The Toddler Years
When you become a first time parent, you are often greeted with enthusiastic and humored looks and smiles from other parents, because they know what you’re about to get yourself into, but you have NO IDEA what you’ve just signed up for. People give you well wishes, lots of unsolicited advice, and their horror stories. But you’ll be fiiiiiine, they say. It turns out all that unsolicited advice is applicable to starting a business, too–sleep when you can, be patient, don’t listen to people who say this won’t work, enjoy the experience, because it goes by so fast, save money for future expenses, let other people help you, always pack snacks in your purse, and know you will be thrown up on from time to time.
I decided to go big and start a business at the same time I was having a baby. Now, my baby and my Company are both turning two. They’re out of the baby phase and officially toddlers! There are so many parallels between the two experiences. Small, fragile, helpless neonates that needed me to do everything in the beginning, protect them from anything that could damage their innocence, and provide an environment in which they could thrive and grow. Slowly, they got bigger, stronger, and a little more independent. Lots of sleepless nights, wobbly first steps, small victories, laughs and tears as they grew, and developed personalities of their own. A group of devoted friends and family, always there to lend a hand, cheer us on, and get us through the hard times. As they each got older, I could more readily trust others to care for them, without having to worry about every detail myself. I’ve found people I trust to care for each when I’m not there to handle the work myself, and love that I can get a break and recharge, as well.
Raising a child alone and owning a business means the victories are mine alone, but the losses are also all me. When Evan uses “please” and “thank you” flawlessly, enthusiastically eats every vegetable, omelet, and stir fry I put in front of him, when he hugs a friend that is crying, I get to pat myself on the back for parenting well-done. When I get a new client, increase my billable hours, get referrals from existing clients, and receive emails full of praise, I own those wins in their entirety, and get to celebrate my successes. There is no greater feeling than seeing something you created grow and succeed.
But when my child is screaming for more juice in Trader Joe’s (those sample cups ARE tiny!), doesn’t share his toys, or is up all night because he’s sick, all the responsibility is on me to teach him, nurture him, and give him comfort. I know there is no one else to get up with him at 2am when he’s having a night terror—and then I still have a full day of work ahead of me. It’s exhausting, but it’s a labor of love.
When a client is unhappy, or I am unable to meet their needs, I have to own that failure, because I own the Company. My hopes for each of them are similar. I hope that I raise a strong, responsible, loving young man that helps others, cares deeply, works hard, dreams big, has fun, and shows compassion. I hope my business continues to maintain a high level of integrity, keeps our roots in caring for others, build lasting relationships, and always expresses empathy and understanding for other’s needs.
The terrible twos are not so terrible around here. The financial, emotional, and logistical responsibility that comes with being the sole parent and the sole proprietor can seem like the weight of the world, but also so rewarding when you realize you’re not only doing it, but you’re doing it rather well!