Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lessons-per-Minute

There’s really nothing else in life that crams in as many lessons-per-minute than the early days of having a new baby. Everyone tries to warn you in their own way. When you’re pregnant and they find out it’s your first, the give you the “bless your pretty little soul, you have no effing clue what’s coming” look. Now I know why - there’s just no way to prepare for so many lessons trying to cram themselves into your extremely sleep-deprived noggin during the apex of the third wee-hours colic party in a row.


Don't be fooled, she just wants the keyboard.
With a learning curve this major in a situation where a little tiny life depends on you not screwing up, common sense would tell you that it’s probably wise not to take on any overly-ambitious new projects. I, however, decided to go ahead and take all of my free time (heh) and start a new business within just five short weeks of becoming a brand new mom. Because why not?


Starting a business while raising a kid is full of incredible, soul-crushing lessons, but anything worth doing never came easy. Doing exceptional things means taking on exceptional challenges.

Your old life is over


It was almost my due date and I ran into a couple I knew had just delivered the week before. They were nearly bursting to tell me that A) they were still in shock that the hospital actually let them bring home their very own baby and B) they were on their very first break from the baby since they brought her home, and naturally they were simultaneously relieved to be away from her and missing her painfully.


I didn’t get the gravity of what they were trying to impart until I found myself feeling the exact same way a few weeks later. The sheer terror of those first moments alone at home with her, the heartbreak of leaving her with someone for the first time and the relief of untensing muscles that were on alert in anticipation of her cries - you just can’t imagine these things you’re in it, and once they’re there, you know your old life is gone forever. This isn’t a bad thing or a good thing, it’s just a true thing.


The same exact thing happens when you start a new business. When you embark, you can’t possibly imagine the challenges you’ll face. You’re in over your head all the time, but you learn to swim. Adapting and surviving means you’re changing, and life will simply never be the same. The quicker you embrace that, the quicker it becomes joyful.
There is no schedule
When you’re trying to run a business, making connections and having meetings is crucial. You talk with suppliers, you meet with your coworkers, and in the case of an online business, you hope you can score an interview with a blogger to get some press. All of this happens on Skype (or the like) and requires focus, concentration, and a lack of audible wailing in the background.  


Good luck figuring out a good daily meeting time to schedule for these things - I still haven’t. The lesson to take away here is that if you’re the caretaker for your kid, that comes first - always, always, always. You just have to communicate that to people, hope they understand, and let them know you’ll contact them during naptime. Thankfully my business partner also has a toddler, so we both get it and are patient with each other.


Don’t try and force the baby onto your work schedule - you just can’t. If you were a hard scheduler before, you are now a person who rolls with it (see lesson #1) as are all the people who have the privilege of working with you during this transformative phase of your life.


Balance is fleeting


The first thing people want to know when they find out you work from home while raising an infant is “how.” They know people raise kids, and they know people have a business, but how do you possibly have time for both? How do you find balance?


Before I had my daughter, I thought that ‘balance’ was kind of like nirvana - if you tried hard enough, you could reach some kind of permanently perfectly-balanced state. The truth is that balance never lasts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep chasing it.


Balance is that moment when the baby smiles right at the same time your business gets featured on a big site and things are just right for a perfect fleeting moment. Having a balanced life is knowing to recognize and enjoy that moment and doing your best to survive the rest.


Letting it Go


Even if you mastered the art of letting go in your pre-baby life, after baby it’s a whole new ballgame. The decision to breastfeed is a great example of this. You want to breastfeed in public? Gross. You decide not to breastfeed at all? You monster. Sometimes there’s no right way, just your way, and there isn’t much out there that gets people’s goats more than someone doing something confidently.


You’ll need that thick skin you’re developing from practice with well-intentioned strangers to deal with the thousand heartbreaks that your own kid (and your business) will deal out later.


Work on letting the little things go by keeping always keeping your goals in plain view. Your kid will wipe off your kisses in disgust and your business will deliver a thousand tiny betrayals before ever paying off, but all you can do is let it go and admire your kids’ (and your business’) growing wings. With any luck, you’ll get to see them both fly some day.

Jessica Trebing is a former teacher and writer currently working as co-owner of nerdywithchildren.com, a community and clothing brand for geeky and alternative families. Follow Jess on Twitter at @Nerdywithkids.