The Family Balance

Violette Gets a Portrait Done

I founded Dadomatic a year or so ago, because I wanted a place for dads to be able to talk about parenting. It’s run mostly by Jeff Sass and Doriano “Paisano” Carta, but I still drop in there to write and contribute, as it’s a project that means a lot to me. One thing I want to talk about is the family balance.

The other day, a friend of mine sent me an unfair letter. That was the title. He said that I should reconsider pushing the “work hard through the holidays” message when family matters a great deal and people should be absorbing as much family time as possible. It’s really hard to argue with that message, naturally.

But that’s just it. I don’t disagree.

The Family Balance

On the day I wrote this, my little boy climbed into bed with me in the morning and we read (in exhausting detail) about every Lego minifigure that ever existed via a Christmas present. We named every single one on every single page. Then, my daughter crawled into bed and we read the journal of her Monster High doll, Deuce Gorgon. It’s the journal of a misunderstood 16-year-old monster (his mom is Medusa). And then I got ready for work, kissed everyone, and headed out to work.

I came back home around 1PM and spent some time shooting Nerf darts with my daughter, and then playing a few games with my son, while Kat went shopping for some things she needs for a trip. My job is like that. I can modularize. I work 3 parking lots away from my house right now. I’m not the primary caregiver, but I’m three minutes away by foot.

I don’t write much about being a dad here on [chrisbrogan.com]. It’s not the purpose of this site. I do write about it at Dadomatic, and you don’t have to twist my arm to get me to brag on my kids at conferences. But just because I don’t show you that side doesn’t mean that it’s not very important to me and the way I conduct my business.

More than ever, I’m more home, more connected, and more a part of my family’s life than any time ever before in my existence. AND I work the holidays.

Kitchen Table Companies

Joe Sorge and I are launching Kitchen Table Companies, a community for small business and entrepreneur types, on January 4th. It’s been an idea of mine for almost a year. Why? Because I want to run businesses that can operate from a kitchen table, or that get talked about around the kitchen table, and that get me home in time for dinner. That’s the goal. I want more families to have contact and connection to their family on their own time. That’s why we do WorkShifting with Citrix Online. I believe in the mobile and distributed workforce. I believe that the future lies in giving people back choices like the ones I executed above.

What do you believe?

Popsicle

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  • http://rickcaffeinated.com Rick Stilwell

    Thanks, Chris – great post, and really hits it for how you are feeling more “balanced” and more encouraged by being fully with your family whenever/wherever you’re needed, or as you need them, too. :)

    • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

      Rick – like how you said “fully” with your family. It’s exactly what we need to make sure we take time to do.

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Chris

    I think that you know your family/children best and make the most out of the time that you spend with them. You are interacting one on one with them and having that special time. They, I am sure, love to play with dad but also with mom, grandparents, etc. You then are freed up to be able to give the one on one time to your work. If that falls on a holiday, then it does.

    You are a parent yes but you are also a husband, a son and a businessman. Sometimes each of these roles requires a bit more of your time, but that is all year round. Holidays are important and spending extra time with loved ones is really good but that does not mean that you stop being a businessman. The time you spend with yourself is important too and if during that time you are working as it is something that you enjoy, then work away.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanfields Jonathan Fields

    Thanks, Chris. You and I share that same challenge and quest.

    There’s another side to the conversation about “being there.” And that’s the difference between being physically there and actually having your mind there. Plenty of people unplug at the appointed hour, head home, but leave their heads at work.

    In my book, twenty minutes of being joyfully, playfully, emotionally, mentally fully engaged beats hours of daddy zombie time. It’s not just about being around, it’s about being present while you’re around. That’s not easy when you’re a multi-tentacled entrepreneur, author and blogger, but it’s a helluva worthy quest.

  • http://twitter.com/jmitchem Jim Mitchem

    Once again, you nailed it. I’ve been working out of a kitchen-table company for 10 years (in 2011.) Got to see my kids grow up and actually help raise them. Sometimes finding that balance is still tough, but I have no regrets. I could have gone back to another big ad agency and moved my family for the money, but we opted to let the entrepreneur thing play out. So far, so good. I’m far from wealthy, but richer than my wildest dreams.

  • http://Cookerati.com Diana Hayes

    I believe that if you don’t find time for your family and personal life, that one day you will look around and find them doing the same.

  • Anonymous

    When I did the crazy thing to leave my “cushy” job in 2005 it was for this reason. I am not driven by money (over and above what the hierarchy of needs would imply) and I am not a huge risk taker.

    In 1999 I had to choose between turning into work and spending time at the hospital with family. As it happened my boss “let me go” and made the decision for me. Great, no income but get to focus on family.

    Then in 2008 had a similar situation but I had a business that could (just about) support me AND the very much needed family focus.

    My business was practically on hold for 18 months or more (while I tried to give the outward impression everything was ticketyboo) and is still recovering from that, but every doctor visit, hospital appointment, crisis, school sports day, teacher meeting or play, I can be there. That is priceless.

    It’s about being able to be with your family when it is important or just because you want to, giving them quality time rather than feeling torn or distracted, and being able to provide for them so they get everything they need too :)

  • commoncents

    “”I believe that the future lies in giving people back choices like the ones I executed above.

    What do you believe?”” ~~~~~~~ I Believe You Are Right!

  • http://www.retirepreneur.com Donna Kastner/Retirepreneur

    While challenges are everywhere (blizzards, the economy, stupid people, etc.), there are still many more opportunities. Success is less about IQ and capital and more about belief, persistence, relationships and choices. Workshifting helps us to perfect the balance between work and family life, but it still comes down to the user… and sometimes, user error is our biggest challenge.

  • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

    Chris, these words are music to my ears. I worked corporate & high tech for 15 yrs. When I worked at Sun Microsystems for 7 yrs I had a decent work life/bal. I worked from home, traveled some, hung in office. I hugged my kids in mornings, worked hard and then put them to bed. I then went to another high tech data storage company (which I won’t name but starts with an “H” and ends with an “i”. It was the worst job I could have ever had. I literally worked 24/7 from my own home. I was sold a work/life balance yet I spent my life on an airplane, driving projects that were never going to turn a positive ROI and were only done to keep my boss in her job for another quarter. It became the “WHY ” I will never go back to corporate and why I am so determined to help those that also want to escape and never go back.

    My point is that the best thing about being an entrepreneur is that we have the CHOICE. We get to choose when we eat, take a break, read to our kids and even take a shower. LOL

    I can so relate to your words as I know many think I work too much, am online 24/7. What they don’t know is I do it in my gym clothes or jammies half the time and that I have my 6 and 10 yr old beside me playing their banjo & Nintendo DSI while I tweet.

    I have had several big companies call me for jobs since leaving corporate. Jobs with fat paychecks. Yet no money is worth giving up my ability to make a choice of how I spend my time most days.

    It’s choices. We need to choose to live and not forget the relationships that matter the most.

    Thx as always for a great post. I need to get over to your Dadomatic site and can’t wait to learn more about your new Kitchen Table venture.

  • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

    Chris, these words are music to my ears. I worked corporate & high tech for 15 yrs. When I worked at Sun Microsystems for 7 yrs I had a decent work life/bal. I worked from home, traveled some, hung in office. I hugged my kids in mornings, worked hard and then put them to bed. I then went to another high tech data storage company (which I won’t name but starts with an “H” and ends with an “i”. It was the worst job I could have ever had. I literally worked 24/7 from my own home. I was sold a work/life balance yet I spent my life on an airplane, driving projects that were never going to turn a positive ROI and were only done to keep my boss in her job for another quarter. It became the “WHY ” I will never go back to corporate and why I am so determined to help those that also want to escape and never go back.

    My point is that the best thing about being an entrepreneur is that we have the CHOICE. We get to choose when we eat, take a break, read to our kids and even take a shower. LOL

    I can so relate to your words as I know many think I work too much, am online 24/7. What they don’t know is I do it in my gym clothes or jammies half the time and that I have my 6 and 10 yr old beside me playing their banjo & Nintendo DSI while I tweet.

    I have had several big companies call me for jobs since leaving corporate. Jobs with fat paychecks. Yet no money is worth giving up my ability to make a choice of how I spend my time most days.

    It’s choices. We need to choose to live and not forget the relationships that matter the most.

    Thx as always for a great post. I need to get over to your Dadomatic site and can’t wait to learn more about your new Kitchen Table venture.

  • http://www.brainyfeet.com Laura White-Ritchie

    Our quests for 2011 are similar. I recently launched a new site, BrainyFeet, and I’m planning to launch a membership site called DIY Families in early spring. Both sites are for people who want to live family-centered lives through all flavors of home employment & all styles of home education. There is so much to be said for the effort it takes to live a simple, meaningful life in today’s culture of more, faster, shinier & better.

    Yes, we need to make money…but that’s too vacuous to be a life goal. Money is just a means to an end. Happiness is the end. What brings you happiness? That is the real question.

    For me and my readers that might include the autonomy to change the whole direction of your business when inspiration strikes, the freedom to take an impromptu road trip through the northeastern states when the kids are studying U.S. history, the choice to drop everything for an afternoon tea party with your girls and their favorite dolls, the ability to set work aside when a family crisis takes priority…hell, the ability to set your own damn priorities! None of these things preclude working and making money…they all just kinda blend together to create one amazingly wonderful life.

    Despite the occasional overwhelm and the predictable household insanity, I absolutely love, love, love this life and I can’t wait to spend 2011 helping other families have it too!

  • http://twitter.com/alebegoli AlessandraFarabegoli

    I agree with you. I left the web agency I lead in order to work as an independent consultant, right to be able to choose how to spend my time and find the right balance between my work, that I love, and my family (I’m the mother of a 5yrs old boy). I also believe it’s possible to make business in a human and profitable way, for small businesses and freelances, also in Italy (where I live); so I’m trying to build a consultancy service for small businesses, and your blog is one of my sources of ideas and inspiration. Thank you :-)

  • http://twitter.com/alebegoli AlessandraFarabegoli

    I agree with you. I left the web agency I lead in order to work as an independent consultant, right to be able to choose how to spend my time and find the right balance between my work, that I love, and my family (I’m the mother of a 5yrs old boy). I also believe it’s possible to make business in a human and profitable way, for small businesses and freelances, also in Italy (where I live); so I’m trying to build a consultancy service for small businesses, and your blog is one of my sources of ideas and inspiration. Thank you :-)

  • http://www.thatbookkeeper.com thatbookkeeper

    Well, this is one of my favourite posts yet. I have to admit I have never heard of Dadomatic, and the next thing I’m going to do after posting this is to check out that site.

    I also really like the idea of the Kitchen Table Companies. This year was the first one that I worked exclusively from home, and I would love some insight from other people doing this. Trying to search out good information about home businesses always leads to and endless supply of fake “business opportunities”. I would be very excited to have a resource from someone I already read and trust.

    I guess I’ll look for it on the 4th.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ The JackB

    For the past 4.5 years I have worked out of a home office. At times it has made me crawl up the walls- I work harder and longer than I ever have before- with less security. But my kids see me all the time. I may not have as much time as I would like with them, but I am around.

    And I never miss school/team activities- just doesn’t happen. But there is a price and that means that I work on weekends and holidays. I may not work all day, but I have to put time in. I work late hours and don’t get enough sleep, but I get the time in with the kids.

    I am grateful to be able to do it. Even when I bitch about how hard it is to work while they are on break, I still love having them around. Not to mention that I time my lunch break to coincide with whenever they eat.

    There is nothing better than being a father.

    • http://twitter.com/vcmcguire Virginia/Claire

      Jack, your experience sounds pretty much identical to mine. I have a home office, and it means I can flex my work schedule around family needs. It also means I work really odd hours. It’s very rare for me to put in an 8-hour work day, but I do work pretty much 7 days a week, all year round. I’m trying to shift back towards working a few longer days a week so that I can take real weekends, at least some of the time.

      I am around a lot, and I do pick my son up at school nearly every day, and I do make it to school events. I host a lot of playdates, which means I get to know his friends, and I can sometimes get work done while another kid is here to entertain him.

      But I think I need to do better shutting down the work side of my brain completely so I can focus on my family more fully when I am with them. Somebody mentioned being “zombie dad.” I have the “zombie mom” problem sometimes–where I’m physically present and I’m answering questions about the solar system and making dinner and so on, but I’m abstracted and my mind is elsewhere.

      Sometimes the balancing act works better than others, but in general I love being self-employed, love having the happy distraction of a 7-year-old boy in the house, love this crazy life I’ve constructed.

  • http://www.losingmycrackers.blogspot.com Bonny

    What do I believe?

    I believe that if people worked a little harder at achieving some sort of balance the other 360 days of the year, the idea of working on the days surrounding the holidays might not be such a hot button. Sure – we should absolutely take time for our families during the holidays. But if we’re ignoring them the rest of the year, taking time off from work at the end of December isn’t going to do a lot to make up for that.

    • Anonymous

      While I agree, I don’t think that is the whole story. The holidays, particularly in religious families, are more significant than the other 360 days. Would your son or daughter rather see you on their birthday or would any day do? Not all days are equal. You did say “surrounding” so I take it to mean you don’t expect putting in the time the rest of the year lets you off the hook for working Christmas day, but I wanted to point out that the holidays are emotionally charged in other ways than just being a number on a calendar :)

  • Kradr2

    A circle of life.

    Think about it symbolically, what does the table represent ?

    Let make it a round wooden table made from the tree of knowledge. better, lets make it the ancient tree of wisdom. The wisdom is this, before modern civilization and the vast majority of our time on earth we sat around in circle much like your table. It is our center. Our family, our business, and we are pretty much lost with out it… It’s our foundation and that is the best place to start.

    Much of our modern ills can be traced back to this broken circle.

    • Kradr2

      Just thought of this, rings on ancient trees are different than modern harvested wood … Via rings we can tell the time of the wood , amongst other things …. So ancient trees speak of a different time, were in trees were allowed to set deeper roots and this grow to be wiser , in a wiser time.

    • Kradr2

      Let me rework this a bit. Prior to the industrial revolution all most everything was family based. Education and business basically grew out from the table / family circle. Everyone had a point of reference much like a Church at the center of the city in Europe…. People and things need a center / focal point to orient themselves to everything else … Synergy emerges from a collective center.

    • Kradr2

      Let me rework this a bit. Prior to the industrial revolution all most everything was family based. Education and business basically grew out from the table / family circle. Everyone had a point of reference much like a Church at the center of the city in Europe…. People and things need a center / focal point to orient themselves to everything else … Synergy emerges from a collective center.

  • http://www.10hoursaweek.com Patrick McCrann

    Chris, well put, and I think this context really helps your original post. I am a new reader, impressed with the quality and quantity of your output(s), but obviously took your initial post in the wrong spirit. Your call to work during the holidays seemed on the surface to be about doing more, but now I understand it to be about being strategic with your work, not about making sacrifices at home.

    I think every single one of us has our own levels of balance. I run my companies from home so I get two days a week with my girls; it’s a blessing but I know many others who are equally happy and well-balanced with far less time together.

    Thanks again for the thought leadership and motivation!

  • http://twitter.com/rosiemedia Rosie Marquez

    Loved this post! In total sync with one of my three words for 2011: “Being”. Being in the moment when I’m with my family. You articulated what I was thinking when you explained how you’re able to “modularize.” Your time is yours to step in and out and be there for your family. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.TheDADvocateProject.com Anonymous

    Chris, I’m a big believer that our generation of men is changing how we approach fatherhood. I believe this so much so that I started The DADvocate Project this time last year. I believe we put a higher value on being available to our families than past generations and I think posts like this one show how we are changing our work focus so that we can ensure we also have our family focus.

  • Gary Watkins

    Thank you for that one Chris, a very timely reminder for all of us as we start a New Year, wishing you all a happy and healthy 2011.

    Gary

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m right there with you. For those who don’t have the power of choice, they may not really understand. Their world is governed by a 9-5 perspective that savors every “Snow Day” or slow holiday week or whatever.

    For others, who have seized back the choice… it just looks different because we have the ability to shape time in a way that best fits us and the balance of our work and family.

    I believe it looks different for each of us but the important part is making sure we’re all doing our best to do good work and be the husbands and dads (or wives and mothers) that we can be. Both can happen at the same time, if we choose.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m right there with you. For those who don’t have the power of choice, they may not really understand. Their world is governed by a 9-5 perspective that savors every “Snow Day” or slow holiday week or whatever.

    For others, who have seized back the choice… it just looks different because we have the ability to shape time in a way that best fits us and the balance of our work and family.

    I believe it looks different for each of us but the important part is making sure we’re all doing our best to do good work and be the husbands and dads (or wives and mothers) that we can be. Both can happen at the same time, if we choose.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m right there with you. For those who don’t have the power of choice, they may not really understand. Their world is governed by a 9-5 perspective that savors every “Snow Day” or slow holiday week or whatever.

    For others, who have seized back the choice… it just looks different because we have the ability to shape time in a way that best fits us and the balance of our work and family.

    I believe it looks different for each of us but the important part is making sure we’re all doing our best to do good work and be the husbands and dads (or wives and mothers) that we can be. Both can happen at the same time, if we choose.

  • http://hannahsharvest.com Hannah Marcotti

    I was surprised by the reactions to the work harder post. I loved what you wrote today. However, I already knew all that. It is one reason that I am so drawn to read what you write. Because you are father/husband/man doing what you love, making the world a better place.

    I am asked all the time how as the primary care giver to my 3 kids that I run a business. The answer is that I am on my couch, at the kitchen table, and I have support.

    I love that you are a role model for redefining how men work and are with their families. That comes out through everything you write, to me. That makes a relationship stronger. That is what holds a family together. Loving what you do, and doing it surrounded by those who are part of why you do it.

    I love being fueled by loving what I do. Inspired by others who have made it rock out, such as yourself, continues to inspire me, helps me talk to my inner critic and know that so much is possible.

  • http://twitter.com/zwillingswelten zwillingswelten

    Hi Chris,

    one of my favorite posts here. As a father of twins (2.5 years old), I have the possibility to work at home at the moment. There are harder and good times for this Kitchen Table Company ;-) – I really look forward reading more about it and stay in contact with others… like @thatbookkeeper wrote before.

    Sven

  • Smartstart

    It is possible to be there for family and work holidays too. I’ve done it all my life. And many of my CEO friends have too. [Of course, in all fairness, I must also say that many have not -- their choice, often regretted.]

    You just have to live and work in a way designed to eliminate the “regret” factor. For example, all my client contracts specify dates I will not be available for work, no matter what. [These are reserved for my children's special days [we celebrate the date they were conceived in a really big way], their birthdays, graduations, important events [they define "important"], school activities etc.]

    When they were older [around age 12 & 13, I think], they sat in the front row of the audience at the places I would speak. One of our favourite memories is the first time they did this and then were blown away by the many people who swarmed the stage to speak to me afterward. They couldn’t believe people would actually follow us all the way back to the hotel and run up to me in airports to see if it was really me and chat. They asked me if I was some kind of rock star or something and did this always happen when I was away on business. [The answer was "no" to rock star and "yes" to being chased a lot.]

    The kids had a say in the building of the SMARTSTART business. I gave them opportunities to contribute that reflected their strengths and talents. They weigh in on some of the decisions. They share in the profits and help plan and monitor the operating budget. It was a way to teach them about business that made it all real for them. And it’s been very gratifying to see how they assimilated the lessons and are now applying them to their own lives as they head out into the world to make their own way [they are 17 and 19 now].

    To your point, Chris… when you participate fully in family life, you can make time to work on holidays with no ill effects at all. Rock on, Dad!

  • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

    I believe that we can’t judge.

    We can’t judge work at home parents and we can’t judge parents who leave the home to go to an office everyday. There are people who view me as someone who is lazy or unemployed because I work from my kitchen table. They seem to feel as if those who work at home are too lazy to go out and find real work. There are also those who believe moms who work at an office job are putting work ahead of family. I’ve been in both situations and know that neither is true.

    We can argue the pros and cons of our choices until the cows come home without ever reaching a conclusion. We can’t judge. We’re the only ones who know what’s best for us and our families. Your life is working for you and your family and that’s all you need to know. My family is happy with the choices my husband and I make, and that’s all we need to know.

    We can’t judge.

    • Anonymous

      We can’t judge but we can tell people why we are happy with our own choices

      • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

        You are absolutely right, Chris.

  • Jeremy Powers

    I am so glad to see this post. Your post the other day, about working through the holidays, had me leaning back in my chair – “Maybe this isn’t the type of guy I should be respecting.”

    This post re-affirms my earlier impression of you: insightful / hardworking leader and family man.

    I think big company employees talk about work/life balance, while entreprenuers just view life as life.

    A client was asked by his employee, “What is our holiday schedule for New Years?” The client responded, “Whatever you think is fair to me and your family.” THAT earned my respect.

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  • Anonymous

    hmmm. not sure.

  • Anonymous

    hmmm. not sure.

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  • http://gregfaherty.blogspot.com/ Greg Faherty

    AMEN. I had the opportunity to work freelance from my ‘home studio’ this summer and while I was actually working a lot more hours both my wife and my kids felt like I was around and available much more. I really enjoyed being able to wake up and head straight down to my desk and log a few hours in before they were even out of bed. I was able to have lunch with them or go for afternoon walks and without worrying about my productivity or time because I was easily able to shift things around to meet my deadlines. I find it more than a little ironic that during a time when my monthly income was not guaranteed (no contracts, most of my projects were week to week at best) I experienced far less stress than any time in the past 5 years at least. It was the best summer I have spent in a long time . There are more reasons for this than simply working from home but that was a big part of the equation. This isn’t for everyone but it most certainly is for me.

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  • http://TheAnywhereOffice.com/ Phil Montero

    I completely agree Chris! I often talk about “work-life integration” rather than “work-life balance”. As an entrepreneur and/or small business owner you can use today’s technology to integrate your work and your life. For me (and obviously from your post for you as well) that means being able to take care of work and have plenty of time for your family and personal pursuits. Balance often makes people think of hard lines and the two (work and life) having a virtual tug of war against each other. Whereas integration, or as Cali Yost would say “work-life-fit” you find a way to make the two work together. Depending on the need your time can shift as needed which is actually the ultimate flexibility. That is why I am a such a proponent of The Anywhere Office and Workshifting. Even if I have to do some work during a vacation that is often a vacation I couldn’t have taken 5 years ago.

    Distributed work and workshifting now allow us choices and flexibility of workstyle we didn’t have before – and I say HUZZAH to that!!

  • http://www.coopersbarnyard.com Frankie Cooper

    Family is important and yu should spend as much time as possible with them.

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