Parenthood vs. Startup Life: Interviews with founders

A couple of days ago, a new law was introduced in France providing 24-days parental paid leave for fathers. Many other European countries such as Denmark, Germany, Spain or Sweden have much better conditions, but some others are even further behind.

In these conditions, some obvious questions come to mind. How do you decide when the choice of building a business and parenthood is already made for you? Based on which analysis are we making that decision, or is it plain old fashioned gut feeling? Or should we be put in the position of choosing to start with? To better understand these types of decisions, we asked founders to describe their parenting experiences and to offer some tips to those who want to build the next unicorn and also become parents.

What to expect

Like for any other new project, no matter how much you read about it or ask your friends, the best way to find out is by doing it. Asaf Levy, Co-Founder and CEO, at MyCrops an agtech startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel shares his view:
“I co-founded MyCrops one year before I got married and two years before my first son was born, and I believe it depends on the stage of the company. In my experience, starting a company is like having a baby.”

On the other hand, Candace Saffery Neufeld, CEO & Founder, Bia, an energy startup optimizing EV charging from Barcelona, Spain adds: “Becoming a parent transformed my priorities. I could no longer dedicate countless hours and days to [only] the startup, I had to work more strategically. Identifying and committing to the critical path became my mantra. I had to learn how to give up some control, share responsibility and still have the confidence to contribute strategically and decisively. Becoming a parent while in startup made me more focused, confident and flexible. I am sure I am a better leader because of this experience.”   

Rolf Bastiaanssen, CEO, Starke Energy an energy startup focused on smart energy networks based in Barcelona, Spain also explains:
“I have two daughters, my twins are six years old now. They were four years old when we created Starke Energy. Yes, parenthood and founding a company are compatible but there are obvious complexities and trade-offs. It is important to be aware beforehand of the priorities, commitment and style that both parenting and being a founder require.“

What to do 

Start by setting a realistic plan for your team and your family. Don’t think you’ll always be able to do everything you plan. As Candace Neufeld eloquently puts it: “Thriving as a parent or entrepreneur requires similar skill sets – discipline, vision and confidence all wrapped in a nice cozy blanket of flexibility, realistic expectations and kindness. Combining parenthood and startup life pushes you to prioritize, to be present and to become comfortable making decisions.”

Rolf Bastiaanssen also comments: “It is so important to set expectations right with your partner and your wider support circles. The upsides are that it is great to sometimes leave parenting behind and work on some of your professional ambitions. And the other way around, it’s great to have a reason to forget about the stress of business building and just spend time in a park with your children. Nonetheless, you are guaranteed to lose out on some special moments. I did have to skip some meetings that would have helped to grow Starke Energy faster. And I wasn’t there when one of my daughters lost her first tooth – and I missed out on so many play dates with their friends.“

Asaf Levy adds: “In the first year of a startup, and as a first-time entrepreneur, I think it’s tough to manage both. However, later on, it’s much easier, as you learn how to manage your time better and more efficiently.”

What to remember 

Have in mind the bigger picture and think about what is important to you in life. This is one of those moments when you need to take the time and think things through. And as Candace Neufeld adds: “Family always comes first. Parenting while running a startup is really hard work, so prioritize what you love. There are many ways a startup can become successful, be clear on the best ways you can contribute and get excited to share responsibilities and successes.“

“I think parenthood adds purpose and meaning to your life more than anything else and can help you put things in perspective, so it might be better to establish a startup while you’re already a parent. If you’re planning to be a parent, my advice is to go for it. Because, like other things in life, you never know for sure when it’s the right time, the same as not knowing when it’s the best time to start building a startup.” Asaf Levy also comments.

Rolf Bastiaanssen adds: “It is key to appreciate the moments you get out of either life project. And while day to day stress probably is somewhat bigger, I do think that in the long term it’s compatible and helps build a fulfilling life. And the alternative would have been a lot worse: either being a dedicated parent without following the dream of building a company – or building a company without following the dream of being a father :-)”

Do let us know how your experience as a founder and parent was by commenting on social media. In the meantime, we’ll keep in touch with these founders and see how their journeys unfold.

This article was first published on Eu-Startups.com.

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