Dadpreneurship: Starting a business and starting a family, at the same time

Dadpreneurship: Starting a business and starting a family, at the same time
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I’m a worse entrepreneur because I’m a father.

Entrepreneurship is addicting.

I love going from an idea in a Moleskine notebook to a news product that reaches over 2 million visitors in 9 months. I love going from 0 revenue to profitability. I love going from 0 newsletter subscriber to 11,800. I dig the rush.

As an entrepreneur, I often feel like a rabid dog foaming at the mouth. I’m bloodthirsty. I love building. I love attacking.

Entrepreneurship is addicting.

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But then I see my 14-month-old son take his first seven steps in our playroom as he stumbles toward the green sofa.

I love watching my son taste sweet potatoes for the first time. I love asking “where’s your ear?” and seeing him point to his ear. I love the way he freaks out when he smells eggs in the morning. It’s addicting.

Fatherhood is addicting.

When Charlotte Agenda was just a five-page PowerPoint presentation, I promised myself that I would always write about what I’m thinking about. Most media companies forget this as they grow up.

The interesting thing about the promise I made to myself is that I didn’t know it would spill over to fatherhood.

I think about fatherhood. A lot.

Specifically, entrepreneurial fatherhood. It’s different.

If you’re an Accenture consultant, you feel like you don’t have another option other than to board the early morning Monday flight at Charlotte Douglas and get back to CLT late Thursday night. You get to blame your employer and complain, but you don’t decide about the gray areas regarding balance — your employer decides for you.

As an entrepreneur, I decide. Every day.

I decide whether to spend time with my wife and our son or to spend time working. The only person I have to complain to is myself.

And it’s really freaking hard.

I’m not a believer in balance. I think balance is for losers that haven’t fallen in love. I passionately love my wife. I passionately love my son. I passionately love my team. I passionately love my work.

Culturally, it’s fascinating to me that very few people talk about balancing fatherhood and work. There’s no Sheryl Sandberg of fatherhood to tell me how to lean.

I thought I would share some things that work for me as a Charlotte entrepreneurial father. And, some things that I haven’t figured out.

Things that work for me:

(1) Early mornings. I leave my house at 5:20 a.m. most days and work out of a brown leather chair near the fake fireplace at the Starbucks on East Boulevard. By doing my most creative work from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., I’m able to get home by 5:30 p.m. each day.

(2) Team. I trust Katie, Andrew and Cristina. You can’t be a good father without family support — our Agenda team is an extension of my family.

(3) My wife. I work with Lindsey, my wife. When you work for a startup you end up talking about the startup. This has been helpful.

(4) One late night a week. Evening events suck. For the first six months, I would try to go to events and then race home by 6:20 p.m. Just didn’t work for me. I now do one late work night a week and on that day, I eat breakfast with my wife and our son.

(5) Sunday breakfast. I love alone time with my son. We go out or cook eggs each Sunday when he wakes up. Either Original Pancake House or Toast.

(6) Work/life blur. My friends, customers, partners, co-workers are all the same now. It’s too exhausting to try to compartmentalize “work” and “life.” I am who I am, whether I’m working or whether I’m not working.

Things I’m still trying to figure out:

(1) Date night. Paying $15/hour for a babysitter, drinking out and eating out is expensive. As a bootstrapped startup, saving money is important. But so is going out with my hottie wife.

(2) Friends. I’m a bad friend right now. I think my best friends like George and Pat understand this, but it’s hard to be self-aware that you suck at friendship.

(3) Faith. Most Sunday mornings, I go work for four hours. Oddly enough, I feel very spiritual in my life right now (maybe more than ever), but I don’t attend our church, Christ Episcopal Church, enough.

(4) Relaxing. It’s shockingly difficult for me to just drink a Countryside IPA on a picnic table at Sycamore with a group of friends and talk about football. I suck at relaxing now.

(5) Phone. I sleep next to my phone. I check it before I go to bed. I check it immediately when I wake up.

I’m a worse entrepreneur because I’m a father. And that’s okay with me.

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