By Vikram Bharati
Lessons from a father who is also an entrepreneur on how to handle the two responsibilities all at once.
This morning, I started with a to-do list that included completing paperwork and payments. But, it turns out that my wife, Anna, and I had to spend the morning at the hospital because our daughter Rixt fell sick all of a sudden. And so, it begins — another day of balancing a startup and fatherhood.
It is very exciting and nerve-racking, awe-inspiring yet scary to have a baby. When I became a father, it was a pure leap of growth and faith because I embarked on a journey where I was clueless how things were going to unfold. From resetting my identification (I am a father now!) to my priorities of life, having Rixt continues to be a life-changing experience. And it is not very different from building a startup!
Frank Pittman said that “fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child, but the parent.” In many ways, this is similar to the journey we undertake while building a startup. It builds you.
Anna and I got pregnant with Rixt during the inception of Tribe Theory. As the startup grew and developed, as if symbolically, the baby bump grew. Then, we had Rixt. And Tribe Theory expanded.
How do you balance work and a baby? Babies get sick or hurt themselves. Startups requires you to be on your toes. It can be exhausting handling two such demanding situations. But, I have found some ways to navigate this and I hope other “parenterpreneurs” can learn from my experience.
Rule one: there is no balance
Life doesn’t work out according to plans. Starting a business and having a child simultaneously involves a lot of unpredictability. I’ve tried to find balance but it doesn’t exist. Remember, it’s not going to be this way forever and learn to go with the flow. Millions of people the world-over –some in worse situations than we are– are raising a child and making a living. While it is extremely challenging, I’m confident that in the end this experience would make us stronger and better.
Learn from others
I am lucky to have friends in different stages of parenting. Some are managing new startups and toddlers at the same time. Others have established businesses where tasks are delegated and they can focus on parenting. Speaking to them has helped me find direction and tips to navigate these equally important and demanding aspects of my life. They say a wise person learns from others’ experiences. This might be a good place to apply that philosophy!
Ask for help, when needed
I couldn’t have managed fatherhood and entrepreneurship without a supportive wife in Anna. Although we share most of the responsibilities, Anna is the major caregiver as Rixt is still very young. We briefly hired a nanny, but decided to let go of her. It’s definitely challenging but it’s also very rewarding to see this little human being grow! We wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a miracle we’re experiencing every single day. However, if you think some of your responsibilities — at work or in taking care of the child — can be delegated to extended family, friends or hired help, do not hesitate to do so.
Allow the two aspects to mingle
Rixt is seven months old now but she’s travelled around the world a couple of times already! I take her along on business travels. She’s part of our everyday fabric. This was something I learnt from my parents-in-law who are entrepreneurs who successfully built a family business and raised three children. I think the less you try to keep these two aspects apart, the more easily work and life will flow at ease.
Do not worry too much
Anna and I do our best but we don’t get it right every single day. However, we are not worrying over if we’d fail at work or at parenting. Instead, we just try hard to make it work. I hope our daughter grows up with these skills of adaptability. The best way for us to show her this is by living our dreams and by not being afraid.
Picking useful lessons from each other
Becoming a father has really helped me become a better entrepreneur and vice versa. I have begun to look at people differently. Seeing how helpless and dependent Rixt is has helped me realize that everybody I encounter once used to be a vulnerable child. It changes the context and framework of how I approach a conversation or a difficult scenario. It gives me empathy and removes ego. These are crucial skills in the hospitality business!
Building a startup is no mean task and I realized that a lot of the time, you cannot control everything. You have to let go of your ideas sometimes and be patient. This has helped in being a better father.
Use technology to your advantage
You can be physically so close and yet be so disconnected. Or be far yet connected. There will be moments where you feel that you’re missing out on your business or parenting. But it’s a lot easier to stay connected with the abundance of communication channels. Today, you don’t have to go to an office to work and you don’t have to give up childcare to be able to be in the workforce. So make a call or connect on Skype. Focus on quality time.
Reflect and re-energize
When things get overwhelming, I tell myself that all of this is happening because I wanted it to. That puts me back in control of my emotions. Once you acknowledge that your life is an output of your choices, it reframes your situation with perspective and helps you through the chaos, craziness and sleepless nights. I love to go for a run or exercise. It makes me productive and clear-headed. Finding this 30-minute oasis has really helped me be a better entrepreneur and father, giving me time to reflect and re-energize.