Being a Recovering Workaholic

Man working at computer late at night in the dark


If you scrolled through Twitter today, you probably saw this image below promoting Apple’s “Planet Of The Apps” show. And with it, you probably saw and read many critical tweets about it, such as this. So … let’s talk about workaholism.

I’m Joey, and I am a recovering workaholic. Before Made By Munsters became our full-time job, it was something Kurt and I built in our evening and weekend hours to create a reputation and a client list. We did it for the practice, the extra income it brought us, and the joy it made us feel when we had freedom to do great work without any corporate constraints. Yes, we worked many, many hours in our off-time when we could have spent those hours doing much more enjoyable things. We were workaholics. We called it our side hustle, but the truth is we lived and breathed just to do work at that point.

I say I’m recovering because over the last five or so years, I’ve made strides to shift my thinking and habits when it pertains to work, specifically how much I take on, when I conduct it, and what priority it has in my life.

Now let’s talk about this quote: “I rarely get to see my kids. That’s a risk you have to take.”

I’m a father of two: Henry, who is my inquisitive little man with a sensitive side, and Emma, my tenacious little girl with a heart of gold. They are my life. They are the reason I wake up every morning. And while I’m not a perfect father (far from it), I live to be their father and be present as much as humanly possible. They come before me trying to climb a ladder of success. But I didn’t always see it that way.

Let’s get real here.

Nearly six years ago when my son was born, I was working a full-time job in Chicago while commuting 1.5 hours each way to the ‘burbs. And when I got home, I would get on my laptop, respond to emails from freelance clients and complete my tasks for my side hustle. It was thrilling but extremely exhausting. When we brought Henry home from the hospital, my lovely, forgiving wife spent her maternity leave caring for him, and I took complete advantage of her time home by working on a website for a client.

I was an idiot. I was inconsiderate. I was drunk on work I thought was important.

At the time, I didn’t realize that I was wasting precious moments with my newborn son because I was more focused on material things, such as money and projects for my portfolio, rather than experiencing what it was like to be a new father. As I said, I was a complete dumbass.

It wasn’t really until Henry hit the 3-month mark that I realized how much of my time was devoted to work that ultimately didn’t matter in the end. I had to make a change. Having a new child at home takes a lot of money, and while I didn’t want to succumb to less extra income to help our growing family, I did finally prioritize work within my life’s schedule, to an extent. This meant me not taking client phone calls at dinner time, or even at 1 a.m., which used to happen often.

I ended up taking a pay cut in exchange for being able to work remotely. This meant I had more flexibility and time from not having to commute. I was able to see my son get up every morning, take him to the babysitter, pick him up, hang with him at night before bed, and really have a chance to be around and present. Instead of shifting the responsibilities all on my wife, I shifted the time I would complete my side work, which usually meant a lot of late nights. I hid my workaholism in solitude, where I thought it didn’t have a big impact on those in my life.

Roll forward two years.

We had another child (our daughter), we moved from Northwest Indiana to Indianapolis, I changed full-time jobs as did my wife, and life got even harder. While I continued working long hours at night when the kids were asleep, I managed to scale back my time significantly, given that my health was taking a beating from the lack of sleep. But to be honest, losing even a few hours of sleep didn’t make me a better father. While I was present and accounted for physically, and mentally I was just wanting to shut it down.

After a year or so, I finally realized, or better yet, was forced to make significant changes in my work habits. I decided to go full-time with Made By Munsters at that point. I thought it would mean more hours, more time away from my children, and more stress. And while there are the occasional long nights and stressful days, it’s allowed me to focus solely on one goal work-wise rather than being pulled in 900 directions. I also had to trust in my colleagues and allow them to help carry the workload. By doing so, I’ve managed to shift my priorities to being there for my kids, taking them to dance class (yes, I’m a dance dad), getting more sleep, and trying to take better care of myself.

My parents always told me that when you have children, life speeds up. Years fly by. They grow up. They develop little (or big) personalities. While building a business is a goal, my ultimate challenge is to be the best dad and husband I can possibly be. I didn’t want to look back when they become teenagers and realize all the moments I lost with them because I had to impress a client or a boss. I want to experience those when they’re actually happening. It’s one reason why at Made By Munsters we’ve set up boundaries for our clients and employees. We don’t want the same thing to happen to the people we care about.

Now I say I’m recovering because it’s still a process. I find myself being pulled back in at times, forgetting what’s most important. But I’d much rather risk not conquering the world than risk missing out on experiencing time with my kids.