One of the things I learned after leaving Corporate America is that entrepreneurship is much harder than a day job. When you have to be the marketer, the creator, the accountant, the publicist, and the customer support, you often wonder how you can make any decision to move your business forward.
But after over a year of being a full-time parent, I’ve come to realize that being an entrepreneur is a walk in the park in comparison! FT Parenting > Entrepreneurship > Day Job in terms of degree of difficulty.
As a stay at home dad to a newborn, you realize why sleep-deprivation is an effective torture technique used by the CIA. You experience mini-heart attacks on a daily basis because there’s always a close call as they learn to crawl and walk.
You endure pain in your knees and back because you constantly get down on their level to make a connection. Your patience is tested as you read the same books, work on the same dexterity exercises, and use the same hand signs over and over again. Then of course there’s the diaper changing, temper tantrums, and crying.
Despite all the difficulties of child raising, I wouldn’t trade the initial years for the world. The joy you get from seeing your little one smile and waddle into your arms when you enter the room is priceless. There’s also an incredible sense of satisfaction helping your baby reach milestones.
Two Years Of Full-Time Parenthood Seems Like Enough
Now that I’m in my third year of full-time parenthood, I’m beginning to plan ahead. Whereas the typical dad in America might stay at home between 2 – 14 weeks, I told myself that I would stay at home for at least 104 weeks, with the aim of going for 260 weeks until he goes to kindergarten.
Pediatricians say the first two years are the most important developmental years in a child’s life. A child’s brain triples in size from birth to age two and reaches about 75% of an adult’s brain size. Therefore, to be present as much as possible during these first two years seems like a good idea. If he becomes a problem child, at least I gave it my best shot.
Today, however, I’m really not sure if I can last much longer than two years as a stay at home dad. I’ve begun to experience occasional heart arrhythmia from the pressures of simultaneously running a business and helping care for our son with my wife.
I’ve also gained another five pounds from the lack of exercise and constant food delivery. Finally I’ve begun to feel the full force of being a sole provider now that our investments are no longer easily providing a healthy return. Going from 6am – 10pm every day can get exhausting.
Some friends, who have older children, tell me parenting gets easier and more rewarding as children grow. But I can’t count on them being right. Instead, I’m counting on them being wrong so I can hopefully be surprised on the upside.
I need to find some way to unwind before having some type of breakdown. The solution I’ve come up with is taking a year long vacation by going back to work. All my male friends find fatherhood to be relatively easy because they have full-time jobs.
Several mothers I’ve spoken to have found relief in going back to work after three months, although they say they struggle with guilt. But after two years of being a stay at home dad, I don’t think I’ll have much guilt at all, especially if my son goes to pre-school.
Full-Time Work As A Way To Decompress
Here are eight reasons why going back to work could be the perfect vacation from parenthood.
1) A long and peaceful commute. Although commuting was the #1 reason why I hated going to work, since leaving work in 2012, ridesharing costs have come down by over 50% since. No longer do I need to wait for a super crowded bus that is hardly ever on time. I like the idea of sitting peacefully by myself in an Uber or Lyft for 30-40 minutes each morning and evening. During this time, I could daydream, sleep, or consume mindless information on my phone.
2) Easy work objectives. When I worked in banking, there was constant pressure to bring in the most revenue and be ranked in the top 3 with every single client. That’s all I knew for 13 years. When I did some consulting for some fintech startups, I realized this type of pressure was not normal. Despite working in a fast-paced startup environment, I found people at the three startups I consulted for to be much less high strung with much lower objectives. As a result, I believe I can go back to work at most places and not feel the same amount of pressure that I felt in banking.
3) Nice water cooler conversations, holiday parties, and work boondoggles. Nobody works 100% of the time during the work day. There’s a lot of long bathroom breaks, smoke breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, and company outings. I’m always envious of friends who get to go with their work team to a Giants or Warriors game in the middle of the day. I love attending holiday parties and watching colleagues get drunk and making a fool out of themselves in front of their bosses. One time a guy got so drunk he professed his love for his female boss in front of a dozen folks. It was hilarious! Seriously, who doesn’t love having fun on company time while also getting paid.
4) Endless meetings to relax the mind. Some organizations have so many meetings it’s hard to get anything done. Combine so many meetings with water cooler conversations and work boondoggles, it’s no wonder why I found it much easier to get 3X more done in the same amount of time working for myself at home. Getting 1X worth of stuff done at work would be a piece of cake. I’d use all the endless meetings and extra time to zone out and recharge my mental health. I might even go work out for an hour a day as well.
5) A better social life. As an extrovert, I enjoy spending time with people. I have a feeling it’s much harder being a stay at home parent as an extrovert than as an introvert. My wife has the amazing ability to stay at home for an entire week and not go stir crazy. I, on the other hand, start getting grouchy after about one day of being at home. Joining a workforce elevates my chance of having a better social life. I should be able to make new friends and attend the random weekend BBQ or house party. I love those.
6) Optimization of work. Even with blogging, there’s a diminishing level of return. It feels wonderful to work online for 1-3 hours a day and get 90% of the benefits. After the third hour of blogging, blogging no longer becomes fun. By going to work for 10 hours a day and earning a steady paycheck, I could easily maintain Financial Samurai before and after work just like the old days. Maximizing the day brings me joy.
7) More appreciation for family. Distance always makes the heart grow fonder. But if you’re with someone 24/7, you will naturally take that person for granted. By being gone most of Monday – Friday, I’ll appreciate my Saturdays and Sundays with the family more. I’ll plan more fun things for all of us to do. My wife will also appreciate more of my efforts during the first two years of our son’s life and become more independent as well.Finally, my son might miss me more and be more excited to spend time with me.
8) Financial relief. The obvious benefit of full-time work is getting a steady paycheck and healthcare benefits. It was relatively easy providing for just the two of us, but something about having a baby increases your level of financial responsibility to new heights. Having an extra income and insurance source would certainly create more relief, especially if the stock market and real estate market begins to seriously roll over.
We pay $1,625 a month for health insurance as a self-employed family. Then we pay another $120 for dental insurance. That’s nuts! How is this even a reasonable amount to pay when all of us are all relatively healthy? If we stay in San Francisco and have another child, $300,000 a year in gross income might be necessary.
Find The Right Vacation Job
Getting a job at a startup, in banking, or in management consulting would not be a vacation job. Instead, a “vacation job” is one that’s at a huge organization where profits are plentiful. The larger the organization, the smaller your impact. Given management has lower expectations of you and has so much money, your stress will be lower. At a startup, one wrong decision could mean the death of the business.
Organizations that have long-term objectives instead of quarterly objectives are also wonderful. Working for a small-cap public company is probably going to be incredibly stressful because they’ll always be wondering which gorilla will launch a competing product and eat their lunch. Conversely, working at a large private organization could be just the ticket.
I don’t want the term vacation job to be pejorative. I’m simply describing a vacation job as something fun, meaningful, and that can be easily accomplished based on your skill set.
Here are vacation job guesses that would best suit me:
* Venture Capitalist: You get paid well, don’t have to risk any of your money, work reasonable hours, don’t have to build a business, get to attend a lot of social functions, and aren’t judged on performance until the end of the fund’s life (5-10 years). A lot of venture capitalists don’t even have firsthand experience building a business.
* Quant Fund Manager: The computer does all the investing for you once you’ve developed the proper algorithms. So long as you are performing in-line or better than your index, all you’ve got to do is press a button once in a while and you’re golden.
* Index Fund Manager: Your job is to simply stay on top of any changes in a particular index and copy the changes in your index fund. You literally don’t have to think of any new ideas or make any hard decisions because your investors are investing in your fund for the low fees. But you can easily try to market yourself as an Index+ investor with a sexy edge if you want.
* Sports Broadcaster: It would be amazing to be a sideline reporter for every major tennis open. I can easily watch tennis for eight hours a day and talk about tennis for another four hours. Ah, now you know another reason why I’ve been practicing my oral delivery through my podcast.
* Fintech Startup Board Member / Advisor: As someone who lives in San Francisco, worked with dozens of fintech startups since 2009 and organically grew a personal finance site to 1M+ organic pageviews a month, I’d be a good fit for many startups in the financial technology space. I’m connected, have operational expertise, know how to grow a business, and have a platform they can leverage.
Some of you might say “the grass is always greener,” but don’t forget I’ve had plenty of experience being a full-time laborer, entrepreneur, and parent already. I’d love to know if you have a vacation job or know of anybody who has a vacation job. All ideas are welcome. By planning ahead, I hope to increase my chances of landing that perfect gig!
Update 4Q2019: Our boy has finally started preschool at 2 years, 5 months old. School has provided me a consistent three hours a day to relax or do some work to pay for the extra $2,000/month in preschool tuition. I think being a stay at home parent until preschool starts at 2-3 is a great goal.