Two babies: Fathers juggling parenting and a new business

Balancing act: Rob Hango-Zada founder Shippit makes the time for family.
Balancing act: Rob Hango-Zada founder Shippit makes the time for family. Photo: Supplied

Rob knew he couldn't keep working so many hours when he became a new dad.

Sydney man Rob Hango-Zada was never afraid of hard work.

For him, 18 hour days were the norm. His days were split between his role as a marketing manager for Unilever and working on the launch of his fledgling parcel delivery service, Shippit.

I struggled to be present, which completely destroyed any intimacy we were trying to maintain – it was clear I needed to do something about it.

"The next day, I'd wake early the next day to face it all again. Running on adrenalin 24/7 meant little downtime, and the time I did have off was spent flopped on the couch," Hango-Zada says.

Priorities: As fathers take on more active caring roles, their work priorities are changing.
Priorities: As fathers take on more active caring roles, their work priorities are changing. Photo: iStock

But that all changed last year when daughter Audrey was born. "Missing bath and dinner time when you've got a young family can be really taxing. The personal impact of not seeing your child because you're working on your business can be hard," he says.

"Suddenly, as much as I loved where my career was heading and Shippit's prospects, my attention and my heart was being split into two.

"I remember sitting in a cafe with my wife and my attention was suddenly drawn to my Apple watch, which kept buzzing with a million notifications, emails and texts.

"I struggled to be present, which completely destroyed any intimacy we were trying to maintain – it was clear I needed to do something about it. So, I made the decision to create clear mental boundaries between work and family."

Hango-Zada knew he couldn't keep working so many hours, so quit his corporate job not long after Audrey was born.

He's not alone. The pull of fatherhood results in many contemplating self-employment. Should they jump into their own business in the search for greater flexibility and more time with their family? Or, would the jump cost them even more time with their family and be financially stressful?

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It worked out well for Hango-Zada. Shippit has grown substantially, shipping more than 30,000 packages last month – double what they shipped the previous month. Clients include Harvey Norman, Glue Store and TopShop.

Growth brings new challenges, but he uses a technique called time-boxing to juggle his time, giving himself set hours to get a task done.

"It meant assigning headspace to focus exclusively on business, but also setting myself an end point as motivation to finish all my work before heading home."

Crucial time: Fathers are increasingly seeking more work-life balance.
Crucial time: Fathers are increasingly seeking more work-life balance. 

His business partner often works opposite ends of the day, which has helped him cope with the workload.

"I'll work late into the night once everyone is in bed, while my business partner prefers to work hard early in the morning. The odd schedules mean the partnership we share is a powerful and productive one. The output doesn't stop at the end of the working day."

Sydney father-of-two Rob Lowe quit his senior role with Eleven PR to strike out on his own and start his own PR agency called Poem.

"It was easily the scariest thing I ever did. I had a big fat mortgage, and going out on a limb is one of the most terrifying things you can do when you're responsible for other people's livelihoods. I was pulling early mornings and late nights in the beginning."

His saving grace was a business partner to share the load. Lowe advocates the importance of switching off the mobile phone and making time for exercise.

His two children are under five. "I ensure I get home most nights to put the kids to bed, and I'm up first in the morning to get them dressed," he says.

Melburnian Phil Thompson launched financial planning business Thompson Financial Services in Eltham when his first daughter was one. He now has three daughters under the age of four.

"I moved my office to be within 20 minutes of home and make sure I'm home at 5.25pm every night for dinner. I'll almost never take a weekend or night time appointment, and have made this very clear with my clients, who mostly have young families themselves, so this is rarely an issue for them."

Thompson also burns the midnight candle once his family have gone to bed and finishes work early on a Tuesday to watch a ballet lesson. In the summer, he'll have an extended lunch break at the park with his family. But he admits the juggle is challenging, but worthwhile.

Despite the juggle, these three men, at least, have no regrets.

Thompson says: "Having my own business has allowed me to prioritise my family over work. I can be in control of my own priorities and it's not dictated to me by a boss or the company I work for. You can't put a price on this."

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