Business, Babies & Burnout: Lessons Learned From A New Dad

Starting a business is a lot like starting a family. There are sleepless nights and days of endless stress.  You will lose money, lose time, and at some point seemingly lose your mind. The challenges roll on day after day pushing you to the brink.  

Starting a family and my own business in the same year has been the challenge of a lifetime. Here are few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson # 1  Clear your business schedule for a few months.

Leading up to the birth of our son, I had the best of intentions.  I sat up as I often do, making lists of goals, scheduling events, and working through strategic plans of how I was going to function when he arrived.  I had it all planned out. I’d cut back here. I’d adjust my schedule there. Until he arrive and I realized something that’s hard for me to admit…

I was wrong.

I was so incredibly wrong about how hard the first month of a child’s life is on the parents responsible. A newborn relies on you to tend to them every second of every day. Sure, they will likely sleep a lot the first couple days and other than some disgusting diapers (no seriously) life will be pretty okay. Then the light switch flips and the spotlight is on. Are you ready?  

I wasn’t and I’m not sure many parents are.  If you’re trying to run a business at the same time as welcoming a child, here is my advice. CLEAR YOUR PLATE. Schedule the bare minimum it takes to keep the doors open and pay the bills.  That child is going to need your everything out of the gate and if you put too much else on your to-do list, you’re going to be very overwhelmed.

Lesson # 2  Make your “me” time count, because there’s going to be a lot less of it.

After the first few weeks if you’re lucky, a little bit of time will free up as the family hopefully finds a bit of a rhythm.  For me, this happened around 5-6 weeks. Now, when I say free time, I don’t mean “Hey honey I’m going to head to the cabin with the boys for the weekend” free time. I mean, you might have an hour to exercise, shave, go to bank, buy groceries, and answer your emails.

“Me” time quickly transitions into “us” time.  Those few golden moments where someone else takes over are everything. They are to be cherished.  They are to be maximized. If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing partner to help you, this time can be scheduled, but even still it’s likely to be sporadic at best.

Throughout the week as I get a pocket of time you can find me squeezing in any of the things that make me happy. Running. Reading. Being Outside. Working on the business (writing this blog included).  Being diligent and using this time helps move things forward. Trust me, if you don’t do it now, it won’t happen and the regret of not working on your business will build up.

Lesson # 3  There is such thing as too much caffeine.  

At first, caffeine and perhaps alcohol will seem like the answers to your lack of energy and stress.  Though helpful at times, please be careful. They are bandaids for an unbalanced lifestyle and can slowly push you further and further into the chaos.

I love coffee. Latte’s in particular are my drug of choice for completing any task.  Maybe you love pop or tea. Maybe energy drinks are your jam.

No matter what your caffeine choice is, my advice here is simply to be aware of your intake.  Too much caffeine can leave you cramping, dehydrated, and even more sleepless. Will you need a bit more day-to-day in order to stay up late or get the engine going in the morning?  Sure, and that’s fine.

Just be aware of your limits and find a happy medium that works for you. Stimulants can form an addictive habit that will leave you feeling unhealthy without your daily fix. Know your limit and keep it. Still tired?  Do some jumping jacks or go outside and refresh your brain.

Lesson # 4  If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone.

A lot of stress is going to be placed on you when you start a business or have a baby. If you for some reason decide to do both, welcome to the crazy club!

This rule is very simple and yet might be the hardest to follow, take care of yourself.  Don’t give in to the temptations for heavy meals, sugary treats, hours of television, and the sedentary lifestyle of doom.  Your life is going to change, but try like hell to carve out a few minutes to carry on with the things that recharge your battery.

For me, stretching in the morning, running, reading, meditating and just time outside with the sun make all the difference.  So too, do eating healthy and consuming the right amount of calories (and caffeine).

I have failed big time with continuing my schedules and routines that reset my brain.  Don’t wait until 8 weeks in to realize you’re now in a negative routine cycle. Taking care of a baby and cranking out a big project are near impossible when your tank is on E.

Lesson # 5  If people offer help, take it. Your pride isn’t worth your sanity.

You’re a business owner.  You take the world on everyday.  You likely have a lot of warranted pride about that fact, but when it comes to babies, you should not try to do it alone. I understand every person has a different situation, but please hear this. Do not let pride get in the way of sanity.

You need to recharge. You need to accomplish other things beyond the diapers and bottles.  Let anyone who is willing to assist you take the reins for a bit. Even if it’s holding the baby for 5 minutes while you take a shower, you will feel the difference and be better for it.  

Raising a child and a business are both incredible undertakings that demand the best in you. Accept the helping hands of those who care about you.  They will enjoy helping and you will be rewarded in time, energy, and in strengthening relationships with those you cherish.