My Wife And I Started A Family On An Entrepreneur's Salary: Here's What I Learned And How We Survived

Adam Theobald / Supplied

My daughter Emily was born seven months ago. My startup, Beat the Q, was two years old and my wife’s income was keeping our family afloat at the time.

Emily is absolutely beautiful but there’s no doubt that balancing a growing business with a growing child provides its fair share of challenges.

The ‘dual startup’ life is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Managing money

Firstly, no one is immune to the financial stress of the startup. As the founder and CEO of a brand new business, I have paid myself a fraction of my previous salary when working in financial markets.

But the issue is not pay, but the irregularly of pay. When you come to the end of the capital cycle, the CEO’s salary is the first to stop. If you get paid at all, you are doing well.

At the end of the day, that is what we – as entrepreneurs – signed up for, but the same can’t necessarily be said for our families.

Startups can admittedly be quite indulgent; we risk short term income for future gain, and as a new parent, it can be tricky to avoid the feelings of guilt over what might be the sacrifice of security for the pursuit of our dreams.

For this reason, it’s an absolute necessity to be open and honest with your partner about your shared financial situation.

It’s likely that with a new baby and a new business, the once comfortable two salary household has very quickly become a no-income household.

Be sure to consult with them on a budget that spells out your limits – this will minimise the pressure you place on your new business, your co-workers, your family, and ultimately yourself.

Managing time

Achieving that elusive work-life balance is a challenge for anyone, no matter the industry, but when you’re trying to balance what are essentially your two babies, the pressure and guilt it places on both these worlds can be overwhelming.

We all want to be able to come home and be the spouse and parent our family deserves, but when there are still a million things left on the work to do list, this can be more easier said than done.

Running your own business, especially a startup, means you don’t get to automatically switch off when you walk through the door at the end of the day.

This is something that has to be practiced and requires conscious effort. You’re constantly juggling your roles, and in my case, often failing to do either as perfectly as you would like.

Managing a crazy week

That being said, there are definitely things you can do to help keep things in perspective. Here are a few tips I like to keep in mind when I’m having a particularly crazy week:

  • Thank your partner daily (in person, not just by text or email)
  • Block out date nights and dedicated family time
  • Switch off the phone and laptop when you can
  • Sleep when you can (I still manage about 5-6 hours a night, but the balance has shifted so that I can offer my wife some extra hours of sleep when I can)
  • Outsource what you can; anything you can do to focus on the family is a win
  • Be aware that no matter how stressful your work is, you have the easy job.

I’m often bemused by the new wave of trendiness surrounding the entrepreneur and startup scene.

The term entrepreneur seems to be going through some sort of reformation from being a synonym for ‘dreamer’ or ‘serial failure’, to now a label for a good mix of lifestyle and and being your own boss. The big question is, what impact does it have on the family unit?

People I know tell me that having a child is the most challenging and rewarding thing you can ever do.

Before Emily was born, those same people used to say the same thing about starting my own business. So I guess I’m in for an interesting ride, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Coming home to that wonderful smile reminds me that it’s all worth it.

I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful, supportive and patient wife who does an incredible job, and who was just crazy enough to marry an entrepreneur.

My daughter didn’t really get much of a say in it all, but I like to think that when she grows up she’ll be just as keen to take risks for the things she’s passionate about.

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