Kids and work
I got an email from a woman last week who is embarking on a new journey starting a fund with three kids under the age of 4. When a woman tells you about their new entrepreneurial venture and then tosses in the addition of 3 kids who are still at home, it might seem daunting, but you have to follow that burning desire to build something and do something that you can call your own.
The question that comes to mind is why should women be held back in their careers and entrepreneurial instincts just because they have children? Men can’t have children but they should be as engaged as women in the responsibilities that come with raising children. That is one of the reasons I am a big fan of equal paternity leave for fathers. If men are home with their kids from the onset for the same amount of time as their wives then they will feel the same type of connection and responsibility to their children. This goes for same-sex partners too. Everyone needs to be home to bond early and that will carry forward as the family grows. It isn’t about sitting around and watching them sleep, feeding them, and changing their diapers the first 3 months, it is about emotional bonding.
I spoke at an event this past week and was asked about how we raised our children to have the relationships we have with them as adults. This was a room of people from the tech industry. The answer is simple family first. You can start a company, you can work like a dog but family always comes first. Companies come and go but family is always there and they should be treated with that in mind. And as leaders of companies, you should convey that message to the people that work for you. You will create a happier environment and a loyal workforce.
I made a conscious decision from day one of having our first child, that our family came first. It has worked for us, it has worked for them, it has worked for me and it did not hold back our careers if anything it made them much better.
A female professional with 3 children under the age of 4 and a male professional with 3 children under the age of 4 are judged differently in today’s world. Often, men are not even asked about their parental status, where women often are. The expectation by employers, funders, and society as a whole is that men will do less with or for the children than women do, and, thus, women will be less available professionally than men. We need to start changing our expectations of and support for men with children. And there is a growing trend of men who embrace this change in identity and values. That is why I created a parenting brand and services for men with kids. Yet, I can tell you from being in the trenches that the gender politics behind this are a barrier. While most women are on board with supporting men as dads, there is a large number of them out there who are not. This attitude is destructive to everyone in the family; dads, moms and particularly the children.
So true. I’m reminded of GG’s post yesterday. It made me think of the years that my husband was the stay at home parent for us (while I ran my own startup). He said the moms at the playground wouldn’t talk to him 75% of the time. They were very suspicious of him and actively worked to exclude him. I’m sure there’s a lot to unpack there, but still it seemed unfortunate.
Hopefully there will be more men at the playground in the years to come.
He said the moms at the playground wouldn’t talk to him 75% of the time. They were very suspicious of him and actively worked to exclude him.Well there could be different reasons for this. It could also be loyalty to their own husband and not wanting to socialize with a man (vs. with another woman).I can tell you that any woman I have been with has been jealous of interactions that I mention with any woman. So I typically will try not to associate in a social setting with woman. And if in a business setting I am not in your face with it either. I respect that it bothers her so I avoid it if practical and possible.I am going to be less chatty with a woman that I see somewhere if she falls into a certain age group for fear that it sends the wrong message to that woman. I do not want to appear to be to friendly.Look I remember roughly 12 years ago sitting in a Starbucks helping a female entrepreneur (she was on Shark Tank 2 times) with some business ideas and marketing. She would come in with her notebook and ask me questions and scribble down what I said. Definitely knew my schedule and would seek me out. Anyway one day her husband finally showed up because I guess he got tired of hearing about ‘the guy who is helping me’. Now in this case there was a 20 year age difference between me and the person that I helped. (There was though a 10 year age difference between her and her husband). Also at the time I was single (when I started helping the woman but then I met my current wife a bit later). I can tell you that if I was in a relationship I would almost certainly not spend the time helping her (even in a public place) without my wife’s specific knowledge and approval. I guess my question is how do you get beyond that dynamic?
Yup and fascinating.I’ve been listening to the audio book Who is MIchael Ovitz? His autobiography read by him (quite great).He was talking about his relationship with Steven Spielberg and Cate Capshaw and that basically, you never called them after six (family rule) and if he needed to talk to Steven urgently he asked Cate first as their family first rule was never to be broken even while on location for a shoot.
Anyone who gets to that level of success can operate by a different set of rules. Right? By the time Spielberg was married to Kate Capshaw he could call the shots as opposed to when he started out (sneaking onto the lot at the studio). I am sure if he was newly married it would have been foolish (on the way up) to lessen his availability.I am reminded of a girl that I was engaged to whose father was a special ed teacher and was home every single afternoon at 3:30pm. She once said to me (she lived in a ‘row’ house in Philly) to paraphrase ‘you know I wish he was more successful and not sitting here when I came home’. True story.
I had my third child at age 41while running a venture backed company and started going back into the office for few hours a day 8 days after my c-section. But, by doing that, I was able to work a 20 hour/week schedule for a full 4 months after his birth. For me, the ability to stay involved at work on things that were critical and that only I could contribute while also extending my window of extra time at home with the new baby was a perfect balance. I became a fabulous one-handed typist doing email while breastfeeding. My kids are completely used to me taking a 5 minute email break while the popcorn pops on game night. We took wonderful family vacations every year and I have a great relationship with my two adult kids now in college (youngest is now 13). All that to say I consider myself something of an expert on the whole career/family balancing act.Everything in life involves tradeoffs, and committing to one thing sometimes impacts the additional commitments you can take on. I think that can get lost in this discussion, and the gender inequality issue muddies it further. What if instead of family, someone is committed to running 2 marathons a week, (which requires training time, weekly travel, actual race time, etc.), in addition to starting a fund. That’s a totally valid personal decision, but to say it wouldn’t impact the amount of focus they can give a career goal simultaneously is unrealistic. I’m just not sure that anyone, man or woman, with 3 kids under the age of 4 can realistically expect to both succeed in a highly challenging position and be the kind of parent those kids need at the same time. The decision to build a family so quickly might mean de-emphasizing some career goals temporarily.I understand the whole mommy track trap, and there are no perfect answers. But I do think the idea that you can do everything well at the same time is also a trap that can lead to a lot of regret and frustration. I started my own company when my youngest son was 7, and it has been great–family is supportive and excited, business is growing and doing well, etc. But I don’t think I could have done it when he was 1. My personal belief is that you can have everything, but not always all at the same time.
Completely agree. You can have it all but not at the same time.