HOW TO HAVE IT ALL: Advice From 10 Rockstar Startup Executives Who Are Parents
Emily Hickey, CMO of Hashable, mother
Emily Hickey is chief marketing officer of Hashable. Before that the Stanford graduate was chief operating officer of PhotoShelter, cofounder of Yeah! Wireless, and VP of product management at Hot Jobs.
I think being a working parent at a startup is a pretty tall order… AKA it’s a total bruiser/ass-kicker! but its doable and you can ‘have it all’ if a few variables are right.
For one, you need not just a great and helpful spouse, but a great marriage. Nobody can be taking things too seriously, stuff can never get blown out of proportion, there can’t be a lot of resentment just below the surface, etc. Humor and lightness really have to be at the core of the family and you have to be psyched that you have a family and sort of constantly aware that you chose to do this and be pretty joyful about that choice. I actually think it’s sort of a trick to be enjoying your family at that level on a daily basis versus just being overwhelmed by logistics and lack of personal time.
Also, you need to love your job and your company. Not just be passionately committed to them, but really have warm relationships with the people you are building your company with and have great ‘soft’ factors at work. The work volume is always going to be intense and your daily feelings of success vs. illusion are always going to be fluctuating, so the bottom-line relationships just have to be great and enjoyable.
You also need to be a complete workaholic with a lot of energy. Most people at startups are definitely that, but throwing a kid into the mix means you have three hours of every weekday that you can’t work, which means you are staying up later to get things done, and then you don’t have a weekend to relax and catch up on stuff, so you have to find more energy internally… So the time sitting at your desk has to be really efficient and you have to be willing to crank late at night, without the possibility of sleeping in – ever – for the next 20 years.
You also need a great outside support system. For us that basically means an awesome, awesome nanny since our family is not local.
To sum it up, there’s nothing you can do at a startup to lessen the volume of work or smooth out the emotional cycles, and being a parent is completely consuming and erratic on top of that. So it’s basically a double startup! All you can do is make sure that at home and at work you have great ‘soft factors’ – otherwise you’ll be in nervous breakdown territory!
One thing I’ve personally spent a lot of time on in the past couple years is meditating and really working on that as a way to keep my mentality light. I would say meditating, my great husband, my great nanny, my naturally relatively mellow son, and keeping an eye on the soft factors of my work are my personal success factors… and I guess I probably drink a few more Bud Lights a week than I used to :).
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