Can one be successfully self employed when you do not spend the majority of your time on the business? What if you have a partner but that partner also spends less than full time hours on the business? Can you really be successful entrepreneurs when neither considers the business as their top priority? We are trying to find this out.
Like every parent our top priority is our kids but unlike many parents we both spend the majority of our time each day with our kids. To illustrate this let’s say your kids sleep 10 hours a day which leaves 14 hours of awake time. When I worked in the office I had 8 hour shifts plus 1 hour at lunch. When you include getting ready for work and transit time I was away from the home over 10 hours a day leaving less than 4 hours with the family. During work days my main focus was work as most of my time was spent doing work. While Lisa stayed at home with the kids my life was more defined by the work I did in the office than at home.
Right now, during the time my kids are awake, I do not work more than 30 hours a week and this is spread out over 7 days. I average just over 4 hours of work a day which means I have around 10 hours each day committed to the kids. Lisa works the same number of hours a week during the times I am with the kids. We work sometimes after the kids go to bed as well but in average we each still spend more time with the kids than away from them each and every day. We have essentially split up the tasks of one self employed full time worker and one stay at home parent. We are both dedicated to make the business a success but neither of us works enough hours at the business to be obsessed about it.
I do not dream about work anymore and it does not keep me up at night. Would we be more successful if one of us looked after the kids while the other worked full time on the business? Do you need to be immersed to be productive? Sometimes I think that it may be better if I could work a lot more hours. When you do so little a day it can be harder to gain momentum on a project to really feel like you are getting work done. The days where there is so much to get done and you spend most of your time not working can be very frustrating. You feel like you should be more involved with work, especially being self employed, but yet you just do not have the time to be more involved. As a team we have as much time, and perhaps more energy, than a one person business but as individuals it can be hard to seem involved. We spend most of our time with the kids and this is what seems to dominate for both of us.
There are definite advantages and disadvantages with the way we structure our work week. While I think we may be more successful if one of us was obsessing over the business we are happy personally having this balance. Not only does the family time give needed breaks away from work but our work gives a needed break from full on parenting. Neither of us does very well as full time stay at home parents without breaks. We seem to crave a fair bit of variety in our lives. As our kids get older I am sure we will be able to shift some of our focus on the business and enjoy some more success but for now we will balance everything the best we can.
We tend to identify ourselves with what occupies the majority of our time. It feels strange now when people ask me what I do. People ask this question as a way to gather information about who you are very quickly. When I used to let my work define who I was I had no problem answering this question but now it seems to be dishonest and misleading. It would be a more accurate to say that I am a family man who dabbles as a businessman on the side. In our world this does not sound like a successful strategy. Can we be successful with our business ventures secondary for both of us? Time will tell. Our advantage may be the way we define success.