Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Do *You* Choose Between Job and Family?

My friend and HBS classmate, Lindsey Mead Russell wrote a great article for the Princeton Alumni Weekly last year.

In it, she meditates on one of the fundamental dilemmas that faces women: Job or Family?

Lindsey followed a path that many would envy or consider the ideal--she worked part-time managing recruiting for a private equity firm. She was well paid, yet also had lots of time to raise her two beautiful children. Yet even as she accepted congratulations from friends on her remarkable "work-life balance," Lindsey had her doubts:

What does it mean to have a foot in both worlds? I think it can be wonderful or it can be torment, depending on the person and the situation. I’ve always straddled the gulf of the mommy wars, always worked part time, always spent part of my week in an office building and part in the sandbox. I have insisted on keeping a “foot in the door” professionally because I was sure I’d want to “ramp back up” someday. These phrases, so familiar in business school, seem foreign on my tongue now, like a language I used to speak but have lost. The thing that haunts me is this: In being unwilling to give up either world, did I end up doing a poor job in both?

As is often the case, reading Lindsey's writing made me think about my own life, and I wrote an email to Lindsey which I decided should be a blog post:


The question of focus is an interesting one, for dads as well as moms.

It is indeed a great luxury and privilege to have so many things that one could do. But as much research has shown, too much choice can impact happiness as much as too little choice.

Especially here in the Valley, it’s a badge of honor to work long hours, and people aspire to see their names bandied about in the press.

I long ago decided that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice everything in the monomaniacal pursuit of a single goal (e.g. the billion-dollar liquidity event).

But I’ve also been unwilling to give up on being an important part of startups.

In theory, shouldn’t I find a nice cushy corporate job? I’m good at getting along with people, so I could probably nestle into the underbelly of a big corporation and make a ton of money without having to exert myself too much. In doing so, would I be a better father? A better provider? Less likely to have to answer random calls from entrepreneurs in the evenings and on weekends?

Am I selfish to do the work I enjoy when I could make a different choice, make more money, and have more time for my family?

What choice do you make in your own life? Because make no mistake, we all make choices.