My virtual financial planning practice, FIT Advisors, celebrated its fifth birthday this month; my daughter turned four. Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but running and growing my own business is a close second. Doing both at the same time — more so than ever in the last few months — has been a constant juggling act.
For the first few years, I was so focused on both roles that I often forgot to take care of myself. I was exhausted and burned out. During the last year, as I began to prioritize self-care, I felt a sense of balance returning. That’s been knocked off course by the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately — but by the time FIT Advisors turns six, I hope to be back on track.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about running my business while parenting, taking care of my family, and investing in myself.
Parenting While Growing a Business
A few months after the launch of FIT Advisors, I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, Nyla. In hindsight, it was somewhat of a blessing since the business was so young at the time. I had day-long bouts of morning sickness throughout the pregnancy and needed an extraordinary amount of sleep. I could not have managed the client load I have now while taking care of myself.
By the time Nyla was born, FIT Advisors had 18 clients. I only took one month of maternity leave, which is one of my regrets. I had postpartum depression that lasted much longer than it should have. I wonder, even to this day — if I had taken more time off and eased back into my schedule slowly, would it have helped my mental health?
Trying to focus on running a business while caring for a newborn was completely exhausting, even though we were very lucky to have full-time child care until the pandemic hit. At the same time, I felt a lot of guilt for not spending more time with Nyla in her early months and years. I think that is partly why I have built my firm in a way that I can be there for Nyla, since I didn’t feel like I was completely there for her during the first year.
I began my parenthood and entrepreneurship journeys at more or less the same time. Both are the hardest jobs I ever thought I’d have. On a daily basis, I feel like I’m just trying to keep all these balls — my business, parenting, managing our household, taking care of myself — in the air, without dropping one.
Supporting Myself as an Entrepreneur
Starting and growing a business is an extraordinary amount of work. It takes not only a financial toll on new entrepreneurs, but a physical and emotional toll as well.
For my husband and I, launching FIT Advisors was a family decision. Udai encouraged me to start my business whenever I shared my feelings of doubt and hesitation. But we both had to make sacrifices: We had to manage our spending more carefully, stopped contributing to our retirement plans and didn’t take a real vacation for almost three years.
During my first few years, I was constantly comparing where I was personally and financially compared to where I would have been if I had stayed in accounting: How much I would have saved for retirement, how much our family would be earning, and more. I spent a lot of sleepless nights wondering when we would get back on track financially and feeling guilty for not growing fast enough. During this time, we also relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles and went from a high cost of living area to a very high cost of living area.
I recently spoke with clinical psychologist Amee Dassani about coping with stress through meditation and mindfulness practices on my podcast, Money Checkup. Although we focused on mindfulness as a technique for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, I told Amee about how Udai and I have incorporated simple meditation practices into our daily routine. Small changes like these have helped me manage the stress not only of my day-to-day work, but also of these bigger fears and doubts.
What I’ve Learned: Be Kind to Yourself
Burnout was very, very real for me, especially in my first few years. Juggling my business and motherhood took a toll on my well-being. I’ve always been a perfectionist. No one can do either of these jobs perfectly, and yet I kept holding myself to an impossibly high standard.
About a year ago, I started committing to self-care in a tangible way. I stepped away from work on Friday afternoons and weekends. I also decided to lean more on others, including my business coach and a few contractors, for support. I also learned to let go more and focus on essentialism.
Being more generous with myself is an ongoing challenge, especially now that the pandemic means I’m a hands-on parent while running the business. I’ve been encouraged by my clients, who also have toddlers wandering into our video calls, and my friends and peers, who are also signing on to evening chats in their sweatpants. The pandemic has made it clear that all of us are doing our best, and that’s all we can do — and that it’s almost always enough.