When I was an early stage startup employee I was frequently pulled between the intense, always on demands of our company (which weren’t unique by any stretch) and the intense, always on aspects of being a husband and loving father of two little girls.
Lots of folks in the community write about managing startup work life balance and keeping a thriving family life while working at startups, but there’s still not a fixed formula for success. How you manage this “balance” is highly personal and unique to your life situation. That’s why I use the word “aspire” in the post title 🙂
Here are a few of the things I did to keep the most important thing (family) in perspective while grinding it out at an early stage startup.
1) Be home to put my kids to bed each night. I almost always made sure to get home before bed time so I could help out with baths and bedtime activities and then tuck the kids into bed. This was as much for my kids as it was for my wife. Any break you can give your spouse from childcare (which is way more challenging than company building) is always appreciated more than you know.
2) Take a family vacation and unplug while you’re doing it. Once a year we go to the beach for a week with my wife and kids and her extended family. On these trips I will check my email or use the internet maybe once or twice during the trip – and sometimes not at all. This disconnection helps clear the mind and focus on your family rather than the latest fire brewing at your startup. I highly recommend taking these digital sabbaticals on your major vacations but also at other times during the year.
3) Help from the outside. I was fortunate to have life coach Jerry Colonna in my corner to help me get through the tough times of startup life. I learned a lot about myself and startup work life balance in working with him and perhaps most importantly he helped me not lose myself in the fire. Thanks again, Jerry 🙂
If you want more on the topic of startup work life balance, you need to check out two posts from Steve Blank, a well known serial entrepreneur who helped lead e.piphany to an IPO and who authored the legendary startup creation tome Four Steps to the Epiphany (affiliate link).
In these posts, Steve lays bare how working at a startup cost him his first marriage and goes on to share the things he did differently in his second marriage. Both are required reading for those who want to deeply understand the struggles inherent in managing a startup career and having a thriving family life.