Why Entrepreneurship Is the Goal for Traditional Dads
Disclaimer: If you’re not into traditional families and gender roles, you won’t like this article. I’m not interested in preaching the merits of dad-as-provider to those who don’t agree. You do you. I just want to start a conversation with those who do identify with that philosophy.
Down to Brass Tacks
With that out of the way, let me get really clear: if you’re a husband and a father, you should probably be spending a lot more time with your wife and kids.
Heaven knows I should. I feel shame every time I think about it. But between trying to keep the mortgage and utilities paid, and keeping up with the Joneses enough that they don’t adopt you as the neighborhood charity case, you spend more waking hours away from your family than you do with them.
Okay, so maybe I’m just talking to myself. Especially the part about being adopted as an apparently underprivileged family project, is just my own experience. I’m sure you do better with your finances, and it doesn’t break your budget to buy your kids’ school clothes somewhere other than Walmart and Goodwill. Great! I’m not jealous. Really, I’m not. But I’m guessing that you’re still working too many hours at your job, away from your home, and wife, and kids. Even if it’s for the noble cause of saving for your kids’ college education and your own retirement, it’s still hard on your family. But I don’t think it has to be this way.
We all seem to have bought into a set of assumptions about how we need to make a living, and what it takes to provide for our families. We really need to re-think those assumptions!
The Way It Used to Be
Throughout most of history, fathers were not absent from their families for 40–60 hours a week, in order to provide for them. This whole “job” thing is a recent invention that came with industrialization.
In agrarian societies, most families worked a piece of land. Dad may have been out in the fields for a lot of the day, but children helped with that work, and they all ate their meals together as a family. The work was also seasonal. Summer months typically meant a lot of physical work outside, especially at planting and harvesting times, but winter months meant most of the day was spent indoors, together as a family. This was life on the farm. Ranchers and herders had similar work and family patterns. Even shopkeepers and tradesmen frequently worked out of homes that also served as their business establishments.
And in hunter-gatherer societies, families seem to have spent even more time together. When the tribe or clan moved, everybody picked up and moved collectively. When a hunting party came back from the hunt — which didn’t usually happen every day—the game harvested was cooked, eaten, preserved, and celebrated by the entire group. Multi-generational and extended families worked side-by-side on a daily basis.
I’m not suggesting that our ancestors followed the One True Way, and we need to learn to live like they did. As nostalgic as I am, I really prefer indoor plumbing and Google searches to seasonal migration and oral traditions. Nor would I trade modern conveniences for plowing the family farm and churning my own butter.
So Now What?
What I’m really trying to say is that fathers generally had more time and more frequent interaction with their wives and children, before the advent of factory and office jobs. They were able to provide for their families, and enjoy time with them at home. That is the part of the equation that I want to figure out and put back in my life.
The really difficult question is: how do we do that?
In a word: entrepreneurship.
Create your own job. Consciously design a source of income that allows you to work from home and spend much more time with your family. Possibly even working with your wife and kids, to get even more time together, and lots of teaching opportunities. Family businesses are as old as commerce itself.
I’m not suggesting that becoming an entrepreneur is a perfect solution, or that it will work for everyone. There’s risk involved, and a massive amount of hard work. You might start a business that never gets off the ground. Or one that fails magnificently. Or maybe one that just turns out to be less rewarding than the corporate job you had before you started it. There are no guarantees.
But it is the best solution I’ve seen, and one that serves as the ideal of spending time with our families, not just spending all of our money on them. Besides, you can be smart, and not risk what your family needs. Don’t quit your day job! Start with something small, on the side. Work, learn, test, grow. Lather, rinse, repeat. Don’t bet the farm, and don’t burn through your savings. When you’re so successful that you can’t keep up with the demands of your business, you’ll know it’s time to transition over to it, full-time. Or maybe just half time. Don’t be timid, but be safe. We’re trying to build closer families, not traumatize them so they hate the thought of entrepreneurship! (Just trust me on this one. It’s not pretty.)
Are You Up for the Challenge? If you’ve stuck with me this far, maybe you’re up for this kind of quest. Or maybe you’re just curious. Either way, let’s talk. I can’t claim to have the answers, but I have studied the questions for longer than I should have. And I can let you in on a few “what not to do” lessons. But now it’s time for action.
I’m still trying to figure this whole “becoming an entrepreneur while not risking the security of my family for whom I am the sole provider” thing out for myself, and I’ll be documenting my experiments as I go.
I’m also hoping to find a few other dads interested in taking the same journey, especially since I need somebody to be accountable to. Like when I put off doing the hard thing I need to do, in favor of studying the problem some more, because I’m scared spitless for no good reason, and I can’t seem to make myself do it. Stuff like that. And maybe I can help you through the same kind of things.
If so, connect with me at EntrepreneurFathers.com.
This article originally appeared at Medium.com.