Almost a year and a half ago, my wife and I had our first child. Being a dad, especially at a startup, isn’t easy. People don’t talk about it that often, but it’s a real challenge. I constantly wish I could spend more time with my baby in this important time in her young life. But since she arrived, it’s also been a hugely exciting time for NewsCred, the content marketing company that I co-founded over eight years ago. Just as my daughter was beginning to crawl, we were raising over $40 million in new financing.
Finding balance has been difficult. Before she came into the world, NewsCred was my baby (little did I know!). I consider the challenges I’m facing every day as I seek to strike balance—and that I know the parents who work for us are also facing—as we tackle parental leave and “policies” as an organization.
Working parents are great employees—and I say that not just because I am one myself. They’re incredibly patient and usually have the best time management skills I’ve ever seen. These are people who are time-poor, but deeply satisfied all the same. Their priorities are never in question—family always comes first—and so the time they put in at work is hyper-productive. Yes, we may be a bit tired sometimes, but we’re hard-working and great at multi-tasking.
I have to admit that I’m probably not the best at finding a perfect balance as a working dad and CEO. I’m still working as much as ever. But while taking care of a child isn’t at all the same as exercising, it’s similarly something that you need to make specific time for if you want to do it with excellence. Early in my career, before I was a dad, I competed in triathlons as much as I could. I made time for training even as NewsCred was getting off the ground and growing fast. It simply had to happen for me to stay sane and happy. Today I prioritize family time above working out, of course, but I still actively participate in team events and physical competitions with my colleagues.
In the end, it’s a necessity for businesses and leaders today to recognize that modern families are very different than the traditional roles of mothers and fathers 50—or even 10—years ago. Technology and 24/7 accessibility have brought about two major changes for working parents: First, it reduces a bit of the guilt that comes with something vital to their family happening that they may need to tend to, and second, because they can be reached basically anywhere in the world, the flexibility to take care of things on their own schedule is possible in a way that wasn’t before the smartphone and email took hold.
At tech companies in particular, which are inherently fast-paced and under pressure to meet high expectations, people are expected to work hard. But working hard doesn’t need to equal working long hours. I’m sure working parents feel some concern about job security if they’re leaving frequently to handle personal matters. But the best companies in all of the major tech hubs will be understanding and allow their employees to work when and how they can. Strict hours are a thing of the past, and any parent who has answered emails while rocking a baby back to sleep at 3 a.m. knows that’s a good thing.
Shafqat Islam is co-founder and CEO of NewsCred.