BY Kathy Zucker • Sunday, January 4th, 2015
One year ago, my life changed forever.
When you are an entrepreneur, money is a constant struggle no matter how big you are. I have met startup founders who sleep in the closet at their Manhattan office in order to put the rent money into their business. There are stories about founders who lived in a car, a tent and a commune with bunk beds. Founders tout the advantages of self-funding a.k.a. bootstrapping, which basically means you are living on ramen noodles to pursue your dream.
I am not one of those founders. For starters, I have three little kids. And while they love the idea of camping, the whining would probably start right around the point where my picky eater couldn’t have strawberries and rice for 100% of his meals.
Child care is crazy expensive in my area. For three kids I am easily looking at $20+ per hour. On top of that, the overwhelming majority of babysitters want to be paid in cash. For 99.9% of people this isn’t a problem, but I’m the kind of person who would get caught. You know, being a public figure and all that.
And the other factor is that I want to spend time with my kids. The whole reason why I stayed home from my corporate executive career was because I didn’t want somebody else to raise them. I want to be the one they come to when they get hurt, the one who knows what foods they eat and when it’s time to put them down for a nap. The last thing I have ever wanted is to have a succession of paid helpers parading through my home. I am the center of my family. I have been present every single day of my kids’ lives for the last nine years, and I would like for that to be the case for as long as they need me. Which, based on the rising statistic of kids moving home after college, may be forever.
I am raising the future here. What is the point of my slaving endless hours to pay for education, enrichment and sports if I never see my kids? I could easily step back into the corporate world – I spent the summer fielding calls from numerous companies looking to headhunt me. And I have to say, the thought of earning a paycheck was really tempting. I actually went through the motions of finding child care before I realized that there was no amount of money any company could pay me that would make me want to leave my children right now.
However, I am extremely driven and ambitious. Being a full-time stay-at-home-mom is just not in the cards for me personally or for my family’s finances. So I started bringing the kids everywhere.
Has bringing my kids everywhere limited my options? Absolutely. I cannot take every meeting request that comes across my desk. I sometimes have a toddler tantrum as the backdrop of a work call. I am sure I have lost professional opportunities because I am simply not available.
But you know what? I am building something far more valuable – my kids’ futures. My oldest child has a pending book deal based on a drawing she did on scratch paper sitting at the dining room table while I worked in the next room. My youngest child had a video that went viral last month. My middle child has a playdate every day with his best friend who lives next door – they spend endless hours in imagination play building forts and designing tin can telephones strung between their bedroom windows.
This time I have with them – and they have with each other – will not last forever. In ten years my oldest child will be heading off to college. I want to make sure she is a grounded, highly capable and resourceful individual who is ready to take on the world. She may not speak four languages and be skilled at advanced calculus, but she will have spent decades at my side watching me build and run companies. I am betting that the skills she picks up will be more valuable than all the violin lessons in the world.
And in the meantime, the living room makes for a great campsite.