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Balancing parenthood and a startup

Balancing parenthood and a startup

Modern Work
Published: 
July 12, 2021
 by 
Matt Johnson

Maybe a Covid baby-boom is happening after all. Recently, I’ve come across quite a few founders who are expecting their first child. Often they are looking for tips on what to expect.

For context, I have two kids, and we’re expecting a third. For as long as I’ve been a founder, I’ve also been a parent. So, I thought I’d share my experience balancing my roles of founder and Dada.

Being a founder is similar to being a parent. There’s an adage about parenthood: the days are long, and the years are short. I feel this with work as well. Also, both experiences are incredibly humbling. You realize quickly with raising kids and with startups that you have a lot to learn. Neither role is as easy as it might look from the outside.

But I don’t want this to scare anyone off. I honestly believe being a parent makes me a better founder. Kids provide additional perspective, motivation, and purpose. I want to make every second at work count and for it to be meaningful.

Here are a few routines and tips for managing this balance based on what works for me.

Embracing the mornings

In my past life, I was a night owl. I was rarely was asleep before midnight, and I slept in as late as humanly possible.

That all changed when my daughter was born. She awoke at 6 am every morning. The first few months were tough adjusting to this earlier routine. But after a while, I not only got used to it, I began to embrace it. I started going to bed earlier and waking up even earlier. Now mornings are my favorite time of day, and waking up is easy.

Before Covid, I used this early morning time on workdays to head into the office super early, giving me a couple of hours before everyone else showed up to get heads-down work done. I often felt that by the time the rest of the team arrived, I had already done a day’s worth of work. My early morning routine continues during work from home. I get up a few hours before the kids and use the time to get a jump on the day.

With kids, you inevitably have less time for work. If you can find those times for deep work - whether early in the morning or later at night after the baby goes to sleep - then make the most of it.

Embrace flexibility

With kids, lots of unexpected things pop up. You might wake up with a plan for the day, and it turns out the kid isn’t feeling well. Or your partner has an appointment or call at the last minute, and you need to change your day to accommodate. 

Plan to have days disrupted more often. Luckily “my kid is sick” gets you out of most things and people tend to understand.

Remove the activities that don’t spark joy

My tongue-in-cheek advice to prospective parents is to make sure you watch all those TV series you’ve meant to watch because you won’t have time.

For me, my favorite mindless activity before kids watching TV. However, watching TV comes at the expense of sleep, work, or exercise. So, I cut it out as much as possible - I generally only watch while exercising and the occasional football match.

Again, you inevitably will have less time for other things, so make sure the things you are spending your time on bring joy.

Enjoy it!

My final tip is to enjoy parenthood. There is nothing that turns around a bad day at work faster than your kid smiling at you. Don’t the grind of your startup take away from the joy of parenthood.

Where I’d like to improve

I don’t have it all figured out and am constantly working on managing this balance.

Right now, my biggest goal is to do a better job of leaving work at work and being more present. This is certainly harder when I’m feeling a lot of stress or had a particularly hectic day.

I’m also finding that exercise and eating well have been harder to come by, so I need to make this more of a priority again. Finding a good balance between everything takes constant recalibrating!

Summary

Parenthood has given me perspective, and I feel more productive than ever because having less bandwidth for work means having to be as efficient as possible when you are at your desk. 

My keys for balancing parenting with being a founder:

  • Cutting out activities that aren’t a highly enjoyable or valuable use time and give that back to sleep or work
  • Embrace flexibility - some days will be out of my control, and I’ll have things I need to attend to at home
  • Embracing mornings when everyone is asleep to get heads-down work done
  • Enjoy it - nothing more fun
  • Keep on recalibrating the balance to make sure it’s working for everyone
April 7, 2021
by
Matt Johnson

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