By Sam Bahreini
Finding a balance between work and career is a major challenge for anyone who has a child of any age and a job of any type. Those challenges only multiply when you decide to venture out into creating your own startup. Suddenly, work isn’t just an obligation -- it’s your entire life. And while you’d love to take the day off and spend time with your kids, you know that doing so will only make it harder for you to achieve your goals.
There’s only one thing that’s guaranteed when you try to juggle family with a startup: no matter what you do, you’ll be convinced that you’re doing a horrible job. In reality, though, you’re probably not doing as bad a job as you think. The very fact that you’re interested in finding a balance shows that your heart is in the right place. And these tips may help you to get the most out of life.
- Know What You Want: It seems like a simple concept, but it’s one we often forget when we’re mired in our work. What do you want your startup to be? How big do you want your business to get? What you do you want your family life to be like? If you can answer these questions and visualize your ideal future, you’ll have an idea of what to strive for. Just as importantly, you’ll know when to pull back if you notice work taking on too much importance in your life.
- Talk to Your Kids: No child is ever going to understand the dynamics of the working world. But you can at least do your part to make sure they understand that you’re trying to create something special and the circumstances that arise as a result of your decision to go the startup route. This will help them to take pride in what you do and it’ll also help you to manage those situations when work has to come first.
- Bring Your Kids to Work: While explaining your situation will help you get a little peace of mind, showing them what you do every day will take you even further. Your kids will feel like a part of the business and when they see exactly what your job entails, they’ll be even more understanding if you have to work late or miss a game.
- Set (Loose) Hours: It’s not uncommon for startups to dominate the lives of those who pursue them. Every second you’re not working, in theory, is an opportunity you’re missing out on. But without boundaries, you can drive yourself crazy in that line of thinking. And while it might not be possible to have a schedule that’s entirely set in stone, you can at least set guidelines that will help to keep you sane -- and can keep your family time intact.
- Create Family Rituals: You might not be able to make it home in time for dinner every night and you probably can’t get to every baseball practice. That’s fine. What you can do, though, is create smaller family events that everyone looks forward to. It can be something as simple as a movie night on Saturdays or a trip to the family’s favorite restaurant. Those smaller family times are the ones that reinforce your bonds with your kids and keep you close with each other. Even if work is overwhelming at times, at least you’ll have something you can look forward to.
- Take Advantage of Your Irregular Schedule: Startup life isn’t a typical 9-to-5. Sometimes that’s bad but other times it can actually work to your advantage. Having a little flexibility in your schedule means you can attend in-school events that many parents can’t. Those school assemblies and Special Person days the average parent can’t get out of work for? You’ll be there.
- Know When to Quit for the Day: When the kids go to bed, that’s your time. But it’s not your time to obsess over work. It’s time for you to focus on yourself, your hobbies and your health -- especially your mental health. Having that break enables you to get your mind off of work and any anxieties you may have about getting your startup where you want it to be.
- Don’t Forget About Romance: Your kids might be your top priority, but it’s important to remember your partner. Regular date nights will keep that spark alive and give you the opportunity to truly talk to your partner about life, about each other and about your business. As is the case with your kids, keeping him or her in the loop will help them to feel like they’re a part of things. And that support will carry you through the tough times.
- Give Yourself Some Credit: The balance you’re striving to find isn’t easy to locate. Many people struggle with this issue, but that’s far better than those who are too to willing to let work dominate their lives, letting their families suffer on the side. It’s crucial that you don’t beat yourself when you feel like you’re struggling. You can’t function at a high level if you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. It never hurts to take a minute to realize you’re doing everything you can and that you’re doing a great job.
Balancing family life with work (especially a startup) is always a work in progress. You may never feel like you have the work-life balance you want. But if you make it a priority, you’ll find that you’ll usually be closer than you think.
Sam Bahreini is Chief Experience Officer, The Center for Advancing Innovation, maximizing the commercial impact of breakthrough inventions.