Starting a company is hard enough, but when you hear about people who also have kids at home, a recurring thought might come to mind — how do they do it?

For some founders, it might be less about separately balancing work and family and more about combining the two.

Katie Hennen

Katie Hennen, CEO of Falco Creative Media (named after her maiden name), encompasses this concept. Just as she was coming up with the idea for her company in October of 2016 (with an anticipated launch date of January 2017), she found out she was pregnant with her first child in November.

“I’ve been trying to figure out this balance thing for a long time,” Hennen said, explaining that like with many aspects of life, there are good weeks and bad weeks with her company.

The biggest struggle thus far in her journey of parenting parallel to getting a company off the ground — she now has two young ones, by the way — has been the guilt.

“Sometimes it’s ‘mom guilt,’ and then when I’m with my kids, then it’s guilt that I’m not working,” she said.

Hennen echoes this mantra about being open and has some important — and honest — advice for founders growing a business and raising kids at the same time — you can’t do it all.

As the sole employee of her business, creating a family routine and setting ground rules were important for Hennen and her family. Every Sunday, she and her husband plan out daily outlines for each week — everything from daycare drop off to bedtime routine. Sometimes, her partner, who is an eye doctor, will even take the young ones into the office if Hennen has a video shoot.

“Having to prioritize each other’s work, it’s not fun but it’s important,” she said.

It took about three years for them to get into a groove. Even though COVID-19 and working from home has thrown a wrench into it, they’ll now have that routine to go back to.

Dr. Sherry Walling, PhD

“Rhythms are really important,” Dr. Sherry Walling, PhD, host of ZenFounder, a podcast that oftentimes discusses the duality of relationships and entrepreneurship, said. “It’s more so about the quality of time that we spend with people rather than the quantity.”

Dario Otero, CEO of Youth Lens 360 and co-founder of Schoolz, finds a rhythm with his kids (ages five and ten) through coaching all of their sports and teaching them about his business.

“I’m big into them learning teamwork, learning failure, defeat and success,” Otero said. “And I’m right there with them,” he said.

As someone who works a lot with young people — Youth Lens 360 aims to help youth ages 14-24 learn about entrepreneurship and bring creative content through their own unique lens to businesses — Otero has had to absorb some of the emotional hardships they may go through such as death in the family or mental health problems.

Dario Otero

This, no doubt, has put strain on both Otero and his family, but he’s found that prayer and meditation provide a much-needed reset. He also mentioned the importance of being honest about mental health and entrepreneurial struggles as opposed to pretending it’s not happening.

“You’re supposed to be this beacon of light, this person that never fails,” Otero said of what people might expect from a founder, especially when trying to raise money. “But I’ve found that if you have open dialogue [about struggles], then you’ll have a stronger team.”

Hennen echoes this mantra about being open and has some important — and honest — advice for founders growing a business and raising kids at the same time — you can’t do it all. Things change quickly when there’s kids involved, so she advises not getting completely unraveled if something doesn’t go to plan.

“You’re supposed to be this beacon of light, this person that never fails. But I’ve found that if you have open dialogue [about struggles], then you’ll have a stronger team.” — Dario Otero

“It’s really important to just enjoy those times that you do get with your kids,” she said, mentioning she turns her phone off and tries to never work on her company when they’re awake.

Dr. Walling agrees. It’s important to set realistic expectations and accept that time spent with family, especially this time when most of us are working from home, might not be the most creative or productive.

It’s not easy to be ok with times of lower productivity, but it’s a necessary part of juggling relationships with startups. Next week, we’ll talk with Lauren Berg Donovan, President and Owner of Style Architects, and Bharat Pulgam, CEO of Pikup, about prioritizing self-care and flexibility in families and friendships.