For anyone who thinks entrepreneurship is glamorous, think again. This was my day yesterday.
I woke up around 4AM. This is basically when my brain becomes aware of the outside world again and within minutes, panic sets in. “How will we succeed? Will we survive? I need to send that email! I need more sleep! I need to get up!” My brain is my best and worst friend.
My husband is still snoring away, as usual, and I put his sleep apnea appointment on my mental to-do list for the thirty-third time. Eventually the babies wake up. Yes, twin toddlers and yes, they both pooped. Get them changed, hand them to husband, yell downstairs for my teenager to get in the car.
On my way to driving my teen to his eye doctor appointment, I call my mom. My sole unwavering champion. My stand-in therapist. And pretty much my best and only friend. She’s amazing. And as I listen to her rap on about how I can do this and how I can succeed, I make my way through morning traffic.
Doctor appointment is over, kid has convergence insufficiency and requires months of appointments, and oh, only $4,000 not covered by insurance. Wonderful.
I walk outside the office and my husband is standing there. He has a work call and couldn’t wait for me to drive home so he packed the babies up into the van and staked out the doctor’s office. We switch keys and switch cars and I begin driving home.
The babies have grown tired of the Spongebob playing in our Sienna and are understandably fussy. I spend the car trip trying to explain to my teenager why he needs to miss just one class in order to watch the babies so that I can attend my startup class with Nick Hughes. It’s Nick Hughes! And I paid for this! I can’t miss this class.
Normally our 22-year-old German au pair is home to help with the twins. Instead, he is on a well-deserved vacation in Colorado and then Vegas. I attend my class. Luckily, two other participants were later than I was. It’s fantastic. And Nick Hughes reminds us that being a founder is hard and depressing and lonely at times and encourages us to take care of ourselves, develop some semblance of work-life balance, and urges us to build our army of support.
Nick really resonates with me and at his last Founders Live event, he said to be authentic and to buck the trend. I now remind myself daily to do those things.
After the video chat ends, I tell my high-schooler to go off to school, I make some bottles for the babies (even though I’ve been trying to wean them for months), and I put them to bed. Whew. Relax.
I go downstairs with the intention to work, but get caught in the endless email loop. Before you know it, they’re awake.
I get a call from my middle-schooler saying he missed his bus home. Urgh. I pack the babies up into the van and drive to go get my pre-teen who can’t walk long distances because he has screws in his hips from prior surgeries. He gets in the car and we drive straight to his doctor’s appointment – a follow up for an abnormal EKG.
After over an hour in the waiting room, and one event of chasing my toddler all the way down the hall where patients were being seen, we finally get called in. And wait. Again. Prognosis: he should be fine. Go get another EKG just in case.
I pack the babies back up and drive to get my elementary-schooler from extended day. Yes, you counted that right – we have 5 sons. By then, I am minutes away from my appointment with another founder, whom I’ll be trying to help with my sales background, and so I can’t swing the EKG appointment myself.
My husband and I pull into the garage at the same time, I throw him my keys, we switch cars again, and he takes the pre-teen to the hospital for his EKG while I grab my backpack and head to Starbucks for my meeting.
The meeting goes well – and for the first time in a while, I feel competent and appreciated. Being a founder of a startup is like being forced to write with your non-dominant hand. Sure, you do the needful. But it’s difficult and takes so much time and does not feel natural. But sales I know like the back of my hand. So I end the meeting by enthusiastically saying I want to help and then traipse off home while telling my mom what a great guy this founder is. Yes, my mom again. I talk to her about 5-10 times a day. PS: my husband texts that the EKG is fine.
I get home and go up to the babies’ room where my husband is. They are all changed and ready for bed. Lucas is being extra cuddly and loving and I bask in the joy of just being a mom for a moment. “Where did all my joy go? Why is this so damn hard? Who cares. It will get better. Just keep going.”
We put them to bed and then make a quick jaunt to the grocery store. There, we proudly show one of the regular checkers our “box.” We explain that we have created an empty cereal box that we are going to sell to raise money for our startup. She looks at us like we are insane. We half-nod in agreement.
We lay in our bed, too exhausted to talk. I can’t remember the last time we had sex, but we’re both too tired to try. And after a few “we’ll get there’s” and “I love you’s,” we both fall asleep to the sound of Big Bang Theory – our unifying evening ritual.
A startup advisor asked me on the phone this morning why anyone would be crazy enough to start a startup. After all, it’s downright grueling and in his opinion, 99% of startups fail. But I tell him it’s in my blood. I tell him I can’t breathe without it. I tell him I can’t die happy without making a meaningful and widespread impact on poverty and without convincing even the most forgotten in our society that they too have value. That they too have worth and a place in this world.
And as I stand there on the rooftop of the airport parking garage at Seatac, on my way to SF to mingle with female founders, a YC partner, and Stripe Atlas, I remember why I do it. I remember my why. And like Robin Williams remembering his happy thought in the movie Hook, my face lights up. I may not know how to succeed just yet, but as long as I carry my why with me everywhere I go, as long as I eat, sleep, and breathe my life’s purpose, I know I can get through a million more days like yesterday.