My first son, Rocco, has just turned eight.

Eight years ago my wife showed amazing strength and stamina for over 27 hours in a long and arduous labour. I was there … doing my bit … being the water boy (no joke … we had a home birth in a blow-up pool!).

The moment he arrived my world changed, forever. 

I’d always wanted children and it took us many years to have our first. Until he came along I had no idea what being a Dad would be like.

Rocco and his younger brother Enzo (5) are two of the most important teachers in my life. Through parenthood, I’ve experienced children represent one of our, if not our biggest, opportunities for growth.

That is if you’re awake, and open, to that even being a possibility?

My wife and I, like most parents, had a wake-up call when Rocco came along.

The sleepless nights … the realisation that this little being needs you 24/7 (and can’t talk) … the ‘I have no idea what I’m supposed to do’ phase … not to mention the nappies!

The shock to the system of becoming a parent, more often than not, creates a fogginess around the magnificence of having a baby because life changes forever … and nothing prepares you for it. The only ‘clues’ you get are when you see people who have young children and you start saying how excited you are about your upcoming arrival. These parents give you a knowing look and say something like, ‘good luck, get some sleep now before baby comes’ because they know what’s around the corner (and they never tell you, do they?).

Sadly, all too often, it can also breed resentment in parents when kids come along.

New parents often throw around comments like, ‘he’s a nightmare’, or, ‘she’s high maintenance’, or, ‘you’re thinking about having kids don’t go there … it’s a pain in the arse.’

No judgement here. I understand as I’ve said versions of these myself, many times. I am not perfect, but, I have progressed. Progress beats perfection.

Why is it that parents blame their children for impacting their own life and ‘taking away’ perceived freedom? Where do these babies come from ..?

Do children just arrive outside homes via a fleet of low-flying Disney storks?

‘Come on, own up, who put this baby in our house … jokes over now, take it back … please!’

‘Honestly … I don’t know how it happened … I had no choice in the matter!’

Parents seem to forget they, in most cases, chose to create children. They fail to really understand the responsibility involved in that choice and can end up projecting that annoyance onto, and into, the child. Some of this behaviour helps to form the child’s personality. Making them, ‘like that’, whatever ‘that’ is.

Children don’t come out ‘like that’. Parents play a part in creating them ‘like that’. This is both wonderful and scary!

What if Mums and Dads just surrendered to parenthood? Went with it. The ups and the downs. Saw it as a challenge?

What if they went ‘all in’ with it? Did their absolute best. After all, they’re creating a human being, isn’t that incredible?

I see endless similarities between parenthood and business.

A lot of entrepreneurs get started by going self-employed and then start a company.

They love the idea of being ‘free as a bird’ with no ‘boss’ to tell them what to do. And, then there’s the money side, ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires …’

Then reality starts to sink in …

They have a team to manage …

They have suppliers to pay …

They have to create customers …

They have to manage cash flow …

And, as for taking a holiday, forget it … they’re too busy!

What was that about freedom again?

Then, like becoming a parent, resentment can start to sink in, along with victimhood. Which can be projected out onto the business, the culture, the team, customers, partners, kids … everywhere.

‘It wasn’t supposed to be this way.’

‘Why is it so hard? I wish I just had a job, would be much easier.’

‘Why are my team so difficult to manage, I wish they would stop asking all those questions.’

‘You have no idea what its like, you don’t understand the pressure I’m under.’

Can you see any similarities between entrepreneurship and parenthood?

The ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ of parenthood and entrepreneurship look, when imagined, ideal. A picture gets painted in the mind’s eye.

Having kids will be great, we’ll be like the Waltons and, whilst we’re at it, we can create a business as big as Virgin … it’ll be a doddle!’

The reality can be very different.

Choosing to create a business, or choosing to create a child, is a commitment that can last a lifetime. Both come with endless challenge and support.

What if people saw both as projects as being there to guide them to grow into a better version of themselves? Reflecting back the areas they need to uplevel in or grow to develop.

What if they saw them as one big feedback mechanism to help illustrate blind spots to work on? To transform … to evolve.

Most people play the victim. Blaming the child. Blaming the staff. Blaming everyone. Poor me. They forget they had a choice. They forget they can shift their mind to own that choice and take full responsibility to see both parenthood and entrepreneurship as a vehicle to grow.

When I did this, my life changed.

I’m putting my soapbox away for a moment, you can probably see I’m passionate about entrepreneurship and parenthood. If you surrender to them both in a healthy ‘this can help me grow and learn’ way, your life could transform in more ways that you can imagine.

And, this is my own personal experience, having owned several companies with varying degrees of success and failure … and being a Dad with two children where I’ve had varying degrees of success and failure!

I’ve learned so much from both, I encourage you to slow down and see what lessons are there for you.

Here are eight ways (of several hundred I could name) in which I’ve grown since becoming a Dad.

Some can also be transferred into the business space — see if you can spot any and, if you do, feel free to share with me any insights you had whilst reading, I’d love to hear from you.

What Unconditional Love Feels Like

After my first was born I had a moment of pure presence as I held him and he was wriggling and snuffling on my chest. He even went to the loo on me! I didn’t care.

I looked down at him as he slowly opened his eyes and I started crying pure joy. Incredible. I can’t put it into words. Pure love, that’s all.

A wave of emotion is coming over me now as I write this. This is what unconditional love feels like.

How Delicate Humans Are

In my experience, our children are partly a reflection of our parenting and the way in which we see the world.

You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘children are like sponges, they pick everything up,’ well, this, for me, is 100% true. I realised how sensitive children (humans) really are and how the smallest thing can impact their mental and emotional state. Especially how the parent is ‘being’.

I’m not perfect, not by any means, but, through the work I do I see how important parenting is for a child, and how important it is to have a solid bond built through presence and love with both parents.

As adults, we all have a little boy or girl inside us that’s walking around still playing out elements of what happened to us as children via the stories we tell ourselves that have been created from how we perceived the world to be … even as babies.

Understanding this has taught me to work harder to not project my own stories onto my children, aiming for them to form their own characters and be themselves. This, as most parents know, is probably the biggest challenge and I’m by no means a Jedi at this … it’s daily practice!

What Breaking Through Parental Conditioning Feels Like

I remember, when Rocco was about to have his first bath, my wife said, “this is your job, it will be good for you to bond with him”.

What?!? Are you serious?!? I’m too busy!

At the time, I was a very overwhelmed entrepreneur and was working all the hours I could, constantly on the laptop tapping away. The very thought of me having time and space to bath my son daily was so alien to me as I’d grown up in a home where that was ‘woman’s work’. Not being sexist, that’s the way it was, back in the ’70s and ’80s.

Now, I’m so grateful my wife encouraged me to do the daily baths, from day one. It was challenging with a screaming child but it wasn’t always like that, there were moments of pure joy that brought us closer (challenge and support).

At times, it was really hard when I was sleep deprived or stressed from work, and Rocco didn’t enjoy water … but it was so rewarding and that daily routine with both my sons has helped strengthen a loving bond through sharing consistent time together. Laughing and crying. So simple, so beautiful.

I love it when parents I coach get to create space and time to ‘be’ with their children, even if it is just sharing simple moments like this.

The Importance of Surrendering to Life

In the LBK stage (life before kids stage) there seems to be an abundance of time.

When my children came along a huge amount of space and time got filled up with being a parent. Neither of us has any family around to take over from time to time.

Initially, I found this really, really hard to understand and manage, at first.

Until, one day, I said to myself, “you have to surrender to life and being a parent”.

The moment I did that and stopped trying to wrestle my thoughts about how I couldn’t do all the things I used to, and that my freedom had gone, my relationship with me being a Dad shifted. I went ‘all in’ with parenting and I have no regrets.

I’ve created magical memories that will last a lifetime by shifting my perspective.

How to Laugh Again Through Childish Creativity

I play with my sons a lot. Even when I’m tired and want to sit down and read, or relax for a few moments.

Why? Because we all laugh, a lot.

My children have been an amazing tonic for me over the years and we’ve found laughter and joy out of the smallest moments in time. Little comments and observations about the world over dinner, play fights, swimming, wrestling and tickling … lots of tickling. Once again, really simple things that make a massive difference.

And, I get to act and play characters with them. Sometimes, even dress up and just be silly and put on stupid voices and accents. This, I promise, can be a wonderful tonic for an adult if you have a full and busy life.

Playing is sometimes the best medicine … you can rest in bed … later.

Life Isn’t All About Me

One thing being a Dad has shown me is that it’s not all about me.

At times, I used to resent not having the same amount of perceived freedom I did before having children.

At times, I was petulant and played victim to it.

But then, I realised that I made this choice to be a Dad.

Nobody made me have children. I wasn’t forced into it. There was no stork. It was my choice as an adult to become a parent. And, with that choice, I had to own that it wasn’t all about me anymore. Life had evolved and changed to be much, much more.

I can’t imagine not being a Dad now.

The Importance of Being a Partner With Your Wife

One of the keys to successful parenting and marriage is to approach things as a partnership.

I found this really tricky at the start because I believed, initially, that all Dad’s should go out and ‘bring home the bacon’, whilst Mum’s stay at home and did all the ‘other stuff’.

But, that model is just an idea I picked up, a story, a perception. What most people did back when I was a kid.

My wife and I chose, sometimes by design and often by default or trial and error, that being a partnership where we both played an active and present role in our childrens’ lives was something we wanted to create.

It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it. We can both do everything our children need at any time and that allows us both time and space to also follow other areas of our life that bring us joy.

It’s Possible to Be a Successful And Present Parent

I never thought it would be possible to create a successful and fulfilling career and be a present parent. And, it wasn’t an ‘overnight thing’. It took years, with several false starts.

I always thought it would be one or the other, ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it, you know’, as I heard many times growing up.

But you can, as long as you are prepared to innovate, create, and persist in the things that you enjoy and fulfil you. And, to not be greedy with the cake.

I transformed my career after my son was born, I didn’t want to be a grumpy and unfulfilled Dad, I wanted to be there for my son.

I chose to retrain and now, after many years, I have a successful and fulfilling career as a life and business coach and get to work with amazing people all over the world guiding them to create lives they love leading. I guide them to create their version of my journey.

And, I’ve been there for my sons and wife. Every day.

It is possible if you’re willing to work on yourself and focus on what you value. Now, I help other people do the same, thanks to my sons coming along, and I’m also writing a book called ‘Where’s Dad’, about an overwhelmed entrepreneur who’s asleep at the wheel of life with a pregnant wife and two-year-old daughter. Thanks for the inspiration, boys!

You see … parenting can be an opportunity for growth … if you open your heart and mind to the possibility. So can starting a business … depending on how you see it.

What have you learned from having children?

What have you learned from starting a business?

Love and wellness,

David.

Ps. I love you, Rocco, and Enzo. Thank you for being my biggest teachers. And, thank you to my wife, Trix, what wonderful gifts you have bestowed on us … even though it’s sometimes hard to see that when they wake us up in the early hours 🙂

“Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
— Jim Henson.