How on earth do you combine a busy working life with a new baby without suffering burnout? New dad Marc Shelkin didn’t know either, so he set up a support group to help.
Marc Shelkin worked 15 hour days before the birth of his daughter Talia, four months ago. Here he tells DaddiLife about balancing running a small business with new fatherhood, and why he set up the LinkedIn group Dads at Work to share tips and advice on how it might best be achieved. Here’s our Q&A with Marc.
Tell us a little of your life before your child came along…what was your work/life balance like, for example?
Marc: Before our baby girl Talia came along I spent a good 15 hours a day working. I run a social media and digital marketing business – The Social Shop – and due to the 24/7 nature of social media, I would work the normal eight hour day then come home and continue working in front of the TV.
Apart from a stag party, birthday or family occasion, sadly my social life wasn’t massively exciting. I like to keep a low profile, catch up on boxsets, see friends and family and have the odd pint here and there. My raving days are behind me with the constant worry of running my own business.
How important is work to you – both financially and otherwise?
Marc: Work is extremely important to me as it gives me and my family options not just financially but to also get involved in things we are passionate about. In my twenties money was everything, it was my main focus. That was until I met my wife and had someone to plan a future with. Providing for my wife and baby gives me a strong sense of purpose and gives me the drive to do better every day.
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Your daughter is four months old…How have those four months been?
Marc: Without doubt the most challenging of my life so far. We had a complicated birth which meant my wife was out of action for six weeks. As I work for myself I was still required to work for my clients during the first two weeks after Talia’s birth – there was no paternity leave. I managed to do that while making sure my wife and newborn were doing ok.
We are lucky with the friends and family who supported us at the time because being mum and dad whilst running a business is so so difficult. With the lack of sleep, new found respect for my wife, learning to be a dad and keeping the business alive I have found it really hard, a lot harder than i thought it would be.
How has new fatherhood affected your work?
Marc: Before Talia came along I worked in a co-working space but since her birth I have worked from home and really found it challenging with so many distractions. The pros are that I get to see my baby grow and develop every hour, day, week, and month, but I tend to spend much less time working. Those 15 hour days are now squeezed into eight hours. I have had to become more efficient to maintain the same level of productivity.
Do you ever feel guilty about not being able to devote enough time to either your daughter or your business?
Marc: It took me three months to find a balance between work and supporting my wife with Talia. So far so good as the business is growing and I get to feed, change, bath, play, teach and learn from my baby.
You set up the LinkedIn group so that other dads at work could learn from each other. What do you want it to achieve?
Marc: Before the birth I read a ‘becoming a dad’ book, attended NCT classes and watched the ‘What to expect’ app every week. Post birth it felt like there wasn’t anywhere I could continue to ask questions. One month after becoming a dad I set up the Dads At Work group on Linkedin as a place for others in a similar situation.
It’s a brand new group that welcomes anyone, from anywhere, who can offer support and advice or has questions of their own. It’s a place where a person’s feedback on how to improve your work/life balance as a new dad could completely change someone’s way of working for the better.
What has been the reaction to the group up to now?
Marc: To date the group has grown through word of mouth. Dads have invited other dad friends or connections to the group. Those that have joined have been really positive. It’s great to see dads with 50 years’ experience and dads with five days of experience coming together. I hope it becomes a place where dads feel they won’t be judged and can openly ask business/ family questions to the group. It will be awesome to learn how new dads in the Far East, Middle East, Australia and so on cope and if they can offer any advice that might differ from how we do things in the UK.