How to Balance Parenthood and Entrepreneurship
(It’s More Common Than You Think!)
There are a lot of similarities between parenting and entrepreneurship.
Think about it—both are incredibly high-stress endeavors with irregular hours that, most of the time, garner little to no credit for those who undertake them. You’re constantly managing difficult personalities and both can be a real drain on your bank account. Plus, everyone always seems to have an opinion on how you’re doing it wrong and why their way is right.
Both parenting and entrepreneurship can be overwhelming, round-the-clock pursuits. That’s why combining the two can seem like a completely insane choice. It can feel unfairly binary; you either run a business or you raise a family, but you can’t have both.
Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you the best way to raise a family. Full disclosure: I’m woefully unqualified in this area. But here at Foundr, we talk to plenty of entrepreneurs who very successfully manage to balance family with business. We’ve also learned a thing or two about managing stress and creating healthy work-life balance. And I’ve gathered up here some of the best info around on how people out there are able to strike a successful balance.
So in recognition of all the amazing parents out there, who either have their own businesses or are working hard to launch them, here are some ways you can find time to be both a great entrepreneur and great parent.
Accepting What You Can’t Change
As anyone raising a child and running a business knows, or anyone expecting to can predict, it’s not easy. The simple math is tough.
Even a “regular” day can be a delicate tightrope act where you’ll struggle to find the right balance between the two. And that’s not even counting extenuating circumstances like someone getting sick or something getting botched at work.
One important lesson that applies to both areas of life is learning to take setbacks in stride.
Entrepreneurs raising families will often report feeling so overcome with stress that they feel they’ve failed at both, falling prey to some of the games our brains like to play with us when times are tough.
It’s hard to admit when family is involved, especially for us ambitious overachievers, but it’s important to learn to let go of perfection.
“We’re all balancing as best we can and trying not to drop the balls. But my message is the balls WILL drop. Acknowledging this has been the most liberating realization I’ve ever had.” – Tracy Moore, host of CityLine.
Just like there’s no such thing as a perfect entrepreneur, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent!
Yes, crises will happen, and there may be moments when it’ll feel like you’re not doing a good job. But when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you’ll realize that you’re not actually doing too badly after all.
Just like in business, stumbles are a part of life, and once you happily accept that fact, you’ll be able to focus on getting the job done, whether it’s playing with your kids, or figuring out what your next product is.
“When it’s tough you’ve got to keep going. As a parent, you’ve got a lot of struggles. You just have to stick with it and you just get better.” – Emma Twist, founder and CEO of Squeaky Clean.
How to Find the Time
One thing we harp on all the time at Foundr is that an entrepreneur’s most precious resource is their time and energy. When you’re the founder of a growing startup, you’re in charge of everything, and the business lives or dies by where you direct your time and effort.
A lot of entrepreneurs complain about how they wish they just had more time in their day, and finding a proper work-life balance is hard enough without a growing family.
But sometimes it turns out all you really need is proper time management and a clear sense of priorities. In fact, many people find that having constraints placed on their time actually forces them to adapt and thrive.
It’s a common pitfall for entrepreneurs to work incredibly hard on their startups and set aside whatever might be leftover to their personal lives, almost as an afterthought, and expect to have a good work-life balance.
In fact, it takes proactive attention in order to prioritize both, otherwise one will naturally dominate. According to a 2013 study by Pew Research Center on working families, 46% of fathers and 23% of mothers reported feeling like they don’t spend enough time with their children, with 50% of fathers and 56% of mothers reporting that juggling work and their family life is difficult for them.
A lot of entrepreneurs will burn themselves out at work so that when they get home they don’t have time to relax or do the things that are important to them. They’ll schedule all their effort and energy into work and assume that when they get back home they’ll have the energy to do what they want.
Here’s an alternative: Start treating your personal life like it’s a job and your family as if they’re important clients.
It might sound silly, and you don’t want to treat them like clients in every respect. But once you start thinking of your personal life with this kind of mentality, you’ll actually start managing your time and energy much more effectively.
Making sure to spend more time with your family can actually make you a better entrepreneur because it forces you to prioritize and manage your time better. A 2003 study by the Family and Work Institute found that the 32% of executives in the study who reported placing the same priority on family and life, actually felt more successful at work, had less stress and were much better at managing their time and workloads.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same could be said about startups. You’ll never see a successful business built entirely by just one person.
The reason is simple: You can’t do everything by yourself, it’s literally impossible to do so. That goes double when you become a parent.
Yet, oddly enough, one of the hardest things for any entrepreneur to do is learning how to relinquish control. When you’ve built a startup from the ground up, it can feel uncomfortable delegating tasks to someone else, as necessary as it may be.
For your business, consider hiring a virtual assistant to help you out with the mundane tasks that you just don’t have time for. They can be very affordable depending on what task it is you need done.
Delegating more and working less on your business means that you can spend more quality time with your family. It also means you’re able to spend more time focusing on the bigger picture and how you can take your business to the next level.
In regards to home life, it’s similarly important to recognize that you can’t do it all. That means being as upfront as possible about planning and managing time as a family, and developing a support network.
Being a parent and an entrepreneur might feel isolating, like you don’t quite fit into either camp. But here’s a secret—it’s actually very common.
A survey conducted by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship found that 59.7% of entrepreneurs had at least one child when they launched their first businesses.
Contrary to the popular image of the young millennial entrepreneur working 80 hours a week, the majority of entrepreneurs are actually parents. That means, as a parent entrepreneur, you’re far from alone!
Start leveraging the power of community and connecting with other entrepreneurs who also understand the dual struggles of running a business and being a parent.
The easiest way to find these communities is to just go on Meetup and search for entrepreneurship groups with a parenting focus.