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Doing it all

A family's hands

I’ve been struggling a little bit to re-find my creative rhythm and balance it with the needs of having and supporting a family.

My day — every day — looks like this:

  • Woken up by baby
  • Get baby ready for daycare (breakfast, clothes, etc)
  • Walk to daycare and back
  • Eat breakfast
  • Work
  • Walk back to daycare and back to retrieve baby
  • Play with baby
  • Make and have dinner
  • Put baby to bed
  • Post-baby exhaustion time / other household work

That last bullet point in my day is where I could be doing more to work on creative projects. By that time, though, I’m usually wiped out by the day: I’m not going to produce anything close to good work. It’s a great time to read and reflect, but less so to produce anything new, because by that time I’ve spent my entire day producing.

This is in contrast to my twenties, when I’d return from work and be able to spend at least a few hours working on creative projects. That’s how my startups were initially built, and really how I learned to do anything of value.

Now, obviously, my baby is incredibly important. Spending time with him is non-negotiable: anything that reduces that contact time is something I’ll regret later in life. Raising our child takes priority, by some distance, over any other work I’ll ever do.

But I’m also pretty sure other people have figured this out.

There are novelists, artists, creative coders, and startup entrepreneurs who have all found time for their other pursuits in the midst of having a family and doing it well. I feel, though, that I haven’t yet cracked the code.

It’s also occurred to me that if I was simply less exhausted, I’d be able to do more. That likely comes down to some combination of mental and physical fitness. The latter is easy to pinpoint: if I do more exercise, I’ll likely feel better and more energetic. (Baby’s first year of daycare has also meant that everybody gets sick every two weeks, which has not been helpful.) The former has been harder to come by; life has been a lot for the last few years at least, partially because of external factors, and partially because of bad decisions of my own making.

I’m hardly alone. One of the hidden aspects of privilege is access to time. Consider the act of taking him to daycare: we pay a little over $1,800 a month for our fifteen month old to be cared for as part of a small class during the day. In turn, that allows us to work during the day and make money. But imagine if we couldn’t afford an extra $1,800 a month to begin with. (Most people can’t.) Some extended families are able to provide care — the old “it takes a village” maxim — but that care has traditionally created a disproportionate burden for women, and it is more likely to be undertaken in lower income families.

The average age of a successful startup founder is older than you might think: 45 years old. But a lot of founders are younger, in part because they have more time and fewer commitments. When older founders do have time, it’s either because they’re paying for childcare, or their partner is taking the brunt of the childcare work (and probably housework, and so on), or both. This feels like an inclusion problem to solve! Stronger childcare support overall — perhaps like Canada’s new $10 a day childcare system — would free up lots more diverse entrepreneurs and artists to be able to build and create.

I’m comparatively lucky, and my issues are more prosaic. I’m just tired. But for absolutely everyone, more help would probably not go amiss.

If you have a young family and you are managing to spend time on creative work, I’d love to learn from you. Leave your strategies in the comments?

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