Alexis Kingsbury lives in Stamford with his wife Sarah and their two kids. Since his early teens, he’s setup multiple businesses including a successful software business that’s now used in over 130 countries. After coming to the stark realisation that his software business was destroying his life (and his relationship with his wife!) he’s now on a mission to help other parent entrepreneurs (‘Parentpreneurs’) find some kind of balance.
Here he tells us a bit about the realities of being a self-employed dad.
When I first started working for myself, I was rubbish at managing the housework and domestic stuff. I told myself that in order to be a serious entrepreneur I needed to treat my day as though I was out of the house (i.e. in an office) so I’d just ignore all the housework. Somewhat predictably, this proved to be pretty frustrating for my wife Sarah! So now I use a checklist and try to get chores done systematically without it disrupting my work too much.
I have a list of things to do before I start work like getting the kids all packed, dishwasher, laundry… Unlike Sarah, I don’t commute, so I happily cover the majority of the household jobs. I enjoy it and it fits in with both of our routines. We then share childcare and drop offs, but she’s in charge of the kitchen. She also insists on picking my daughter’s clothes in the morning as she isn’t keen on my combinations!
I think the most common issue most self-employed parents face is the old ‘work-life balance’ conundrum. It can be really challenging growing a business, paying bills, looking after the kids, doing the housework, making time for your partner… And unfortunately inequality still very much exists and dads do often have fewer expectations when it comes to the family side of things. For example, mums might say that they’re staying in with the kids tonight and it’s a given, whereas some dads might still say I’m ‘babysitting’, like it’s something out of the ordinary.
There can be a real pressure on dads who often feel that they need to bring in the lion’s share of the family income.
On the other hand, there can be a real pressure on dads who often feel that they need to bring in the lion’s share of the family income. Again, this shouldn’t be the case in an ideal world of equality and this definitely isn’t the case for us — my wife has a corporate job and there have been times when she provided the largest income and certainly the most secure. Money pressure can put stress on dads though, particularly dads running their own businesses; effecting short-term decision making where immediate bills being paid are prioritised over long-term business goals.
The skills that you develop when you become and learn to be a parent are incredibly useful when it comes to business — time management, prioritising and committing to tasks. My kids have taught me so much. They are uniquely programmed to test your weakest areas; patience, communication, decision making and planning. Before I had children I always stuck to plans and hated it when things went off course. My kids have really helped me to cope a lot better when things just don’t go to plan!
I travel a bit as part of my business and, if I’m really honest, try not to let Sarah know how much I’m looking forward to it! I can’t deny that it’s hard not to enjoy a good night’s rest in a hotel once in a while. Having said that, I’ve significantly reduced my time away over the past couple of years, especially trips abroad, and rarely go away for more than one night. And when I am away, Sarah sends me photos and videos and we try to get a Facetime call in before the kids go to bed.
Travelling, networking and events are less likely to happen now than if I were single with no children, but that’s because I want to spend time with my family — giving up those things is very much a conscious choice.
It’s hard thinking about products or clients when a tense game of Pop Up Pirate is underway!
Sarah is hugely supportive of what I do. There was one wobble when my software business wasn’t bringing cash in and she challenged me on whether I should be focusing on my freelance consulting instead. It was really important to get the support back from her, as a partner’s support (or lack of) can really make or break a business. We talked, which helped her to better understand my long-term plan and it all paid off in the end as eventually the business proved to be a success. I talk lots more about the importance of a partner’s support in my podcast.
When you run your own business, failure isn’t just expected — it’s an important part of the process. If you’re not making mistakes then you aren’t learning, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to cope with of course. When I finish the day and the family are home, I share the wins and commiserate the failures with them but ultimately, I try to forget about what’s gone wrong or right and be in the moment to spend time with kids and play. It’s hard thinking about products or clients when a tense game of Pop Up Pirate is underway!
Photograph by See Say Do.