Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Realities of Entrepreneurship for Women

As most of my friends, colleagues, and customers know, my husband and I are expecting our 3rd child this month.

Literally, any day now.

In many if not most major corporations, women recovering from childbirth (or even who have adopted a baby) have six weeks of maternity leave guaranteed before they are required to return.  It's a great policy that fosters mutual respect between the corporation that demands a certain competency in the workforce and the worker who has a private life and a family.

Entrepreneurs are literally on their own.  I found out the hard way last year with my second child that there is no such thing as "maternity leave".  Even if your customers' jobs are caught up, even when you announce several times when you are unavailable, even if your entire infrastructure is running on autopilot and your marketing efforts have been put in limbo, women are on call at any time. 

Here's my favorite example.  I promise, it's 100% true.

July of last year, my second daughter is born.  She's off to the nursery for a night's rest after a long day.  I've been transferred to family care for the same.  I'm using my smartphone to make immediate birth announcements to be followed up by formal stationery later.  In the process, new mail is downloaded:  including a technical question on behalf of a client who is having a new tool installed on his website.  Two things:  1) everyone in this group knew I was not available this week due to childbirth and 2)  coincidentally, the email had been sent just as I was delivering the baby.  No kidding.

So what's a mom/entrepreneur to do?  I could have ignored it but I like to think I'm very prompt with replying to requests as best as I can.  Besides, I was bored silly now that the "great work" had been done.  I decided that being in a hospital room was no reason to not be a professional.  This was my exact e-reply:


Thank you for contacting me.  Yes, I am the correct person to direct this question to.  In brief, the answer is XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

I'm not able to go into detail at this time.  The fact is, I gave birth earlier this afternoon.  There were no complications so I expect to be discharged within a couple of days.

If I could impose upon you to hold that thought until Monday, I will be back in the office and have full access to my systems and can provide a more complete summary of how to incorporate your functionality into XXXXXXXXXXX's website.

Sincerely yours,
(etc etc etc)
Needless to say, my client and his other contractor were MORE than willing to give me every last minute I wanted or needed to get his code installed!

While I'd rather not entertain emails from the quasi-comfort of a hospital room, I've finally accepted that when I have access to my home-based office, I'm at work, period.  Doesn't matter if it's 2 hours, 2 days, or 2 weeks after a medical situation has passed. 

For this week, all of my customers can rest assured that their needs are being met.  I have one last project to put finishing touches on.  All domain names that I have been entrusted with have been duly renewed and secured.  Databases and code have been backed up both server-side and locally.  Updates and training have been completed.  Billing is in its last stages.  I have consulted with the server provider for final troubleshooting and checks so nothing needs attention for a few days.  And yes, I will again have my smartphone with me.

Stay tuned for more happy customer updates on this blog.  There are two new projects rolling out that I am very excited about, plus a slew of updates.  There are even new projects on the horizon that are being brainstormed at the moment.

For very brief news, (like, when I'm ensconced in the Baby Factory and it's a bad time to send an email!) follow me on Twitter at @SDOCPublishing.  Even at a time like this I can handle 140 characters!

Wish us luck!