Kids are Terrible for Your Career

Terrible click-bait blog post title (I apologize). Last week right before Father’s Day Business Insider posted an article about Eric Bahn’s tweet storm about how terrible kids are for your career.

Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 3.29.47 PM

Over the course of eleven tweets, Eric proceeds to share that his kids bring him so much joy despite robbing him of time, sleep, health, and friends. Having been a father now for a little over a year, I agree with a few of his points. For one, kids empirically do strain your marriage in the early years – but leave you closer the older you get. Ezra Klein had a great conversation with Emily Oster on this subject. Kids also do make you way poorer. They are really, really expensive; kids born in 2018 (like Lucy) will cost $233-372k from birth until their high school graduation.

That being said, I want to offer a counterpoint to the assertion that kids are terrible for your career.  Since becoming a father, I have seen my performance as a leader improve in a few ways – and talking to other fathers, they agree! Here’s a few ways that becoming Lucy’s dad has helped me grow as a leader and human.

  1. Understand your value – if you are fortunate enough to have parental leave at your job, you realize that you might be out for a long period of time. As a leader, you have to trust that your team is aligned and empowered to deliver great results without you. Leave can also have an amazing side effect for leaders (if you choose to take it); as you come back, you can let your team continue to operate as they were when you were out. This allows you to step back and understand – was I delivering the most value as a leader?
  2. Prioritization the right work – I can agree with Eric that you have way less time – both for yourself and for your work. That realization can result in you attempting to do exactly what you did before you had kids…OR you can re-assess what are the most important things to get done. Say no to meetings that you don’t need to be in. Let your team do their work without checking in at each step in the process. You will find a healthier more productive you and a more empowered team along the way!
  3. Listen without jumping to conclusions – infants have incredibly simple needs and even more simple ways to communicate those needs. Leaders in the workplace can have the tendency to jump to assumptions of what their team needs without ever listening. And then, they get frustrated when their team complains about their answer. Being a father has taught me to slow down and pay attention to what people are communicating and respond and support them accordingly.
  4. Selflessness – as a parent, you learn to sacrifice pieces of yourself for your child – your time, your money, your relationships. This Chad Knight sculpture of a child being created out of a parent is both beautiful and too real. Beyond becoming less selfish as a parent, I find myself becoming less selfish as a leader – sharing and giving praise and cheering on those around me to become the best versions of themselves.Chad-Knight-Collater.al-6

For me, becoming a father has helped me stop and reflect on how I am showing up in the world, both at work and at home. It’s also taught me to strive to be a more caring, more conscious and less selfish version of myself. Kids are terrible for your career only if you don’t stop to reflect on the change that kids force you into – and how you want to show up in that change.

P.S. I want to acknowledge that my point of view reflects my experience as a father and it’s possibly very different for mothers. There are also plenty of studies that show that kids do have negative impacts on your career, especially for women in the workplace. I’m curious to hear from other fathers and especially mothers on what ways, if any, that having a child has helped you think differently or grow in your workplace.

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