10 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know Before They Have Kids
Raising a newborn, while working at a startup, is no easy feat.
Being an entrepreneur by itself is hard enough, let alone adding the responsibility of raising a child. Although both are challenging in their own unique way, Paul Graham points out a clear similarity, “like having a child, running a startup is the sort of experience that’s hard to imagine unless you’ve done it yourself”.
Navigating parenthood in parallel to being an entrepreneur poses many challenges. There are several things that I wish I was told before my daughter came into the world.
Here are 10 things that every entrepreneur (actually, everyone) needs to know before having a kid.
1. Sleep will not be the same
Sleep is important. In fact, according to the American Psychology Association, sleeping 60 to 90 minutes more per night can make you happier and healthier. Truth be told, I only started appreciating a good night’s sleep when it was taken away from me. After our daughter was born, I would be lucky to get 2–3 hours of continuous sleep a night. This lack of sleep had a direct impact on my concentration and effectiveness at work.
Rather than dream about what your sleep was like previously, think of ways you can manage the workload with your partner so that each of you can at least get some decent bursts of sleep!
2. Set clear expectations with colleagues
The first few months of parenthood are a blur! Take time to manage expectations with your team so that your change of circumstance doesn’t adversely impact the growth of the startup.
Have regular conversations with your team and set clear expectations. If you don’t set expectations you are setting your team and yourself up for failure.
3. Only buy the essentials
It is an exciting time in your life and with excitement comes impulse buying. We went on a bit of a buying spree and bought all the items that had caught our eye in the lead up to the birth of our daughter.
Buy items when the need arises after your child is born and try not to get drawn in by tech baby gadgets. Don’t get caught up in what you want and focus more on the things that will actually be valuable for your child.
4. Do not compromise family time
Sometimes when there are competing priorities we tend to sacrifice family time first. Especially when it comes to working at a startup. The early years of your child’s development are moments you will cherish forever. When you are with your family, actually BE PRESENT with your family.
One of my favourite quotes on the topic is from Ryan Holiday - “you think that writing a bestselling book or making a lot of money will make you feel good and whole; that’s the big lie we all believe… my walk in the morning with my son, THAT’S what wholeness feels like”.
5. Use the flexibility to your advantage
As an entrepreneur you are generally not bound by the rules that may be present in a large multinational. The outcome-focused approach of startups leads to more flexible working hours. In the initial months, I used to finish work at 3 pm, spend some with my daughter and then catch up on work at night when (if) she was asleep.
Parents tend to try and take on more than they can handle. Try and focus on the valuable tasks that will make a difference in your life and those around you. One way of doing this is to outsource the tasks that you can. Here are three tasks that can be outsourced to free up your time:
- Cooking and food
Make sure these tasks are outsourced prior to your baby arriving — you don’t want to deal with finding the best cleaner while you have a newborn.
7. Be open with clients
There were times when I had to postpone meetings with clients because my daughter wasn’t napping — however I would not tell them this. I assumed that they wouldn’t understand or even think that I was not dedicated enough to work with them. Ultimately, this approach did not facilitate strong working relationships so I decided to be more open and vulnerable with my clients.
I was shocked at the supportive responses and I realised many of them have their own kids. I have formed some of my stronger bonds with clients as a result of talking about our children.
8. Never get comfortable
A friend once told me that having a kid was like being on a rollercoaster that you can never get off. Although not 100% true, there are similarities. As a parent, you can never get too comfortable (just like a rollercoaster), as things do change quickly (like teething and sleep regressions).
If your child is sleeping well for a two week period, be grateful and accept that things could go backwards at any moment.
9. Every child is different
Children develop at their own pace and in their own way. It is important to keep this in mind when talking to other parents with children around the same age. Do not compare your child- just accept that some kids are funnier, some are cuter, some sleep better and some eat better.
Every kid is different. Every kid is unique. Treat them that way.
10. It is f**ken hard
Balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood is f**ken difficult. I wish young parents I spoke to prior to having my daughter told me how hard it would be. Most tend to tell you all the positives and seem to have blocked out the negatives (this does happen).
Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp, spoke some very honest words when he said that “the first few months suck, the first few months are incredibly hard and they will knock you in your face basically. Then 4 months in your son/daughter will smile a little bit and it will change everything”.
Having children and working in a startup is not easy, but if you can manage the challenges that will be faced then you will set yourself up for the best chance at success (both at work and at home).