How maternity leave as a sole founder made my company stronger – Lauren NkurangaFeatured

Aziza's profile thumbnail
You're so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story. I think it makes so much sense to up-skill the team such that the company can run without it's leader for some time. I'm sure it must be a benefit to all.
whitneycaneel's profile thumbnail
Hi Lauren!Thanks for taking the time to share your incredible journey and experience with the community! Any advice for other women in the professional prime looking to started a family in the next few years but absolutely petrified to do so due to the enormous professional responsibility they may have (ie: managing teams, being a founder, etc.)?Thanks in advance!
laurennkuranga's profile thumbnail
Hi WhitneyI feel like the biggest lie I've been told is that you can just "lean in" and somehow care for a newborn and manage an aggressive career. That is just wildly unrealistic.Having a baby is as much work if not more than going to school full time. You wouldn't just think "oh, let me take on a full course load" while working a crazy job. You'd adjust your life to do both. So I don't understand why we treat having children--which are arguably the things we will care about most in our lives--like they will magically fit into an already full schedule.Moreover, just like you love your career and want to be the best at it, you'll want to do that for your children as well. So for me, I don't want to put my 6 week old daughter in day care 10 hours a day, feed her formula, and hope that I see her a few moments when she's not sleeping. I understand that is a privilege to make that decision. But I've designed my life to get there. Does it mean I'm spending 6 months not leaning in? Yes. But it also means I'm learning how to be much more effective with my time so "leaning in" doesn't mean working 80 hours per week.Advice I'd have for others?First, get your career to a place where you feel confident that you know how to excel. After being a founder, I know how to create the work I want. I know how to get a shit hot job that I love. It took me a decade to get there. So I have no fear that when I'm ready to go full tilt again, I can. But right now, I'm not going full tilt. I'm planning at least 6 months, if not up to 2 years when my child starts school, to not work full tilt. Since my daughter was born, I've transitioned to working from home. I have a nanny 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM weekdays. I'm still breastfeeding my daughter for almost every feeding. I'm getting good amounts of work in--I love to work. And actually wanted to work much sooner than I originally thought--by 6 weeks, I was dying to work. But I don't want the pressure to go into an office all day every day. So plan to get your job to a place where you can manage a work-from-home and gradual return to work schedule. The more senior you are, the more you can design the work-life you want. So go hard in your career early to get more flexibility when you're ready for kids. Have it be a goal. And if you have the luxury of planning your children, you can then at least have your career somewhat in a place where you're not expected to be in the office all day every day.Second, get your shit together. As much as my husband is a feminist who wants me to work, the vast majority of childcare and home care falls on me. This won't change overnight in our marriage (though I've tried)--it is a systematic barrier for working women across cultures. The work at home increases exponentially when you have kids--I had no idea how much it would take. So while we need to continue to raise equality minded sons, and create workplaces that support working mothers, in the short term, it falls on women to balance the needs of our home while pursuing our careers. How do we do this? Automation, planning, organization, and HELP. Try to design your life where nearly everything you do to fits into one of three categories: 1) adding unique value to your work 2) taking care of yourself and doing things you enjoy or 3) spending quality time with your family. If it doesn't fall into one of these categories, outsource it, stop doing it, or figure out a way to optimize it.Just like you can foresee designing a career that lets you take 6 months or more to be with your child, work to get your home life dialed in before having your baby. For me, that means not having to do cleaning, cooking, laundry, shopping, or be the sole childcare provider.For some reason, in the US, we really turn up our noses at domestic help. But your time is valuable. At work you wouldn't spend 5 hours making copies or cleaning toilets. So why would you spend your precious off hours at home folding towels or cleaning toilets? Outsource it!I've automated my meal planning and shopping with apps like Plan to Eat. I have a housekeeper. I'm fortunate to also have a cook--which is easily affordable in Africa. Though in the U.S., there are a lot of ways to outsource your cooking and meal planning. Does all of that cost money? Yes. But it means you're able to invest your unique value in things that will truly pay off--your unique value at work, your unique value to your family, and not burning out--rather than saving money because you think you should clean your own toilets.We still have a long way to go when it comes to creating systems that enable women to excel. And I'm happy Elpha exists to help us figure out how to do it.
quinneyeQ's profile thumbnail
You are such a f*cking badass I love it so much.
jessicagrayson's profile thumbnail
This is great to hear. I'm so glad to see such a positive story with maternity leave and business ownership.