Full disclosure. This post may make me sound like a monster.
When I found out I was pregnant I was inexplicably happy about the new addition to our family. But, in the next second I was also a bit sad. You see, after almost 15 months of hard work my baby – Bawi Bride Kitchen – was finally seeing some traction. Becoming pregnant meant there would be some hard decisions that would have to be taken ahead.
Luckily, pregnancy lasts 9 months.
I used the first few months productively to figure out how I’d manage the logistics of the business while I was at my mom’s house for the first 45 days. I scaled down areas of the business that were high on effort and low on profitability and moved my kitchen to my home. By the time my due date rolled around my staff were trained and the operations would survive without my active involvement. My first baby, my kitchen was as prepared as I could get it to be.
Now, I know this makes me sound stupid but somehow I never thought beyond this point.
When people from the startup gang asked how I’d manage, I told them I had things under control. They were amazed that I was still talking to investors toting around my 7-month belly. Yes, I knew I’d have to take things slow but I had my staff as well as a great support system at home. So, in my head the only time I had to worry about was the 60 days I’d be physically away from the kitchen. In fact, I was even taking orders for a catering party on my phone after they had induced my labour and booking the delivery company before I couldn’t think straight!
And then, Baby M came into the world.
Those first few days were a whirlwind of breastfeeding, diaper changes, baby research and photos. Lots of photos. I had no time to even think of my startup – what had very quickly been relegated to ‘other baby status’. Reality only set in about three weeks later. The visitors stopped coming, I figured out how to feed M and my body stopped throbbing.
I was due to return back home in another couple weeks and I realised that I still had no time for my first baby, my startup.
Phone calls for orders would go unanswered as I was busy with M and soon it was a good day if I could reply to a couple of emails. Having a new baby is an emotional time and I got asked many times if I had the baby blues. And I realized I did! I would be feeding M for what seemed like the 100th hour that day while I despondently made a mental list of all the work I didn’t get done today as well. When family came to visit and told me to take it easy, tears would well up my eyes with me picturing the end of my startup career.
I realized then just how naive I had been. This wasn’t a contest of love between Baby M and my startup. But, it certainly was a contest for my time.
There is a reason maternity leave existed and I was foolish to have thought that a strong support system meant I didn’t require any leave. Entrepreneurs don’t make things easy for themselves. We feel guilty for taking any time off and even more so for not thinking of our startup every waking moment of the day. The problem wasn’t the leave but rather the guilt.
In the end, all it took was a long talk with myself in the mirror.
I decided to give myself the six months maternity leave that mothers around the world are entitled to. This meant accepting that there would be days or weeks even when my startup would have to survive without me even if that meant making a loss. And, it involved me accepting that I had as much of a right to spend these precious moments with my son as the mother with a corporate job or the mother at home did. More importantly, it involved me accepting that I had no time for guilt whatsoever.
The moment I accepted this, the baby blues disappeared and I once again became a happy mom. This time a happy mom to both a son and a startup.