I come to you as someone not yet facing parenthood. In fact, I’m not even close. But my story is one I’m sure, of many, and one which I feel I must put out into the ether.
I work at an exciting, fast paced and ever-growing startup. I love my job and most of the team around me with all my heart. However, what I don’t love, are the less than subtle comments about Motherhood which are put out to deter anyone contemplating it.
However, our workplace has a nice little motto that goes like this: “Don’t forget, no babies until 2020” (2020 being the supposed date we’ll exit, exchange our beloved startup for cash and explore places beyond the four walls that house our passionate team, one little ball pit, a stuffed animal mascot and various other startup toys). It started as a really, REALLY bad joke by one of our male Founders. And at some point, as our little team started to grow, with more and more ladies around 30 working at desks around me, we stopped looking wide-eyed behind the computer to ourselves to Whatsapping each other going ‘WTF’ and finally evolved to the point of saying that question (once) out loud.
“Yes *gulp*, but ‘what if’?”
To which the answer was this: “Well, I’m sure we’d figure it out. But if it happened any time within the next two years it would literally crush the business.” Hello-guilt-there-my-old-friend.
I sat there that evening feeling mixed about the news. I say ‘mixed’, it was 80% angry and 20% lost. (May I reiterate that I have no plans to have a baby any time soon…but what if I did? And what if it just happened, as it tends to do when you’re a human?) I started asking myself, “Is this a bigger issue than I ever realised? Is this in fact the most widely ignored problem in the startup world?
The entrepreneur inside me is cringing. How have we not innovated in startup land to a point where we have a solution for one of the worlds most basic needs. It seems the support is lightyears away and we’re supposed to be ‘creating the future’.
I’ve got to the point where the algorithms of the net have sussed out my age, gender and relationship status and are now kindly hitting me with ‘Clearblue’ Youtube ads right in the middle of my Wednesday afternoon presentations in front of the team. I wait, counting the seconds down till I can hit the ‘skip’ button whilst the ladies on screen are announcing “OH MY GOD I THINK I’M GONNA CRYYYYY!” Which is fine…if you’re not in the midst of twenty-somethings who you just know will be sniggering about it over a cheeky Nandos later on in the day.
Is the answer staring me in the face? Have any women (or men for that matter), been faced with this baby conundrum culture in their business or startup? Is a ‘baby gate’ a thing in the startup world for everyone? Can you be a female in her 30’s and happily work at a startup safe in the knowledge that your Founders have your back? Or in fact, has anyone found that with a ball pit and cuddly toy mascots, the startup world is actually the perfect place for children to come and join them? (I’m guessing it’s not a piece of cake to jump up and down on a trampoline whilst breastfeeding?) Is there in fact a female Founder out there who’s built a crèche inside the workplace and is going around delivering high-fives to her soul sistas?
If you’re out there – I’m in here…divingdeepintoatubofbenandjerryshopingtofindtheansweratthebottom (that was said with a mouthful of ice cream)