For me, one of the most challenging aspects of being a startup wife has been living with the unpredictable nature of startup life. I have always been someone who likes to plan ahead and to know what's happening. Living the startup life has taught me to learn to live with the unpredictable. To make flexible plans and to go with the flow.
The unpredictable nature of startup life can be exciting. It can lead to new adventures, to meeting new people and to moving to new places. The serendipity is all part of startup life. It's how new ideas form, it's how new businesses emerge. The unpredictable is often where the exciting side to startup life comes from.
But, it can also be incredibly difficult to live with. I hate talking about startup life and cashflow because it's had such a huge and challenging impact on our life for the past few years but there is no doubt that cashflow and money in startup life is unpredictable, in both good and bad ways. But it is not only the flow of cash but also the flow of work. It is very hard to predict for example, how busy a startup is going to be in a few months time. What if you want to book a holiday? Or what if you want to book a surprise birthday treat? So many things have been ruined, changed or cancelled for us because the startup has had to come first. Perhaps it shouldn't always and I think we've learnt how to assess whether it really does pretty well over the years, and there are many times when sadly for me and our family, work does have to come first. If you don't run a startup or have any connection to one then that will probably sound ridiculous. Work shouldn't always come first. No, that is very true but sometimes it has to. Without the work there would be no business, no money etc.
Bringing up a family while running a startup is a big challenge and I think the main impact to family life is caused by the unpredictable nature of startup life. I will not deny that over the years this has resulted in a lot of stress, a lot of arguments and a lot of upset but slowly I have learnt how to deal with it and how to make it work for our family. I think!
Talking and communication with my startup guy is the biggest thing that has helped. To be able to be honest about how you are feeling about things, even if at the same time you are accepting that x y and z have to happen. For example, explaining that cancelling a family outing makes you feel upset and disappointed but that you understand why it has to happen. And then agreeing a time to reschedule the outing or booking something else into the diary.
To have bigger picture plans that you make together also really helps me think outside the current startup life situation. I don't want to live my whole life dreaming of the "when we make some money" scenario as that would be a terrible place to be but there is a reason that I can put up with/enjoy/take up the challenge of startup life and that is because we have a joint goal and ambition for the future. And on a bad day that really helps!
And for me, creating a family home situation that is as stable as it can be is the best thing we have done together to manage startup life. For the past few years we have moved around more times than I like to even think about, there has been a lot of stress, there have been a lot of things out of our control, and it has made the startup stuff really, really challenging. But now, as Stef begins his latest startup adventure with Makeshift we know where we are going to be living for many, many years to come, we know what school our children are all going to, and we know that we are putting Makeshift first rather than trying to juggle my business at the same time.
While startup life itself is completely unpredictable it can be helped so much by having the predictable at home. Or perhaps not the predictable - home life with 3 (almost 4) little ones is hardly predictable! Maybe stable and grounded are better words but I am sure you know what I mean. It makes such a difference for both the startup and the startup family(ies) to have a sense of stability and predictability.
As this new venture begins I have never felt quite so secure, happy, prepared and ready for startup life. Let's hope it stays that way!
If you are part of startup life I'd love to hear how you deal with the unpredictable natur of what is around the corner!