At a panel discussion at the NSW government’s Sydney Startup Hub to mark the Spark Festival, four business leaders shared their experiences of balancing parenthood and a growing enterprise and ensuring that all of their “babies” receive the attention and nurture they need.
Admitting that it can be easy to fall into the guilt trap of feeling like children are being neglected by the demands of work, the panellists offered a number of useful insights to turn that around.
The panel was composed of:
- Carrie Kwan, co-founder and managing director of Mums & Co and mother of two toddlers
- Victoria Stuart, co-founder of Beam Australia and mother of three aged seven and under
- Edwina Sharrock, CEO and founder of Birth Beat and mother of two
- Peter McConnell, executive chair of Commtract and stay-at-home father of two young boys
Here are some of the highlights and pearls of wisdom they offered based on their own experiences juggling looking after children and growing a business:
Involve your kids in what you are doing and why
“I’ve got an eight-year-old who can talk you through a series B fundraising,” Mr McConnell said to a round of laughter.
Ms Sharrock – who appeared on an episode of Shark Tank, but turned down the offer that was made in favour of a subsequent venture capital investment – admitted that her 4-year-old had recently piped up during a discussion about making a big-ticket purchase, stating “we have the $200,000 from the sharks”.
The point they were making in sharing these stories is that their children have become just as invested in the success of their business as they themselves are.
By doing so, they said their kids are much more understanding of the time investment needed to build the business and are on-hand to help celebrate the milestones along the way.
“I never apologise for having to go to work… it’s a privilege that we get to do this,” Ms Sharrock said.
Ms Stuart added that when working from home, while your attention may be on work matters, the kids still know you are physically present – something that can’t be achieved by being stuck in an office all day every day.
Each to their own
There can be plenty of commentary around the right way to be a working parent and, equally, criticism for doing things wrong. But all of the panellists agreed that what works for you and your family is completely unique.
“There’s no right or wrong in parenting or in business – it’s such a personal thing,” said Ms Sharrock.
Know your limitations
“You can’t do it all right now, but you can do it all,” said Ms Sharrock.
She said that she has become “the queen of automation” and learned that because of the many demands on her time, her efforts needed to be focused on her core strengths and the rest outsourced to someone, or something, that could do it better.
For her family, that involves a cleaner to take care of the household and food deliveries from HelloFresh to cover meals.
And if cost is prohibitive, such services can be restricted for particularly busy periods when more time is needed to work on the business, she said.
For basic tasks, Ms Sharrock said that automation frees up a huge amount of time.
“If I have to do something four times, my mind says ‘there has to be an app for that’,” she explained.
Ms Stuart acknowledged that time is a particular limitation for her. She determined that doing the school drop-off and pick-up was of great importance to her as a parent and so schedules her day around those.
That leaves her “five hours of power” in the middle of the day where she is free from distractions and able to be most productive, and so uses these hours to address the highest priority tasks.
Don’t forget your partner
Ms Stuart warned that it can be all too easy to split your attention between the business and the children and forget about the one person whose support is relied on most – your partner.
She said her approach is to deliberately block out time in her schedule to spend with her husband, whether that be the odd evening after the kids are in bed or time on weekends, to spend time with one another.
You are the best parents your kids will ever know
No matter what, Ms Sharrock said there is one basic truth that can be all too easy to forget.
“You are their best ever parent – remember that,” she said.
Similarly, Mr McConnell said that building a successful business and demonstrating hard work, tenacity and adaptability are great qualities to teach children, who – particularly in their younger years – idolise their parents as role models.
“You have an immense impact as a role model to your kids who see you having a go,” he said.