SM: Childcare is a major item in one’s monthly budget. People do have to think of it, because for most aspiring entrepreneurs, or indeed anyone who works, it is a huge issue.
JH: To have your own company, and to be the solo leader of that company, while at the same time having a family and a happy marriage is nearly impossible. I don’t want to concede.
SM: You have not had to go there all the way yet because your child is still so small. But the peer pressure . . .
JH: I know! I am totally terrified! I understand what you are saying, but it makes me wonder if it is a human issue or is it “the system.”
SM: I didn’t grow up in this country. This kind of peer pressure did not exist. My father was not coming to my athletic events. They were in the middle of the day, he was an entrepreneur, and there was no time for it. I had no expectations for him to be at my athletic events. My mom used to come from time to time, but not always. I was never upset or focused on the issue. Here, there can be the expectation that your parents will come to all of your games, all of your concerts, and all of your events. That is insane! How do we turn this around? Are children going to feel smothered and grow up resenting you?
JH: Therapy bells up to here! We built Eventbrite by putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe that is all we can do in our parenting as well. Think about the challenges facing women. It can be so daunting that some do not even want to try.
SM: I can’t blame the young women entrepreneurs who come and tell me that they can’t take something on because of whatever list of circumstances they give. I can’t blame them.
JH: No, and you can’t understand them until you have been in their shoes. Dana, who just joined our team, is away from her eight-month old for the first time. I am the only person in the company who asked her how she is doing because nobody in our company has kids. She confided in me that she cuts out at 5 but is back on by 7, and I had to reassure her that I do the same.
It is difficult, and I have the advantage of being part of the leadership team, and my schedule preceded most of the team. The amount of time that someone may spend going to lunch or playing pool, I am feeding my child, bathing her, and putting her to bed. You have to do what you have to do. I feel a bit guilty because I have not been hit with a really tough decision.
SM: I think that is fine. What I find healthy in your story is that you have made the best of the situation. You have taken the cards you have been dealt and you have played those cards optimally.
JH: But couldn’t that be applied to every situation? Yes, it may not be the most ideal situation. The most brilliant mind could wind up not running the company.
SM: Or the most brilliant mind could choose not to have a child. That is a perfectly fine choice.
JH: Why would we think less of that person? That is not wrong.
SM: Society has created all these constructs where women are expected to have children. You are not a complete woman until you have a child. On the other hand, there is also this other monster going on that says you are not a successful woman until you have a career. If you look at women in their mid-forties and fifties, many of them were married to very successful men and chose not to have careers. Their kids are now going off to college, and some women have a complete identity implosion because they live in a very success-oriented social structure where they cannot hold their own. This is causing huge social problems, including suicide and alcoholism in some women, when they find their lives and their children are gone.
JH: In my childhood, my mother always picked me up from school. It was not until I grew up that I realized that my mother picked me up from school on her lunchtime. It hit my like a bucket of cold water that my mother never had a career, rather a series of part-time jobs so that she could be there to pick me up from school. She had never spoken of it or mentioned it. It was not until I went to college that she developed her career as an editor. I am so proud of her, but sometimes I wish she would have make me take the bus.
SM: It is a complex topic, and then there are all these men who want to say that we just need to put a network together and then everything will come into place. They don’t have a clue!
JH: I came into this conversation thinking, “I can’t believe I am doing this, because I don’t have the answer to these questions!” I can say that having the moment I had right before I had Emma was very powerful. To get to where I am now, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. What am I going to do? Imminently, I am going to have another child and try to one-up myself. It sounds absurd, but I am excited.
SM: You also have options.
JH: I have a lot of options, and that is why sometimes I feel hesitant to speak to groups of people. All I can say is that what has worked for me and I will let others pull anything they can from my experience if it can help them in theirs.
SM: It would be grossly unfair for either you or me to sit here and say “you can do it, no problem.” There is a huge problem!
JH: Everyone’s vortex of happiness is in a different place. It is so incredibly complex. Sometimes I just think we are going to evolve in a circle where women can stay home and men can go back and hunt and gather. We’ll evolve in a circle. That does not make me happy, but at the same time having a child is so difficult. It is the most incredible thing to grow and conceive a child, let alone raise one. Are we being short-sighted trying to integrate children into our greater ambitions? I like to think that Emma is a part of our tribe and we are moving toward the same goal.
SM: I am probably ten years older than you are. I have to say that the conclusion I have come to is that you have to honor who you are and make your decisions based on that. If you try to live up to society’s expectations, your parent’s expectations, your family’s expectations, your husband’s expectations, or your friends’ expectations, then you are bound to end up in a zone. You will be incredibly unhappy.
JH: I think I have learned that along this journey as well. I have had to make uncomfortable decisions such as taking Fridays off. I took Fridays off to be a happy mom and wife. I had to have confidence and self-esteem to make those decisions.
SM: I think self-esteem is incredibly important. You have to have enough self-esteem to make the right decision as it applies to you and not to fulfill somebody else’s expectations. This has been a very good conversation. Thank you for taking the time to discuss your story.