Five things that Teddy has [inadvertently] taught me about business

I wrote this on the eve-eve of Teddy’s first birthday — and it’s been sitting in the ‘share it / don’t share it’ pile. However, while I’m sitting here with a sick wee Bear & mentally running through my to-do list, I caught myself reflecting on these same lessons. So, I’m hitting publish now.

It still feels weird to refer to myself as a ‘mother’; surely there are rules, criteria and KPIs that one has to meet before you’re allowed to take a small human home and be responsible for him/her, for the next eighteen years (turns out, no, there are not).

For better or for worse, I was back in the office almost immediately after getting home from hospital. Despite not being able to drive post-Caesarean, I arranged for Ethan to drop me and Teddy at the office for “just a little bit”, so I could keep my hand in. To be clear — I am ridiculously privileged. I chose to keep working (I didn’t *have* to) and I love. my. job. When you’ve built a business around doing what you have the most fun doing, with an incredible team of mates, it’s hard not to want to be there.

As I’ve juggled meetings with a small infant over the past year, it’s been both hilarious, tragic and downright mad at times. There have been poo-splosions moments before presentations (from Ted, of course), unrealised vomit on shirts and inadvertent non-muting whilst on conference calls.

However, there has also been the most incredible outpouring of support. Board meetings when Ted has been passed around for a cuddle, coffee sessions where a small squidget has commandeered the conversation and more offers of help than I feel like we deserve.

I’ve learned that there’s nothing like a first birthday to make you feel sentimental (but if you even suggest that I’ll start pining for number two about now, you can — please — GTFO). So, one night last week, I was reflecting on all of things Teddy has taught me, as a business owner.

1. Team is everything

My prerequisites for a midwife were (she won’t mind me saying) ridiculously low. All I knew that I wanted was someone who would go in to bat for me, if shit hit the fan. And, man, did I get that — and more — in our incredible midwife.

I also wound up having a child with a pretty exceptional man. I’d like to think it’s not a coincidence but rather excellent choices — but he has truly been great, 98% of the time (the other 2% of raging at him is normal, I think).

But, I’ve also had the importance of my work team highlighted, time and time again this year. They have stepped up, stepped in and dealt with both literal and proverbial shit, more times than I can count.

2. Flexibility is key

I was terrified to tell my clients that I was expecting. I’m not sure what I expected, other than to be universally dropped as a business. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Each and every organisation blew me away — and continues to do so.

Given that Teddy has attended more meetings than a mid-level bureaucrat, it’s impressive that they all still a) like him and b) pay me.

However, what it’s brought home to me is how important workplace flexibility is.

We aren’t perfect — but we strive to work in and around everyone’s personal circumstances. We have part time, full time, and everything in between happening in our office — which, admittedly, makes a scheduling a team meeting a nightmare.

But, in a world where expectations are shifting and we’re realising that maybe the ol’ 9–5 concept could do with revisiting — we think that flexibility as a business is more important than ever. I’ve run teleconferences whilst breastfeeding and changed nappies in board meetings — but it means that I’m still able to be at the table.

3. Comparison is the death of you

God, it feels like every other parent has it more together than you. All. Of. The. Time.

But, business feels like that too.

We only ever see the magic — or the contrived failure. No one is talking about the insomnia at 3am worrying about cashflow / teething / future choices.

In this new world where “how well your child is doing”, it feels like a whole other networking event where — instead of comparing sales revenue — the metrics are sleep, crawling and eating. Just as fuzzy on the wider picture, but no less stressful as to whether you’re doing it “right”.

4. Be patient

My biggest failure — both as a parent and as a business owner — is my lack of patience. I want the world for my clients, today, and I want my child to understand why I need to take his clothes off before he can be in the bath.

5. Anything can be a toy if you look at it the right way

Ted spent 21 minutes playing with a piece of cardboard this evening while I cooked dinner (#thanksnadia). Next to his books, plastic paraphernalia and the cats, he chose to pursue a cast off piece of cardboard. We played peek-a-boo, hid the cat, wore a funny hat and then hid the other cat. It’s a really good reminder that the most mundane can sometimes be the most effective and fun — when you change your perspective.

In a world where methodologies and technologies are constantly evolving, we consistently come back to the why of what we do. One of the biggest lessons we learnt during the Student Volunteer Army days was that it’s about “using the tools in your pocket” — and I think that challenging your own perspectives as to how we’re working on fixing problems is important to remember. ‘\

So, that’s the wrap up from Year One: much like business, I suspect that the challenges of parenthood only morph and amplify, rather than subside. However, it’s been a bloody amazing privilege to be a mum to Ted — and to be the Boss Lady of Narrative. Here’s to the (as Ethan said on his birthday) next seventeen years. Gulp.

Boss Lady of @thenarrativeco | @EHFNewZealand Fellow | Māmā to Ted | Director & Board Member | Passionate about community, equality & access, at all levels.

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