Startup parents: How families balance startup hours with time spent at home

by John Siegel
August 18, 2016

Balancing work and life is always a struggle, but doing so when children are involved is a special sort of challenge. The work needed to get a fledgling company off the ground will always be considerable, but that doesn't mean spending time away from work is any less important. When it comes to finding time for family in the midst of the chaotic life of working at a startup, these four professionals have some great advice.

 

Angela C. Kinsella serves as Vice President, Media Sales + Operations at Demand Media, responsible for sales, operations and marketing for Demand Media; a diversified Internet company which builds platforms across its media properties (eHow and LIVESTRONG.COM)and marketplace properties to enable communities of creators to reach passionate audiences in large and growing lifestyle categories. 

How do you balance being a parent with startup hours?
 
It's a challenge! I've been fortunate that Demand is such a family-friendly company that the concept of "work hours" is fairly flexible. Typically my work day looks a little like this: I am online during eastern standard time hours at home while getting my daughter out the door to daycare, work a full day, go home, cook, eat, etc. put my daughter to bed and hop back online to catch-up on anything that I've missed. There isn't really a traditional or typical day, but I do my best to balance being a Mom and being present at work.
 
How has being a parent changed the way you work?
 
I am more mindful of the notion of a work/life balance. When I am doing each task, whether that's working or being a VP, wife or mother, I am giving 200 percent to each thing because I realize how precious my time as a mom and wife in this period of my daughter's life really is.
 
How much time did you take off following the birth of your first child?
 
I was away for about four months. I'm a bit Type-A! After the first month, I was itching to dial back in and I definitely did. Everyone jokes that they knew I was ready because I was back on email I would say I checked in about 30 percent of the time and enjoyed the full four months of my time off. I would not trade that for the world.
 
What advice would you give to expecting parents who also work at a startup? 
 
Remember that nothing is more important than your time with your child. Work can wait. You will never get that time back again. Set a game plan for while you are away, expectations for how frequently or infrequently you will check in and trust your peers and team. You will be back in no time. Four months isn't that long. 
 

Joanna McFarland co-founded South Pasadena-based HopSkipDrive in 2014, six years after becoming a mother for the first time. She said she believes that becoming a parent helped her be a better professional because of the desire to get home and spend time with her children.

How do you balance being a parent with startup hours?
 
I don't believe there's truly such a thing as balance, but you do the best you can and you constantly reprioritize what is most important. Some of the best advice I ever got was that everything in life is like juggling. Some balls are crystal and some are rubber. The rubber balls can bounce a few times before you catch them but the crystal ones can't. Knowing which balls are crystal and can't be dropped at any given time is the key.
 
Being a parent prepares you very well for being the CEO of a startup. You are sleep deprived, you constantly test to see what works and what doesn't and quickly adapt and you often have to put others' needs and priorities ahead of your own. 
 
How has being a parent changed the way you work?
 
I became a parent more than eight years ago, long before I even contemplated having a startup. Being a parent makes me much more efficient at work because I want to get home. It also has taught me to prioritize and to focus. And it has changed my working hours. I leave and go home for dinner with my husband and kids. I get back online later, but I make it a priority to be with my family and I encourage our whole team to do the same.
 
How much time did you take off following the birth of your first child?
 
With both my children, I took off about 3.5 months. I cherished every minute of it, but was definitely ready to come back to work when maternity leave was over. I love my kids and love being a mom more than anything, but I'm definitely not a stay-at-home mom. It's the hardest, most demanding, never-ending job there is. 
 
What advice would you give to expecting parents who also work at a startup? 
 
Be realistic in knowing that you do not know and cannot prepare for the changes in your life that are about to occur. Be gentle on yourself and give yourself time to ease into becoming a new parent. Whether you are a mom or a dad, your life is about to be rocked in ways you can't imagine. Enjoy the journey. You may feel differently about work now, and that's okay. It also may make you see things at your startup differently in a way that could be beneficial. Whether that is team culture, product ideas or customer experience. Any new experiences outside of work can bring in new perspectives.
 
 
 
Labinot Bytyqi is the founder of two companies, consulting firm CoreALM and Solaborate, a company looking to change the way that people communicate. He is also the father of three young children, something that spurred his desire to make it easier for people to communicate with each other.
 
How do you balance being a parent with startup hours?
 
We all know how much time and effort is required to run a startup. As a leader you have a bunch of high-spirited people in the team that look up to you, so you are responsible to also set an example and never fail in motivating the ones around you. Then there's family! I always say that being a parent is the most important and the most difficult job ever. I must give praise and credit to my wonderful wife who is the pillar of our family, and I try not to miss out on any important occasion for my children. This is really challenging, and as a father of three I have learned with time to be very organized and effective in every effort that I make.
 
How has being a parent changed the way you work?
 
I am a fast learner and I have adapted with time. For example, I used to travel for work very often before becoming a parent, but now I try to make use of technology and get things done remotely. I have two remote teams in Europe, so I get up super early in the morning when my family is still sleeping, and use that time to coordinate with the teams, so that the rest of the day I can focus on my family and other work.
 
How much time did you take off following the birth of your first child?
 
I must admit I am almost always working, even when I'm not at the office. I don't remember how much time I took off, but I know that it wasn't particularly hard to stay away from work during those times. I love my children so much that I would go to great lengths to provide them with opportunities that I didn't have, but I also enjoy being a dad, and being there for my wife when she needs me. 
 
What advice would you give to expecting parents who also work at a startup? 
 
It's simple: the world, as you know it, will change. My best advice would be: don't try to sacrifice family time for work time or vice versa. Just find a way to be more effective at work. Now is the time to delegate those less important tasks that you as a perfectionist hold so dear, but you know that they don't make much difference overall. Try to surround yourself with equally efficient people, and everything will be fine.
 
 
Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Images via Demand Media, Solaborate and Facebook
 
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