The landscape of business and how we work has changed forever.
As someone who coaches and supports people, I wanted to know more about these changes’ effects. As a dad and having my own business, I felt the need to speak to other business dads to understand their challenges in growing a business and being a leader, all while trying to be the best dad they could be.
I started interviewing business dads just before the end of 2021. My goal was to interview 50 business dads in different sectors to see their biggest challenges, frustrations and fears in the ever-changing situations that we all face today.
Before we start discussing the challenges, this was not in any way to deflect business mums’ challenges, frustrations and fears. All working partners try to do the best for their children and work.
There are similar and different challenges for mums and dads, my focus was on dads, and I wanted to learn and develop from others in my situation. Naively, I thought this might take one or two months, but here we are six months later.
The most difficult part of the process was setting up the interviews in the first place – everyone was so busy and lacked time; this is one of the themes that came out.
My starting question to the interviewees was, “what is the biggest frustration of being a business dad?” This was followed by: “what’s the greatest fear of that frustration?” After 50 interviews, three reoccurring themes came up.
- Lack of time
- Lack of engagement
- Defining Success
In this post we will talk about a lack of time and challenge it brings.
Lack of Time
The most discussed points were about lack of time and trying to balance spending enough time on the business to drive it forward while making sure that there was a time in the day and week to spend with their children.
As one interviewee mentioned:
“The worry and a conundrum is the need to be present with the kids. But I also want to drive the business to be the best it can be so that when they’re a little bit older, I’ve got even more free time.”
The problem is that we still have the mindset that more is better and not that better is better. For example, I was told by one dad:
“I used to work 60 hours per week and wear it as a badge of honour. I was proud of being the first one in office and the last one out.”
There is always this juggle between the business and the children, hoping that one day you will have that free time to spend with your family. However, the events of the last two years have shown us that nothing is set in stone. There has been a lot of evidence surrounding the idea of delayed happiness and the problems it causes.
Park et al. (2021) noted that when people see happiness as an investment, they believe that working hard and sacrificing opportunities for happiness now will contribute to greater future happiness. But this leads to negative effects and implications for self-regulation and emotions.
One retired business dad I spoke to talked about the guilt of losing the early years.
“My biggest fear is losing touch with my children’s early years and worrying about not playing a big enough part in them, not just in their upbringing, but also in their emotional development.”
We are complex beings. Therefore, it’s clear how this thinking can affect your performance as a dad and a business leader. I have worked in professional sports, and focusing only on an athlete’s performance in the gym and training pitch can be easy. However, what happens outside of the training ground significantly affects performance.
A recurring theme in my interviews was the idea of spending quality time with their children and making things as memorable as possible. One business dad spoke about the pressure of thinking of different things to do with his children. It might be the case that it’s about just spending time with the family, creating that environment to be with them.
Simply playing football in the back garden or drawing with them can be enough. I always felt that we, as dads, place massive amounts of pressure on ourselves. We talk lots about pillars (dad, husband, business founder, business leader, brother etc). And what happens if there is a lack of time in each of the pillars.
What adds to this lack of time is the number of daily decisions that business dads need to make. The overwhelming feeling regarding high amounts of information, decisions, and challenges has a massive impact on stress and anxiety levels. The best response I heard to this was:
“I am spinning six to seven plates every day, and it is impossible to understand which is the most important plate to focus on.”
As this situation highlighted, we must understand that this level of decision-making and stress comes with a personal cost.
“I was getting over 120 emails a day, on top of phone calls, meetings, and real work to do. I was working 80 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and unable to manage my own business.
I was so personally affected by it that when I start work at the beginning of the week, I’m already stressed; muscles contract because I fear what’s coming. It is taking a long time to come down.”
How do you think this stress will affect your ability to be a dad?
Do we, as business dads, create space and the time to recover from this continued pressure? Often not. We will go from the role of business leaders into the role of Dad, sometimes in the space of a few steps if working from home. We need to find a way to ensure that we can regulate the pressure.
Check out the business dads pathway to find out how we deal with a lack of time.
Find out more about me here.https://www.linkedin.com/in/lee-eldridge/
Park, L. E., Fujita, K., Naragon-Gainey, K., Radsvick, T. M., Jung, H. Y., Xia, J., Ward, D. E., Paravati, E., Weng, J., Italiano, A., & Valvo, A. (2021). Happiness—To enjoy now or later? Consequences of delaying happiness and living in the moment beliefs. Emotion.