It’s common for entrepreneur parents to feel guilty if they are unable to dedicate time for their kids, especially during the week. Societal norms, conditioning, and the constant need to be the best at everything puts pressure on high performers to be present and to spend the right amount of time with their loved ones.
The guilt and the lack of being present make us search for the best tips and advice we can find to function properly as business owners and parents. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. It’s a lot of constant testing and tweaking routines and systems, and experimenting with different parenting approaches to find a solution that works at the time. What works now for your family won’t work for you in a few months or years down the road. Schedules change, and with that means a change in routine.
Every stage of parenting, just like in every stage of business, brings about a new set of challenges. It’s how you approach those challenges that will determine your success as a family and as an entrepreneur. If your family life is in shambles, everything else is affected. This often includes your physical and mental health, your other relationships, your perspective and mindset, and your vision of the future. But if you invest in your foundation (family) just as much as you work on your business, then everything else will fall into place. Don’t fear the chaos. Instead, make a plan for it by following the tips and hacks below.
Every stage of parenting, just like in every stage of business, brings about a new set of challenges.
1. Create Your Life Vision
To even fathom creating hacks for your life, you need to get really clear on your vision for your life. When I asked entrepreneur parents what the most challenging aspect of raising a family and running a business was, the response across most demographics (men, women, millionaires and those just starting out) was this: I feel guilty, and I lack being present. Both feed into each other, which causes a vicious cycle. They feel guilty because they aren’t spending enough time with their kids, as in being present with them, and lack the ability to be present because they feel guilty. Entrepreneurs want to work on their businesses, and they want to be with their family but are challenged by how to do so.
If you are laser-focused on the vision and purpose for your life, you will rarely feel guilty about your pursuit of success.
Take a day or a weekend away either by yourself or with your partner to create the vision for your family life. If you need help with this, I have a killer guide called The Couples Quarterly Retreat Playbook.
2. Test different systems until something works for you
We had a night nanny a couple of times a week when my boys were really young. She would help us with our 5-week old as I was back to work full time then, bringing him to me at night only to feed. It allowed us to get more sleep and to worry less about the thought of not getting any sleep at all. Once he was sleeping for longer stretches, we eventually turned her role into after work help.
“We had to cut down on commitments and activities and only do what we really want to do and forget about the should.” Sylvie Roy, Founder, Eclair Lips.
When things, as in sleep, started to work itself out, we started implementing weekly meetings. Throughout the past 5-years, what we discussed in those meetings evolved, and still does to this day, but the framework and schedule are there.
“I am a huge believer that structure begets freedom, so staying organized with running a business and partnering with my wife on running our family/household starts there,” explains John Doherty, Founder of Credo. “I have my days scheduled directly on my calendar using a system called the Perfect Day Formula, where I have every block from 6 am (when I wake up) to 10 pm (when I go to bed) defined. Sometimes it’s a stretch of hours for work and 9 -10 pm is simply “put the phone away and hang out,” and sometimes it’s specific things like “Hang out with daughter so my wife can shower” before I go to work each day. My wife and I also use a shared Google Calendar to share events with each other so that we can both see if we have something going on that night.”
Operations and systematization are critical to running an efficient business, and so should be the same for your family. Implementing weekly ‘standups’, creating family operations manuals, and using business-like philosophies have helped us achieve success as a family. We have Trello boards, detailed budget spreadsheets, and specific roles that keep our household and businesses running smoothly. Think about the efficiencies in your business and how that framework can be applied to running your family.
3. Keep your foundation strong
Date nights, quarterly couples retreat, and daily communication is key to nourishing your marriage. Many entrepreneurs have shared that they can’t do what they do without the support of their significant other. You both have to be on the same page, with the same values, believing in each other’s life vision to keep a strong foundation.
When your marriage and meaningful relationships are going well, it makes showing up for work, your team, your customers, and clients that much easier. Full on support on the home front, means you can be fired up at work, more efficient and productive, which means you can get more time back to being with your wife/husband and kids.
4. Work from or close to home
If you have a cozy office or nook away from the hustle of the kitchen, take time to work from home. Being close to your spouse and kids (if they are still at home) saves you commute time, sanity and gives you ample opportunity to connect with them during those micro-moments. This is a huge aspect of living an integrated life. The lines of work and life are increasingly becoming more blurred as we see more entrepreneur families blending their business time with family time.
Whatever gets the job done at no one’s expense is the way to go!
When I ran my agency, we had ‘work-from-anywhere Friday’s’ that extended from May-August. The idea was to inspire the team to work smart from anywhere they desired. Some people would work from home, while others would connect from their cottage. On days where house stuff needed to be dealt with or kids activities prevailed, we urged them always to put family first. We knew that work can easily be made up at other times (evenings or weekends) if it meant creating a flexible work environment. Because of this, my team had better relationships with their families and were less anxious when things (life) happened. Entrepreneurs need to apply the same rules to their own schedule at home. Don’t let a terrible commute increase the gap between your business and family.
5. Share one meal a day together
A non-negotiable in my house is our 5:30 pm no-device dinner time. This is our time to share our day’s stories and ask each other some deep questions. This is a value of ours, and dinner time is the best time to decompress and be together.
If you’re always running around from one activity to the next after school, then consider breakfast your family time. Regardless, make mealtime a priority. Studies highlighted in a report by Cornell University suggests that children who take part in family meals are less likely to be overweight, eat more healthy foods, have less delinquency, higher academic achievement, improved psychological well-being and have positive family interactions. And that’s just the kids. For the parents, sharing meals as a family gives them more insight into what’s going on in their kids’ day, how they can solve issues as a family, and can ‘clock’ being present during that time.
Even if its just 30-minutes, sharing a meal as a family at least three times a week will make a big difference in how you connect with your loved ones.
6. Rethink gender roles
Just because cultural norms suggest women do the groceries, make the meals, care for the kids all the time, does not mean it’s necessary. Women need to a) get over the fact that this is only their responsibility, b) motivate the men in their lives that they must step up, c) play to each other’s strengths.
“One thing that really makes our life work is rethinking gender roles and playing on each other’s strengths. For example, Mario is a lot more efficient at getting groceries done, and it made life a lot easier when I let go of the idea that I should be doing it,” explains Sylvie Roy. “It also felt like we drew a blank each week trying to think of what we needed from the store so to make the process easier for all of us, I created a list of stores we frequently shop along with all the items we buy from those particular stores listed and made copies, so each week, we can circle things we’re low on then he heads off to grab everything in record time!”
When it comes to household responsibilities and childminding, the best option, as Sylvie suggests, is to do the things that you don’t mind doing regardless whether it’s your gender’s duty or not.
7. Don’t let individual income dictate who does what
Income levels do not equal selfish decision making power. If your partner makes more money than you, it doesn’t mean he/she gets to call the shots. Hell no! Income level is absolutely not the prerequisite for making all the plans and allowances. If you have been doing your weekly meetings and discussing your family budget, then you can gauge how much each person is contributing to the bottom line. From there, you can make decisions.
Entrepreneur or not, this is important. But as we know with running your own business, especially when you’re first starting out, revenues can fluctuate effecting both your business and personal income. Don’t let those instances give someone else spending authority over the other without a tight budget and plan in place. Even more importantly, don’t let the person who is earning more assume they get a free pass on household duties and childminding. Whether you earn $50k and your partner $300k, if you’re both putting in the same amount of hours at work, you both should (variably) put in the same amount of housework and parenting. [I say variably because the one who is playing a bigger game, as in has more invested in their business with an equivalent income that pays for more, is likely taking a more significant risk. In these instances, you two must decide on what’s ‘even’ when it comes to household duties, making financial decisions, and parenting.]
8. Schedule mandatory daily disconnected time
This isn’t a surprise, nor is this news to you, but you really need to turn off. Breakfast, dinner time, at your son’s baseball game, lying in bed before you sleep, these are all ideal times to focus on your family. It’s no hack, but it’s still a big problem (I even created the Be Present Box because of this issue.)
9. Give your kids more autonomy
The mom that is still doing everything for their kids is doing herself, her family, and her kids a disservice. Your children are capable of way more than you can imagine. If you haven’t yet watched our Integrated Life video, go now and check it out. It will help you understand that teaching your kids early on how to do things for themselves will give them the freedom to make their own decisions and become more capable, which ultimately gives you more freedom.
Managing a family is hardly any different than managing your business. It requires daily standups (huddles), spreadsheets, budgets, meetings, planning, vision, clarity, purpose, mission, and autonomy. You need to put in the time to get the return. You need to take chances, investments, and create a structure so that you can operate like a well-oiled machine. It’s not difficult once you get going and the pay off is the best thing in the world: time with your family!