[Editors Note: of course, not all moms have husbands. Families take all kinds of shapes so we’ll be using ‘husband’, ‘wife’, ‘spouse’, and ‘life partner’ interchangeably - please forward this post to the significant other in your life.]
So your wife decided to become an entrepreneur. You now find yourself having a wide variety of thoughts. Everything from ‘why not just go back to work?’ to ‘how much is this going to cost?’ to ‘what about the kids?’ or even ‘maybe I can retire in 6 months!’
It’s important to recognize that your partner has probably had all of those same thoughts and made the brave decision to pursue an entrepreneurial vision. Some moms have entrepreneurial thoughts all the time, others are pursuing the dream of turning a passion into a business. Hopefully you decided to pursue this new direction together, but even if she just announced it one day, the best reaction is ‘how can I help?’
And help you shall, starting a business is very different from going back to work. It involves an emotional journey as most entrepreneurs face strong fears and doubts at some point in the early life of the business. Life at home is going to change too; she can’t run her business, do all the housework, make the school lunches and check on homework… although she very well may try. If you are going to make it work, life will change for the whole family and the more you participate the more successful you are likely to be. Whether or not you have entrepreneurial or business or technical skills, there are lots of ways to support this new adventure.
3 Tips for Being The Supportive Spouse
There are no Lamaze classes for entrepreneurship, but if there were it would probably include many of the same fundamentals as the original: breathing, pain management, avoiding unnecessary interventions, following your natural urges to push and don’t lay flat on your back.
1. Be a strong sounding board.
No matter what skills you have or don’t have, this is the most important one for any husband to learn! (Men, especially are terrible at it!) So clear your head, look her in the eye, and listen. Don’t interrupt, remember it’s probably pretty difficult for her to talk about this and she needs you to take her seriously.
Sally: I’m really worried about marketing my business. I only have about 4 hours in any given day to do everything for my business, so I have to make sure that my marketing is efficient and effective. Any thoughts?
Jessie: What about the kids’ activities on the weekends? You can’t take time away from that to market your business! This “business” isn’t even making any money yet!
So, what’s wrong with this picture?
a. Failure to validate.
When Sally is talking about her challenges, the first thing Jessie should do is validate them. Words like ‘I can totally see what you mean, there aren’t enough hours in the day’ go a loooooooong way to getting partner points.
b. Failure to actively listen.
Sally is talking about her idea, Jessie immediately jumped to a logistical issue when it would be better to ask questions about the idea. It’s really important to stay on topic. What’s worse, Jessie laid on the guilt trip! In fact, the logistical issue Jessie brought up is probably an expression of Jessie’s fears, not Sally’s.
c. Failure to verbalize support.
Most importantly, it’s important for Jessie to encourage Sally to invest in her business. This isn’t a hobby; businesses take time, effort, and money to make them successful. You both have to commit, and the less money you have to invest, the more committed you have to be.
Take a 3-pronged approach to cultivating your listening skills–validate, actively listen, and verbalize support–and you will be well on your way to acting as the sounding board your wife so desperately needs during this daunting undertaking of starting and growing her own business.
2. Take a proactive role.
At least once a week, Meg and I will meet for lunch and have `business meetings` where we talk about The Mogul Mom. We find restaurants with Internet so that we can do research and get work done. These lunches provide a much-needed opportunity for Meg to work out of the house for a few hours; to convey the problems, struggles or ‘wins’ she’s having; and for us to discuss, problem-solve, and celebrate together. ‘Together’ is the key word here.
Sally: Hey Jess, I’m trying to finish this blog post, but the girls have soccer practice, can you take them?
Jessie: Yes, I can. Where is it? What time does it start? Do you take the highway to get there or the backroad? Where’s their gear?
This is almost supportive. Jessie recognizes that Sally needs space to work and is taking on some extra duties. That is pretty good for Supportive Spouse 101. If you want to get the real partner points, you have to be proactive. Make it easy for your wife to take the space she needs. Jessie could have consulted with the girls or a website to get answers so that Sally can stay focused.
If Jessie has to ask Sally 1000 questions just to make dinner or do the dishes, then Sally may as well do it herself. Of course, Sally needs to recognize that Jessie needs the flexibility to do things in a different way, at a different pace or different time of day. The best thing Jessie and Sally can do is to sit down before the business is launched and agree about what, when, and how the home duties should be done. (By the way, for you Jessie`s of the world, get to know the slow cooker, low maintenance + delicious food. There are lots of slow cooker cookbooks!)
For bonus points, Jessie could also proactively suggest taking the girls out to eat after the game in order to give Sally more time to get her work done and relax.
If finances allow, outsourcing non-value adding duties like lawn maintenance and home cleaning are great ways to stay focused on family and business.
3. Help guard her sanity.
Lastly, the kickass supportive spouse monitors stress levels and ensures that the mompreneur isn`t becoming a workaholic. It may require an emergency babysitter and a few drinks, but hey, sometimes sacrifices have to be made!
When you work from home, it`s very difficult to keep the two separate, the partner plays a key role in ensuring that mom isn’t all work and no play.
So be bold, be supportive, and make the family business a success!!!
In what ways has your partner been super supportive? Rave about them in the comments!