Entrepreneurship and being a mother

So this entrepreneurship bootcamp I’ve been on this past week was amazing and inspiring.  We had various successful entrepreneurs talk to us, some of the best ones were the founder of mixbook (Andrew Laffoon), founder of Guitar Hero (Charles Huang) and Anastasia Neddersen founder of Artveoli.  There was something very interesting I found about their talks.  They all mentioned having children.  Having children didn’t stop them from becoming entrepreneurs.  In fact, Anastasia said that you should not wait to have children, which was amazing to hear.

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Charles Huang – if he listened to these potential investors guitar hero would never have been

What was just as amazing was a student in the class who brought her 6 month old daughter with her for the whole week.  It wasn’t until day 2 that I noticed her sat in the back bouncing her daughter to stop her from crying!  I went up to talk to her and tell her how amazing she is as well as how darn cute her daughter is (BTW – not all babies are cute to me, but this one was seriously cute).   There were times that she had to leave the class briefly to attend to her daughter, but I think she was there for about 90% of the class.  KUDOS.  This lady isn’t going to let having a child hold her back in life!

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Entrepreneurship – Baby won’t hold this mamma back in achieving her goals!

Only 5% of tech startups are founded by women, yet around 25% of engineering and computer science graduates are women.  How can there be such a difference?  Why is it like this? How much does ‘being a mother’ play a role? Do women really wait? I mean, I get it, it is hard to take time off work to have a baby when you run your own business!  But are there other reasons?  There has to be!?!

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My startup team for the week – these guys are going to go far in their lives, they were super smart! #alwaysbethedumbestguyintheteam

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That smile

Whilst I was away traveling with work Chris sent me regular photos of Aviana.  In the photos I noticed little new things she was doing.  Notably, walking with more confidence.  One photo in particular, she had a beaming smile.  The smile seemed so genuine.  She was smiling at our cat Diesel, saying hello to him first thing in the morning.  My heart melted.  I felt massively home sick.

I drove home with bleary eyes after my red eye flight back from San Francisco, trying not to speed or shout at slow people because all I wanted to do was get a big hug from my family as soon as possible.  I wondered whether Aviana would be mad at me for leaving her all week, or if she would ignore me or worse, not remember who I am. When I got home Aviana was in bed napping.  Typical.  And so when I heard her talking away to herself in her crib I excitedly went into her room and surprised her.  I leaned over her crib and smiled and she gave me that huge big beaming smile I had seen in the photo.  I smiled even harder.  I just wanted to cry with happiness.

Something had definitely changed with her in the last week, this smile was meaningful and conveyed something.  I felt like she was communicating with her smile, I think she has learned that she can make other people smile with her smile.  How cool is that?

Mompreneur? Nope.

Mompreneurs – let me just say NO.  Boss Babes – a definite NO. Why?  Because you wouldn’t catch a man calling himself a dadpreneur or Boss Dude.  Sorry, it’s been bothering me since I caught sight of the term yesterday.  End of Rant.

It is actually a coincidence I speak of Mompreneurs because I am on day 1 of the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship bootcamp in California Much of the week we will work through the method for a startup.  I am not sure how I ended up here with work, but I am feeling very lucky to be here.  50% of the class are Berkeley students so at the grand age of 35 I am feeling pretty mature in this class!  But at the same time I am already in love with their youthful ambitions and energy.  Their lives are not so complicated yet.

Oh to be young and uncomplicated! We had an ice breaker session where we asked each other 2 questions to get us to learn about the importance of trust.  The first question was – what is your secret love? (person, thing, action) and second question – what have you failed at?  And what did you learn?  I chuckled as some of the students answered – not getting on their college sports team, or, not getting a job.  Ahhhh so young and naive.

Today 30 people were given 1 minute to pitch their idea for a startup.  Some of these people were already a business, but embryonic.  Only 20 ideas would be taken forward, the rest of the class had to figure out which of these 30 ideas they wanted to with.  As they pitched I noted down 5 great ideas that interested me, a couple that were exceptional and I truly believed they would be successful (Note to self, take mental note of the names of these people!), a few pitches were just plain awful, and the rest I was indifferent about.  In the end one pitch stood out for me.  The idea was still embryonic, the guy who pitched it had passion and came across as smart, but he didn’t articulate his idea particularly well because he hadn’t really nailed down what exactly he wanted to do.  This was the part I found intriguing.  We had 30 minutes to meet with the people who pitched their ideas to determine if we wanted to be part of their team (and if the wanted us too!).  Interestingly, he attracted to his team a diverse group of people with a range of skills…this is what is emphasised heavily in the bootcamp.  Diversity makes for a winning team.  A good example is Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg

I am probably the oldest in the team and the only parent so I am intrigued how these factors will make a difference this week.  May be some day I will be an entrepreneur, my time is not up just because I am 35. No.  Age is not a factor (although experience may be) And you can be a parent and still be an entrepreneur.  I do think that risk taking is likely to reduce and may mean that the bang for buck might not be as good.  That’s just a gut feeling – a bias may be, it’s not a statement of fact.  But it is definitely an interesting issue I’m going to keep an eye on this throughout the week….How much does being a parent influence entrepreneurship?

By the way, as this all goes on Aviana is getting better at walking, I am sure I will come back home after this week to a true walking toddler! It has also been a while since I travelled away from home, so it will be interesting to see her response to me not being there and me returning for 24 hours before heading off to Paris for another week.  The guilt is real.

She moves and leaps

Technically Aviana doesn’t  crawl, she scoots on her bum and drags her right leg. It’s kind of Gollum like and a little creepy…if I dressed her up in some weird creepy baby Halloween costume, she would terrify many people with her scooting crawl.  When she was learning to get from A to B she was incredibly frustrated as she developed this skill, but as soon as she figured it out, all was right with the world. I sense this period of frustration happened again, but this time with walking.

Aviana has been ‘walking’ with our assistance for quite some time.  Even the doctor thought she would be walking within weeks of when we saw her at the 9 month wellness visit.  But no, and I could see that Aviana was very frustrated by this.

Another odd thing happened.  Aviana turned into a grumpy/touchy baby with head banging and hair pulling being her signature move.  I wondered what had happened to my sweet girl, who seemed to turn into the demon toddler from hell. So I thought I should check my wonder weeks app and low and behold, she started her 8th leap. It was the exact day her grumpiness started that the leap started.

The wonder weeks app has proven to be very accurate in its timings over the past year. This particular leap is the ‘world of programs’ leap. The signs of this leap includes temper tantrums. I thought that babies didn’t have temper tantrums much later into toddlerhood, but I was so wrong!

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Really, we think Aviana can walk and that she hasn’t sussed out that it’s actually quicker to get places by walking. We think this because she can walk with us holding just one hand (barely a finger even). But on my Birthday (a few days ago), at 53 weeks old she decided to walk on her own! She was very pleased with herself! But was so excited she kept falling over. Which frustrated her more.  So I think the mental leap and her walking development turned her into a very touch baby.  Technically we have 18 days left of this leap, but with her figuring out how to walk she became noticeably a little less grumpy. With the wonder leaps, I tend to find that she is crankiest at the beginning and end of the leap, but not always constantly for the whole leap.

I am really excited about this leap, I can see her doing some of it already in just the past week.  Aviana has been very observant of us making breakfast, dinner and knows the correct order of putting the toys away in the bath just before she gets out. The signs are all there of her working through this leap.  The wonder weeks has been a really fascinating app to help us through some of her crankier stages in life.

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More food please!

The thing about being a parent to an IUGR* baby is that you get paranoid about their weight, lack there of . A few weeks ago Aviana was barely drinking any milk and refusing solids. For almost two weeks, it got to the point where I asked Chris should we make an appointment to see the doctor? I asked him if he thought I was making a fuss out of nothing? I had weighed her twice on her scales and she was dropping slightly off her own curve. As an analyst I know better that two data points don’t constitute a trend! But it got me worried. So Chris said it can’t hurt to talk to the doctor.

With that in mind and in typical fashion, literally the next day Aviana started eating like she was a giant who hadn’t eaten for months. She drank all her milk and ate all her food. Well, except for meat. Aviana does not like meat at all. We continue to offer, but to no avail. And the majority of vegetables, she won’t touch them anymore. But we have found cunning ways to get her to eat vegetables. Breaded with cheese, baked in muffins and cooked in fritters! That is with the exception of peas, she will eat peas til the cows come home. Go peas! Just give her a big bowl of peas and she will devour them delightfully. It was wonderful to see her eat!

Just as Aviana was getting good at eating…she got ill, and we are back to square one. She has even been refusing her firm favourites of yoghurt, fruit and cereal! But I’ve learned from the past few months that she will be ok. She won’t starve. Mostly because she now knows the baby signs for milk, more, and eat! It makes it a bit easier that she can communicate with us. So we are trying to teach her other signs to help reduce some of the crying and fussing.

I haven’t weighed her recently, but we did measure her height using a highly inaccurate method of her ‘standing’ next to her height chart. It looks lime she has grown almost 1.5″ in the past three weeks! She is tall in comparison to her classmates so it will be interesting to see her official height according to the doctors in a couple of weeks time. She still doesn’t have rolls of fat on her, but she has definitely grown some fat on her, it makes me proud how far she has come this year. It’s been an amazing and interesting year of milk and food discovery that’s for sure. I’ve learned a lot more than I thought I would have by now about how to feed a baby and a toddler. I know we have a lot more to learn as our baby grows into a stubborn toddler 😝

*intrauterine growth restricted

When people call your daughter a boy

Ever since Aviana was born we’ve always had comments like ‘oh what a cute boy’. And honestly, I don’t blame them, she does kind of have boyish looks – mostly because of her hair, or lack of hair I should say. I tend not to care, it’s the other person who gets embarrassed when they realise their mistake and apologize profusely.

Last weekend in Aviana’s weekly gym class we introduced ourselves to each other as usual, including our children. As we were playing later on one dad spoke to Aviana when she was trying to climb a step… ‘that’s it little buddy, you can do it!’ I ignored it and just laughed along. But His wife was horrified at his mistake and tried to tell him subtly that Aviana was actually a girl. He sort of looked at his wife to question her and to say really??! I said to him it’s OK, it’s the lack of hair you can’t tell. She was dressed in purple and earlier I had introduced my daughter Aviana, to the group…but never mind, I let it wash over me.

Later that day we headed out to Christmas town at Busch Gardens, we bundled Aviana up in a snow suit we had been given from some friends that was blue and orange, with a pink bobble hat. You couldn’t see that she didn’t have much hair, but still people called her a boy!!!

Admittedly we don’t have lots of overly girly clothes, and right now as she is crawling and learning to walk dresses are totally inappropriate. She has got a few pink and floral print items, but that doesn’t always seem to stop the boy comments oddly enough.

Honestly, if I am not 100% certain of the gender of a baby I have just met I don’t say either way and keep it neutral until I am certain! Even though I don’t get offended, at some point Aviana will understand and it may offend her, I’m just not sure when that is likely to be! Hopefully by then her hair will be long enough to keep the commenters away!

Break break break – end of breastfeeding

OK so it’s been a while.  I took a small social media and blog break. And then I took a longer blog break than I expected.  Why?  Because Aviana practically weaned herself and my hormones went crazy.  I decided to stop pumping at work and just breastfeed at home and weekends.  Well, that lasted for less than two weeks.  My body said NOPE, my milk supply tanked and Aviana, who also caught a cold at the time, said NOPE and became less and less interested in my milk, which then also caused my supply to tank.  That was really hard.  I wasn’t really ready to give up breastfeeding.

I knew it was a risk to stop pumping at work and in the evenings, but it was becoming too challenging to keep up, and people were less understanding for my time out pumping.  I am stronger than that to give a shit about what other people think, but it was tough.  When I did stop pumping, it was exhilarating.  I gained back so much time in my life and felt in more control at work. I saved time in the mornings not having to pack my giant bag of pumping related stuff.  I really needed that.  It did mean that I also lost the time I spent catching up with friends whilst pumping went back to work.

I have barely read anyone’s blog posts and for a while couldn’t do social media because my hormones went whacky.  Pregnant people? Nope.  Breastfeeding mothers? Nope. People all happy? Nope.  I couldn’t handle it, so I hid for a little while.  A couple of my friends are still breastfeeding and honestly was sad that my journey with Aviana had come to an end.

Aviana was also going through a leap, weaning, teething, eating less and having cold after cold (probably because she stopped breastfeeding) – she was pretty miserable.  Having stopped breastfeeding I was paranoid she wasn’t eating enough.  She was only taking 2 or 3 oz of milk at each bottle feed and became really picky over her food.  I was full of anxiety over it.  Thankfully, it seems to have only been a phase, and literally the day after I said to Chris should we phone the doctor about it (her weight was starting to drop off her curve) she became a different baby.  In the last week she has been gulping down her bottles and eating like a machine.  Why do they put us through this?!?!!!!!

It turns out it is normal to suffer hormonal related extreme emotions when you stop breastfeeding.  In fact, I discovered through my online research it can actually trigger post partum depression and anxiety.  I didn’t get to that point, but I was literally going to bed crying, for no apparent reason.  Knowing that it was normal with the change in hormones helped me a lot.  It’s funny because in the past I’ve come to my blog to talk about this kind of stuff, but this time I didn’t.  I don’t know why.  I’m a bit sad about that, but I really did feel the extreme end of my emotions.

Lots of good stuff has happened since too so, I’ll save those for other posts.  And for now, I’ll say HELLOOOOO!  How are you?? I’m so excited about Christmas.  I’ve missed my blog and my lovely blog friends too 🙂

In honor of my breast feeding journey here are some of my favourite pictures…

The terrorists won

**********I wrote this back in May, but wasn’t sure whether or not to publish it…several months later and I think I’m ok to share it now*************

I hate to say it but the terrorists beat me. Well not wholly, but they made me change what I would normally do. I admit that when I was in Brussels last week I had an afternoon off work and rather than head into the town center for the obligatory sightseeing, I stayed in my hotel room and binged on British TV.  Why? Because knowing that this week was well known for Trump and other heads of state visiting Brussels for a meeting with NATO I decided it was prime time for an attack. It’s ridiculous really that this was driving me to make a decision to NOT go out. It’s the first time that’s happened to me, and I hate it because I feel like they finally got to me.

Having said that, I did go back to Brussels airport departures where the attack happened. I couldn’t real avoid it and had to face it. On my own too. As I queued to check in, I recollected that day and the terrifying events. I was queuing not far from where the first bomb went off. My heart raced and I looked around at everyone near me. I wasn’t sure I could stand there waiting for much longer. I felt vulnerable and suddenly exhausted. The departures floor looked the same but different to before the attacks. The queue started moving and I stopped thinking about that day and moved on. I took a picture from where I stood in the aftermath of the bombs and rather stupidly had taken a photo. I wanted to compare.


Brussels airport has a new improved security check which meant I moved through quickly, but only two customs security officers which meant a huge queue to get to the gates. An American in front of me turned and said ‘I don’t want to sound like a privileged American, but this line is ridiculous’. I said to him, ‘do you remember the attacks last year? Wouldn’t you want it to be slower if it meant more secure?’ He looked apologetic. Then I realised…again they had won. The damage had already been done.

Thinking about the suicide attack in Manchester got me wondering about the terrorist’s chosen venue and victims. Those caught up in the events who lived to see the day like I did, they are young and impressionable. They probably never cared about politics, international affairs or the threat of ISIS. But this week they do. And if they feel like me they will be inspired to prevent the terror from spreading to more innocent lives. I have thought seriously about how I can do something in my line of work. And yet, there I was hiding away in my hotel room rather than enjoying the beautiful sights of Brussels. It’s messed up. What kind of world will Aviana live in in 20 years time? Will this be the norm? Or will this be a historic period she will study as a tumultuous past?

Career development as a new mother and infertility warrior

If infertility taught me one thing, it was that it is perfectly possible to be both happy for someone whilst being utterly jealous of them at the same time.  It happened often – a friend or even an acquaintance would share their joyous news of their pregnancy or arrival of their newborn baby.  Of course, I was happy for them, but part of me was sad and jealous.  Sad for myself and our infertility situation, and jealous at the same time that I couldn’t have what they have.  Of course I would never have said it to their faces that I was jealous or sad at their news.  But I sure felt it.  Happiness always won in the end, because I knew very well that every single conception is a wonder in itself and the great joy it would bring to them in the end.  And in the midst of infertility I learned to be OK with those confusing feelings, it turns out it is pretty normal.

It’s been a long time since I felt that way, happiness and jealousy at the same time.  But I recognized it immediately when it happened to me once again.  You see, I wrote a post about happiness is…..a while ago.  Everything on that list made me greatly and truly happy, but there was something on that list that also made me sad and jealous.  Chris getting promoted to director at work.  I was insanely jealous, and still am to be honest.  It’s not often I am jealous of Chris!  And he knew it as well.  He told me he was nervous about telling me and how I would react.  My instant and natural reaction was happiness, but it didn’t take long to make me think about me.  I know selfish.  Because Chris deserves the attention for his awesomeness and hard work he put in to get that promotion.

However, it made me think about the sacrifices I have made to my career progression to bring a child into this world.  Now, my sacrifices have been somewhat limited compared to some women I have met who have stopped working, or been trapped into changing careers because of infertility.  My sacrifices are not as great.  And indeed, my sacrifice is not uncommon when it comes to taking maternity leave.  But it’s the combination of both that do make it worthy of consideration in a different light.

What did I sacrifice?  I’m not sure what would be different if I either didn’t go through infertility, or have a baby, but here are my thoughts on where I have sacrificed my career development.

  • I couldn’t take on all the projects I could have otherwise done if it hadn’t been for infertility treatments and pregnancy.
  • I couldn’t always travel to the places I needed to, someone else did for me or the opportunity was lost.
  • I needed stability in my work to ensure that I could face the infertility treatments, so I didn’t always take on the work I would ordinarily have done before.
  • I had two interviews that I really did not do my best at, because I was distracted.
  • I have been out of work for almost 7 months, but it was probably actually longer than that because of course I had to wrap up and handover work before going on maternity leave, so I checked out earlier than that.
  • My brain wasn’t at its best in my third trimester, and probably not my in my first either because of my heightened awareness to the risk of potential loss of pregnancy.

Pregnancy on the face of it doesn’t stop career progression, it just delays it a little bit.  I’d do that any day to have my daughter, of course, that goes without saying.  But that doesn’t stop it being a fact, and I’m not the only woman, others face similar.  Some women take a whole year off work, some take several years off work to care for their children.  What about child number two or three?  It’s just the way it is.  If we were in the UK, perhaps Chris would have taken parental leave instead and I would have gone back to work earlier?  Who knows.  Would it have slowed down Chris’s opportunity for promotion if he went on parental leave?  By how much, if at all?  I have no doubt we would like to think it would have ZERO impact on that potential, but by not being physically at work progression stalls. I have often read that it is at this point in life where the bias for a man and woman with a family becomes more apparent, where a man having a family is seen as a positive, and woman with a family is seen as a negative.  I personally haven’t experienced this myself, but it makes you wonder.

But I also fought to maintain my career progression.  I decided to keep doing my executive development programme despite being pregnant and on maternity leave rather than postpone it.  I made sure I still went on transatlantic work trips even in my third trimester.  So, it’s not like I abandoned all effort in my career development.

I’m not saying that if I hadn’t gone through infertility treatment and got pregnant that I would be promoted by now, far from it! But rather, if I had have been at my best during this period, then it is unlikely I would be jealous of Chris’s promotion.  Isn’t that an odd thing?

On the go again

I am on work travels again, this time without Aviana or Chris, in Bavaria, Germany.  And so far my week has not been the greatest, although in terms of work it has been a successful trip.

Firstly, no one was at the airport to pick me up when I arrived in Germany and I didn’t have a number to call.  So I waited for 45 minutes and decided that no one was coming, and decided to drag my huge ass bag for 3 hours on the train.  Changing twice in the early morning after a red eye flight from the US was killer.  And it was on a Sunday.  I had to stay awake because I needed to make sure I changed at the right stops!  I was PISSED by the end of my journey.  Then, where there was supposed to be a bus at the train station, there was none, so I had to walk 15 minutes dragging my suitcase across cobble stones to my hotel.  I was desperate for some sleep, but I needed to pump and shower.  So I was pretty grumpy at this fact.

When I opened up my bag to unpack I discovered that the lovely TSA had searched my bag – and of course, what was of interest to them was my cooling unit box that I had packed to use on my return journey to carry my week’s pumped breast milk.  With great ineptitude, they repacked it the wrong way up which resulted in the ‘on button’ for the cooling unit to depress.  It is a one time use only packaging so it was now useless.  I had cut down on my packing just to fit this cooling box in my suitcase so I could carry my milk home.  But the STUPID TSA can’t replace something the way it was – there were even TWO sets of instructions in case they were really confused.

I cried.  I ugly cried.  I was exhausted.  I was fed up of pumping.  I just cried for 15 minutes hard..  I cried in the shower, I cried whilst I pumped.  By the time I was done crying over my ‘not possible to have a spilt milk problem’ it was time to meet my colleagues to do some work in the afternoon.

The day prior to flying I had to take a day off work because I had a horrible cold and wanted to rest and get better for my work trip.  However, no one ever told me that flying with a stuffed up nose was stupid.  So here is my advice to you…DON’T EVER FLY WITH A BAD COLD! My right ear and my sinuses were in a huge amount of pain after landing in Germany.  I later ended up with a sinus infection for the rest of the week and it was bloody gross.  I mean, I have never seen such vast amounts of thick green and yellow snot before. I guess I have been lucky enough in my life to never had sinus problems before, but geeeeeees that hurts!  I wasn’t taking any cold meds because most meds have menthol in which kill breast milk supply.  Considering I am barely pumping 6 oz a day right now I thought it would be stupid to kill off what I have left.  So I suffered with just paracetamol/Tylenol to help.

At least I wasn’t at home being sick on my family!  However, being ill in a hotel SUCKS!  And then the added pressure to work after travelling so far for a specific event.

On top of all that, jet lag was kicking me in the butt and I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 1 am every night, and then being up at 6 am for work.  There were several mornings when I thought I just couldn’t face getting out of bed.  One night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like death was at my door and I thought I had a terrible fever and that I might need to go to hospital.  So I actually grabbed my clothes just in case I needed to urgently get to the emergency room!  I may have been a little delusional at that point, but it was a rough night.

I survived the week, I turned up to work every day and made it through some how.  If it hadn’t been for my awesome colleagues I probably wouldn’t have made it through!

And so the end of the week came…I thought it was all over.  But no.  About 1.5hrs into my return trip to the hotel airport on the mini bus I realised I had left my passport in the hotel safe.  Luckily I wasn’t flying until the next day, so I planned how I could get my passport back.  It involved a favour from a colleague to pick it up for me and meet me at the train station. I dumped my bag at the airport hotel and then spent more than 6 hours on the train to and from the hotel where I had left my passport at…. this was time when I should have been sight seeing, shopping and catching up with a friend in Munich.  But at least I got the passport back in time!  Stupid idiot.  I blame my sinus infection really.

On top of all that I was missing Aviana a lot.  Chris was also doing some work travels this week, so my mum has come out to help out for a couple of weeks.  Thankfully!!!  But with the travel to the UK and us being away I feel kind of bad for Aviana.  I know she is just fine and happy with granny and still going to daycare.  I just need to figure out how I reconcile the whole traveling for work thing.

It’s going to take some practice I think!