Having a startup and a baby

By Caroline Lepron (Aguesse)

Building a company is difficult, raising a baby is tough, doing both at the same time is a bit crazy but a great experience.

As mentioned in a previous article, I found out that I was pregnant only a few months after accepting my Co-founder position at Cookitoo. I wanted a baby but all my friends told me that it would take anywhere between 9 months to a few years before falling pregnant. Fortunately (or not) that took no time for me. I came back from my beautiful wedding in France and fell pregnant straight after! Thank god my co-founder at the time was gracious and thought it would be completely fine!

I didn’t know at all what I could expect. Many people were telling me that having a baby was so hard and that I would never be able to continue my business. I was scared so I posted some questions on the Like minded Beaches Drinking Wine Facebook group (a great group for female entrepreneurs). I got a lot of mixed feedback, but the most important part was, that few women told me that they did it and it was definitely possible.

It’s proven scientifically that your brain changes when you give birth, but I am not sure in what way! I used to be bad with priorities, I was often distracted during the day, starting to focus on work around 5pm when many were leaving the office, and finishing late! Does this sound familiar to anyone? When my CBO (Chief Baby Officer) arrived: everything changed…

Please note, it is my own experience and it can be different for anyone else! Having a baby meant that I had no more time to be distracted or mess around with my priorities. My day became much clearer.

Early days, a baby is very demanding! At the same time, she will eat, pee/poo, sleep and start again… So when she started to sleep I knew that I had maybe 2 hours to focus on work.

CBO sleeping in her tent on my desk! Thanks to the flexibility of the UTS Hatchery+

Be aware that it may not always be possible, as you may have spent the night breastfeeding and not sleeping much! Some days I would just have to accept to go for a nap at the same time as her!

Would I recommend anyone to have a baby and a startup at the same time? I would say that it’s completely up to you. People will always tell you why you should or shouldn’t do it. You are the only person that can decide! I knew that I would be crazy if I stayed with a newborn 24/7 for a few years. I admire moms that can do that!

Is it easy? No, it won’t be easy every day BUT Yes it can be done! And this experience changes your life forever and for the better! There is nothing more amazing that I did in my life than having my little girl. It just makes you a new person. But I really wish to see more babies in the workplace, more parents room, more mumpreneurs!

Will you feel guilty? YES, you will feel guilty — but we always feel guilty anyway! So feel guilty for something that will make your kids proud. If it’s staying home, great, if it’s doing something that you love great as well! There is NO bad answer it’s up to you and your finances! For me, being a role model for my daughter means doing something I love while taking care of her.

Yes we love Conferences!

The sky is your limit: One day at the UTS Hatchery, they told us that they were creating a program to explore opportunities in Asia. When my co founder told me that he couldn’t go I thought, I could be crazy and go with Sofia as I was still breastfeeding. I remember one part of me being: are you crazy, she is still not 3months old, you will have 4 planes to catch for this trip. It won’t be suitable for babies, it will be very long days with conference and meetings.. and the other side of my brain said why not.. and he won!

CBO networking in Jakarta after a big tantrum!

Something unexpected: I feel that having a baby made me back myself much more. In some occasions I thought, I have to fight for this and if I don’t do it for me, I have to do it for my daughter. There is no point spending so much time away from your baby and let people be unfair or treat you unwell.

Something weird: When you are meeting investor 8 months pregnant: they are very worried but I was full of energy.

Meeting other investors 2 months after giving birth, they were not worried as they had no idea about the baby but I was exhausted… Sometimes it’s really about what they can see!

Recommendations: You need to be ok to accept some help. People are happy to help you. By saying no, you not pleasing anyone. You need breaks and some time for your meetings. Your friend/ family member can’t feel happy as they are not able to help you! I have been lucky my mum came from France for 6weeks to help us with Sofia. I would breastfeed, go to work start working and my mum will come to my office when it will be the next time for breastfeeding. I will breastfeed again and my mum will go for long walks around Darling Harbour. I can tell you she did a lot of Km while she was in Sydney. When she left Sofia, my husband took some paternity leave and was doing a few days per week while the other days she came to the office with me.

In the first 6 months when I had some meetings, I would ask on my facebook if someone could help for 1 or few hours while I was on meeting and I have been very lucky I had so many people that helped me! If it was one of you and you are reading that, thank you! I have been able to become the person that I wanted to be thanks to your help! Be flexible, ask for what you want/need. Find your tribe that can help you and support you.

Women to everyone that did not have a baby before- recommendations: I knew nothing about expressing (pumping my milk) before I was 7 months pregnant. Trying to pump milk at work is complex. The mum will need a closed room / a fridge (to keep the milk until she goes home) / a sink to be able to clean all the tubes/ bottles that she uses. And she needs to do that a few times a day. We have to stop making that taboo, if people know about that, they can plan around it. If you can make it easier for mums, they will be very grateful. I know some big corporates have facilities but smaller ones should think about that as well! You can find some recommendation online or here: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/breastfeeding-friendly-workplace-program

CBO having fun at the office

Women to women recommendations:                                                                           

Make sure that if you are not going to be with your baby all the time and you are breastfeeding, buy/rent a great breastfeeding pump. I will recommend to buy an electric, portable double one that don’t require a power source and buy the bra that goes with it. I can tell you some days you will be very busy and to be able to have your 2 hands free while expressing is great. It’s already difficult to juggle everything so dont try to have a single manual pump or you will stop breastfeeding or kill yourself!

Note: careful if you use big bathroom with automatic doors, you need to make sure that the door is closed before you lock it! You should have seen the face of the man that open the automatic door while I was expressing with my hands free bra/ pump… It makes me laugh now but it was not really funny at the time!

Having a baby is already a lot of pressure but don’t let others stress you because they will. I knew that I really wanted to breastfeed my baby for at least 6 months but I also told myself before she arrives that it may not work, it may be too difficult or complicated. Finally I managed to do 6 months but when I started MuruD accelerator and going to lots more events at night time, it was getting very difficult to express and manage everything so I decide to stop then. For breastfeeding, try to do as much as you can and if that mean 2 weeks that’s ok. Do whats possible for you, your situation and your baby!

CBO & me looking very tired! At the back my mum / my hero reading her book while I can play and breastfeed CBO before she will be going for another walk… while I will be working…

Originally published on LinkedIn.