Anybody who loves to work and loves their family asks themselves the question, “What is work-life balance for me?” I know I did. This series explores the times I questioned my work-life balance.
This concept of work-life balance goes back a very long way. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, speaks of the concern of balance. Take a look.
He says, “I would like you to be free from concern (of balance). An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
In 60 AD, Paul was saying that to have the absolute best relationship with God, don’t take on the responsibilities of a wife and kids. Why? Because he knew they require attention. This is the attention that you could invest in your relationship with God.
Here’s where this problem of work-life balance starts with entrepreneurs.
Over the years, when I was about to invest in an entrepreneur, I would always have dinner with the entrepreneur and his wife. (I am using the male gender in this example for simplicity of discussion only. The entrepreneur could just as easily be female.)
We would discuss their life together and the possibilities of the new business. Then I would ask the wife, “You know starting this business will take an enormous commitment from your husband. Are you OK with that?”
The answer was always, “I want my husband to be happy. So if he wants to do it, then I’m with him.”
I learned that implicit in this answer are some assumptions:
- Starting this business is not only right for my husband but also the family.
- If my husband isn’t happy, then it is hard for any of us to be happy.
- I’m sure it isn’t going to be that much of a sacrifice; after all, he works all the time anyway.
- We will become wealthy through the success of this business. Our lives will be better.
- My children will have even bigger and better opportunities in life.
So the answer, “I just want him to be happy,” has an awful lot of unspoken strings attached. It is not carte blanche permission to go off and leave the family every day from dawn to dusk. There are some built-in assumptions that reflect both positive and negative consequences.
I’ve been around entrepreneurs and startups all my professional life over 45 years. I found there is no work-life balance when starting a business. Creating something from nothing and then growing it demands all you’ve got. It will drain you. It will test you with challenges. It will disappoint you. It will tease you with success. It will tempt you with visions of what can be.
And all that you experience as the entrepreneur is experienced by your family. They are torn as you are torn. They know you love what you are doing, but they want your attention, too. They want you to love them as much as you love your work. They know you are working for them and their welfare.
But as time passes and the business transitions from startup to growth, two things can happen.
1. The family changes
It takes years to build a business and continue to grow it. During that time, the entrepreneur’s family changes. The kids get older, and they expect you to be at their sporting events, concerts, and recitals.
Your wife is lonely, plain and simple. She needs her husband, and she knows the kids need a father. She doesn’t care as much about the rewards she envisioned from a successful business. She says, “We have enough. We want you now. The children and I need you!”
But there is a problem. Your wife knows how stressed you are because of the business. And how hard you are working for the family. So she is afraid to tell you that you are out of balance, that the family is out of balance. She and the kids want you to care more for them and to be with them, but not at the expense of the business. She is conflicted.
2. You change
You love what you do. It provides you, the entrepreneur, with great fulfillment. The stress is the family. You are sick and tired of the tension. It is wearing you down. Your solution is to give in to the demands of the business and sacrifice your family. But you love your family. You are conflicted.
I know this tension because I have been there.
I stood in my Galleria office on the twelfth floor, overlooking the 75/285 interchange and thought, “I am more successful now than I thought I would ever be. If I keep doing what I am doing, I’ll be richer and more powerful than I ever dreamed possible. But I won’t be married to Kathy, and I won’t know my kids.”
I left the job for my family. It was the hardest decision of my life. I then went through a very trying time of searching, trying, failing, and praying. Within two years, and with the help of God and family, I found my footing.
Twenty-seven years later, I thank God I made that choice. And I didn’t even know God back then. But now I know, He knew me!
A special note to the entrepreneur going through this right now…
Work-life balance screams that something, somewhere, has to give. You love what you do. You love your family. Start talking about it with all the people you love and who love you.
Each and every one of you has priorities, dreams, expectations, responsibilities, opportunities, and personal needs.
But also share the desires of your heart.
God put them there for each of you.
This is the first and most important step to achieving a successful work-life balance.
This the path to a shared family-work-rewards vision.