I’ve always wanted to have children, but I never felt ready. In my mind, I’d have done, or tried to have done, something epic, something that could change the world—but I was never quite certain what that looked like. I wanted to feel like a role model for my children, with a story to share that would inspire them to pursue whatever calls them. At the same time, I felt that regardless of whether I was ready, I would be forced to choose from among of the following:
1. Continue to grow in my career
2. Live a life of travel and adventure
3. Be a mom.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was holding myself prisoner to this zero-sum idea that society and my upbringing instilled in me. Part of that, of course, has to do with the various bubbles I’ve existed within, including my privilege. But a bigger part of that is the public visibility of women who embrace their identities as woven together from many things.
Usually when we hear about or see motherhood in the media, it’s baby clothing and gear ads—a setting within the household, some chores, diaper-changing, bottle feeding (because god forbid we see a woman’s breasts)—you get the idea, it’s this image of a mom who is exclusively caring for her baby. It’s as though her entire identity is stripped, or at least put on hold, while she wears her mom hat. Rarely is she portrayed to have any outside interests, like somehow her degree is out the window, she only wears sweats and yoga pants, stops participating in social activities except for mommy-and-me classes, has no career or passion projects and certainly doesn’t climb mountains or travel abroad. She’s never just an ordinary woman doing mom things and other things—she’s either frazzled and disorganized, or she’s picture perfect with amazing hair, nails and makeup, is super fit with an exercise regime she performs in the home and blissfully cooks all of the meals for their family, sending her husband off with a packed lunch each morning.
I moved to Portland in 2013 for the outdoorsy adventures and a place where I could ground myself to focus on my career. By 2016 I was working in talent acquisition at a growing tech startup. It was only once I was immersed in tech that I began to see women in leadership roles who were also moms—directors, VPs and even CEOs. It was eye opening and reassuring to see that it could indeed be done. In 2018, I left my job to pursue PackDen full time. In the back of my mind, I thought, “Okay, let’s build our vision, launch it, fund it, grow it...and then we can think about starting a family.” That spring I attended a Mountain Chicks Retreat Weekend in Leavenworth and met with so many rad women and connected with about a dozen who were all pursuing a variety of passions in their lives—leadership career roles, photography, ambassador work, volunteer work and guess what ...almost all of them were moms! While I am slightly embarrassed to openly admit this, it just never occurred to me when I was I was getting to know all of these inspiring women that they could be moms too. But it turned out that nearly every single woman I connected with was a mom AND so many other things. One of my now dearest friends came from that very retreat!
After a great weekend, there I was, driving home through the Cascades back to Portland, binging on the Women in Tech podcast while glowing with hope and possibility. For the first time ever, I realized and believed that I could be all of the things. I felt ready, finally!
In my mind it was all coming together...
Maintain the ability to continue growing in my career - I got this!
Keep on trekking—adventure far and wide, see the world - I got this, too!
Accomplish (or try to accomplish) something awesome: Pour my heart and soul into building PackDen - I’ve totally got this!
Become/Be a mom - deep breath...Okay, yes! I got this!
Do that happy dance, be me! Woo hoo! Throw them hands up in the air! Turn up Kesha’s song “Woman.” Yes!!! I’ve so got this!
...but wait, put myself in a spotlight and raise scarce (to me) venture capital to launch our company? How the heck am I supposed to...who in their right mind would...am I freaking nuts? - The mantra goes silent and I’m now staring blankly into distance.
Who the heck am I to believe anyone in their right mind would fund a company led by a pregnant woman or first-time mom? I know myself to be highly ambitious and tenacious with an incredibly strong work ethic, but it feels like once seated at a table of investors pitching our vision, the moment that “mother” goes into that list, all of those other qualities become null. I am the co-founder and CEO of an early stage startup in tech and the outdoors. I must be crazy to believe that I can do all the things AND raise funding for PackDen. After all, according to Pitchbook: only 2.2% of tech startups lead solely by women get funded, and those investments tend to be significantly less than for startups led by men; 17% of startups with at least one woman founder get funded; and 11.3% of partners at venture capital firms are women. When it comes to the amount of women in C-Suite roles in the outdoor industry, it’s somewhere in the range of 10%-20% according to REI’s interview with DeAnn Buck, formerly of Camber Outdoors. Yet, women make up a whopping 46% of all outdoor participants according to The Outdoor Foundation!
I began opening up conversations around this idea with some friends and one day a friend shared an article by Techstars with me about the startup, Seed&Spark: “How raising a $2+M Seed Round really, actually went.” What made it unique was that the Founder and CEO, Emily Best, was fundraising during her pregnancy. Sure, she speaks about plenty of struggle along the journey, but all that I saw was an image of this strong, brave and badass woman with her baby bump on full display, making it happen. That visual will forever live in my mind because it was the first time I saw anything like it. I thought, if she can do this, so can I! And then I thought, why the heck aren’t we seeing more of this? Are we just a rare breed of crazies or does media hate seeing women with their bumps and babies out and about being their complex selves and pursuing dreams?
My worldview was shattered in the best way and reconstructed to now know and believe that I don’t need to choose between being any singular identity. With that realization, I turned to my partner and co-founder, Dana Maher, and said, “Let’s make a baby, like now!” He eagerly responded with a huge grin and a confident, “Yes!” and a couple months later we were pregnant. We’re stoked to announce that our baby girl is due this April 2019!
Was I nervous about the possible repercussions of this decision? Of course! But I thought back to the TiEXL Startup Bootcamp I attended (on scholarship) and remembered being inspired by one of the instructors, Paige Hendrix Buckner - Founder of Client Joy and The XXcelerate Fund, as she presented while just weeks away from giving birth to her first child, full baby bump on display. And then there was this fireside chat with a woman venture capitalist, Heidi Roizen, hosted by PDX Women in Tech and Silicon Valley Bank; I remember her joking about a request for an NDA signed by her child, since she often worked from home to manage parenting responsibilities while still crushing it in her career and being one of those rare 11.3% of female VCs. In October I attended Elevate Capital’s Inclusion Summit and felt more possibility than ever. For the first time, I saw a stage with six women who were partners or founders of venture capital firms on a mission to fund women and underrepresented minority lead startups specifically; I didn’t even know such a niche existed! There were panels on the power of investing in women and the impact of inclusivity, as well as plenty of stories told by women who were entrepreneurs...and moms. There they were—women leading by example and the timing of that visibility to me was impeccable.
It feels like now, more than ever, the world is changing rapidly and the spotlights are beginning to shine a little harder on folks who once never or rarely took the spotlight. I love this so much! The catch is, that not everyone has access to it, has role models to look up to, mentors to lean on or the resources to support it all. As we move forward into our beta launch this spring and then into fundraising, I am over the moon about the idea that I could potentially be a role model or source of inspiration to others, to believe that they can do anything.
See you on the trail,
Dayna Del Mar