Opting Out For The Kids

Our daughter Emily is working on a senior thesis this coming year. She’s studying the choices women make to balance their careers and families. This is a subject Emily has some personal experience with having watched The Gotham Gal quit her job when our son Josh was born and make a number of other career sacrifices so she could care for our young family.

Emily wants to capture real stories from real women and has built a website she calls Opting Out For The Kids where women can share their stories with her and the world.

It’s a pretty basic website. Anyone can read the stories and upvote them. But you need to log in with Facebook if you want to post a story. Once you log in, you will see a link that says POST and that’s how you write a post to tell your story.

Emily alpha launched this website at the start of the summer but it had some quirks and she recently fixed them and is now re-launching it.

If you are a woman who has an “opting out for the kids” story to tell, please go here, login with Facebook, and tell it.  And if you have followers on Twitter or Facebook who might be women with these kinds of stories, please post a link to Opting Out For The Kids so that other women can find this website and tell their stories.

And, as I mentioned, anyone can read and upvote these stories and I would encourage everyone to do that.

Emily will appreciate it and so will I. And I will ask Emily if I can post the results of her research here next spring when it’s completed.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I wonder whether ‘opting in for the kids’ isn’t a different twist.I asked my mom a few weeks ago a similar question about her choices, abt leaving school to help pay rent for the family, working part time to manage the home and the like.Her response was that these were simply choices, not sacrifices. And choices are what make your values have meaning.Different times of course. Gave me pause.

    1. fredwilson

      the marketer in you Arnold!

    2. William Mougayar

      Choice vs. sacrifice- that’s an important distinction. But couldn’t it both sometimes- i.e choosing to sacrifice?

      1. awaldstein

        All decisions are compromise.Like everything in life and work it is a matter of how you think about it.Sacrifice implies negativity and invariably leads to regret.Decisions to do somethings over another is choice.Emotionally completely different.

        1. JamesHRH

          Last line is very very true and very very important distinction.

        2. Redwoods

          Sacrifice is not always negative and certainly does not always imply negativity or lead to regret. Unless you are “sacrificed” by somebody else – the sacrifice is your choice. To eat better, forgive someone, make time away from your screen to engage with family, serve your community, give back, pay it forward. Often these things are not instinctive or comfortable. They are a sacrifice. But they often make you feel better about life later on. There is also an increasing amount of data that verifies that ‘sacrifice’ and service of others increases wellbeing and happiness. It is an artificial mental contortion to call most of these examples “choices” and to deny they are “sacrifices.” They are usually both.

          1. awaldstein

            Different way of looking at it.Not mine.I don’t look at things I do that are changes with an intent as sacrifice at all.And the market, movement especially the $2T wellness market which is all about food, health, self concept is premised that these decisions are not sacrifices but an upside and positive in their own right.This might be of interest:The Wellness Market http://awe.sm/hLE1i

          2. Redwoods

            …or a way of getting other people to look at something differently?some might view this as a false dichotomy driven by marketing / investment ROI – which is a thread in your blog post. Campaigns to sell healthy meals and yoga classes may drive more clicks without words like ‘sacrifice’ in the call to action. But in the context of this post “opting out / in” of childcare, sacrifice may be exactly the word that comes to mind for the parents who have made this choice. To remove that word from their vocabulary does not necessarily help. the question is ‘why am i sacrificing?’ and when I see the greater, long term good then I am inspired afresh – thats what GothamGal’s post conveys.This Huff Post on volunteering is interesting: http://www.huffingtonpost.c

          3. awaldstein

            You’ve lost me but I’ll chalk it up to just different market views.Clicks? False dichotomies? Not following at all honestly.

          4. Redwoods

            life view or market view?1. you say ‘sacrifice implies negativity and invariably leads to regret ‘but to mothers and fathers, or returning forces veterans for that matter – they may well have ‘made a sacrifice’ of time, money, career – even health (especially if they have ‘opted out’) but very often are glad to have done so.2. sacrifice may not be a word of choice in the wellness market, as per your blog ‘The Wellness Market’ http://awe.sm/hLE1i – but life is about more than markets.www.optingoutforthekids.org is a great exploration of the hows and whys of sacrificing career for family. If we don’t call it what it is – a sacrificial choice, perhaps we don’t do justice to the person who is ‘opting out’ or to what they have given up.End

    3. LE

      Different times of course. Gave me pause.While there was always “keeping up with the Joneses” in my parents generation it was absolutely less so than it is today.I mean look at what a typical family must spend today on just entertainment and dining out vs. years ago? Or even in the 70’s. Where I grew up we were lucky to go out 1 or 3 times per year. But people acted and spent money on other things and their priorities were way different “back then”.

  2. JimHirshfield

    I just got back from Sweden where paternity leave is very common…a year, I believe. We saw many full time dads as we traveled around. It was noticeable and very refreshing. The upside of the dot com bomb of 2000 is that I got to spend lots of time with my daughter during her first 6 months. Special time.

    1. LE

      I just got back from Sweden where paternity leave is very common…a year, I believe. We saw many full time dads as we traveled around.I never like “well Dave’s dad let’s him” type discussions.. Or “Well Dave’s dad does well and makes money and he takes off from work for the kids softball games so why can’t you Doug?”. [1]Details matter. I mean there are less people in the entire country of Sweden than the NY Metro area. Sweden’s culture and everything about it are different. Are they spending money on offense and defense like we are or just taking advantage of the tax money we pay in the US for that protection? Are there poor areas like Camden, Newark, Detroit where people are doing absolutely nothing but sucking money from the economy? And so on.If they have a certain type of culture over in any other country it’s because the collective country acts like that “see: only as honest as your competition theory” and it can’t be held up that we are going to change to that any time soon. And anyway pulling off something in a country of 9 million is quite different than in 300 million.I can’t even begin to fathom, in a small business, giving 1 year paternity leave. The reason someone is working for you is that you have work for them. And limiting it to just having that requirement at large companies just is another step in disadvantaging small companies and startups (I realize that wasn’t your point by the way).[1] We could also highlight JLM’s discussion of what is right in Texas w/o highlighting the oil that isn’t in NJ for example.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Correct: None of that was my point.

      2. Bruno Morency

        “I can’t even begin to fathom, in a small business, giving 1 year paternity leave. The reason someone is working for you is that you have work for them.”Such a long leave is indeed a huge challenge for small companies but it’s manageable (mainly because the law gives you no other choice than to figure it out). One way it works not too badly is when you have a couple employees with similar skills in their prime “baby making” years; there’s always one out on leave and the others share the work. Of course, you’re a bit screwed if 2 or even 3 babies overlap but contract employees can cover for that.

        1. LE

          One way it works not too badly is when you have a couple employees with similar skills in their prime “baby making” years; there’s always one out on leave and the others share the work. Of course, you’re a bit screwed if 2 or even 3 babies overlap but contract employees can cover for that.That’s theory and I’m sure it can be backed up with a few examples. The type of thing that I remember being taught in business school along the lines of “and the chef is the most important part of a restaurant so make sure you hire a good one”. By a business school Phd who never had to actually do something like that.I think you have to look outside the tech industry as representing all types of “small business”. And it’s hard enough to get people up on skills if it’s their full time job. Let alone try to get people who are of the right caliber and quality to begin with. The world of high caliber people is not knocking down the doors of the local small distributorship or wholesaler.Along the same lines of course there are many things you can do if you are awash in money, funded that is, and have to only figure out the “burn” rate as you spend on making things perfect. Most small business in the US don’t have that luxury. And those types of companies are not representative of the economy of small business in the US.Most small businesses are only a few steps away from a loyal customer deciding to take a chance and buy from someone else because the right employee didn’t show up for work one day and they had a bad experience and will never return.

          1. Bruno Morency

            I wouldn’t pretend my original comment is anything close to a theory. It’s more based on observation of workplaces I’ve seen handling long paternity/maternity leave without too much disruption.To make it a theory, you’d need to handle the case were babies don’t come in perfect turn. Not to mention the case when people are done making babies and growth of business didn’t get to a point where you need (or can afford) everyone in full time.As for this affecting your burn, the employer isn’t paying everyone’s salary for most of the leave. It’s covered by a collective program: http://www.rqap.gouv.qc.ca/…The point I was trying to make is while you’re absolutely right that it is a big challenge for employers to manage such a long leave, it’s far from impossible. Put the constraint and employers will find ways to live with it, as impossible as it seemed before the constraint was put in place.

  3. LIAD

    Name grates me. Presupposes a withdrawal and sacrifice.Work is default – having kids makes you opt out.Why not having kids default – work makes you opt out.New title: “opting IN for the kids”Also perhaps psychologically damaging for kids to grow up thinking ‘mummy opted-out because of me’

    1. fredwilson

      Arnold had the same reaction

    2. jason wright

      yeah, it has a very subjective framing to it. is this academic or political research?what is a “real woman”?

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Isn’t the “real woman” polemic just a simplistically artificial bifurcation of a much more fundamental social/biological integrative reality ?


        ALL OF THEM.

    3. leigh

      Well truthfully some women opt out of the workforce to focus on kids but if you go to work, it’s harder to opt out of parenting when you come home (although I’m sure some people do).My mom made a tonne of sacrifices for me and reminds me alllllll the time. I’m pretty sure I’ll survive the guilt without need of therapy and now I’m have that much more reason to help her out when she needs it. 🙂

      1. pointsnfigures

        The flip side of this is interesting too. I know women that had to give up having kids to have a career. That decision was brutal for them.

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          Sometimes we forget that the primary purpose of nature”We are brought into this world to reproduce and parent” AND”We work for living and not LIve for work”.

          1. SubstrateUndertow

            “We are brought into this world to reproduce and parent” AND”We work for living and not LIve for work”.That’s an old fashion world view !The contemporary modern world view ?We are brought into this world tomake the rivers run backwards :-)Biological imperatives have been progressively demoted to lingering inconvenient substrate undertows.Not to say that women shouldn’t strive for fully modern careers, but rather, that modern commercial culture needs to evolve more robust/integrative support systems that pivot around our fundamental biological realities/needs on every level.Capitalism 2.0 – (networked capitalism)Utopian – organic social/biological synchronicity ?ORDystopian – winners take all digital feudalism ?Which kinda dovetails nicely with the interesting links provided by William Mougayar in Fred’s post on “Hyperlocal Mesh Networks”.http://maidsafe.nethttp://www.openlibernet.orghttps://www.ethereum.org

          2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            “fundamental biological realities” … I would rather argue… That is the ONLY reality … We are lost into the masked delusional world view of power and money and work.

          3. Liban mahamed

            Agree The only reality PeriodNature is eternal

          4. Joseph K Antony

            So where do we draw the line for evolution ? Are all the dog species that man evolved, the jersey and Holstein cows, the horses, chickens and plants misfits into the natural scheme of things.Is genetic manipulation, which is just a systematic acceleration of the above process always bad, even if we evolve and implement good and adequate controls?Was evolution perfect ? What about the evolutionary anomalies like the human coccyx, appenicitis and so much more.Do we have a responsibility to use the knowledge that “Nature” bestowed on us to solve the pressing problems like disease, hunger and the environment that could debilitate humanity and Mother Nature / Gaia , whatever, itself??

          5. sigmaalgebra

            Yup, there are a lot of problems, e.g., weak, sick, or dead limbs on the tree. While Darwin is a busy guy, in time he will get around to solving these problems, too.

          6. SubstrateUndertow

            That”masked delusional world view of power and money and work”has repeatedly imposed deadly personal/collective limits on those “fundamental biological realities”.Collectively sorting out that “masked delusional world” is our present existential challenge.Accelerating technological feedback-loops into those underlying “fundamental biological realities” are now reaching critical mass as regards our collective biological survival.”fundamental biological realities” … I would rather argue… That is the ONLY realityI agree/disagree!The whole evolutionary stack is now organically entangled.Technology is amplifying that strange-loop (a feedback loop capable of rearrange its own substrate) entanglement between our high level social/commercial “living system” design choices and its underlying analogue-substrate of cellular “living systems” with enough interdependent linkages to potentially bring down the whole biological stack.Our emerging technological power to micromanage everything via networked synchronicities is presently merging the” living-system-dynamic” that constitutes human cognitive-culture with the “living-system-dynamic” that constitutes its cellular-substate analogue into an interdependent unified gestalt.Technology is simply our local teleological-vector pathway into a universal time-filtered probability-gradient that relentlessly colonizes the material world into an evermore mutually aware/adaptive integrative consciousness.Synchronicites beget more mutually adaptive synchronicites. All synchronicites are inherently self-reenforcing/self-selecting/self-extending processes. All other processes exit existence via probability-gradients into the realm of unrepeatable/disapating noise.We have not, as of yet, distilled a new set of mass-culture narrative/metaphor/lexicons around which to collaborate/navigate this emerging new biological/cognitive-culture singularity.My hunch is that our longterm medium term survival depends on our success at designing accessible new mass-culture visualization tools. New visualization tools that collectively reframe/empower our appreciation/debate around these newly emergent pivotal survival-realities by amplifying our collective focus on their key attributes of abstracted/organic interdependency.Accessible mass-culture organic-process-literacy is our immediate/primary survival strategy challenge.Perhaps such an abstract-survival-strategy challenge is beyond the evolutionary hull-speed granted us humans ?

          7. Liban mahamed

            Don’t worry those who defy nature are doomed.Laws of physics and nature are eternal, and enduring, the rest is minor.We are here to reproduce and ensure human species remain on planet earth, the rest of the story is a distarction , sideshow.The most important work you have on earth is looking after your children, and empower them so they can do the same for their childrenThis may not be sexy or headline grabbing but we are here to reproduce and survive. As Darwin described in his book It is the survival of the fitest, evolution.Ladies, and gentlemen lets congratulate Fred and his wife for a job well done.

    4. Russell

      I like the original wording, and complement Emily on an excellent project!My only two nitpicky qualms:1) I would randomize the order rather than feature them by date. Maybe one of the Dev folks reading can chip in, however this might work:2) I wouldn’t recommend white on black text as it is hard to read on most monitors.Well done again, and I’ve liked two of the posts!

    5. Salt Shaker

      The name could also create a bit of response bias, too. Hope Emily is also fielding a quant survey to complement the qualitative feedback she’s getting via her site.It would be interesting to measure the differences between how Americans vs. Europeans approach family and careers given inherent cultural differences, family dynamics and gen attitudes towards work. Europeans anecdotally appear to have better balance, although recent economic challenges (e.g., Spain, Italy) may have lead to a shift–attitudinally and/or in practice.

      1. LIAD

        Response bias! That’s the phrase i was looking for.

    6. Aaron Klein

      I have to agree. Many women have shaped me over the years, but two of them — my wife and mother — are some of the smartest people I know. They both opted in to their choice of work.And keep in mind, men — when you arrive home after a 12 hour day, that’s the equivalent of a half day off for a woman opting in to the 24/7 job of raising kids.

      1. Bruno Morency

        true but to be fair, as a dad coming home from work, it’s not like I’m done for the day. I’m starting my own shift in the shared 24/7 job of raising kids.

        1. Aaron Klein

          More dads should see it that way.

    7. Bruno Morency

      It would be awesome if people saw that choice as opting in something new rather than opting out of whatever they were doing up to then. When my girlfriend decided to quit her work to stay home when our 2nd was born, the reaction we got was overwhelmingly in line with “Work is default – having kids makes you opt out.”Just look at the time taken for maternity leave. What’s typical here in Quebec is a full year but based on my sample of American friends, looks like it’s a mere couple of months in the US. If that doesn’t scream “work is default” I don’t know what it is!

  4. Chimpwithcans

    Small typo – 3rd last paragraph should be “If you are a woman…”….not “women”.I’m an English major – forgive me. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      Thank you! You are doing me a big favor. Please don’t apologize.

  5. Twain Twain

    Maybe Emily can reach out to Gina Bianchini’s Mighty Bell community:* https://mightybell.comand also Sheryl Sandberg’s http://leanin.org to source more of those “Opting Out” stories?There’s a fantastic TV advert in the UK for Sma milk solutions in which the voice-over says, “You didn’t have to study for years, pass a qualification and you don’t earn any money for doing this. And, yet, somehow you CAN and you DO.”It’s about the intelligence of women. Bringing up babies requires us to be teachers, scientists, practioners, financiers, managers and more.

  6. leigh

    It’s funny but I don’t know any women who did this but I do know some men who did. Think it’s probably a gen x generational phenom.

  7. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Well done Emily !I agree with comments about it being a positive option (my wife took it).I would add that increasingly men (my brother-in-law) make such decisions.So Emily – Why alienate (denial of existence will do this) a large and increasing share of the “parenting” market ?

  8. Marissa_NYx

    We don’t own our jobs or our companies, nor are they are ours for life. There will always be an entry & exit, whether you are running a business, creating a startup or in a corporate job. What better to opt for than family! Life is a rich tapestry & having kids is a perfect way to reinvent yourself in so many ways. By the time a mom decides to ramp up or re-enter, the world has moved on, jobs of old are no longer relevant and new opportunities emerge. The big challenge for many moms is to back themselves, to have the confidence to search and start something new and use their talents & passions in a way that is sustainable for family life. Ps. Personally I believe moms make great tech startup leaders,

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment.

    2. JamesHRH

      This is true but very narrow.My wife is a senior executive in the energy industry. Momentum via increasing responsibility, ongoing exceptional performance, addition of new skills / capabilities etc is a fundamental aspect of her career.And her personality, which is why she is who she is.

  9. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Is it really man’s responsibility or women’s responsibility to opt out??It is natural that the kids need their mom for the first 5-6 years …So should women opt out by default?

  10. pointsnfigures

    Great project. Opting back in is terrifically hard. My wife opted out. She has a degree from the College of Business at Illinois; was a top salesperson; and now wants to do something. But, virtually every traditional door is shut to her. Around 5 yrs ago, we were talking with other school parents about this thing. Women wanted to work, but on their terms-they still wanted the flexibility to participate in their adult children’s lives. But, there were no paths back.Today, if you are wealthy enough it’s possible to finance your way back. But there are peer pressure issues with that too-“why aren’t you serving on a charitable board?” “why are you doing something that makes money when you could be doing something that helps people?” All those questions arise.Good for your daughter for doing this and I hope she can get good data to publish something actionable.

  11. Gotham Gal

    I actually stopped working in the “career” world when Emily was one year old and we moved to the suburbs. I left the industry I was in for several reasons never to return. That decision sent me home with the family for the next few years. It made sense. I am not sure that I would have done that if I had not left a job and an industry all at the same time.Two years later Josh was born and I was working hard but obviously not getting paid for it or going to an office but working hard at raising our family. Financially it took a huge toll on the family but it worked. I am so glad that I took those years off.Those years let me re-enter the work world in a completely different way. I believe that the hardest part is how do you re-enter in your own terms that work for you. After all most women(or men) who opt out will have just spent 5-10 years being completely independent and flexible with their hours. It is hard to come back to structure and after all a family still needs you for dinner, sports events, school and life in general.How do companies embrace the people who opt out of the work force and opt in to the family life and want to return to the work force with flexibility. That is the most difficult. I missed the intellectual stimulation, ego gratification and everything else that goes along with your own personal career and I just figured out how to get it without having to work for anyone but myself. I am lucky that I have that ability but most are not.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Great addition to Fred’s post. Can we get all the Wilsons to chime in, please!!!?

    2. William Mougayar

      As if your comment (or a version of it) belongs to the OOK site as part of a backgrounder.

      1. fredwilson

        That’s what I just said to her as I was eating breakfast in our kitchen

        1. William Mougayar

          great minds think alike 🙂

    3. Elia Freedman

      My wife is facing this right now. We were both raised in mixed/broken homes and so both made financial sacrifices to be with our kids as much as possible. I stuck with a poorly performing business and took on contract dev work (which I hate) to work from home. My wife quit teaching to stay home with the girls.Next week our youngest goes to first grade and my wife, Esther, will have all day to herself for the first time in nine years. While she has dreamed a little, she hasn’t even begun to figure out what she wants to do with her time, and what she wants to do for herself for the first time in years.I’m so appreciative of the sacrifice she made. I know it had to be hard. But I also know that our daughter’s got something neither of us ever had, two parents full time.

    4. iggyfanlo

      It sounds like you are very happy and fulfilled by your decision and for that, we should all be happy for you. But it’s the phrase “for the kids” that stick with me. It feels very wrong.We all make sacrifices for our children and for our families and for our countries. We make them (80-90%) out of free will and while noble, nobility in and of itself is rewarding… its’ why so many people do good works… the feeling of helping and sacrificing and giving back…And arguably in this case, it’s just for your own children, which is the most popular, but arguable again, the most selfish sacrifice..The phrase “for the kids” feels like it’s begging for praise and note.. And god forbid, as it seems to quite often, leaves strings attached and “payback owed” to parents that gave them this gift…Again, for those without good choices, it probably is a noble, humble and involuntary choice… and almost certainly deserving of praise, but when voluntary and in an affluent family, it’s hard to see that in the same light

      1. Gotham Gal

        We were far from affluent when we made these decisions. We made it because it is what we wanted to do for a variety of reasons

    5. Aileen Gemma Smith

      Well said, “I believe that the hardest part is how do you re-enter in your own terms that work for you.” I think some women only look at a limited set of terms for success. You have to define the path.

    6. TedHoward

      I won’t post to http://www.optingoutforthek… as I respect that it’s about mothers, not fathers. I love the idea of sharing such stories because too many people don’t opt-out.The Summer of 2009 I joined Playdom which had about 60 employees. The Summer of 2010 Playdom had about 600 employees, I was a Director of Engineering, Playdom sold to Disney for over 1/2 billion dollars, and I had a son. My wife was an ER resident at UCSF. As I saw it, I could go back to work, manage a team of nannies, see my son very little, see my wife less than my son, have a complicated life, and make a ton of money. Or I could opt-out.It was a dream. We lived for 2 years next to Golden Gate Park. I trained up to jog with little Oscar to the beach every morning. I got to spend every moment with my son. When my wife was home and awake, we spent our time enjoying our family and friends.”Financially it took a huge toll on the family” Based on what the CxO team said of me, I had a blank check at Disney/Playdom. Or I could wave my resume at places like Zynga and get a larger check.”I missed the intellectual stimulation, ego gratification and everything else that goes along with your own personal career” The worst part of being stay-at-home was lack of accomplishment. I was used to building games that millions enjoyed. Now, at the end of the day my accomplishment included ‘fed Oscar N times’ and simply ‘kept Oscar alive’. Not comparable despite what countless grandmothers on the street told me.”the hardest part is how do you re-enter [the work force]” Last year, a friend and colleague Jesse Janosov came to me with a business idea. As a programmer, I was able to become a cofounder and work out of my home while still being a stay-at-home dad. Last week, I got to work at the Mai Tai Bar in Waikiki. We overfilled a seed round, have multiple acquisition offers, and we’ll release a game once Jesse is back from his honeymoon.Nine weeks ago, our second child was born. My wife just asked, “Do you want a baby for a few minutes?” My immediate response was “I can’t say no to that.” So I’ll be completing WinRT Facebook integration while holding my daughter for the next half hour or so.As I said, not enough people opt-out. Most people simply can’t and that makes me sad. There are many people who can and think they “can’t”. They need to understand that there’s always another job to fill but there’s not always another child to raise.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Post it!!

      2. Emily Wilson

        Ted,I’d love if you would post your story on optingoutforthekids.org. It is true that it is targeted towards mothers, but I am very much interested in hearing the stories of fathers and fathers-to-be who have opted out as well, and yours is a really great one to share.–Emily

      3. Redwoods

        how about adding a twin site: “dads opting in/out for the kids” would be interesting – as it is at least as complicated and sensitive an issue. great post – Ted Howard – very thought provoking ps. i agree with the other posts – “opting in” is better.

  12. William Mougayar

    “Will all of our education be worthwhile in the sense that we’ll actually be able to use it?” (from the About section of OOK)- Is “use it” implied to be restricted for “use it at work” or is it a broader usage?

  13. adbomaha

    Men opt out too. A man probably pays a higher price for opting out than a woman does.”Men returning to the workforce” is a huge talent opportunity for someone, and much less well-publicized than women returning to the workforce.

  14. awaldstein

    I have two women friends, both amazingly talented and successful where the family choice was for them to work, the husband to take on the home.They opted in and it worked in both cases.

  15. Richard

    A slightly different take on this is the role that society and politics have on encouraging having children. It takes a brave women to choose not having kids (or adopting a teen). Society lays tremendous guilt on her. Could this be why 1/3 of kids today live in a single parent households. Do we need to change the social and political message about the “completeness” of life being based on having kids?

  16. Dan Goldberg

    Good stuff. Would be interesting to combine this with the tacit societal understanding that the choice to “opt out” is a choice thrust only open women and not men. And by “thrust” I do mean that it’s often not a choice at all.

  17. ErikSchwartz

    I took 5 years off when we started having kids. It was the best thing I ever did. I would absolutely do it again. My kids are better for it. Our marriage is better for it. I am better for it.Professionally it really hurt me though. For years I was getting raised eyebrows from potential employers or investors about the length of the gap in my employment. Honestly those questions didn’t really stop until we moved to Los Altos Hills last year (which is a whole other conversation about assumptions people make based on zip code).

    1. LE

      I took 5 years off when we started having kids.What are the circumstances that led to you making that decision?

      1. ErikSchwartz

        I had been working 12-14 hour days for the previous 10 years, my company stock had appreciated 75X in the previous 3 years, I didn’t believe the valuation was real or that the company was going in the right direction so after being able to unable convince them that they were on the edge of a cliff I quit and sold it all (but for a single share).Spent about half of the next year living in Iesa (near Siena) drinking wine, reading books, conceiving, and staying off the internet. After that I went sailing.

        1. LE

          So essentially your great experience was preceded by what appears to be a really hard time. So I suspect that if you hadn’t been working 14 hours per day for 10 years you wouldn’t have viewed the experience so positively. Reminds me of the 80’s when there were stories (in Inc. Mag) about people burning out on Wall Street that would buy bed and breakfast’s in Vermont to get away from the “rat race”. (They quickly found out it not a great idea and not the same as being a guest. Ha Ha.)An closer example of this is that my life is relatively stress free now. So the last thing I want to do is sit on a beach and read. Something I really enjoyed a great deal back when I had more stress in my life. I even rented my small shore place out for the first time since I bought it about 23 years ago. Ditto for the boat. No fun anymore to drop anchor and just relax. Not needed. No fun w/o the stress. Oh well.As far as “kids are better for it” the problem isn’t someone like you who (apparently) has financial resources taking time off for their kids. The “problem” is someone who hasn’t made it or doesn’t or has other goals doing the same. Many young people today think that they can have it all and advance in their career and just do things like that. But while some of them might be able to the average person will not.Fred’s daughters (and son) have the opportunity that they have now because Fred worked so hard. Not easy to dial that back and say “hey it will all just work out take time to smell the roses”.

          1. ErikSchwartz

            Your assumptions and suspicions are not necessarily correct.

          2. LE

            My assumptions are never always correct. Card counters are never always correct. But if we took 100 people that did what you did (after what you relayed the circumstances) I would be correct over 80% of the time (to pick an arbitrary number). Assumptions and conclusions are simply gut feel given the facts known.

          3. PhilipSugar

            You are 100% right that there are few that have the opportunities that most do here. Those opportunities where built with hard work and paying dues.

    2. PhilipSugar

      You moved from Maine? You and my fraternity roommate who sailed around the world for 5 years http://www.notallthosewhowanderare... are my inspiration.I always say I am going to do that after selling a company. Alas, I seem to work twice as hard. I am wondering today why I’m going to LA for 12 hours tonight after buying the ticket last night, but once I get on the plane I’ll be fine.The one thing we have to remember here is that this is in no way the normal demographic.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        I married a California girl. She missed home.We still have the house in Maine. We’re trying to figure out how to arrange life to be in Maine from Labor Day (once all the MassHoles leave (no offense)) through New Years . That way we get fall and the holidays in New England and only the sweet, cute, part of the snowy winter and leave before we get to the suicidal months of February and March when it seems like it will never end.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Understand that.Here on the Eastern Shore of MD we refer to the obnoxious tourists as the “Pennsylvania Navy” We have the same term for DC residents that go to our DE beaches as well.

          1. LE

            Is there a name for the people that shop at Christiana to buy tax free from other states?A relative of my wife is starting 1st year at UD. So I tried to pay him to pick up some things from CM and bring them to me. I was roundly criticized because “it’s his first week of college!!” (even though he could use the money). I don’t remember ever stopping work in college whether it be first week or last week. I don’t get what the big deal is driving a car on a Saturday or when you don’t have classes. I would have jumped at that type of thing.

          2. PhilipSugar

            No name, I think we just call them good customers. People in Delaware realize that we would never, ever, be able to support that size of Mall on our own. That Apple store is the top grossing store in the U.S. 20mm visitors in a state of 800k?? 1.3mm square feet soon to be 2mm?? We know what supports that and it is not DE residents.Its the same as the students. We have a saying its “summer time and parking is easy”. You put 25k students and probably another 10k in staff to a town like Newark, DE and it is a BIG difference.But if you have a brain you realize Newark, DE would be a run down town except for the fact that you are throwing in a quarter of a billion of spend from outsiders

          3. LE

            Who said I’m spending $8000 (edu discount) at the Apple Store for a CPU and three 27″ Thunderbolt displays? No, just picking up some ivory soap at the CVS.

          4. PhilipSugar

            That store is an ass kicker. I asked one of the two state troopers that are always there does it ever calm down? (I knew him from church) He said nope, never.

          5. LE

            You would think that it wouldn’t be that hard for the neighboring states to “spray and pray” out some “use” tax bills and kill that goose.I mean you simply drive through the lot (like the repo guys do) and capture all the license plates. Then you send a scary notice saying “pay up – we know what you were doing”. Mostly automated.Would imagine a large percentage of offenders would fork over $$. Maybe do an audit here and there. Or perhaps offer a flat rate bill with the threat of an audit which would uncover more.LIke a red light camera without the red light. (Or could collect data at the toll booths, anyone returning same day within “x” hours and not a truck etc. Something like that.)In another business I used to get bills from the township that was attempting to collect business use tax. So what they would do is (this is really true) send out an invoice with an amount due that was clearly pulled out of their ass. Like way way to high. Was some sleazy company the township hired. Anyway I surmised the idea was to make you call saying “hey we don’t owe $20,000 we only owe $2000” etc. They did this for several years. “Ok pay up and we will also waive the penalty”.

          6. LE

            This is the company I referenced below. Looks like they are still doing quite well. They still do work for the township in question I see.http://www.muniservices.com/

          7. JamesHRH

            For reasons I cannot even hazard a guess at – we called tourists ‘Gorbies.’

  18. brgardner

    @fredwilson:disqus you might encourage your daughter to post this with the #sharegoodness. I know there are a lot of mothers using this hash tag. I support your daughters research whole heatedly. My Mother is in this category. Once her last child (out of 5) went into pre-School she built an incredible decorating business out of our basement. Everyday I would come home from school and watch my mom finish up some last stitches on a drapery, while we talked about my day. Then we would go upstairs, have a snack and start homework. I never remember coming home and my mom wasn’t there (Although I am sure it happened). Also, I can’t remember one sports event or any other major event that she missed because of her work (Although I am sure it happened). The point is I knew that her children were her first priority. She ran her business, she didn’t let her business run her. After 30 years of running the same business, I still know we are #1. She doesn’t hesitate to cancel an appointment to jump on a flight to visit one of her children because they need her at that moment.

  19. Brandon Kessler

    Emily should check out the Make It Work Campaign from Vivien Labaton which is new and focuses on this. http://makeitworkcampaign.org/

  20. lksugarman

    A lot of privileged first world perspectives…regardless of how they are couched.

    1. JamesHRH


  21. falicon

    I’m a dad that opt’ed out for the kids (have told the story on Gotham Gal comments in the past)…we guessed that it would be easier for me to get back into the workforce at the same level than it would be her if she left (and I think we were right; I was very lucky to have no troubles getting right back in when we were ready).

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      I do believe the kind of job you do helped…. programmers can work even from their own kitchen and still can be part of the workforce.I always tell my friends …when people can work (software) 3000 miles away and were never seen face-to-face what is wrong in stepping few hundred yards into the kitchen be part of the work force.

  22. JamesHRH

    The bigger issue for business and society is raising a family via engaged parenting while keeping two adults with a desire to contribute to society outside the home, engaged in their careers.Momentum = success. No Mo = No Go.There is no way that 2 people can go full out early to mid career while being early to mid child rearing – without a trust fund in place.The idea that this is a woman’s issue has a very Gloria Steinem circa 1984 vibe to it (I edited out at least 3 different versions of this sentence FWIW).Sure, sure, sure for every 1 under-challenged male spouse playing 2nd fiddle career-wise there are 10 under-challenged female spouses (many of whom have gone cold turkey on the work front).Just like every thoughtless gender, racial & cultural stereotype was based on a historical reality that no longer holds water (or never did).

  23. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    As a long time reader of AVC, a female entrepreneur, a mother (single one now), and an advocate of professional women, when I first read the title of this post I first thought to myself “is he going to talk about women opting out of email newsletters so they can manage their time better?” That may be a strange initial thought, but I still work. I’ve started two companies and supported heavily (when married) the start of a non-profit school that our kids still go to. I work at a start-up even though I’ve thought many times I should work at a more stable company given the numerous financial and emotional ups & downs. My career has been rewarding but not as financially rewarding as I’d hoped by this point in my career, as is the case of many of my entrepreneurial friends.This post seems to be a bit in contradiction to your post the other day about funding a kickstarter campaign to support the creation of a film to highlight women bosses/CEOs/entrepreneurs and one of the images in the video is of a woman working in front of a computer while “wearing” her baby.What are these moms opting out of? Just because they are not in the day to day workforce, I see them “opting in” because they have choices, need to and/or want to spend their time mostly with kids. We have many talented moms at our school who had high powered careers and chose to “tone it down” because they could afford to make that decision and had a comfortable lifestyle but I’m not sure they were “opting out.” I will share the info with some of those moms to see what they have to say…

  24. Catherine V

    Why not share men’s stories as well? So it doesn’t seem like it’s the woman’s responsibility and instead like it’s the parent’s choice.

  25. Keenan

    Fred, Teresa Taylor former COO of Quest and author of The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work Life Success is a good friend of mine. If Emily believes an interview/meeting her would help her thesis, it would be my pleasure to introduce. Let me know.

  26. Marissa_NYx

    I’ve posted a story. I think Emily needs to approve it before it can go live.

    1. fredwilson

      i approved it. that should not have happened. did you login with Facebook or do the longer wordpress native registration?

      1. Marissa_NYx

        I logged in with Facebook. It then directed me to the WordPress site where I could create the post, save it as a draft and submit it for approval.

        1. fredwilson

          Hmm. It should let you post without approval. Thanks for responding. I will look into it

  27. AbbeyPost

    I have a theory that one reason fewer women are commenting is that the readership on AVC likely is made up mostly of women who did NOT “opt out”. We’re right in the thick of things, trying to juggle motherhood and working in (or more likely running) a company.And to be really honest, the implicit message that “opting out for the kids” is some sort of ideal that should be aspired to is troubling to me. Yes, our kids need us. We chose them. But forsaking our own ambitions and our opportunity to change the world on a larger scale is important too, for some of us. It also bothers me that there is absolutely no discussion (ever, in any forum) of a man’s decision to forsake his professional role in order to concentrate on raising kids. Why not? Because they almost never do it, nor are they remotely expected to.I really liked Aileen Gemma Smith’s post because she showed, in her usual graceful way, that opting out is not the only path to having a healthy, happy, fulfilling and fulfilled family life. I’m contemplating writing my own version, working title “Not opting out in the least”. But my time is constrained because, you know… doing it all.

  28. Teri Smyth

    I decided to sacrifice my career to stay at home and raise my kids. No regrets

  29. sonnydh

    @fredwilson:disqus Taking men out of the equation just confirms that equality of the sexes is still far off… as a father who is juggling a career and a child, it annoys me that the norm does not consider that the “parenting team” have all options on the table. Why does the question always imply that only a woman can chose children over a career? My wife took time off for the necessary biological process to complete, but on returning to her career, the choice that WE made implied that we would share the parenting duties and that both of us would continue to work. Given that she travels for her job, I – father and man – am left to do 80% of the monday to friday duties…If we want to keep an open mind, lets be sure to ask the right questions! 😉

  30. fredwilson

    the AVC community is something like 80% male.

  31. jason wright

    the demographics of avc showing through in this post.

  32. fredwilson

    yeah, i would hope some women take the time to go there and postnone have done that yet

  33. LE

    I’m wondering if the facebook login has something to do with that.

  34. Aileen Gemma Smith

    I just did. I am a little further in the funnel- my sons are 18 and 15. I’ll also reach out to friends and encourage them to post as well.

  35. Alex Wolf

    I have been meaning to post since GG blogged it. To write something short always harder than writing a longer piece and I feel strongly about this subject having lived it. I will get to it.The metaphor off ramp and on ramp make more sense to me for the career track, rather than opt in or out. It’s a journey. But buried in there is the deep problem of the language and expectations we surround motherhood with in this modern day. It’s the hear of the matter – the work life balance and it’s not as Jerry said bullshit in this case. Breadwinning and caregiving are the main activities of couples in family mode and we haven’t shifted the discussion well enough into the era of web. And we’ve done still a crappy job of supporting women’s equal pay earn and leave times to give her independence, at least in the US. I will never consider this country first world until we manage women’s work place rights better.

  36. karen_e

    Even after ten years here I find it can be hard to comment at times. Fear of a pileon, I think. Addressed in June in HBR.

  37. fredwilson

    thank you so much!!

  38. Aileen Gemma Smith

    The least I can do, she’s welcome to reach out directly too if that would help. Surprising feedback from some of women I reached out to (w older children) a reticence to share. Complex stories and some with resignation for where they are today. Almost as though their story is not good enough. A different problem, but one to note for ‘why’ there may be fewer replies than expected.