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Supporting Your Entrepreneurial Partner (Sabrina Starling on Small Business)

Sabrina Starling on Small Business
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I love reader feedback! In response to my recent commentary, “Why Are So Many Women Burning Out?,” I received this email:

“Great article. Men have been facing this for years, but women’s role as mothers and household caretakers IS a bigger burden. My wife outworks me during her workday and when we’re home. God Bless you, ladies! What can husbands or partners do to help? Please write a follow-up article and tell us more.”

Nadine Carlson, owner of Care Providers Solutions, shared: “What great questions, and what a great husband to ask! What do I wish a partner understood? We often feel pressured to be a ‘superwoman,’ capable of doing everything and more. We can’t. Every superhero needs a sidekick. Be that sidekick for your partner, offering support and understanding.

“What can a partner do to help? The key is communication. Not just asking once but consistently expressing a sincere desire to help. She may appreciate a break from cooking or childcare or a regular task taken off her plate. She might even want the freedom to choose what help she receives. Even if she’s used to doing everything, keep asking. Your support can make a world of difference.”

Entrepreneurs carry a significant mental load that those around us may not see. Dealing with team and client issues and keeping an eye on cash flow while ensuring the business runs smoothly are a significant mental load contributing to burnout. In my research, 1 out of 2 entrepreneurs report feeling as though no one understands them and the stressors they experience. That’s a lonely experience. Keep asking your entrepreneurial partner what they are experiencing. It’s not helpful to tell your partner they are in control of their time because they are the boss. Instead, validate how challenging it is to juggle all the responsibilities.

The mental load can be even more overwhelming when compounded by household and caregiving responsibilities. Managing multiple calendars for work and family, remembering to get kids to activities (and pick them up!), being there for school activities in the middle of a workday, and making sure homework gets done and dogs and humans get fed, while throwing in the schedule changes that happen with summer vacation — the list can feel endless. While any of these issues in isolation wouldn’t be stressful, when your partner is burning out, these issues may be one more cut in what feels like death by a thousand cuts.

When your entrepreneurial partner talks about stressors, a helpful question is, “Would you like me to listen or give solutions?” Listening and validation, acknowledging the challenges they face, go a long way to creating a feeling of support and reducing the experience of isolation.

If your partner is open to solutions, explore the opportunity for holistic coaching that addresses designing a business that supports life. There is tremendous benefit from learning from those who have been there and done that while being in a group of peers experiencing similar business and life issues.

Sabrina Starling, Ph.D., is the bestselling author of “How to Hire the Best” and “The 4 Week Vacation.”
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