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How did your work habits change after you had a kid(s)?

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Before I had kids, I could work whenever I wanted to work. However, since my daughter was born, I need to take care of her and take shifts with my wife to ensure that she gets enough rest. Having a kid helps entrepreneurs become a better planner, as well as being able to handle more responsibility.

There are only so many hours in they day to divvy up between the things you want to spend time on. After children, there’s a new and very important thing you want to spend time on. That means you *have* to rearrange and probably drop something(s).

Even though my children are now well past those early years, I sleep less than I used to. Giving up on sleep was a relatively easy sacrifice to squeeze some extra time out of the day.

I live close to work to minimize the commute, so that I spend as little time on superfluous activities as possible.

Despite a very heavy work schedule, I decided that I should spend either mornings or evenings at home (that working both would be negligent). So I chose mornings and am at work by 630am, but back home around 5pm.

I am married to an entrepreneur/co-founder and now CEO of a new business, so we also had to figure out how to balance responsibilities so not everything fell on one of us (since neither are currently a stay-at-home parent). Some of that was just discussion and sorting between the two of us to make sure it lined up well. And some of it was deciding to bring on a nanny four days a week so that there’s a third person carrying some of the practical load (especially as we don’t live close to family).

And at some meta level, the time I spend working is now just more compressed and efficient. There’s less time for non-essential things!

Time management. It is so important to make time for your family. I started putting my phone on do not disturb to focus on my kids. This helped me focus on the time I had with them. What I quickly realized is that if I held off on doing the work the next day, I had more energy. By taking the break and being with my family, it gave me a sense of calm. I was able to come back to the grind the next day and even had a better feeling about the task I as working on the day prior.

Making time to step away is ok. Work will be there tomorrow. Enjoy your family.

Having a routine. I hate routines, to be honest. After my kid was born it wasn’t really practical for me to live without a routine. I was not able to work whenever I want. Just like a business, he needed a lot of attention. First few years, I wasn’t able to do justice and it made me guilty. Once the routine was in, things were a lot better for me, my wife and my kid.

When my son was born- I had top tier status on 2 airlines attending to clients in what was a small consulting practice. I could not get off the road in a substantial way, so I made a few changes to remain connected:

1. When I was home. I was home. No laptop, no work as long as my wife and son were awake. We created as many opportunities for family time or for father and son time as we could.

2. I was an early adopter for remote video and no matter the time zone, made certain that we SAW each other as well as talked daily. Conversation was not much- but presence mattered.

3. As my son got old enough to get geography and mail and such, I started sending pictures, post cards (snail mail) and sharing stories of the road- good and bad. At 3 my son understood (sort of) travel delays and cancelled flights through the term “Adventures in Travel”. I would bring back something for the house (NOT a present for him) that gave us opportunities to talk about the world. And we did our level best to have 5 minutes of adult conversation without distraction as often as possible- with the agreement that it was not about logistics, household stuff, bills, schools or anything else that could be handled by email.

4. I worked (when I was in town) in a shared office suite. One of the other tenants brought her golden retriever, Buck, with her every day. If either my wife or our part-time nanny brought my son in, no matter what I was doing, I took a break. It was a short interruption since I knew that Buck was the real attraction.

5. It may sound counterintuitive, but a bore down on my time commitments to exercise and meditation. I realized early on that if I did not make time for what would sustain me, the addition of a child to a very full life would soon derail my ability to do anything well.

6. Perhaps more important than any of this was understanding that I was going to screw it up. What we were doing was hard and no amount of tech or effort was going to make it easier. It would barely make it possible. My wife and I made time to listen to each other and to talk about our fears and failures in as constructive, blame free ways as we could find. Some days were better than others.

In the end, we decided that as Lily Tomlin says “The problem with the rat race is, if you win, you are still a rat.” We realized that something had to give. We were not giving up each other or the kid- so we gave up the lifestyle. We moved from San Francisco to Little Rock, AR, providing more green grass and a less frenetic lifestyle. I went to work for a Fortune 400 running a business unit that was in my area of expertise. Still traveled heavily, but with much less stress and frenetics scheduling. My wife could spend a few years focusing on our son before launching her own small business.

If there is a lesson here it is that we were unable to make that big a change to our DINK lifestyle and sustain it. No matter how important your family is- being a spouse and a parent means that your decisions have an effect on those you love. In our case, we made a lifestyle decision we would NEVER have made without a kid.

Understanding that when I came home at night that my wife would be exhausted and that if I got home at 6 PM, it meant I had 90 minutes to spend with my daughter before she went to bed. At first, I would come home exhausted and my wife would hand me the baby, and I was exhausted and shaking my head. But, then once I realized and reframed it as my core time in the day to spend with the baby, things became much more positive and enjoyable.

I used to finish my day, at least a few days a week, between 10pm and 2am. It was, to be honest, my way of making up for a lack of productivity. I no longer have the convenience to do this.

I have not fully molded to this new life, but I almost never work during those late evening hours. In the first six months or so it would’ve been impossible. But since my son has started sleeping better, it’s more of a choice in prioritizing.

I am not better at taking advantage of business hours, segmenting work, and using my calendar. I was never previously very organized, so these have been helpful (if elementary) steps for me.

My at home time is with my husband and son.
My cell and laptop go to bed at 6pm and don’t come out again until 6am.
I hug everyone all the time.
I tell them I love them and that I like them and why
we eat meals together.
We laugh alot
My family is the priority. I work so I can live
they are my why and I would not work this hard if I did not have them.
I am scared a lot and I tell them that.
I have a ton of pressure and we talk about it
we understand that we could have three cars but do fine with 2.5.
We don’t fight if we are tired or drinking I make appointments with my family for us time.

As a new parent, the biggest thing I changed (which I don’t recommend) was completely giving up all ‘me’ time for ‘we/them’ time. The ‘we/them’ was both family and employees. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the demands of a new family, supporting your spouse through the big transition that comes along with having kids, and the ongoing demands of the business and employees. It took me a long time not to apologize for scheduling time to take care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually and it really wasn’t until my kids were older (10ish) and I realized I was a very influential example to them and did not want them following in my footsteps in that respect. I always knew I should make taking care of myself a priority, but actually executing on that plan without really simultaneously thinking of all the other things I ‘should (which was really could)’ be doing took a lot of self discipline and time to overcome.

The other things that changed dramatically for me were concepts of flexibility and patience. If you aren’t by nature flexible and pretty patient, becoming a parent will force you to become somewhat more flexible and patient. (Even if you are, it will heighten those strengths.) My work schedule was relatively consistent prior to having kids. While I was pregnant, and especially with young kids, I had to allow myself to work a much more flexible schedule. I found that I am much more productive when I have a min 2 hour block of time to work in. I also found I am tremendously more productive at home than at work. And I realized that I am a light sleeper and have difficulty going back to sleep after I wake up but that I can get a ton of work done between 1am and 4am when no one else is up.

Work became beat the clock. I knew what time I had to pick the kid up or be home for dinner or when softball practice started and I wasn’t going to miss those deadlines. So I made of list of what I had to do and went after it. My efficiency went up a lot and I stopped unproductive or unrelated activities.

The biggest thing I changed was making a concerted effort to separate my home and work spaces. Pre kids, I spent a LOT of time working at home and my personal life and work life blended seamlessly. This wasn’t an issue because really love what I do and so spending a lot of my “home” time working was just an extension of what I love.

Once we had kids – and especially once they got to the 1-year old stage – I had to make some changes. I didn’t want to be that Dad who was always on the phone, always saying “one second!” and making my kids feel like they had to fight with technology for my attention. I also wasn’t a big fan of being on a call for my business and having the other person hear a kid screaming bloody murder in the background. 🙂

So I got an office outside of the home. Now, when I work, I work HARD in a separate space and get as much done as possible. When I’m home, I’m HOME. Not working, not checking my phone every 2 minutes, but trying my best to be available for my kids. I’m not perfect at this, but having the two spaces helps tremendously at being a better Dad and a better entrepreneur and I’d highly recommend it.