Moira here! When I first contacted Christian about doing this post, he was a little reticent – unsure that his experience really fit what I was trying to convey. The truth is, he’s one of the people who’s most inspiring to me. He’s very clear not only on his priorities (both family and career), he’s tried multiple ways of making it all work, and been courageous enough to take the leap and embrace it all. I hope you’re as inspired as I am by today’s post! -M
I first began working for myself during my third year of law school, launching a website and planning to be my own one-man consulting firm as soon as I graduated. It was a strong start and I landed my first client almost immediately. When my wife and I contemplated starting a family, however, I felt irresponsible not bringing in a consistent income and not having a “normal” job, so I took a position at a small law firm. I earned a bi-weekly paycheck, and with it the feeling of conformity and comfort I thought I needed in order to have a child.
The paychecks were consistent, but after our son was born, my wife felt constantly stressed and isolated while I was away from home doing my time on the treadmill. To add to the stress, we were far from family, especially on my wife’s side. I myself discovered a new level of misery as I took the safe route in my career before even giving my first choice option a fair shot. In an attempt to be a good husband and father by having a “normal” job, I lost out personally and professionally, too miserable from work to be emotionally present at home.
In a spontaneous conversation that began one evening the moment I walked in the door, my wife and I decided that I was done with that job. Still, it took many months of job searching after that conversation took place for me to realize an absolutely inescapable truth: the only job for me was the one I had created for myself almost four years prior. Even in job postings that promised the experiences, goals, projects, and schedules that appealed to me, nothing came close. Before Christmas, I had filed my LLC and launched my new website.
I have taken this path because I have a very specific vision for my future and an uncompromising need for total autonomy. As someone who doesn’t believe in moderation when it comes to work, I need to be able to work day and night when I am “on”, but then be able to take extended time off for family time or to pursue other interests. Working 9-5 barely permits me enough time to get in “the zone”, and frankly the idea of working set hours every day for 49 or 50 weeks out of the year is madness. It’s not moderation, it’s mediocrity.
The same goes for personal time. In a typical banking-hour job (or worse, a salaried “9-5” that really ends up being a 7-7) there is adequate time for family, except that it is broken up into tiny increments at the end of each day and week. That’s not relaxing, and it makes larger family responsibilities like hosting relatives from out of town or visiting an ailing grandparent extremely difficult to undertake.
The flip side of working like crazy when I am working is that now I can spend an entire sunny afternoon helping my one-year-old son to walk and run outside instead of working at something of questionable importance just because the clock told me to. For someone like me who is used to a work-centric life, this can sometimes feel like I’m doing like something I “shouldn’t” be doing. Because I have been at home with my son since he was four months old, however, I witnessed his first time crawling and his first steps, and he has been learning two languages at home years before ever setting foot in a classroom.
Starting my own firm has been awkward, irritating, and downright embarrassing. The strange thing though is that if you are willing to endure even just a little of this temporary alienation, you gain respect from the countless people who wish they could do what you are doing. Even before you start generating your income, you may be surprised to find that people – even those completely outside your field – will gravitate toward you and see how they can help you out, simply out of the respect they have for what you are doing for yourself, family, and community. The fun also may start earlier than you would have predicted. Once you are doing what you want to be doing, it’s amazing how you suddenly start building new friendships and having fun experiences centered around your chosen field. Whatever you do, do not give up. On your worst days, just remember how bad it used to be and keep on moving. Turning back is not an option.
Moira again! Christian points out something beyond work-life balance here (though he does a great job of showing that having a good work-life balance in no way means you’re slacking off). Namely, he mentions how many people are excited to see you succeed when you do this. You may think people will be angry or try to tear you down. I’ve experienced the opposite – it was just something I never thought to mention before this!
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