Editor’s note: Jessica Porta is director of HQ Raleigh Community.
RALEIGH — Now more than ever, during these unprecedented, uncertain times (or whatever jargon AT&T and Verizon are using to pretend they care about you), we need to look at our current situation and draw on some ounce of familiarity to navigate our way through.
First of all: Hello Raleigh family! I’ve missed you… deeply! If it seems like I’ve been far off the radar the last few months that’s because I welcomed my first child: a seriously adorable, hellaciously gassy, beautiful baby boy named Ari. And while he is an incredible human already, and I am unconditionally in love, this has not been the magical journey to parenthood we anticipated. Not only did we face an early, frightening, nearly fatal delivery (for mom and baby), but we also brought our preemie home under quarantine. And as I’m sure you can imagine, becoming a new parent during a global pandemic is less than settling and filled with challenges we did not anticipate.
Through all of this however, I have been reflecting on our community as a whole. Everyone is facing unique challenges right now and while seemingly disconnected from mine, I’ve found that they are, in fact, quite similar. In particular, I have found some incredible similarities between parenting and entrepreneurship that I’d like to reflect on:
An Island of Uncertainty
While we are overusing the word uncertainty, we might as well start there. Wow, talk about a funny joke to play on yourself. As a pre-parent, you get to look at all parents, judge them, decide which things from their parenting style you will take or leave; chat with your partner about how you will be really good about making time for yourself and just move the kids bedtime to go out. You imagine what your new life looks like. And it’s easy to imagine, after all, your coworkers, friends, and family members are doing it every day, just not as good as you would hypothetically do it….
To quote one of my favorite Jim Carey Christmas classics, “WRONG-O!” Instead of parenting the way you planned, you end up right where everyone else is at every moment with parenting: survival mode. And in survival mode, you can feel flooded with uncertainty and loneliness. Every decision you make is your own and there is no indication if it is a good one. Your confidence waivers from “this is my baby and I know exactly what to do” to “why did anyone let me take a tiny fragile human home?” Does this sound familiar to my entrepreneurs? You spend days, weeks, months on end dreaming up what your business will look like, what kind of leader you will be, how you will spend your money and do your market research, (but not like that guy over there who is a total failure at his business), but when the rubber really hits the road, it’s glaringly obvious that you are alone, on an island of uncertainty, just living in survival mode.
All of your decisions really are your own and despite having lots of people to bounce ideas off, it ultimately comes down to you. Talk about an overwhelming amount of responsibility and pressure on both accounts. But there is also beauty in that loneliness because every parent and every entrepreneur is experiencing this together or has gone through this at one point. Entrepreneurship (and parenting) earned the hashtag #AloneTogether long before Covid 19. So get put on those fuzzy socks of uncertainty and cuddle up, because the best you can do is get comfortable with uncertainty. And don’t ever feel ashamed to reach out to a fellow parent or entrepreneur with those two magical words: “I’m struggling” because we have all been there or are there with you now.
A roller coaster of highs and lows
It did not come as a surprise to me that my time with my son in the early days would be a roller coaster of emotions. Difficult days, happy days, etc., but I had no idea that it could change literally within seconds. One second he is a happy fun baby, and the next, you have irreversible ear damage from holding the equivalent of a Black Sabbath concert speaker to your ear. And your emotions go right with him. That’s because as a parent, you tie so much of yourself, your worth, and your value to every moment of your child’s being. Entrepreneurship has a similar quality. I’ve interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, and not being able to separate themselves and their value from their business is a common theme. So at times this works in their favor, and might even be the reason they succeed, while at other times it’s the reason they can drop off the cliff with a major issue or loss. Either way, you are just along for the ride sometimes.
Take it one day a time
Because personal value is so intrinsically tied to your self-worth, it’s so incredibly important to take it one day at a time (with the future in mind). Being able to enjoy the season you are in, and face your challenges in bite-sized chunks might be the only way through the tough times. Truer words could never be spoken about parenting. What is that saying? The days are long but the years are short? Well my friends, I have a newborn preemie and let me just say the days are sooooo long. The other day my friend was reflecting on how fast time was passing and how Ari was already 10 weeks and I had to adamantly disagree. This has been the longest 10 weeks of my entire life, (yes it has been filled with magical moments and love too), but so long. The only thing I can do when I am feeling on an island of uncertainty, when I’m going through a roller coaster of emotions, is take it one day at a time.
Try, evaluate, pivot, try again
I mean this is basically lean start-up methodology 101 here. Why didn’t anyone tell me this also applies to successful parenting? If you are not familiar with Lean Start-Up Methodology, it’s the concept that you have to be dynamic to be successful; that running a business has an element of science to it. You make a hypothesis about what will work and what people will like, you test it out, you evaluate your results, then you pivot your tactics to suit your results and try again, and it’s a never ending cycle. This is so true for parenting. Yes you need routine, yes some best practices are helpful, but at the end of the day, this is your kid and no amount of (unsolicited) advice is going to tell you with certainty what is going to work for you and your family. So whether you are a new parent or an entrepreneur, go ahead and put that middle school lab coat back on and just try different things until they work for you!
It takes a village
A cliche saying but a true one for starting a business and becoming a parent. Unfortunately, during quarantine, that village looks a little different. For us, we have had to replace hugs with FaceTime calls, home cooked meals and help around the house with gift cards, and I’m pretty sure my son is going to grow up thinking we are the only two people in the world who exist. But the same can be said for entrepreneurship. It takes a village. No entrepreneur gets where they are alone, even if they say they do. Mentors, friends, community, customers all play a role in success and right now, that looks different. For restaurants, there are not regular dine-in customers, but instead neighbors buying takeout to keep their favorite restaurant alive.
So although it doesn’t look as meaningful and connected on the surface, the support given to rally around people and businesses at this time, has far more significance than ever before. The amount of people, to include those in this community, who have reached out to me to check-in, provide support, send clothing or food or flowers or cards has been humbling and, despite the loneliness that quarantine has brought us during this tough time, I have never felt more deeply loved and supported than in the last few months.
In this together
So HQ family and Raleigh family, I’ll hit you with one more cliche: We are all in this together. Because it’s so true. I’m so grateful to live and work in this community and I look forward to raising my son and growing my career in a community that is authentic and dedicated to its own success. And when I finally crawl out of this cave with something other than sweatpants, messy hair, milk stains and baby vomit, I’d love to grab a cup of coffee and catch up with you. Stay home. Stay safe. I’ll see you soon!
(C) HQ Raleigh