I'll admit that sometimes as a guy trying to get a business off the ground, I feel like less of a man. Running a startup will do that to you.
When you fall back on your wife or significant other to be the main breadwinner, when you sacrifice stability and safety to chase a dream, you are often putting your loved ones in jeopardy. It can make you feel like a loser, that somehow you're letting your family down.
It's so tempting to tell yourself that if you could just suck it up like everyone else and hold down that 9 to 5 job and bring in a steady paycheck, your family would be so much better off.
How do we reconcile our traditional ideas of manliness; the notion of a man as the steady rock that looks after and provides for everyone, versus the startup ideal of a man who will put everything on the line to achieve his vision?
Let's start with the obvious, ageist (yep, I'll say it) idea that startups are a young man's game. It's no secret that a young guy, unencumbered by family and duties, has a lot more time to spend on his dream than the married man with kids. I remember the days when I could work for 15 hours straight and had no one to answer to, but somehow I think there's something about having people to answer to that makes you a better entrepreneur. It forces you to really consider whether what you are doing is adding to the success of the project or is just some cool feature nobody will actually ever use.
Time is another factor - a single man has unlimited time. As a dad, you have less time, so you have to make that time count. You can zero in on what is most important and get it done, knowing that there are other things out there that count as much.
A man with kids and a family understands the importance of time - that it can go by faster than you expected and you better make it count. What's more important; a day spent working or a day spent creating memories with your family?
In fact, I'd propose that being a dad gives you an insight into what matters that can give you an edge. It teaches you to ignore the trivial and focus on solving the problems that bring the greatest gains. A business in some ways is like your children - you have to nurture it and understand it, refine it and polish it to make it the best it can be.
Ultimately, a man knows what's most important and works so that he can make his family the priority. The faster you can solve a problem and get things done, the sooner you can spend time with your loved ones.
That's a benefit that comes with experience and wisdom that the young often don't understand.
So, if you're a dad and anyone questions whether working on your startup is selfish or harmful to your loved ones, tell them that it's because you
value your family that you want to show them to never give up on your dreams. You can be a great father and a great entrepreneur and find time to do both.
But, of course, when Mother's day rolls around, never forget that great partner that helped you make those dreams come true.