Where I Am Supposed to Be—The Parenting vs Entrepreneurship Struggle

It’s 4:58 PM on a Tuesday.

A glance at the sticky note that compiles my to-do list for the day elicits an audible sigh that feels like defeat. Too many tasks now have to be bumped to tomorrow. I set my Skype status to “Away” and walk the two flights of stairs down from my attic office to relieve the babysitter of her duties. As I descend I’m thinking of how I’ll spend the next hour with my 9 month old son. Should we sit on the porch? Maybe take a walk? Read together?

I make a mental note to myself. These are the correct thoughts to be having right now. Right?

What I’m trying to not think about is that I didn’t work a full eight hours. That I left some task incomplete. All the emails that need to be answered and sorted. The mounting expenses in Quickbooks to audit.

Instead, a new mantra repeats as I take each step:

This is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is where I am supposed to be.

It’s 3:48 PM on a Monday.

My laptop is in my backpack, slumped precariously in the passenger side of my car. With it, there are a smattering of sugary morsels in small plastic packages ready to be devoured by a hungry 10 year old who is leaving school before snack time.

The snacks are ignored. Instead, our thirty minute drive to her therapist is wrought with the agonizing volleys of tear-inducing banter.

“Why do I have to go? I doesn’t make me feel any better — it makes me feel worse.”

We go so we learn how to manage our emotions better.

“I can manage my emotions fine—I don’t like coming here; it’s not helping.”

It’s valuable to have someone to talk to other than me or your mom.

“I hate it here—I wish I didn’t have to do this.”

We all have to to learn about ourselves and our feelings. Learning how to react to different situations is important to growing up.

This heartbreaking conversation continues on until we arrive. I grip the steering wheel tight, keeping my own emotions in control, and park the car.

This is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is where I am supposed to be.

It’s 7:23 PM on a Saturday.

I’m sitting on the landing at the top of the stairs outside of my son’s bedroom. The timer on my iPhone is counting backwards from 7 minutes. It hits zero and he’s still crying—I quietly venture into his room, calmly replace the pacifier into his mouth and whisper some shushes into his ear while rubbing his back until he quiets again. Enabling Parent-Ninja Mode, I ever-so-carefully exit his room (squeaky floorboards avoided, creaky door neutralized) and retake my position sitting on the top step.

Sleep training is a marathon. Each night is presented as another mile to conquer—never enough confidence that you’ll be able to carry on after this one is behind you.

Life piles up while the counter winds down. Dinner has not been eaten yet. (I’m not even sure we have anything to make dinner out of.) The lawn needs to be tended to. House projects of all sizes sit and wait out their turn to be tackled.

Yet, I start the timer again and think immediately of the mantra.

This is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is where I am supposed to be.

It’s 9:13 AM on a Wednesday.

We are supposed to be the modern hustlers. Digital entrepreneurs. Shapers of the new gig economy, defining the future of work. We run our businesses with a vigor that is supposed to demonstrate our complete and helpless devotion for what we do. Many of us would say we’d do it for fun, if it wasn’t already our job. It’s our passion.

As a consequence, it is easy to justify working more. I did it for years.

Our children are the first casualties. Growing up happens fast and it only happens once. The relationships with our spouses, parters, etc. — they fail spectacularly, unraveling in slow motion with each promised then missed obligation.

Ask me when did my daughter take her first step or was she nervous for her first day of kindergarten and I can’t answer either. Long hours at the agency, business travel, and a constant stream of networking events all took priority.

That is no longer who I want to be. That is not the life I’m nurturing.

We adapt to survive and I needed to change.

The truth? My business isn’t thriving. (It isn’t withering either; this essay isn’t a plea for sympathy.) Instead, work and design are no longer my primary motivator for living. Business-ing now comes in as a far off second place finisher. It’s not a sacrifice. It is the way in which I was supposed to be behaving all along.

And now?

I am doing the things I’m supposed to be doing. I am where I am supposed to be.

Designer of Digital Experiences Since 1999. Senior UX Designer @ BankMobile