- On Twitter, he explained his realization that having kids is terrible for your career, strains your marriage, and makes you way poorer.
- He also called his kids "the best decisions I've made in my life," capturing a complex and contradictory perspective that many working parents know well.
- Bahn says he's had to accept that with their decision to have a family, he and his wife Beatrice Kim, a certified professional coach and the cofounder of Awaken, a leading diversity and inclusion company are only half as good as they could be at their jobs.
- With his permission, we've shared his initial tweets below, along with his and his wife's thoughts about the reaction to it and their lives as working parents.
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I want to start an honest conversation about kids: They are terrible for your career. They strain your marriage. They make you way poorer.
But they are also the best decisions I've made in my life. Here's what my experience has been like with two young ones.
Before kids, I was all about my startup life. I built an awesome ed-tech company with my wife, and we sacrificed many years (filled with joy and pain) to get our nut. We traveled a lot. We ate out. We hung out with friends every weekend.
Then, we decided to have kids ...
When our first kid arrived, we attempted to be very active parents. That didn't work out so well. It turns out that being a stay-at-home mom or dad is way harder than we could bear, psychologically and physically.
We had to accept that we were better off throwing money at the problem and got a wonderful nanny and other support, so we could go back to work. That decision currently costs us $80K/year (now for two kids in insane Bay Area rates), but was right for us.
For me, I try not to work between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. during the week, so I can dedicate time with family. Weekends are all family time. But I have to make up those lost hours of productivity by starting work at 5 a.m. On average I get five hours of sleep per night, which is not enough. It's even worse for my wife, who is running three companies and breastfeeds our baby.
We are grumpy all the time and I'm dangerously tired (especially driving). I also feel probably 60 to 70% at full brain power most days. I'm the fattest I've ever been.
I've accepted that with the decision to have kids, my wife and I are only half as good as we could be in our careers. We are less psychologically and physically healthy. And we're losing touch with our close friends.
The deeply honest truth too is that I was more than 50% against ever having kids to begin with. Why purposely destroy my quality of life, right? But now that I have two, I realize now that I was a damn fool.
The joy of having children comes down to some really simple things:
My wife and I have created the very best roommates/friends we'll ever have. And we get to own them for the next 18 years! The poo, pee, lack of sleep, etc. seem so trivial as concerns compared to their awesomeness.
Selfishly, by having kids, I somehow unlocked a new, higher tier of joy that I didn't know existed, as well as a new, lower floor of pain. But it's mostly joy at an existential level.
Even when I come back from a long day of sucking at my job, my kids come running and remind me how much they love me. My family never judges me (nor cares) about the day's job performance, but only want me to be present.
And with that, I've never felt so rich in my life.
On how people reacted to his tweet
I wrote that tweetstorm to call out what I believe is the prevailing (and silent majority) perspective that parents share. I wanted to lend an empathetic voice to parents who are struggling: to recognize their struggle, and to let them know that their struggle is normal.
For a long time I've read these profiles of successful people, who just seem to have it all together the perfect jobs, perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect bodies, etc. Just like it's unhealthy to compare yourself to the fake world of Instagram celebrities, it sort of feels the same when you're a new parent comparing yourself to the outlier parents out there (who, by the way, are usually rich with plenty of resources) who dominate what we see in the media. In fact, it just feels downright shameful sometimes to be a parent and recognize that you just don't have your s--- together.
I wasn't anticipating the thousands of likes and retweets that would follow. The really surprising thing was how extreme the reactions were. Most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive; it was reassuring to see that there are a lot of parents just like us who are struggling every day to make things work, but are just 50% good at basically everything they do (work, parenting, life).
The negative reaction was also surprising, but maybe it shouldn't have been, as Twitter is full of crazy people who latch onto the strangest details and twist reality as a weapon against you. The only thing I could do was thank the haters for their perspective. After all, it's my truth to tell, so who cares what anyone thinks?
What his wife had to say
Editor's note: Eric's wife, Beatrice Kim, is a certified professional coach, cofounder of Awaken , a leading diversity and inclusion company, and a group coach for the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Beatrice: When Eric told me that his Twitter was 'blowing up' I was like, 'OK, sure' and kept doing what I was doing. But later when I read some of the responses, I laughed so hard and gasped in hurt shock all in the span of five minutes. It's amazing how people can assume something about another person from one snippet of their life, both for good and for bad. For me, because I'm deep in the trenches along with Eric, I wasn't surprised by his tweets. I was happy that he was being vulnerable and speaking truth.
Eric and I have frequent conversations about our love/hate relationship with Silicon Valley, the media, and the ridiculous expectations that are put on people to lean in and have it all. At the time of Eric's tweet, there was a recent article published about a day in the life of an exec who starts her day with tennis and green smoothies, and it just felt so over the top. The reality is that life can be amazing and be damn hard at the same time. And the more people are honest about both parts, the more it sets realistic expectations for others. No one's perfect, and that's okay .
Their tips for making it all work
Eric : Holy smokes, childcare is the biggest leverage parents can have in their career and livelihoods, but it's so damn unaffordable. I really wish that there were better standards in place (ideally provided by the government) to provide some sort of basic income support for parents in the first few years of rearing kids. I have no idea how parents do it without childcare support. Having it, which is an insane privilege, unblocks our careers in a massive way.
For me, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. is sacred time during the week where I try to focus on family activities before my kids go to sleep. On the weekends, it's 100% family time. As a result, I work during the early mornings and late at night for a lot of individual work, and then rush through meetings between 10 and 5 p.m. during the weekday kids were a stimulus to get creative about what 'work hours' actually means.
And we try to do a day date every week or two. On a Friday, we'll take a long lunch together and might even do an activity, like a walk or movie, while we have childcare at home. When my wife and I are alone on these dates, we also try to limit how much we talk about our kids, but instead focus on each other. We'll talk about stuff we're thinking about, news, our businesses.
Beatrice: It probably helps that I'm a life coach. When something's bothering Eric or he's stressed from work, I push him to talk it out so the stress doesn't stay bottled inside. Also, like he mentioned, we're very clear on our own individual values as well as our family values. That way, we can keep each other accountable. The hope and goal is that as our kids get older, we can help them clarify their own values and have them contribute to our family values. Our current family values are: Quality and quantity time; experience over things; and laughter. They'll likely shift as our family changes over time.
Part of me feels bad about it because I get angry thinking about the systems or lack of systems in place to support working parents and let's be honest, working moms to be both successful in the workplace and at home. The reality is that unless you can afford childcare, after school care, everything-in-between care, at least one parent will take a hit in their career. Spending long hours at the office, participating in team bonding after-work activities, volunteering for the sexy projects, they all just becomes really tough to do when you have kids.
That being said, I've chosen to dial down my work and take less clients. But it doesn't mean I don't struggle with that choice. There are days that I love the work/life balance I have and then there are days I feel anxious and resentful at the sacrifices I feel I've made to make the family work. But every day, it's definitely an active choice. And I choose my family, then my work. In that order.
Eric and Beatrice have two kids, Owen, age 4, and Stella, 10 months.
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