By EO member Ben Welch-Bolen
Fear is a basic human instinct bred into our DNA to help us avoid danger. Without a healthy fear of falling, fire, spiders and clowns—ok, maybe not clowns―our lives might be significantly shorter. But fear isn’t our only basic drive; we’re also compelled to propagate our species. These two instincts collided for me on 20 April, 2016, when my wife delivered a clever knock-knock joke to inform me that I would soon be a dad.
After a few euphoric days, I began worrying about how I would balance being a great dad and a successful entrepreneur. Fear of the unknown hit me―hard. My thoughts swirled: What would happen when I became a parent? Could I balance the two most challenging roles of my life without jeopardizing my sanity? How would it all work out? Would our marriage survive the stress? What compromises would I need to make?
Now that I’ve survived the early days of parenthood―my son is eight months old―some of my initial worries have faded, some remain and still others have surfaced. In the spirit of experience sharing, here’s a look back on my four greatest pre-parenthood fears compared with the realities of fatherhood.
1. Could I successfully launch and grow a new business while being a present parent for my son and a great husband for my wife?
It is possible to be a great parent and launch and grow a new business. It’s a huge balancing act that requires a lot of thought and planning, but it can be done. I was in the very early stages of launching a new business when our son was born. My stress level skyrocketed when our core product hit technical challenges, inhibiting growth. Facing a cash crunch, we proceeded with raising another round of investment. My son was thriving, but my wife endured serious complications during and after the birth and could not walk. In fact, our first stop on the way home from the hospital was to get my wife a walker. In the comfort of hindsight, we laugh about our chaotic first months as parents but at the time, it was an exhausting, frightening blur for us both.
As my wife recovered and we found our rhythm as a family, the balancing act between pushing a startup forward and being present for my family became easier. I delegated more to my team, and I learned to prioritize the most important tasks of the day. Four months later, the option to sell the company presented itself and I took it. I am confident that when I start my next business I will be able to find that balance again.
2. Would my relationship with my wife suffer with the addition of a baby?
This is one question every dad-to-be asks himself, entrepreneur or not. The answer is both yes and no. Having a baby puts a tremendous strain on your relationship, but it also creates an even deeper bond with your spouse―though I will admit that it’s hard to revel in that newfound connection when you feel like a walking zombie, neck-deep in dirty diapers. My fellow EO members have offered tremendous support during this period, not only from an emotional standpoint, but also by sharing personal experiences of how they got through similar challenges.
3. If I started a new business, would I only see my son during the week for a few hours in the evenings before his bedtime?
If you are mindful to not let the business run you, you can be a more present parent. I proactively made some major changes to my schedule and availability to achieve this. I’m a night owl, but that schedule was no longer feasible. I consciously shifted my schedule so that I wake up at 6 a.m. and can get my most important work done first, enabling me to be free by late afternoon. When I’m home, I disable email on my phone and only answer calls if there is an emergency. I am fortunate that I can work from home, so it’s easy to duck out to take my son for a quick walk or play with him during my lunch break.
4. Would a more restricted routine stifle my creativity?
I was apprehensive that imposing routine on my life would eliminate the creative aspects of work that I love. I am happy to report that was not the case. Prior to getting married and having my son, I thrived on a lack of routine. If I woke up and wanted to go for a run, I did. If I wanted to work until 4 a.m., I did. Same with working weekends. My company at that time was 100% remote, with 130 team members in over 18 countries, and clients in every time zone. When I got married, it was clear that my lack of routine frustrated my wife to no end because she never knew when I would be working and when I wouldn’t. By the time the baby arrived, I had established a more predictable work routine, and that structure was an improvement for everyone.
So, what are—or were―your biggest fears before you merged entrepreneurship with parenthood? How did you overcome them to achieve balance? Whether you want to share your experience or seek the advice of others, I hope you’ll contribute to our community on Entrepreneur Parents!
Ben Welch-Bolen is an EO Colorado member who is currently exploring ways to substantially improve business survivability rates and enjoying time off with his family after selling his last business. In 2017, he launched Entrepreneur Parents, a website where entrepreneurial parents share tips and tricks for balancing these two demanding roles. Ben and his wife are the proud parents of an intensely rambunctious eight-month-old boy.
Categories: Lessons Learned