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Oh shoo… You’re pregnant — What’s Going To Happen With The Company Now?

Oh shoo… You’re pregnant — What’s Going To Happen With The Company Now? My Thoughts on Being Pregnant And Running A Company

Photo Credit: Siiri Kumari, December 2017

When I founded my company Testlio I didn’t think it’d be possible to run a business and have a family at the same time.

Back then I was just a 23 year old girl, with only a couple of years of work experience under my belt. As a newbie entrepreneur I was immediately blinded by the hustle culture — 7-day work weeks, sleepless nights, no holidays, a massive dedication to the company with room for nothing else. I couldn’t see the world beyond that.

For me, this triggered a twisted view of the entrepreneurial world — if you really want to be successful, your company should be your one and only focus, that’s it. To become extremely successful you have to sacrifice everything for the benefit of the company — especially your personal life, because you just can’t have everything. I believed that work-life harmony was not possible. The thing is that as a young entrepreneur you just can take more risks and be okay with losing everything. Luckily for me, I had Marko by my side to help bear the burden, and I couldn’t imagine doing it with anybody else.

But the truth is — building a company is usually a long-term commitment. I realised that you have to face continuous challenges and hardships on your journey — if your company is the only thing you live for, you’ll burn out. It’s easy to be paralyzed into inaction when things start to pile up and you just can’t process them anymore. Let’s be honest the life of an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster — things don’t always work out the way you want them to. You’ll have huge wins but then the next second, you can feel like you’re worth nothing. I’ve felt extremely guilty of having bad days when I just don’t have the motivation and energy to wake up and make it happen… because feeling down is for losers, isn’t it?! Well no, it’s not — we are humans and we should not let our own or other people’s perception of how one should run their business lead our life.

Who says you can’t enjoy all the other opportunities life has to offer in addition to working towards your goals? Life shouldn’t be about making sacrifices but about being happy — and whatever you do, just own it and be grateful. Your life is a translation of your decisions.

Yes, you are constantly keeping the thought in the back of your mind that if you don’t put in the work necessary for the success of the company, someone else will. I also fell into this trap and thought that if I poured all my time, blood and sweat into the company, success would follow. But as I mentioned before, building a business is a long-term investment — you have to know how to pace yourself and achieve a better work-life balance.

Now 5 years later after founding Testlio, I am happy to say that we are welcoming a little bundle of joy into our family very soon. I really couldn’t be more excited as it’s such a positive life-changing event for us. But in addition to the joy this news brought me, it also immediately triggered a few questions in my mind that I had to take time to process.

Photo Credit: Siiri Kumari, December 2017

1. Will I Be Able To Run The Company?

Raising a family is part of life — a circle of life. And the things you did before, might have to be adjusted to your new life.

I firmly believe that there is nothing you can’t do as mom-to-be or dad-to-be and you’ll be able to achieve the goals you’ve set yourself anyway if you are focused and determined. If you don’t achieve them, then it might well be that you didn’t want it as much as you thought.

Obviously I don’t really know how life with the baby will be for Marko and I, but I guess it’s going to be like anything else in life — we’ll just figure it out and make it work for ourselves. When you make a decision in life, then the best thing is to own it.

I believe can do whatever I want. And I will be able to achieve anything I want if I’m committed and determined to the goals I’ve set.

2. What Will My Team Think About It?

When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately thought about how this news would be communicated to the team. Will they be worried that after having a child we will be less dedicated and committed to the success of the company?

Obviously, my goal is to still make the company successful no matter what and as with any new variable that is added into my work-life environment, I just need to be confident and clearly communicate goals. The reality is, the team just wants to know what will happen going forward and so you just give them an honest answer. If you’ll stay home for weeks or months, then just say it and everybody can adjust.

Marko and I communicated this news to our team right after the 3-month mark. Every week that went by leading to it, I became more confident on how I’ll deliver the news to my team. It happened so that at the time I was in our San Francisco office and Marko in our Tallinn office — so we announced it almost simultaneously to both teams. I was so nervous and anxious up until the announcement, because I had been so worried for a long time. I fully owned our decision and was happy and confident, but I wanted my team to be confident and happy about it too.

Even though having a family is a normal part of life, I understood that my team will still want to understand the plan.

3. Why Am I The Only One Being Worried?

From the start, I was the only one being worried about being pregnant — how to announce the news to the team, how will everybody react, what will our investors think about it, how can we manage the business and the baby at the same time etc.? Anxiety was real. And Marko understood me, but these questions never popped into his mind.

To deal with my many unanswered questions, I gathered intelligence from my circle of close friends and read many articles to cope with my uncertainties and be prepared for my new role.

The truth is our society is still strongly challenged by stereotypes. I found too many articles with statistics that show how fatherhood is perceived as a positive factor and motherhood not.

In fact, research shows that for men, being a dad is a good thing — it makes them seem like safer bets; more reliable and more deeply invested in the future growth of their companies. — The New York Times

Women are expected to leave their careers, stay home and raise families, because somebody has to. But having a child should be a shared responsibility and as a woman you should never ever feel that you should be hiding your pregnancy. Even though growing our family was both of our decision, I still started questioning my own abilities of whether I’d be able to do 2 things at the same time.

I felt uncertain.

Obviously, some women want to stay at home and dedicate themselves fully to raise their children and that’s their choice. I admire it. But in some cases women don’t even have a choice. Either way, if women want to keep building their careers while having a family, they should be able to do so.

Finding out I was pregnant immediately triggered a fear of missing out in me and that’s not ok. We are still fighting with stereotypes and we probably will for a very long time, but I feel that every conversation we have about this topic will help others around us to deal with this as well. At first I questioned a bit whether I should even spend time writing about this, but I realised that if I had these thoughts, there might be others out there with the same uncertainties.

I also stumbled into this post by the founder of GrooveHQ where Alex also confirms the fact that often times the world of entrepreneurship makes you choose between growing your family and company. But the truth is you can do both!

I really hope that one day women don’t have to worry about having families and we are all treated equally. Parenthood shouldn’t only positively effect fathers, but also empower mothers. Women should never feel like they have to hide their pregnancy. I don’t think I’m the only one facing those obstacles on getting this new role in life. I feel responsible for creating a better society for future generation. It should be fair and equal.

I felt compelled to share this personal milestone of my life to empower others who might be facing the same doubts and fears.

You don’t have to choose between building a career and building a family. You can do both. My mom, Marko’s mom and our grandmothers are a great example of that. And at the end of the day, whatever you choose, just own it and be happy.