
3. Find time to relax. Drive home slowly, or grab some coffee. Go to the grocery store if you have to! Whatever it is, take time to breathe and relax a little.
4. Don’t overwork yourself. There’s always something else to do, but if you let your health deteriorate, you won’t be able to accomplish anything. Your mental and physical health is a priority. If Mom falls apart, it’s probable that everything else will, too.
I wish I could say that doing these things makes everything perfect. They won’t. I still have days when the house isn’t clean or I drop the ball on a school event. When those things happen, the most important thing you can do is let go of guilt. As a mother in tech, you’re impacting entrepreneurship, technology, and your kids’ perspective of life. If you are doing your best every day, then the rest will fall into place.
Victoria MacLean is the co-founder of BeauCoo, a fun, body positive community for women that makes it easy to discover styles, brands, and stores by sharing photos of stylish finds in-store or at home. Connect with Victoria on Twitter and Google+.