As we approach the anniversary of Nabta’s incorporation, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the first year of both parenthood and company ownership, and the immense joys and challenges the two things have brought.
First, the challenges:
Lack of Sleep
It’s an obvious one, but perhaps the most devastating physiological difference has been the requirement to cope with a lot less sleep than before. Interestingly, the primary function of the hormone Prolactin, which causes new mothers to produce breast milk, is actually to induce Rapid Eye Movement or “REM” sleep. So women who breastfeed exclusively for the first few months after giving birth should, in theory, be less tired because the extra Prolactin they are producing encourages deep sleep. Now that I’ve weaned my son, I would be inclined to agree with this as I have definitely been more tired since I stopped breastfeeding. However, if you’d asked me six months ago where I sat on the zero to “Utterly Exhausted” spectrum, I’d have been a solid eight or nine.
Lack of “Me Time”
I am the oldest of eight siblings so, growing up, I never really understood the concept of “me time”. Obviously this changed when I left home to study at university, and changed again when I became a working adult. Go back five years and I might have described “me time” as being left alone to read a good book for a few hours, or taking the weekends to go riding in the hilly wilderness of Perthshire. Now, not only am I VERY aware of “me time” (it’s one of these things that became noticeable by its absence), my definition of “me time” has also changed utterly.
Today, I would be happy to have three minutes alone on the toilet without either my son or the cats pushing open the door and making loud demands at my feet. I classify “me time” as: cooking dinner in the evening after my son has gone to bed so that I don’t have to repack the cupboards while I’m doing it, or popping down to the local Carrefour to pick up milk without fifty hideous soft toys being removed from the thoughtlessly placed shelving unit by the entrance.
Obviously the company means that whenever I am not getting demands from my son or my cats, I am catering to it and its needs. Nabta is a comparatively patient child, but it is no less demanding.
Days Without End...
Juggling entrepreneurship and parenthood, particularly if you act as the primary caregiver, is no easy task. My days starts at 6:45AM when my son wakes up, and ends usually at around 11:45PM when I send my last email to our partners in different timezones. I am with my son until 1PM every day - we swim, we go to gym classes, we run riot in the malls (it’s about the only thing you can do here in the Gulf at the height of summer) - and then he goes to nursery and I head to our office in the Dubai Science Park. I am there taking meetings, managing operations, and generally keeping things afloat until 5:45PM at which point I head back to the nursery to collect my son, and we head home for yoghurt, bath and bed by 7PM.
And then work begins again.
Although I do try and make time at the weekend to do things with my family, and obviously we go on holidays where I work less, I’m not sure a single day has passed since I started working on Nabta that I have not thought about it, engaged directly with it, or lived it in some way. In this way in particular, having a company is very much like having a child. It sits at the back of your mind, like the flutter of a gossamer curtain in the breeze, so that even if you are not looking at it and are utterly absorbed in something else, you are aware of it. It is There.
... And Endless Joys
I tried to sit and think of three joyful things that I associate with being mother to my son and Co-Founder to Nabta, but I could not. The fact is, there are not just three things, there are many. Many, many, tiny, trivial, wonderful things that no one but you sees or appreciates each and every day.
Whether it’s the first time your child finds and comments on an interesting scrap of carpet you didn’t know you had, or falls off the bed and miraculously doesn’t hurt himself, or hugs the cat without pulling their tails (the cats did not find this so wonderful); or one of your team finally gets something they’ve been struggling to understand for days, or the image that was slightly off-centre is suddenly aligned, or you find yourself with a cohort of eighteen summer interns all of whom are ten times more capable than you were at that age, the joys really are endless.
I guess my point is this: with parenthood as with company ownership, you will remember each and every one of the challenges you face - you will agonise over them, relive them, and suffer at their hands - and you will not remember the joys. But that is not because there were no joys, it is because they numbered too many to count.
To all of you who are about to embark on either journey: sit tight and enjoy the ride - it will be the greatest one of your life.