Skip to content

Fatherhood v Entrepreneurship: The Tightrope

Parenting is unequivocally the most challenging job in the world. Above all, you hope for your children’s happiness, in whatever shape that manifests, recognising that it’s not your place to dictate its form.

My background was far from privileged. Raised on a council estate, I wasn’t born into a family of professionals—there were no accountants, business owners, or college graduates before me. Every achievement I’ve earned was a pioneering moment for our family, accompanied by a significant burden of expectations, most of which were self-imposed.

On Monday, my eldest, Henry, turned 18—a significant milestone that has prompted reflection more than celebration. These past few years have been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and now, at 43, I find myself in a ‘reset’ phase professionally and emotionally. I often feel like I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when—or if—I grow up. But I wonder, what impact does this have on those around me? Do they really know me and me them?

The Hardest Job in Town

Being a parent is often dubbed the hardest job for numerous reasons. The challenges are universal, yet uniquely personal, spanning emotional, physical, and psychological dimensions. Here’s a closer look at my parenting struggles:

Emotional Investment

Parenting requires an immense emotional investment. The love parents feel for their children is profound and often overwhelming. With this deep care comes the worry, fear, and stress about their well-being, happiness, and success.

This is where I really struggle. I don’t feel as deeply about these issues as I probably should. I’m not very emotional. Coming from a background where open communication wasn’t the norm, either in my family or among friends, I tend to keep my ‘shit’ to myself implying a lack of interest or care in others.

Constant Responsibility

From the moment a child is born, parents are on the clock 24/7, 365 days a year. There are no true days off in parenting; even when physically apart, a parent’s mind is often with their child. This relentless demand can be exhausting and stressful.

Decision Making

Parents make countless decisions daily. Each choice can seem fraught with potential for long-term impacts, adding weight to even seemingly minor decisions.

I have enough of this at work. I don’t want it in my ‘downtime’ as well. I often go along with any suggestions to avoid being the decision maker at home – that puts additional pressure on everyone.

Financial Stress

Raising a child involves significant financial costs. From basic needs to music lessons and activities, parents often find themselves budgeting and planning finances with their children’s needs as a priority. This financial pressure can add an extra layer of difficulty to parenting.

No Clear Instructions

Much of parenting comes without a clear guidebook. Each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. This lack of definitive answers can make parenting particularly challenging, as it often involves trial and error, and learning on the job.

I am no good in situations without rules and instructions. I cook my food at the exact temperature and length of time per the instructions. My brain does not cope with ambiguity.

Only within the last few years have I been given any guidance on good parenting techniques. How can the most important job on the planet come without an instruction manual. Even a TV Remote Control has an instruction manual.

Long-Term Impact

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of parenting is the understanding that your actions and decisions have a profound and lasting impact on another human being. The pressure to “get it right” can be overwhelming, as parents contemplate the role, they play in shaping their child’s future personality, happiness, and successes.

Navigating fatherhood while steering the helm of a business in today’s fast-paced world presents a high-wire act that many men including myself find themselves reluctantly performing.

The Evolution of Work

When I launched my first business, the measure of success was clear-cut: long hours equalled dedication and potential prosperity. I, like many fathers of my generation, wore the badge of “workaholic” as a mark of honour. The dream was simple: a hot tub in the garden of a nice house (not on a Council Estate but oddly enough I am in an ex-local authority property. You can take the boy out of the estate, but you can’t take the estate out of the boy)—a symbol that you had transcended your humble beginnings and achieved something extraordinary.

However, in the pursuit of professional triumphs, the personal cost was substantial. As I watch my eldest son step into adulthood, I’m struck by the realisation that, in some ways, I have been more present in the lives of my apprentices than in those of my own children. The irony is bitter, considering my childhood resolution was to be a better parent and role model than my own.

The Similarities of Two Realities

Running a business and fatherhood are two of life’s most challenging roles, and while they seem worlds apart, they share striking similarities. Each role demands a unique set of skills, a profound sense of responsibility, and the ability to adapt and evolve. Here are some parallels and comparisons that can be drawn between the two:

Leadership and Guidance

Both as a business leader and a father, you’re in a position of authority and guidance. In business, your team looks to you for direction, inspiration, and decisions that steer the company forward. Similarly, as a father, your children look up to you for guidance, learning how to navigate their own lives based on the principles and behaviours you model.

Strategic Planning

In business, strategic planning involves setting goals, predicting challenges, and mapping out pathways to achieve these goals. Fatherhood requires a similar approach: planning for your child’s education, instilling values, and preparing them for the future. Both roles require looking ahead, being proactive rather than reactive, and preparing strategies that will lead to long-term success.

Resource Management

Managing resources efficiently is crucial in both arenas. In business, you manage time, money, and manpower, allocating these resources where they are most needed to grow the company. In fatherhood, managing resources includes not just the financial aspects of raising a family, but also allocating time—which is often scarcer than money—towards nurturing and supporting your family.

Crisis Management

Whether it’s navigating a market downturn or handling a child that has just ingested talcum powder, both roles require calm, decisive action in the face of challenges. The ability to stay composed under pressure, think critically, and make informed decisions is essential in both contexts. How you handle adversity in either scenario can significantly impact those looking to you for leadership.

Mentoring and Development

As a business leader, you mentor employees, helping them grow professionally and personally. As a father, you mentor your children, teaching them right from wrong and helping them develop into well-rounded individuals. In both cases, the goal is to see growth and development, fostering an environment where they can thrive independently.

Feedback and Adaptation

Continuous improvement in business often involves soliciting feedback and adapting strategies accordingly. Similarly, effective fatherhood involves listening to your children, understanding their needs, and adapting your parenting style as they grow and as circumstances change.

Investment and Return

In business, you invest capital and expect profits; in parenting, you invest time and emotional energy, hoping to raise happy, healthy, and successful children. The ‘returns’ in fatherhood are not financial but are measured in the personal achievements and happiness of your children.

Legacy Building

Ultimately, both roles are about legacy—what you leave behind. In business, it’s about the lasting impact of your innovations and corporate culture. In fatherhood, it’s about the values you instil in your children and the memories you create together.

Both running a business and being a father involve nurturing growth, managing resources, leading by example, and preparing for the future. The skills homed in the boardroom can often be just as effective at home, and vice versa. Each role enriches the other, with lessons from each sphere translating into wisdom in the other. While the specific outcomes differ, the overarching goal is the same: to create something lasting, meaningful, and impactful.

Emotional Availability vs. Economic Stability

Creating a safe, stable environment for my children has always been a priority—a goal I believe I’ve achieved. However, the toll it has exacted is not negligible. Time spent away, in meetings, on calls, meant missed nativities, unnoticed emotional cues, and a perpetual state of physical and mental exhaustion that leaves little room for quality family time. I am often absent, my mind elsewhere, a cue for an engaging conversation passed off for a fleeting “oh that’s nice”.

The question then arises: Have I inadvertently taught my children that success comes at the cost of personal happiness? My children don’t struggle for material things (despite what they may think); they live a life of comfort that I could only dream of in my youth. Yet, I sometimes wonder if I’ve set an example where the pursuit of professional achievement overshadows the simpler, often more fulfilling joys of life.

Have I projected my wants, needs and desires from my childhood on to my children as opposed to what they need. Has the work hard, learn every day, never stop pushing mentality made me unable to enjoy those simple joys of life. Do they bring me the same sense of fulfilment?

The Imposter Syndrome of Fatherhood

There’s an underlying guilt that plagues many fathers today—an imposter syndrome about our roles as parents. Are we doing enough? Are we there enough? The fear that the answer might be ‘no’ haunts many of us, leaving us feeling inadequate despite our best efforts.

Imposter Syndrome is something many feel in their professional roles as accountants, so it is hard to take when it comes from all angles.

Rethinking Success

The challenge for modern fathers lies in redefining what success means. It’s about harmonising the desire for professional accomplishment with the responsibilities of parenthood. We must ask ourselves tough questions about the legacy we wish to leave our children. Is it merely the wealth and status symbolised by a flash car (not me I drive a Ford Focus), or is it the memories of being there for them, both physically and emotionally?

It is only now I feel mentally, emotionally, and financially in a position to do this. Considering my eldest has just turned 18 has lasting damage already been endured.

Reflection

As my son turns 18, I am prompted to reflect not just on what I have provided, but on what I have perhaps missed. For fathers in the business world today, it’s crucial to remember that while our jobs may be to provide, our role is much broader. It’s about imparting wisdom, instilling values, and showing that success is not just about hard work and sacrifices, but about finding joy and fulfilment in our relationships and our passions.

Navigating fatherhood in the modern work environment is complex, it requires constant learning and adaptation. It’s about finding that elusive balance where both home and work receive the attention they deserve—a balance that allows us not only to succeed in business but to truly excel in our roles as fathers.

In the modern working world this is called work life balance. In my reality it is simply called surviving.