I left a corporate law firm largely because it had a “check your family at the door” policy. I didn’t have a child at the time, he only came along about 2 years later, but even then it was important that I have some down time to unwind.
I think that anyone who wants to be part of a startup has to accept that it won’t be a 9 to 5 job (although 37signals is doing some innovative stuff with their employees: http://tinylink.co.za/d58c8b) and that nutty working hours and habits are often involved. A lawyer I work with and who works 6 days a week, often 16 or more hours a day, once told me that work-life balance is relative. It doesn’t always mean a 9 to 5 job, Monday to Friday. I think the challenge is to find your own kind of balance amidst the chaos of a startup work life.
Although my son is only 4 months old, I can already see how having him makes it so important to focus on work and also make time to spend with him and my wife. Heck, even our 3 puppies need some attention (playing with dogs really helps stress levels too). My solution is to structure my working hours partly around my son’s feeds so I am up at 4am to work, feed him and get back to work. If I am working out and about I try to finish the day’s work by the time I get home so I can focus on my family at the end of the day.
It isn’t easy trying to balance all these considerations but it can be done.