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Gini Dietrich

Having Children Means You Can’t Run a Start-Up

By: Gini Dietrich | October 12, 2010 | 
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This past Sunday, I received a nice note from my hilarious friend, Laura Petrolino, asking me to comment on Saturday’s TechCrunch story, “Women don’t want to run start-ups because they’d rather have children.”

If you’ve not yet had a chance to read the story, you can find it here.  First, congratulations to Penelope Trunk, the founder of Brazen Careerist. The article was well-written and she makes a very honest, introspective, and great point. I’ve often wondered, myself, why there are so few women who travel. Why there are so few women who build and sell companies. Why there are so few women who make the list of billionaire entrepreneurs. Now I know why: Children.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about what having children would do to the business. And not just one business (Arment Dietrich), but two (Project Jack Bauer). You see (and this likely won’t come as a surprise to any of you), I’m a perfectionist. It drives me crazy that I ride my bike 300 miles a week, eat healthfully (with the occasional cheese dip thrown in), and I still have this little spot above my left knee that I can’t get rid of – no matter how muscular the rest of my legs. I have a hard time sitting in my Vistage meetings and watching my peers talk about their businesses without wondering when I’m going to hit their level of success. My house is spotless, yet I watch an episode of Hoarders and spend the next six hours cleaning out every closet. Sure, it might be borderline OCD, but it affects every aspect of my life, from client service and building a start-up to a clean house and gourmet dinners.

So, how on earth, would I also add children into that equation? Because, if anything should be perfect, it should be raising children.

But I guess we can’t have it all, can we? And that’s why I don’t see very many women in First Class when I fly. And that’s why we don’t read about Megan Zuckerberg or Stephanie Jobs or Barbara Gates. Because, when it comes down to it, raising kids isn’t feasible if you also want to build the next Facebook, Microsoft, or Apple.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? But in the words of my very wise mother, “Life isn’t fair.”

So the next time someone asks me why Mr. D and I don’t have kids and instead of me replying that it’s none of your business (which is what I really want to say), but instead joke about having kids in the form of two businesses and employees, don’t in one breath say, “Wow. That’s so sad.” And in another breath say you wish you could ride 300 miles a week and grow a business. Because, the truth of the matter is, you can’t have both.

P.S. Laura also wrote a great blog post today on this topic and combined thoughts from many women entrepreneurs. It’s worth checking out.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

105 comments
meganbeausang
meganbeausang

I waited until i was making six-figures, had a great pipeline of clients and was able to put my workload on auto-pilot when I got pregnant. 2 months later I lost my job. In the worst jobs market ever. I was SUPER lucky and landed my dream job, but I'm not making as much (which I'm totally fine with), my schedule is totally unpredictable and the job is a LOT more rigorous (but I happen to LOVE it). One month away from delivery, my husband switched jobs and now we have to pay COBRA because our benefits haven't kicked in. I could not think of how 'waiting for the perfect moment' could have failed more miserably. I thought at one point about starting my own business after i got laid off...but I agree with Gini. I AM able to choose a job that is rigorous and challenging, but I cannot start a business and have a newborn. The decision was NEVER a money thing. It was the fact that both of them require 100% attention and flexibility in schedule -- and I don't go into something knowing i'm going to half-ass it.
And you know what? I could not be HAPPIER about the way things turned out. I actually consider myself really really really really lucky.

JonHearty
JonHearty

The biggest cost in any business is opportunity cost. You can't have everything, so it's good to constantly reflect on the choices you're making to ensure you're not getting just doing what you've been doing as a result of momentum. I'm glad to hear you do this and I can only assume it helps you appreciate even more your ability to ride and work the way you do. Good luck with Project Jack Bauer!

cnsmiles
cnsmiles

You're looking to spend $20,000 on a child each year. That's basic luxaries for a child. Like food,day care, and baby sitting services. That's not Pre-Harvard day care or weekly massages for the brat......that's basic expenses. You're essentially de-investing $20,000 from a startup. That's a lot of money that could go to building a future that could essentially provide the best environment for a child. Like the best education, best neighborhoods,best whatever that comes with being succesful. Jobs,Gates,and the guys at google all waited till they were financially liberated and assured retirement before they even thought about getting into a relationship, much less starting a family.
Judging from the posts we clearly have different business models that dictate what we can or cannot do. I personally run a IT collaboration website and am in the process of building an online IT training service. So I do alot of software development and technical authoring.

I have a girlfriend that decided she will leave me unless I guarantee her a child within the next 18 months. I'm coming to the conclusion that I will have to leave her. It sucks cause I put 3 years into this relationship, but her vision of the simple lfe and my vision of innovation and financial liberation are at conflict. Glad there are articles like this to help me with my decision making.

janbeery
janbeery

You know what? I know we talked about this before and the bottom line is this.... If you want to have children when and how, it's a personal decision and there isn't a right or wrong answer. If I could do it over would I have waited, probably but the reality is, you do what's best for you and your family. It all works out and there is always a way to accommodate what it is you're comfortable with. We do the best we know how to do. When we learn differently we change it or just move forward.... Personal Personal Personal!!!

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

Since I'm catching up the Top 10 Spin Sucks for the year, I'm a bit late for this one, but oh how I love it. It's near and dear to my heart in that I have 2 children and a 'start up' - a small business of me! When I started my business 3 years ago, I had too many services (pr and marketing, due diligence for real estate & development, and market analysis), had lots of clients and had 1 child. The good times were rolling! Fast forward two years and I became pregnant with baby #2 -oops and the country becomes pregnant on overconsumption and interest only loans - double oops.

I took some time off and took on a solo contract for a client. A year into this hiatus, I realized that a) I wanted my business back and b) I was not a stay at home mom. I am happy to say the business is back, focused solely on what I do best: pr and marketing. I am also realistic when I say that it is quite difficult to be wildly successful at being a billionaire entrepreneur and being a mom. It's not gonna happen - at least not for me and not right now. I adjust my expectations and find a new measure of success. This is quite shocking for anyone that knows me since I am quite intense, driven and a recovering perfectionist. (Having kids will put a hurt on perfectionism.)
New benchmarks for success for a working mom: Is my business on a sustainable track? (the kids aren't always going to be little; no need to start from scratch 15 years from now) Are my kids happy and healthy? Do I love what I do? Yes on all fronts! #Success

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

I've been following these stories closely because I am a young woman, I work in tech, and I've always rolled with the boys. I'll have to write my own blog post to put down all my ideas, but you have it right - life isn't fair. We all make decisions based on our own lives and careers. I am a go-getter and would love to be an exec or start my own company someday, and I think I have what it takes. At the same time I want to have kids and I love vacations -two things that are hard to do with a startup. Even if there were 36 hours in a day, I don't think I would have time for both. Do I have these feelings because I'm a woman? Maybe. Can men feel this way? Certainly. The fact of the matter is we all have our wants, but we can't have them all. I'm a single 23 year old living in a small room in San Francisco. It's the perfect time for me to work for a startup. Maybe it will be time again when my kids are all grown up. Main point is, I don't play on trying to have it all because I dont want to half-ass either side of things.

thewhalehunters
thewhalehunters

I always thought you CAN have it all but you can't necessarily have it all at once. I had my kids early--two children by the time I was 25, then finished a degree and started teaching--part-time until they were in school. Even if you have your child (or more) much later, you may not be "too late." It truly didn't take long to catch up with the guys my age--I was hungrier, wiser, and more aggressive in many ways. I didn't get into "start-up" until much later--and I'm still in it! But now I'm at the point where no one is depending on me and I can give it as much time and energy as I want.

Thanks for raising the question and for all the great comments you've inspired. It is a real issue, to be sure.

barryrsilver
barryrsilver

"Having it all" is in the mind of the beholder. If you're running a start-up but want to also be a parent, go for it. Want to run a start-up as a parent, find another passion (in addition to your kid(s))and start a biz. That easy? Hardly. Make your choices and live with the consequences (ramifications?) of those decisions. The definition of having it all is no one's definition but yours. BTW, Next time someone asks why you don't have children, try this: "My husband and I decided not to bring children into a world full of nosy morons."

Vee
Vee

Well first, there wouldn't be so many great men without the great women who support them. This doesn't always apply, but for the successful men who have wives or long time girlfriends, my hats are off to them as they have experienced a life time of stress as well. On to the topic matter however, I think this is changing. There are more men than ever who stay home with their kids or take on equal responsibility with their partner. I can count on my spouse to come home from his day job and round up two active boys so that I can finish my work for the day, but I do understand that many women do not have that kind of support.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

I'm reading this post at 10:50 pm EST, with work still to be done - and my 10 y/o is in bed. Why you ask? I'm a working mom.

KellyeCrane & Cloudspark said it best - you need a support system (ie sympathetic husband) and whoever said you could have it all...was only partially right - there's no way you can fire on all pistons without something having to give.

We make our own choices. At at a time when I should be coasting in my previous job at a non-profit (for 17 yrs)...I chose to take on a 5 yr contract doing some pretty exciting national/international work. Why? Because I wanted to and it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Because my family said they'd be there for me. And because my husband is the (successful) entrepreneur in the family...and one of us has to be ensured of earning the steady paycheque. But that is not to say I'm absolved of my other family responsibilities as I take on this new job (a virtual start-up). I have help at home - but someone still has to help with the homework.

Yeah, I still want it all...but for now...I'll settle for a really great 80%.

Greg
Greg

A few things - Gini you said: "I want to point out two things: A "start-up" by the definition of the term is a venture or angel invested company and there are very few women entrepreneurs who make the billionaire list."

This is not necessarily true, there is a thing called boot strap. Myself and hundreds of other entrepreneurs have taken this route to build successful companies - primary point cast as your main goal: we need work, not money. And, although there may not be many 'billionaire' women, there are many, many female multi-millionaires.. I have several as clients - who built very successful companies, most having a child or two or three in tow during the voyage - and with or without husbands as the case may be.

Gini responded to Patrick: "I don't think that's a challenge at all! I totally agree you can have both, just not at the same time."

Nonsense - I operated as a very proud SINGLE parent having custody and for a long time, and did do both, at the same time -

In the beginning, you just have to meet the 100+ weeks head on... and stay with it; all things will fall in to place.

Very good points of view throughout the comments so far...

janbeery
janbeery

Gini,
For everyone it's such a personal decision. There is never a perfect answer!
For me, I did it all while raising 3 kids and occasionally mumbling, "one little pill, one little pill!"
All I can tell you is I didn't know whether to use the toilet or wind my watch half the time! We were very organized, charts, goals, paycheck rewards (aka allowance) and yes, I often was racing from the airport to make it to football, band competition, gymnastic meets etc. I look back and think how crazy it was that I even survived. I was an avid runner logging 30-35 miles a week, traveled 30-50% which increased when my youngest was in High School. (Much to his enjoyment as he scammed my husband on a routine basis.) I have many gray hairs, all attributed to my two sons and areas of my body that remind me of the what it was like to carry baby elephants inside of me. Memories of the infamous phone calls like, "Hello Mrs. Beery, this is the police department, we have your son" while his older brother feverishly called everyone he knew telling them his brother was in the slammer! Or yet another one of my personal favorites, after I had lit up my oldest son upon returning from a long business trip, I hear my other son call down to him while I'm in my office, "Hey, Anne Frank, the coast is clear, you can come out now!"
Yes, all great memories!!!!!
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I do it if I had more years on me than sense, probably not. Result, well rounded young adults contributing in large ways to our world. I look at these 3 people with amazement at their accomplishments and say to myself, "wow! now THAT's my own personal success AND I survived to tell about it!" The best part is that I put the mother's curse on them. "May you have many like yourselves and may the be multiple births!"

JasonVerhoosky
JasonVerhoosky

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!!!
That said, this goes farther than just women and business. As a man, and father of two children under the age of 3, this hugely affects my life, and the ability to run my business.
I love my family, LOVE being a dad, and do everything I can to spend as much time as possible being just that, a dad. But in addition to my two human children, I have my business, and my dog;)

As much as clients and investors are understanding to family, there is still the bottom line, and the underlying need to be successful, meet deadlines, and meet with people during normal business hours (not 10pm when my children are sleeping and i get the majority of my work done).

I am lucky to have an amazing wife that understands as much as she can, and when I am traveling to speak, present, meet with clients, etc. 20 weeks out of the year she is there to be mom (as well as be a full time teacher).

I often struggle to find the right balance between work/business development and family. It is a constantly shifting line, an internal as well as family battle, and something that will always be there.

If anyone has the golden ticket let me know, but for the time being, I will continue to do my best in both arenas.

lindsayanng
lindsayanng

I have just realized the point that everyone seems to be missing. The post isn't about owning a small business and raising children. Lots of people can do that. She is talking about running and owning a successful startup company that has investors and a solid plan/future ahead.

In that case, she is right - you can not do both at the same time. If you are the owner of a company funded by an angel investor or venture capitalist, then you absolutely must spent a good portion of your time making that idea work. Those investors end up being your children and the startup is the family as a whole. You can't toss a real family in there and expect to have to for both. If you do, then you either need the man in the relationship to take on the mom role (anyone watch Parenthood?) or you let one or the other suffer.

It just is not possible that both can happen.. Not that a kid needs a stay at home mom to be successful, but they do need a mom to be present in their life.

patrickreyes
patrickreyes

Gini - another popular post to generate some conversation! Love it!

Last week I attended Catalyst 2010 in Atlanta. The topic of the 2 days was that tension is a good thing.

In this post, you're talking about the tension between owning and starting a business versus children.

What you or anyone else will need to decide is what matters most to you at this point and time in your life.

I guess I'll challenge you a little bit and say that you can have both...run a start up and be a parent...just not at the same time.

It becomes a balancing act where individuals decide what to put more energy into.

For you, the beauty of it is that can you be a perfectionist on whatever side you are on! LOL!

KellyeCrane
KellyeCrane

Terrific discussion! A couple years ago I read an article re: a study of women who'd reached the highest levels of business (wish I had the link at my fingertips to share).

What they found was that these women tended to have a significant other who filled the traditional, old-school "wife" role. Basically, for one partner to be in the C-suite of a Fortune 1000 company, the other person in the relationship needs to give up their own big career aspirations to help them get there - regardless of their sex.

I think that's a key distinction, because -- as others have commented -- it has nothing to do with particular characteristics of any one sex, but rather the roles we assume. And each of us (men and women) get to choose the role we'd like to have (speaking of feminists in prior generations, that was the big gift they gave us, IMO).

These choices aren't always easy, but I know couples who have a stay-at-home Dad while Mom runs a business, and that works great for them. It's not one-size-fits-all, thank goodness!

delwilliams
delwilliams

Enjoyed your post Gini. My issue with Penelope Trunk is twofold. One, the broad brush she uses to pretty much insult people. Secondly, sorry, can't get over her tweeting:"I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin." http://twitter.com/#!/penelopetrunk/status/4147262767 So the attitude now seems to be a little, I don't know, bull crappy.

balemar
balemar

Gini -

Thought provoking posts like these remind me why I love reading Spin Sucks!

It's true - I love my mother dearly, but I watched her chose between having a career and raising 3 very spread out girls. It's hard to find upper level executives that are both successful and have children. It's just too hard to find time to do both. Most people can not juggle the responsibilities of motherhood and entrepreneurship (and for the people that can - YOU rock and inspire me with your uber hard work!)

I recently started my own company, and it's a LOT of work. I can't imagine having to take care of children while trying to get a start up off the ground. It's just plain impossible for me - it's hard enough just having a relationship!

While I do eventually want kids in the future (FAR, FAR, FAR future - I'm all for having kids much older when you're more established), I also realize that that specific choice will affect the ability of my business to grow. I won't be able to grow my company into a large company, but then again I never intended it to be huge.

The choice to have children comes with a tradeoff for women entrepreneurs. Eventually, they need to decide what gives them the most satisfaction and what they want to focus the most on: children or business. And as a woman, I think society needs to realize that not everyone woman needs children to be complete and happy with their lives. Some people have a different calling. At the end of the day, there are only 24 hours in a day. Whatever they choose to do with their time, I respect them for pursuing their ambitions whether it be business, children or both.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

Before I go in and comment to each of you (I'm going to wait for everyone to have the ability to say their peace), I want to point out two things: A "start-up" by the definition of the term is a venture or angel invested company and there are very few women entrepreneurs who make the billionaire list.

There are PLENTY of successful women who raise fabulous kids. But the sacrifice they've given up is they work at home or don't have employees or don't build the next Facebook, Google, or Microsoft.

If we ever have kids, I will certainly try to do both, but I also know something will suffer...and it likely won't be my family. My hope is that I get Project Jack Bauer (which will be venture-backed) to a point that I can either sell it and walk away or leave it in very capable hands while I raise a family.

Now...keep chatting and I'll be back. :)

AshlynBrewer
AshlynBrewer

As we've said again and again personal experience isn't fact, but as the child of a mother who ran and partially owned a businesses (not a startup, but the point holds) as I was growing up, I think I greatly benefited from having that successful, businesswoman model.

No woman should feel obligated to have children if she doesn't want them, but no woman who wants them should feel she won't be a good mother if she is also an entrepreneur. Kids need love/attention, obviously, but a good role model goes a long way too.

Historically speaking, there was a time when people assumed that having children (or even just a husband) meant that women couldn't even work and function well in their familial roles. The idea of what a mother can/cannot do is still evolving.

cloudspark
cloudspark

Gini -

We all got sold a bunch of hooey by early feminists who declared we could "have it all!" They lied - you might think you can have it all, but you can't - at least not at the same time.

While I see your point and agree that the primary caretaker/family manager is women, it does not in fact have to be a hinderance to creating a successful start up. It just means you'll sleep a whole lot less - a lot less.

I've created and manage a growing microagency. I'm also a mom to a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old. It's a hyper-scheduled existence, I work 5 days a week and 7 nights a week, and I'm wife/mom 24/7. Yes, it's tiring, but I've found efficiences in home and work and a better ability to delegate. I'm more confident because I don't waste time on matters that have little short- or long-term impact. Now, I do make compromises like traveling less frequently, but I do that knowing what really matters and what can be covered just as well through Skype or telepresence meetings. And I'm not alone, I have a husband who works, travels, yet still flexes his schedule so that our family is first. He also helps me be a better entrepreneur with sage, timely advice. I know I'm lucky.

We should champion the success of every entrepreneur - including those that carry the title of mom. I recently heard from Miriam Rivera who helped Google go public and was there from the early days and a leader in the company. To paraphrase Rivera shared, "I am a better leader because I am a mother. Despite the common stereotypes, I became a better person, a better worker, a better business strategist, a better communicator, a better everything because I became a mother." Who wouldn't want that kind of person running their company?

leyla
leyla

I agree 100%. I think having children is important and I think children deserve to be raised by their parents and not random strangers. It doesn't matter to me if that parent is a husband or a wife but I cannot see how it is fair for both parents to work 60+ hours a week with a rigorous travel schedule and raise children at the same time.

It just would never be my choice.

hackmanj
hackmanj

Great, thought provoking post. I can say as a father and an entrepreneur when it comes down to sacrifice it is my work not my family that suffers. I will take business trips (occasionally) and burn the midnight oil sure, but when my son has a important appointment or event I need to be there 100% of the time. I cannot and will not compromise that. It's about making tough decisions and sometimes sacrificing.

JoyFull_deb
JoyFull_deb

Gini...I enjoyed your post because it speaks to YOUR choices and beliefs about women & careers. This conversation has been around a long time. I'm of a different generation than most here (I think). At 59 years young, I was married, had a miscarriage, and then, focused my energies on climbing a corporate ladder. That ladder broke for various reasons. I applaud women who can "do it all." I will never know that experience. What I do know for sure, is this. At my age, I now wish that I would have pursued both. More than likely, I'd have grandchildren by now. And when, friends show me photos of the kids & grand kids, I pause to reflect. Did I make the right decision? At the time, for me, it was the right thing. Looking back, I see that there were plans for me today, that could not have been done, if I'd had children.A greater plan, if you will. (That's a post for another time)
I do believe it is a couple's choice as to if & when they have children. If that decision is "working for them," HOORAY!!!Again, I applaud all of you!!
P.S. My "children" have always been large dogs.And, that works for me and my life.

Sushi
Sushi

The primary issue I had with Penelope's article was the generalization. Her own experiences, though they are valid, are not indicative of the experiences of all women and shouldn't be a substitute for research. Not all women want or are able to have children. For some women, children may be a primary reason; for others--many others--children or lack thereof aren't a reason at all.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Hmmm, well I have 3 kids, 12, 9 & 6 plus this little business that hubby and I formed. Thank God a perfectionist I am not, since I was thrown into the Sales/Marketing (and anything else that needed to be done) that I had no clue how to do. But, guess what, we had a dream and forged full steam ahead.

Sure, I don't travel for business....heck a lot of times I can be found working with kids around on school days off in my PJ's, but connections are being made, business is growing, laundry is getting done and I am knocking down more walls and getting better at many jack of all trade tasks!

So, yeah, I think maybe you can have it all, just in varying degrees!

ryancox
ryancox

Gini, I loved this post for its authenticity, however I think I disagree with you. And here is the reason. As most know, I'm adopting my sisters two boys, and I'm a part of a couple startups. And I refuse to believe that because I'm playing Dad&Mom, that I will not be able to run a startup. I simply refuse to believe it. So I take this post as a challenge. Furthermore, I think that I am going to start a blog and account the entire journey. I am an equal perfectionist, I obsess over success, and I simply refuse to believe I can not do it all. Not 'all' in the sense of everything, but 'all' in the sense of everything I want to do. No matter how unlikely. So again, I valued this post for its authenticity, and the overall message -- however I disagree. So I like this post, with one caveat: I will prove the saying: theres an exception to every rule.

lindsayanng
lindsayanng

Pretty great post!! My husband and I are married 3 years, no kids, and some pets. I get sooo sick of the "Why dont you/when you are you" questions!! When it's my mom asking it's one thing - when it's strangers it entirely different.. and the the worse is when you meet a stranger who, after you tell them that you have no desire for kids, they look you in the eyes and say "Ohh hun, don't worry, you will some day" YOU DONT EVEN KNOW ME!!

Anyways, enough of my rant. I think that the truth of the matter is that kids make everything harder - including running a business. Many women look forward to the sacrifice and exhausted nights that come with kids, but most of us are hard worked as it is and we don't want to sacrificed the momentum of our budding careers to spend time on anything else.

Another statement of the economy being that plenty of people think about it a lot and feel that they can not afford kids so they throw everything into their startup to plan on having kids. When they are finally financially stable, they start trying but it's too late in life and becomes increasingly difficult.

Has anyone seen the movie IDIOCRACY? The intro to that movie sums up what a lot of the country is going through. The successful adults are thinking a lot harder about having kids and only having one - if that. The rest of the country is popping them out as fast as they can.

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith

Gini, my friend Margie Traylor just went to Washington, D.C. to accept the award for SBA 2010 Small Business Person of the Year for Arizona. She started Sitewire, an interactive ad agency, 11 years ago, when her two sons were in elementary school. Today, she has more than 50 employees, an incredible client list, she just became CEO of a second company--Whale Hunters, she founded our amazing Estrogen Ink book group, she travels all the time and her sons are loving and well adjusted.

Personally, I loved running my agency when I had babies. It was challenging, but so rewarding at every level. It's important for all humans to stop projecting what is and isn't possible, and instead, to start lifting one another up on our journeys and supporting all choices. Maybe then we'll build the sense of community that can truly raise a child.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

Great thoughts Gini!

a) It scares me how similarly neurotic we are

b) Life is all about choices. Period. You can choose who you are, what you do, when you do it...really when it comes down to it (no matter what excuses that people tell themselves), life is one big choice, and it is up to you to make it.

I think the thing about Penelope's article that is most infuriating to me, is not her stereotypical thinking, or her pigeon hole-ing of what women 'should' want, but more the glass ceiling that she puts on the heads of all women. This is my singular pet peeve among so called women's rights advocates (not saying PT is one of these), they limit themselves.

Men don't hold women back, society doesn't hold women back, WOMEN hold women back. We don't have to do business like men, to be as successful as men. In fact in my opinion, the very fact that we try to be like men, when we are not, is what holds us back most in business. Just because it was done 'this way' before, doesn't mean that is the only way it can be done.

It is all about choice, but often two are not as mutually exclusive as they may seem, they just need to be viewed from a slightly different perspective. Penelope's perspective is lazy and status quo....and that irks me.

StarrMcCaffery
StarrMcCaffery

3 businesses ages 20, 6 and 2. 3 kids ages 12, 10 and 8.

Perfection? Well, the middle company is struggling. No, not middle-child syndrome, just too many clients in the homebuilding industry before the crash. The other 2 make up for her and we're confident she will recover as she's also served clients in the ever-hot healthcare and insurance industries.

Oh, and did I mention 2 dogs, a cat & a Russian tortoise?

JulieWalraven
JulieWalraven

I started Design Resumes as a sideline business before I had children. Went full-time when life threw me for a loop and the jobs out there wouldn't come close to covering child care for 2 children under the age of two.

I added contracts with non-profits, dropped them, and wondered how to balance everything. I volunteered, networked, and unfortunately, everything didn't turn out perfect.

But life rarely is - perfect... I admire your energy, Gini, come over and you can find plenty of closets to clean...

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Gini, I get what you're saying, tip my hat to you for posting it. My objection is the blanket statement. May not be ideal, the statistics may disprove it, etc. but I just pause at "women" vs. some, which I know you also mention "few." As I type this, I already see some other posts with objections of their own.

The other day I almost jokingly called someone out for instilling sexist ideals in impressionable youth. Someone's niece wanted to dress up as a Samurai for Halloween; someone else said essentially: "she can't be a Samurai, she's a girl" and I really wanted to say something but stopped. Why? Mostly no time, but also because I don't have kids and there are those who object to parenting lessons from non-aunts, non-parents.

For some reason this post reminded me of this short piece by Rick Reilly about female athletes retiring at the height of their careers to have kids. I liked his conclusion: "so long, hardly knew you.. but at least your kids will." http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=5126277

For me personally, I sort of agree with you. I'm fine that I haven't had kids and strongly resist the notion that children are the end-all, be-all of female existence. For me. I don't think that I can do it all, and do it all well, per how I'd define "well" be it running a business or parenting. But I try not to define "well" or "perfection" for others; yes I have to check myself for judging others and their choices, but it's a quick check. I don't walk in their shoes. I also don't want them telling me how I should walk in mine either. FWIW.

timjahn
timjahn

Having been a parent for 7 weeks now, my initial response is yes, it would be tough. Startups require almost a 24/7 commitment and so do children (or even a single child).

But upon further thought, I'm doing just that. I'm working like crazy to build a business (BeyondThePedway.com), maintain my freelance web development business, and be there for every moment in my child's amazing new life.

In fact, that's part of the reason I choose to work for myself - so that I can always be around for my kid (or at least as much as possible).

I'm not sure there's a right answer here. I do think it all boils down to what you value the most. You'll make it work according to that.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

When I was recently divorced, I took the buyout from the well paid research job I had with a big company and spent as much time as I could with my kids. I picked them up every day from school, shuffled them off to piano lessons, and probably spent more waking hours with them than their mom did. I made ends meet working at just about anything I could, being a part of 2 start-ups and doing consulting on my own.

It was tough, and it's still tough, but I made my choice. Today, it's especially hard for me to get a "real job" with a company because my employment history is really spotty. I have been Daddy-tracked.

This doesn't just happen to women, although most of the time it's set up so that women bear the brunt of it. That's stupid and shameful. But what's terrible is that our society as a whole devalues raising children so very much that if you take the precious first years of your life as a parent seriously you will be penalized for the rest of your life.

A start-up is hard no matter what, and having young kids to take care of does mean that you probably can't do much more than scratch a simple living. But the flexibility is really important and I'd recommend it to anyone, man or woman, with kids to raise. Once the kids are older you can do a lot more and get back to the standard of living you once had - but time away from the workplace means you're still probably going to have to prove yourself all over again and do it on your own.

So I'd say that having kids and running a consulting biz / start-up is not only possible, it's probably essential. You just have to understand that once you've made those choices, they are going to be yours for life - just like the wonderful kids you get to spend heaps of old fashioned quantity time with!

aspinchick
aspinchick

Gini, true and not true. I've been running businesses of my own both before and after having children. I would have it no other way. I am in the middle of launching another new venture while having an 11-year-old and 14-year-old - and being a single mother to boot.

Do you know what I give up in order to do this? R&R time. Free time. Whatever that would mean. But that's OK, because being self-employed gives me a flexible schedule where I can take care of my responsibilities and then pull an all-nighter if I have to. The kids get what they need - clients get what they need. I get...well, chocolate. And cycling.

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

Ok, I'm going in! This is such a tough subject, and one that I find annoyingly woman-centric. In most cases (though not all) there are 2 parents involved in making and raising a child. I have run a business, started a business and had 2 children when my work life was most hectic. I won't deny there are some very hard decisions to make, but overall a lot of my life is about balancing decisions with my awesome husband who is also a very involved parent. I'm also a big believer in the bank of life. In my 20's, after moving back to Chicago, I was growing a small business. I networked like crazy, gave back any where I could, and even ran a women's networking group of more than 10,000. I worked really hard to create lasting relationships and do my best to get out there in some big ways. After having kids, I now say no to a lot of events, travel less frequently, and sometimes have to say no to something I really want to do (like speaking at a conference) if it conflicts with something important for the family. But thanks to all those relationships I created, and continue to create, I'm able to reap the rewards now that I'm "out there" a lot less.

I am also an open book and often post updates about my kids, include them in my professional bio, and don't hesitate to share with clients if I have to reschedule a call due to a kid's dentist appointment. (This actually happened this week!) I have found that, with a few notable exceptions, we are all dealing with our own lives and understand the pressures we face outside of work. One of my clients is really into her pets, and when one was sick we talked about that a lot. It is a very human thing to have a family - whatever that family looks like - and I believe we are forgiving of one another in that regard.

Having said that, I agree with what you say about the long hours and travel. It's nearly impossible to juggle that and do right by your family. There are things I would love to do professionally that I just don't have time for. However, I'm looking at what I want as redefining success. I may never be Bill Gates, but damn it I'll be happy and fulfilled both professionally and personally. I have never judged any one for decisions they make about their own family lives. Have children or not - but do what you love and find a way that works for you.

I guess my (long-winded) point here is that we have too long debated this as a woman's issue. Fathers make sacrifices and juggle as well, and there are ways to make things work - regardless of gender or profession. Just my two cents! :-) Oh - and perfection and parenting are mutually exclusive. If you aim for perfection you will fail. I just try to make sure my kids know we're here for them, and that they laugh with us every day. That's success for us. As for professionally? I have some financial goals, a vision and a desire to feel good about what I do.

manamica
manamica

I had this debate with one of your Vistage fellows the other day. He claimed few if any people, men or women, start businesses AFTER having children. While I'm sure fewer do compared to "before" having children, I still seem to run into many women who didn't think to stat a business untile AFTER. Being home with a first-born seems to be a catalyst for ideas. But I do think the whole life-work balance is different for men and women regardless of their entrepreneurial status. Don't you think?

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  3. […] entrepreneur clearly stating her opinion (though it sure sounded like fact, didn’t it?) that if you have children, you can’t run a startup. Insert “punch to the gut” feeling here. I mean, the author is clearly a successful […]

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elisabeth , Elissa Freeman. Elissa Freeman said: Does having children mean you can't run a start-up? @ginidietrich gets an avalanche of comments http://bit.ly/9T7bYI via @SpinSucks […]

  5. […] of my favorite bloggers, thinkers, and general trouble makers Gini Dietrich wrote a post entitled “Having Children Means You Can’t Run a Start-Up”. This post got me thinking on many levels, and struck a few cords with me.  The reason I bring this […]

  6. […] has changed my perspective on so many things, including building a business. There’s a notion floating around out there that you can’t build a business when you have […]