How Having a Baby Made Me a Better Entrepreneur
Becoming a father has changed my life and my business. Here’s how.
I wasn’t supposed to write this post.
In fact, I swore I wouldn’t.
Before Jaclyn (my wife) got pregnant, every time I saw somebody publish essays about how their kids changed their perspective on business, I’d think:
“Give me a break. You’re exploiting your baby in the name of pageviews.”
I wasn’t going to do that.
I wasn’t going to try and convince anyone that a baby is some kind of “life hack” that makes you more productive and effective.
It felt cheap, dirty and, well, wrong.
And then Emmitt was born.
To be sure, the first few weeks were anything but productive. I stepped away from Groove almost entirely, because frankly, it would have been impossible for me to focus on both sides of my life at that time.
But when I returned, I realized that, in fact, there was something to what all of those other founder moms and dads were saying.
It wasn’t all made up. It wasn’t just clickbait. It was true.
Being a father has changed a lot for me, and I’m a completely different CEO than the one I was just a few months ago.
On a blog where the goal is to share everything we learn along our startup journey, it would be disingenuous not to share the things I’ve learned in these last few months.
And in a world where many founders are scared that they must choose between growing their family or growing their business, I want my story to make it very, very clear that you don’t have to make that choice.
But first, I apologize to those I doubted in the past. And to those who will doubt me now, I completely understand your position, because I was in your shoes. But I hope that one day you’ll get to learn the same lessons I have.
4 Ways Having a Baby Has Made Me a Better Founder
There are four areas of the “entrepreneur side” of my life that have been affected the most by fatherhood:
1) Time Management
Take your schedule as it looks now, and shatter it into pieces.
Those pieces of “stuff you need to do” are broken apart by constant interruptions that require you to change diapers, hold your child, or even just walk over and make sure they’re still breathing because you’re new to this and terrified that you’re doing it wrong.
At first, these distractions caused a lot of stress, as I was certain they would mean I’d fall desperately behind on work.
But as time went on, I realized something: the work was still getting done.
The distractions of being a dad weren’t replacing work time. They were replacing all of the other distractions that existed before them: reading Twitter every few minutes, stopping to check my email, looking at my phone. I could no longer afford those distractions, and in the face of much more important distractions, the insignificant ones simply fell away.
What’s more, now when I do get a few rare hours of totally uninterrupted time to work, my focus is much, much deeper, because I no longer instinctively check social media or entertain any of my old silly distractions; my son has trained me to focus on what matters.
In the past, I had always “required” 7–8 hours of sleep per night to be at—what I considered—my best. Any less, and I’d feel off. Now, I think I may simply have been convincing myself of that feeling.
As every new parent knows, the idea of a full night’s sleep is laughable after the baby comes.
But after a few weeks of being lucky to get an hour of sleep at a time, I was taken aback when I realized that I was operating just fine.
I learned that I could endure more physical challenges than I thought. And that while it took some getting used to, I could handle the fractured sleep schedule of new parenthood and still execute without issue.
Of course, I welcome sleep whenever and however I can get it.
And as my son gets older and I get to sleep a bit more each night, I’ll cherish that opportunity.
But I’ll know that if I need to get by on less sleep—or really, any less comfort than I’m used to—I can.
Your kids, whether you like it or not, will do things at their pace.
Your business is very much the same way.
Sure, you can do things to nudge them along, and to set them up for success.
In both cases, there are thousands upon thousands of books and blogs written to help you do that.
But there’s only so much you can do. And in both cases, that reality is the cause of great stress for both parents and founders.
And seeing it with my son; seeing him hit some milestones ahead of when he’s “supposed” to, and some behind, made things click into place in my mind a bit better.
If you’ve done your research, and you’re doing all of the things that you know you should be doing (and getting some expert feedback along the way), then you’ll get to where you need to go.
I’ve always known this, but I’ve never deeply understood and appreciated it like I do now.
And that makes it a whole lot easier to have the patience to watch my business grow, at it’s own pace.
An older family member once told me that birth and death are the two things that give you more perspective than anything.
Sure enough, a couple of years ago, when we lost a loved one, I wrote:
In the past few weeks, I’ve told my family that I love them more than I can ever remember.
I’ve put away my phone when I walk my dog, and just enjoyed my time with the little friend that brings me so much joy.
I’ve surfed, and put 110% of myself into the moment; being eternally grateful for every spray of mist that cooled my face.
These are the simple things that I always told myself I’d take the time to do “when this was all over.”
How ridiculous is that?
Those things cost me nothing, and they bring me immense happiness and reward. And yet I, like so many people, would get so drawn into “the hustle” that, at times, I’d hold back that satisfaction so I could work for another ten minutes.
The same has been true in these past few months.
Having my son to take care of, who depends on us for every last need, has again made me realize that almost everything I do isn’t important.
It has also forced me to focus on the few things that are.
I hate that when these events happen, we step back and get this incredible perspective, but then it always seems to slip away as you get back into your old routine.
This time, I’m making a conscious effort to remind myself each day not to let go of that.
How to Apply This to Your Business
My hope with this post is to make it clear that you don’t have to choose between growing your family and growing your business.
Obviously, a baby is not a life hack, and you shouldn’t have a child in order to build the skills above.
But if you’re worried that becoming a mother or father will make it harder for you to work or build your business, don’t be.
A lot of things get harder, sure. But if you’re like me, you’ll also become a much better entrepreneur in the process, and you’ll be more equipped to deal with everything that life—and business—throws your way.