Can you bootstrap a business if you have young kids?

As a parent of older kids (ages 13-20), I've been reflecting on the challenges of bootstrapping a business while raising young children.

I tried building multiple businesses while my kids were young, and, in retrospect, I'm wondering if I should have waited before I dived into the world of entrepreneurship.

Parenting preschool kids requires an enormous amount of energy.

If you're trying to do that and work a full-time job and bootstrap something on the side... that's just a lot.

If I had to do it again, I would either:

  • Wait until my kids were older before trying to start a business
  • Or, raise a small funding round so I could quit my job and focus on the business during my daytime hours

When I wrote " The Hidden Cost of Bootstrapping," Adii Pienaar replied and said:

"With my first startup, I didn't have a family. My new startup was launched a couple of weeks before we welcomed our second-born boy into the world. Being financially responsible for my family has changed my perspective completely. I was able to self-fund the first couple of months, but I don't have unlimited pockets. It was no fun seeing a decreasing bank account every month."

Culturally, many of us were taught to push the limits: pedal to the metal, give 110%, and turn your amp up to 11!

We max ourselves out in every area: our finances, our relationships, our health, and our careers.

In " The 80% principle," I wrote:

"When the buffet of life presents you with opportunities, it's hard to say no. The problem with overeating is you can't fit anything else in. When you've squeezed your schedule, finances, energy, and family to the limit, there's no margin left."

Our culture encourages parents and families to push themselves to the limit, but I want to encourage some temperance. It's ok to wait until your kids are older to start your business! Create space for the season of life you're in.

"My partner is a superhero"

On Twitter, Peter  mentioned  that starting a business when your kids are young "just isn’t possible unless your significant other is a superhero."

Over on the  MegaMaker  Slack,  Ashraf  echoed this sentiment:

Bootstrapping when you have kids is very (very) difficult. I imagine most of the people who make it look easy have a spouse in the background taking care of 90%+ of raising the kids.

It's important to realize: not every spouse is (or wants to be) a "superhuman."

It's reasonable for your spouse to expect you to just work normal hours, contribute meaningfully to housework and childcare, and have downtime.

I know for many families, the appeal of bootstrapping is the promise of a better life: more freedom, money, time, and flexibility. But there is a cost (especially when your kids are young).

There's no guarantee that your bet will pay off, and you can't get that time with your kids back.

So consider this decision carefully, and make sure you and your partner are aligned. (For many couples, this might include seeing a counselor or therapist to make sure the sacrifice and risk is well understood).

I acknowledge that my experience won't match yours. It's up to you (and your partner) to figure out what's best for you and your kids.

Justin Jackson

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Published on May 5th, 2023
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