Croozer Blog: Behind the scenes

“I love the freedom I have in my job.”

Our managing director Hanna is co-author of the recently published book: Gründen - Frauen schaffen Zukunft. In her interview with us, she offers insights into the various issues and takes us with her on a day in the life of a “mompreneur”. What does her typical day look like? What challenges does she face in her duel role as entrepreneur and mother? And what will have to change in society in order to improve parents’ work-life balance? You can find the answers to these and other questions here!

Hello Hanna. You’re not only a successful entrepreneur, but also the mother of a two-year-old daughter, which makes you a so-called “mompreneur”. What does your typical day look like – or is there even such a thing?

Before I answer that question, I’d just like to say that, although I enjoy talking about what it’s like to juggle the roles of mother and entrepreneur or managing director, I think it’s important to remember that, in general, men are almost never asked about this duel role. In my opinion, this is where the problem begins. Because of all these questions and the “respect” that people express in this context, I sometimes get the feeling that I’m doing something completely absurd, or that I’m not a “normal” or good mother. It’s high time that this image of women be put to rest! It doesn’t matter which member of the family has entrepreneurial responsibilities or is pursuing a career – what’s important is that the system is stable, that the child always feels well taken care of and is surrounded by loving people (regardless of whether it’s daddy, mummy, grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle or friend). Is a child whose mother is a frustrated housewife who has put all of her dreams on hold in order to spend her entire day taking care of her kids and the household better off than one whose mother is happy and loves spending valuable time with her after a few hours of work? (The same applies to fathers, of course.)

Now to answer your question: You’re right. There’s really no such thing as a typical day for me. In general, I could say that there’s always a lot to be coordinated. Since my daughter turned two, there have been two versions of a typical day: Either I take Matilda to nursery school by bike and work from home so that I can pick her up again at noon, or my husband takes her to nursery school, and I go to the office earlier and stay longer. We take turns so that both of us have the same amount of time at the office and with Matilda. I think the main differences between the life of a managing director and that of other employees is that I’m not able to plan all of my appointments myself, that some things really can’t wait (not even a day), that I also have the occasional evening meeting and that I sometimes have to be gone for several days in a row. And this means that the whole family has to be flexible.

What are the special challenges that you face as a mompreneur?

Actually, it all feels very harmonious to me, and seeing how much effort it also takes for my friends to manage their busy everyday lives, I would feel strange implying that what I do is somehow especially challenging.
The biggest challenge for me is finding my own work-life balance and not letting the company play too big of a role in our everyday family life. This means making sure that, at the dinner table, we avoid talking about Croozer and discuss non-work topics instead. Owing to the fact that my husband also works at Croozer, it can sometimes be difficult to “switch off” after a long day of work. And as a managing director, I always have a lot of different issues on my mind at the same time – which is why I like to call the time that I need between company and family “transit time”. I really need this time so that I can clear my head, switch into family mode and turn my full attention to my daughter or whatever is happening at home.

What values do we act on at Croozer?

Here we present you our company values!

In your opinion, what qualities are especially important for meeting these challenges?

You can’t let certain issues get to you. With a company of our size, I’m responsible for projects concerning tens of millions of euros, for more than 60 employees with their own families, for operating costs that need to be covered and for dealing with competition from big corporations (just to name a few examples). If I worried too much about all the risks that are associated with these issues, I probably wouldn’t be able to switch into mothering mode in the afternoon. It’s the same thing with other bottlenecks and crucial issues – actually, not a single day goes by without a minor “fire” that has to be put out. I’ve learned to put out these fires without taking the ashes home with me. I think that’s the key skill and also the most important aspect for mental health as an entrepreneur.

I have a two part question. First: are you ever haunted by negative emotions, like doubt, remorse or overload? And if so, how do you deal with them?

Of course, I also have negative feelings sometimes. Very rarely remorse, actually, as my conscience is generally clear – I spend even more time with my daughter than some of my friends. Nevertheless, there are also stressful periods, when I never feel completely present, or when I sometimes have to be gone for several days. Those are the days when I feel sad that I can’t give my daughter the time and attention she deserves.
Doubt and overload are emotions I feel more often. The doubt always comes when I start feeling too overwhelmed. And the feeling of being overwhelmed always comes when I’m confronted with new challenges that I don’t immediately know how to solve. In this context, however, I’ve learned a lot from my father about how to stay calm and level-headed, how to deal with overload, how to look for support and advice and then also how to act decisively.

And sometimes I also feel overwhelmed at home: We have not only a daughter but also two dogs. There are days when everyone seems to want everything at the same time and right away. There are days when we can’t take the dogs for a long walk because neither of us are able to fit it into our schedules. There are days when I’m exhausted and ask myself if it wouldn’t be easier to have one person who could take care of all family-related issues. It would probably be easier, but I doubt very much that we’d be happier.

And the second part of my question: what is the best thing about your way of life?

The best thing is the flexibility I have. The fact that I’m my own boss and can plan my work routine in a way that fits best for us or for me. As a managing director, I also have to plan my schedule around the company’s needs, but I nevertheless love the freedom I have in my job.

In our society, there is often this prevailing idea that people have to choose between career and child(ren). How can we change this idea and improve the reconciliation of work and family life? What should policy-makers be doing to improve conditions for working parents?

This is what I was talking about in the beginning. I think it starts with us – with every individual. How do we view women who work outside the home? Why is there a difference between whether it’s the father or mother who helps the child adjust to nursery school? Why do most men still only take two months of parental leave, while women take at least 12? Yes, a (longer) period of parental leave often prevents the parent from advancing their career. But then it’s up to business owners to do more than just make it possible for mothers and fathers to return to their jobs after parental leave: they should also give these employees support and guidance. I also think that, in the future, we need to question the value of full-time employment models – especially for parents. Parents are often better organised, faster and more effective. We have to move away from time-based remuneration towards achievement-based remuneration, because otherwise people in care situations will always be at a disadvantage. They work incredibly hard around the clock in order to receive only 60, 70 or 80 per cent of their salary. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how Croozer can explore new and exciting approaches in this area.
And a first step would of course be to look at the gender pay gap: If women continue to earn less than men on average, it is obvious that more mothers, as the lower-wage-earning parent, will choose to stay home with the child.

We have to break away from the idea that it’s normal for women to sacrifice their career plans and stay home for several years – we should all be actively questioning these old concepts. Families need support for building good, functional family systems in which both parents are able to achieve their ambitions - in the context of both work and family.

There are probably many young women who would love to do the same thing as you but have inhibitions or are simply too afraid of the associated challenges. What tips would you give them?

Look for other women who are in similar situations or have experience with balancing family and career. Find yourself a network where you can share information. In general, I think it’s most important to take your own concerns and fears seriously and try to figure out where they’re coming from. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you have to be fearless or courageous at all times
And stay true to yourself – do what you feel is right for you.

Often, there will be a majority of men in your working environment; in this context, it’s important to stay on track, as in the beginning, it will sometimes feel like two worlds are colliding. Over time, however, you’ll get closer and can even profit from one another. However, the aim is not that women should be more like men or the other way around. Therefore, trust your intuitions, your gut feelings and your values.

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