I’d like to discuss an unmentioned taboo: starting a business can seriously affect your relationship.
I met my husband as a twenty-something in London. Fresh out of uni and cutting our teeth in our chosen professions — him an accountant and me in PR — we were a real cliché! At 30 we had our first child Wilf and decided to make our first seismic life-change; to leave London for Bristol.
I left my job at Dyson. It was an international role that really wasn’t compatible to family-life and, full of enthusiasm and naivety, I launched a skincare business with my step-mum. After 18 fairly unhappy months — where I felt as though I’d “given up on my career” and become financially reliant on my husband — I rejoined corporate life. Gilby arrived 8 months after I joined OVO (yeah, not the best career planning move!) but after a shorter spell of maternity leave I returned, invigorated by Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ and determined to make it work.
I sustained it for three years but, a year ago whilst working full time with a 3 and 5 year old, I reached my limit and quit. My husband, having recently accepted a new (fairly well-paid) job was really supportive and I skipped off into the sunset.
Well, not quite.
The initial euphoria of “yes, let’s do it, what a great idea!” was quickly replaced with late night rows.
One week before I left OVO, he discovered fraud in the company he was due to join and we faced the unknown quantity that was both of us being unemployed.
Initially panic set in. Could I renege my resignation? I frantically applied for full-time jobs that I knew that I didn’t want. But throughout, my husband kept his cool, reassuring me that everything would be OK. Despite being together for 12 years, I actually discovered more about him in those three months than the previous three years: integrity, optimism, confidence and empathy. He was incredible. And he was right, he found another role that he’s still in now (whilst launching a kid’s party business that I now run).
Once he was settled I quickly found myself bored, lonely and uninspired at home and began looking at setting up a co-working space for parents — The Village Hall — and threw myself full-steam ahead in to planning events and looking at properties for it.
The initial euphoria of “yes, let’s do it, what a great idea!” was quickly replaced with late night rows. I was pouring my heart and soul into the business and didn’t feel as though he was supporting me. But in his eyes, he was. He’s an accountant by trade and so his support equalled a very snazzy financial model and practical advice. He genuinely thought he was doing me a favour when he delivered the sobering line that I was, “deluded to think I could change the bottom line through hard work and enthusiasm”.
“Telling me that my dream was going to be nigh-on impossible to make financially viable was his way of showing he cared.”
I could launch in to a tirade about what an ar$e he was but he’s a numbers-person so telling me that my dream was going to be nigh-on impossible to make financially viable was his way of showing he cared. He could see how much it meant to me, and in his (slightly misguided) way, he was trying to protect me. And our savings!
So after a tumultuous few months which peaked in a blowout in June, I’ve decided to put plans for The Village Hall co-working on hold. I’m exploring other ways that I can make an impact and support working parents but realised a property, at this stage, just may not be the best route. I will, however, be taking everything that I’ve learnt this year with me on to the next idea.
I’d entirely underestimated the impact of trying to start a business on my relationship. A summer break has definitely helped to restore calm and I’ve now decided to take on some freelance gigs to help occupy my over-active mind whilst doing some more research.
So it looks like the new challenge is going to be around whose job is more important and therefore who can/can’t help with the kids! But it’ll be OK. Like every couple, we simply work in chapters and I can now see that this year has been another with a few more ups and downs that we’d previously experienced.
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