Question for startup founders around pregnancy/kids timing

Hi all! For context, I've been working on my startup for the past 2 years with just a cofounder and myself. We haven't been seeing the traction that we were hoping for and due to a bunch of industry changes are winding down.

However, we did fundraise and have enough money to keep going for another 1.5 years. I'm trying to decide if I want to try again or just go back to the workforce. One of the biggest things I'm struggling with is my partner and I had talked about starting to try for kids this spring. When we were on a path for growth and scaling, I thought it might be doable. Thinking about starting back at the idea stage and trying for a kid seems much less reasonable.

Does anyone have any advice or been in a similar situation and is willing to chat? Thanks!

POV: it's either the startup or the kid. You need to feel rock solid about your energy levels and emotional capacity if you wanna do both. I coach founders and I see what it takes to get a startup off the ground. Hence I'm all about a pragmatic assessment of one's capacity. Especially if you're in the early stages of building which are most unpredictable and demanding. Just like an infant :)If you want a free quiz to assess your capacity, shoot me a DM.
Thanks! Would love to to see that quiz. This is definitely my concern.
Sure thing. Please send me a DM and I'll send over
How much experience do you have taking things from 0 to 1, and how much experience do you have taking things from 1 to 10? And do you know which thing you like better? Like was this idea just one that didn't pan out among other ideas you've executed in the past, or is it your first startup and you're now fairly certain you hate the idea stage? I'm actually surprised that you described "growth and scaling" as something doable alongside having young children — that seems like it could be demanding in a totally different way and wouldn't allow for maternity leave the way that the "idea stage" could. Founders I know in the scaling stage take "grey" maternity leaves where they still communicate with large customers and their board.Also, how long would it take for you to find a job? Until you start trying to conceive, you won't know if you are going to get pregnant immediately. Tons of people have fertility issues these days, even in their 20s. Weirdly my suggestion is to keep working on the startup until you are actually pregnant, and then decide how you feel, especially if finding a job is easy for you (and it often is very easy for entrepreneurs to find jobs).Totally ignore this if it's not relevant, but it seems like you might be using "trying for kids" as an easy excuse to wind down the startup instead of figuring out how you actually feel. Maybe you actually just want to shut down the startup, and it has nothing to do with having kids. It's completely fine if you are sick of it and if you think going back to the workforce would energize you! But don't let the possibility of a pregnancy that isn't even real yet stop you from spending these 1.5 years experimenting if that's what you want to do.
Thanks for your response! Yeah my background involves a lot more scaling compared to 0 to 1 experience so I think that’s why I felt it would be more doable. But overall I think a lot of what you are saying resonates, I’m pretty conflicted for a lot of reasons about whether to stay or go so maybe I just need to do some more soul searching there.I am a little nervous about how long it could take to find a new role especially since we were not that successful with the first attempt, but maybe that shouldn’t as much of a concern!
It sounds like you already know what you're actually worried about, which is a great first step! A wise person once told me that confidence is the ability to take risks, but self-esteem is the ability to tolerate failing at that risk without internalizing it.Raising money alone is an interesting enough thing to be able to put on your resume (and I'm guessing your resume was already pretty impressive if you raised money — we've all seen the stats on women raising money). People know that most startups fail. You are able to say that you raised X thousand or X million dollars to work on solving Y problem, and then throughout the process learned for Z reason that it's not feasible. That's pretty powerful.Maybe you want to take 1-2 weeks to update your resume and apply to a few jobs. This is a form of "self-care," plus it's a form of demand validation for you to figure out if it will be easy to get a job or if it truly will require fully dedicating your time there.I'd also suggest plain old therapy (rather than a career coach). A therapist can help you untangle which feelings are related to preconception and motherhood vs. which are related to your career. (You can get a career coach too, I'm just assuming that money is a concern here.)
Having kids is a job. So, this is a situation where I would ask myself, would I take on a second job at this stage of the start-up? If the answer is yes, then go for it.
I've been known for my insanity of taking on big challenging things all at once and making it look easy..... So I thought I could do a lot with little ones. No. I currently have a 3 and 1 year old. I work full-time, in an executive MBA program, in a 300-hour yoga instruction program, I teach yoga, I coach leaders, and I have two startups that I'm working on. The reality is that they all take the back burner to my kids. I prioritize my kids so everything else keeps getting postponed unless there is a deadline and I have to take a break from the family to focus for a day. With one kid, it was okay. With two kids, it is impossible. Luckily, my couple of training programs will end soon. I only take on one coach client right now, and I only teach one yoga class right now. The startups have been taking the biggest hit. There are only tiny little baby steps with each startup each month. I know that when I want to really work on the startups that I can't be doing anything else. It takes your full energy and creativity. So if you have very active grandparents (like who you would trust with your baby for several hours); a very understanding and supportive partner; a very patient, understanding, and supportive cofounder; and you aren't working on anything else, then you could probably do it without sleep deprivation, anxiety, guilt, etc. I would want to know if the cofounder has kids and understands the changes you will go through mentally, physically, with being on baby's schedule (or lack of one), and with how you will change on prioritizing things. I'm happy to chat over coffee sometime :)
I'm genuinely impressed by how much you have on the go 😱
I got pregnant, somewhat unexpectedly, right after I left my full time job (I left to focus on my startup). What I didn't imagine was that I ended up having an extremely difficult pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum). I have never been in a situation where my brain could not overcome my body, until pregnancy. And then a few weeks after giving birth, I developed post partum depression.I am happy that I learned what I learned at the time I learned it. When I went back to working on the startup, 2 years later, and things were starting to move/happen/traction, I soon became pregnant again. (Self-sabotage.) At this point, I decided to wind it down. I ended up having a very difficult pregnancy again. I used my experiences and everything I learned from the startup and parlayed that into a job in which I am very happy/feel rewarded. I feel like the startup never got the chance it deserved.Also having kids is no joke. Even with a full time nanny (60 hours a week) and a partner who owns his own business/can rearrange his schedule. There is no part of my working life that is the same.
I live this currently. I am working on my own startup and just had my first child. You can do both. BUT you have be realistic about how much progress you'll make. You'll also need to line up help to ensure you'll actually be able to get work done. As others have mentioned, a child is a job in its own right especially in the first 3 months. It's also hard to predict your energy level during pregnancy. There's just a ton of variables, such a pregnancy complications to just lots of doctor visits. All of this makes for a great startup founder, btw. You live in a constant state of ambiguity on what could happen. After giving birth, I took a full pause for 2 months so I bond with my child. My child is always my top priority and I get anxious when I can hear her hunger complaints, but I'm stuck on call. I have nursed her while on calls. It is what it is. As for the startup, I'm bootstrapped so I'm not beholden to investor expectations. That said, I recognize that I still need to demonstrate progress on the VC timeline if I plan to raise VC money. It's not easy balancing all of this shoulda, woulda, coulda while raising a child. You have to be very clear and remind yourself constantly what your priorities and goals are. Some things just have to fall off the list. Period. I'm happy to chat more. Anything is possible. But no one ever said it was easy. No one item will get your full attention and you have to okay with where you are.
Everyone makes great points about energy levels and ability to truly commit to both. Only 2 cents I will add is don't put off having kids if you want them. Happy to chat.
I lived this situation, but instead was in the VC money raising stage when my child was born. It was honestly very difficult to juggle both, and I wouldn't do it again (our family financial situation meant it was ok for me to not have an income, but we could not afford a night nanny or part-time help). I ended up spending 10 months continuing with the start-up and managing a baby with not much outside help (my family and my husband's family live in different countries), and I had zero mental or physical bandwidth... the one piece of luck was that I gave birth during Covid lock-down and my husband was able to work from home and helped out loads. Meanwhile, I saw women around me who were taking mat leave from a normal job and able to afford night nannies or part-time care, and while taking care of a newborn was hard for these women too, they had the ability to take a nap or sleep once in a while. This period of time took a massive and permanent toll on my physical health... A baby is just like a start-up, except you can't walk away from a baby. Not even a little bit. When they need help, they need help now. It's constant firefighting. Let me describe what the first 6 months was like with our baby: 1) We did not get proper sleep for MONTHS because babies will not sleep more than a few hours at a time (they sleep a few hours, wake up and feed and poop, then sleep again, then wake up and feed and poop, etc.)... we were lucky because ours began sleeping 6 hours through the night by the time she was 4/5 months old. 2) while our baby was sleeping, I couldn't sleep because I was pumping and/or sterilizing bottles in between breast feeds OR the baby fell asleep on me in a weird position so I was not comfortable enough to sleep well. Meanwhile, because I had birth complications and an emergency C section, I was taking a mountain of post partum drugs and trying to recuperate from the surgery, but I couldn't afford a women's physio to help me with that recovery. I also got an infection due to producing too much milk, and let me tell you, that was not nice. Breastfeeding was so hard in the beginning, I would sit there and cry silently with pain while my baby fed, cuts all over my nipples (although this got better after a few months). Honestly, this period of time made me not want to have another child (although the stage I'm in now --- she's three --- makes me want to have another one. And this is how we humans get tricked into more).Running on a lack of extended sleep is not normal for humans, and it was hard as f***. I could barely work on my start up during this time, and it caused a lot of issues with my (child-less) co-founder who could not understand why she was still putting in the same amount of work, but I was not. Neither of us did good planning here because we heavily underestimated the massive time and energy suck a baby would be. At the same time, there was no way to predict what the birth would be like, what the breastfeeding journey would be like, etc. When we finally got to the fundraising stage, it also slowly became clear to me that the organic traction on our product was not good enough for the market we were entering (which was also becoming highly competitive). We would need massive marketing spend to accelerate growth, and the core business margins could not support that marketing spend in the long-term. I had to convince my co-founder that it was time to wind down.Can you imagine building two-start-ups at the same time? Because that is what it will be like to juggle a baby with a start-up, but worse. There's a reason why companies give maternity leave, and quite frankly, why several countries in the world also mandate generous paternity leave alongside maternity leave. It really takes a village to raise a child.For start-ups, being on a path for growth and scaling is arguably the worst time to have a child because that's when you'll be the busiest at your start up too. At the idea stage, you have the ability to step back because you're not beholden to investor goals or pressure, the only thing keeping you on that path is your (and your co-founder's) egos. If you feel like the traction isn't there, it's probably good to wind it down anyway regardless of whether or not you want to start a family. If you want to start a family soon too, then it's definitely a good idea to wind it down and get a job (and then you can take paid maternity leave when the baby comes). Although, also don't make any assumptions what your fertility journey will be like --- I put off having a child for the longest time and thought it was be easy peasy to make one at 35... but it eventually took us 2 years plus a minor surgery on my uterus to get pregnant. You just never know what it will be like until you try. So if you know you want a family, and if you're in your 30s, time to start planning...