Karl Hughes

Karl Hughes

Parenting While Entrepreneuring

Parenting While Entrepreneuring

Having kids is a valuable experience for entrepreneurs.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s way f***ing easier to stay single and kid-free, but having kids is definitely a valuable experience.

I was 31 when my first son was born. A the time, I was a CTO at a tech startup and leading a small engineering team, but I went full-time in my own new business about 6 months after he was born.

Then, in early 2020, Covid started spreading and our office, daycare, and lives shut down. My wife worked at a hospital, so I had to stay home with our son. Meanwhile, the company I worked for was caught at a bad spot in its funding cycle and struggling.

I weighed my options: get another job and struggle to balance my childcare responsibilities with it or go out on my own and create something more flexible.

I chose the latter path and haven’t looked back. Being an entrepreneur and being a parent are not mutually exclusive. Most of the entrepreneurs I know have children, and many had them around the same time as they were starting their businesses.

Some are mothers who want the flexibility to spend more time at home as I did; some are fathers who want to build something meaningful to leave to their family. It may seem difficult, but entrepreneurship while parenting is actually a great experience.

In this piece, I’ll share some of the things I’ve noticed as a (relatively) new parent and entrepreneur. While many of these reasons are personal, many apply to other entrepreneurs I met, so I hope this gives you food for thought.

1. Having Kids Requires Flexibility

For me, starting a business meant flexibility.

I could choose the days and hours I wanted to work. I started by working four weekdays and one day on the weekend so I could be home with my son once per week. When he got sick, I was usually able to move meetings around to stay home with him, and when Covid hit and daycares closed for a month, I managed to watch him while running my new company.

This flexibility isn’t easy for every entrepreneur to create though. I like predictability, so it’s not easy to try to cram work in between childcare, but once you have kids, it’s nice to have at least one parent with a flexible option.

2. Having Kids Forces You to Focus

When I was younger, I had a lot of side projects because I had a lot of time. After having my first child in 2019, I realized something had to give. I quit trying random ideas and focused on one thing at a time. I got better at delegating because I had to get better at delegating. I said “no” to random opportunities because I had to say “no” to them.

Focus is an essential practice for entrepreneurs, and kids are a sure-fire way to force you to focus.

Having a family to help support also puts the financial pressure on when you’re starting a business, and in some ways this can be good. You don’t have time to chase long-shot ideas or live in dreamland when you need to bring home cash to help the family.

This was a huge part of why I decided to start the kind of business I ultimately did. Given a longer runway, I might have dismissed a service business, but it ended up being a great way to build a cashflow positive asset.

3. Having Kids Puts Things in Perspective

It’s easy to let your business become your life. This might seem like a good thing, but attaching too much of your self-worth to your business is dangerous in the long term.

“This inclination to link our businesses to our self worth makes sense…but the problem is that it then becomes very hard to see our value outside of our jobs - to see who we are, instead of what we do. Our business successes become our successes as a person. Our business failures become our failures as a person.” - Sarah Hartley, CEO of The Kindred Voice

Every business has its ups and downs, but knowing that you have a family who loves you and cares about you allows you to feel valuable outside that roller coaster.

And no matter how sh***y things are at your business, it’s always nice to come home and have a little kid hug you and tell you they love you. 😍

4. Having Kids Gives You Empathy for Other Parents

Most of your senior, experienced employees are (or will be) parents someday. Entrepreneurs without kids can’t relate as well to the struggle of prioritizing childcare, sick days, and health insurance, so they can be dismissive of employees dealing with these issues.

That said, some of the best hires I’ve made have kids. Sure, they can’t put in the hours that younger professionals might, but they often have 10+ years of experience which makes them more efficient and better equipped to lead teams and mentor others.

Now, I’m not saying that every parent is a good employee. But, if you’re an entrepreneur who wants to hire the best, most experienced people, you’ll need to be able to hire parents, and having kids of your own is the best way to build rapport with other parents.

5. Children Test and Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Partner

Finally, having kids has put a new level of stress on my relationship with my wife. That said, going through trials together has made us more committed and unlocked a deeper kind of love than we would have had without them.

Teaming up with someone to raise other human beings has been the most humbling and selfless challenge in my life. Doing it while trying to grow a business adds that much more to the challenge, but it also adds that much more to the learning.

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” - Ryan Holliday, The Obstacle is the Way

I’m not saying that you can’t succeed without kids - there are plenty of people who do - but they also shouldn’t be an excuse not to start a business. The experience has taught me countless lessons and it’s likely I wouldn’t have started my business without them as a motivator.

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