I am not cut out to be the wife of an entrepreneur.
I hate to admit it, but I’m just not good at it. Seriously. I crave stability and we haven’t had it for a long time. I REALLY like knowing how much money is coming in every month.
I’m not saying that entrepreneurs don’t care about paying their bills. But to them, the risk is worth the potential reward. But me? I’m incredibly risk-averse. Looking back at my life, I’ve always taken the safe road. It may not have been the easy one, but it was safe, stable and secure.
I went to a public university (yay in-state tuition!). I worked in sports PR for the national governing body of an Olympic sport (yay healthcare!). I then had a job as a federal employee (yay job security!).
I suppose I’ve taken some gambles, too, like buying a condo in Northern Virginia on a GS-7 salary, which was about $41,000 per year back in 2009. (Honestly, though…What was I thinking?!) That purchase worked out in the end, but it could have been a disaster. It would have been a disaster if we didn’t have Ryan’s salary to help take care of a major mold problem two years later.
And I guess becoming a stay-at-home mom was a risky move, too. I gave up a good salary with promotion potential, great benefits, and job security to take care of Olivia full time. I don’t regret my time with her, but I wish I would’ve known back then that Ryan’s job wasn’t as stable as we thought it was. I’m not sure if I would’ve kept working after my maternity leave ended, but I would’ve considered it even more than I already had.
I remember when I was pregnant with Olivia, I couldn’t decide how to announce our pregnancy on social media. Everyone did it, and I wanted to do it, too. Then we closed on the purchase of our first house together and I wanted a picture of me, Ryan and our dog in front of our new home. My caption was going to be: “A husband, a dog, a new home and a baby on the way. This is my version of the American dream.”
And it was my dream. It still is my dream. I had big career goals when I was in college and in my early 20s. But then at some point they changed into wanting a husband, a family, and a busy house in a great kid-friendly neighborhood. I realize now that it’s what I grew up with – the parents who were always around no matter what their children had going on.
My mom stayed home with the three of us kids until the youngest (me) went to kindergarten. Then she took a job in the school so she had holidays and the summer off with us. My dad worked a 9-5 job that allowed him to be home every night for dinner. My parents were at every game, concert and school event that we had. They passed on opportunities that would have moved us out of our small town in Western New York. Sure, money was tight, but my parents chose a life that worked for them.
Ryan’s childhood was so different. He grew up in south Orange County, Calif. His parents owned their own business. He was an only child and his mom worked full-time. Many of his parents’ friends were entrepreneurs. So were many of his friends’ parents. He co-founded his old company right after college at age 22. Being an entrepreneur is normal for him.
But it’s not for me. And so I struggle to be supportive of him. I’m not making excuses; I’m just explaining why it’s hard for me. Just like some people are meant to be entrepreneurs, some people are not.
I feel like I was supportive at first, but I probably wasn’t. I figured after he left his other job, he’d just find a new one. Like I would have. And then when he started his business and it didn’t take off, I figured he’d just find a new one. Like I would have.
We’re in a really tough position financially now, so we started talking about him finding another job. It’s what I’ve wanted for the past four years, but when we talked about it, it left me terrified of the future.
I’m terrified that he wouldn’t be happy working for someone else. I’m scared that he’d resent me for pushing him into a normal job. I’m afraid that by me “winning,” he’d lose, and that really means nobody won at all.
I remember when his job fell apart four years ago, we said, “I bet in one year we’ll wonder why we didn’t do this sooner.” I wish that was the case. We’ve had more downs than ups, and every time I think things are going our way, we come crashing down again. It reminds me of a line in the song Parachute by Chris Stapleton: “Falling feels like flying till you hit the ground.”
I follow a lot of entrepreneurs and self-development coaches on social media, and I listen to their podcasts and read their books. These are the people who influence Ryan, and I want to understand him better. But I cringe when they say not to give up and that it takes time to build a business and to be successful. I’m upset when they say that their wives never told them to get a normal job or to give up on their dreams.
Because at what point do we say enough is enough? I don’t want to give up on Ryan. I want his business to work. I want everything he’s told me will happen. But we have two kids and bills to pay. We have responsibilities. I don’t know the answer, and I’m not sure there is a good one.
Being married to an entrepreneur is full of ups and downs, laughs and tears. It’s scary and stressful and full of sacrifice. It’s not for the faint of heart. I feel like I’m a shell of the person that I once was, but I know that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I have grown in ways that can only come from great failure. I had to go through a lot of this on my own, because while there’s a whole lot of support out there for the entrepreneur, there’s not much for the spouse.
That’s why Ryan wanted me to write Mrs. Startup. When I looked for help, I didn’t find anyone whom I could connect with. I didn’t just want to read a book or an article; I wanted a community. I wanted to connect, encourage and support other women and receive the same in return. And some days, I just wanted someone to say, “I get it. It’s hard and it sucks.”
So here I am. Writing my not-so-perfect story. Trying to find a balance between staying positive and being authentic. Telling the good and the bad in hopes that it’ll help other women just like me. And, selfishly, in hopes that it’ll help me, too.