Not my husband’s helper

It has been two years since I stepped into the entrepreneurial journey along with my husband. Why I choose my husband as my co-founder? Just one answer, at the time I was starting, I did not have any friends in my circle who were willing to walk the path with me sharing my vision and passion.

In one of the startup pitch events, an investor once said that he would not prefer to invest in a startup that has the spouse as a co-founder. I was shocked since there I was sitting along with my husband to pitch my startup in the next one hour. To be specific, I was pitching, not my husband. I asked the investor for his reasoning, the main reason he proposed was that as an investor he wanted transparency in board room decisions and they should not be taken in a bedroom. I felt like he was correct from his angle.

Many mentors and advisors do advise the same that one should not get together into business with spouse since the lines between personal and professional lives blur, overlap and sometimes tangle. Only those who had still gone ahead and broke this rule like me will understand the advantage of the same. For a couple that did not take any financial decision in their life without each other’s consent, this rule does not seem meaningful. Even when I and my husband led separate career paths for more than a decade, we were together in each and every penny we spent, each and every investment we made. So, to me when I had to start a business, I did not find a better partner other than my husband. Did we ever disagree in our journey? Most of the times. However, that did not make any difference since we do disagree even in our personal lives, our tastes in clothing, food and even in our investments. So, if those disagreements did not lead to divorce in our marriage life why would they lead to cracks in our venture? One who understands this also understands that it really does not matter as long as you sought out your differences and work for mutual good and growth be it in marriage or business.

Drawing clear lines and dividing roles and responsibilities solves most of the problems, actually I should say, will not let most problems arise. When a couple gets together in business, they should not assume each other’s duties and role in the business casually. They should accomplish them without taking the other person for granted only because the partner here is life partner too. Businesses that were started by friends also fall apart when this is not done. Only that friends go apart but a couple cannot go apart since they are tied together not just by business but by a family. So, abiding by these roles and duties becomes more important in the latter case.

However, there is a problem that only women in our society confront in this situation. When, we started our business and I took the major role in developing the business and when I pitched my idea to the investors, I proudly referred to my partner as my co-founder. He was my cofounder and my business partner. I was responsible for technology and product he was responsible for operations etc. The roles were divided. We were co-founders, equal. However, as time went on, I came across some strange comments from people when I discussed my business with them. I could hear some people use the words that I was a very nice responsible person and I was doing a great job by helping my husband in his business. I never realised when the business became his and I became his helper. We both never said that. People just assumed though I started the conversation clearly explaining that I was responsible for sales and bringing new customers and he was responsible for execution. I would feel anger rise within and would want to shout out loud, no I am not a helper, I am a partner as he is in a business for which we both sweated together.

These kind of misunderstandings are a result of patriarchal society and mindset that is ingrained in our culture since long. We often see this not just in business but in family life too. When father assumed the role of a provider and mother the role of a nurturer, they were equal, each one doing their best in building and growing a family. Gradually, our society started taking motherly duties, the role of a nurturer, for granted while uplifting the role of a provider or breadwinner. Women who stayed at home felt undermined. The same happens when a mother assumes work out of home and a father shares few works back home. No, they are not being each other’s helpers, they are just sharing family responsibilities based on a mutual understanding. The same happens when a woman who works outside is compared to a woman who works inside home.

Drawing comparisons and conclusions based on wrong benchmarks set by a patriarchal mindset only spoils the fine balance a couple could beautifully create in their family life. It is absolutely fine for a man to read a bedtime story and for a woman to manage a board room as long as they are doing so recognizing their talent, each other’s needs and family. It is better for others to define a person as a good human being and not tag them as a good husband, wife, househusband, working woman, stay at home mom etc.

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