Balancing a startup and kids? Twitter co-founders suggest calendars, not bars


Twitter’s co-founders had some advice for startup founders Thursday: If you have kids, you’ll have to do things a little differently.

“I don’t go to bars anymore,” said Evan Williams, one of the Twitter co-founders now working on the publishing platform Medium. Williams and fellow Twitter co-founder Biz Stone for an interview at at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt, where YouTube’s Hunter Walk asked a question rarely posed to male startup founders: Can you have it all?

Williams and Stone, who both have children, said it’s hard to maintain a balance between their growing business and their families, but one thing that helps is actually scheduling time with their kids on a calendar. Sounds silly, they said, but it works. Williams also noted that it’s helpful to have the crazy days of his 20’s behind him.

But the replies from the co-founders–that avoiding bars and pulling out the calendar can help solve work-life balance–seemed only to highlight the male-dominated startup tech world, where this seems like sage parenting advice. Of course Disrupt is not a parenting conference, but hearing how powerful founders answer the question certainly sheds some light on a traditionally sticky issue in Silicon Valley.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic, “Why Women Can’t Have it All,” raised controversial questions this summer on work-life balance for mothers with children, an issue that applies to Silicon Valley but isn’t often raised at tech conferences for primarily male founders.

Silicon Valley has been criticized for having a “woman problem,” with a shortage of both female CEOs and engineers building things. It’s no surprise that startup life isn’t always conducive to family life and the buzz surrounding Marissa Mayer as the first pregnant CEO was notable.

So if the Twitter guys can make it work, does that mean everyone can? At least their strategy could lower your bar tab.



I think you simply need a spouse/partner who is willing and able to do most of the caregiving, and you need a family that accepts that even during family time, you’re apt to be interrupted by emails and whatnot to keep up with ceo-level work.

My family doesn’t work that way, they need more more than I can give. I also have an engineering development job where out of the office has to mean just that.

My current company was a startup when I joined. I never went out with people and I still don’t. By and large I’m needed at home to help with the kids and wife.

I’m an excellent employee as is, but I feel that if I didn’t have my family life, I could have jumped a strata or two of productivity and innovation at work.

Laura Hazard Owen

It’s great that men are talking about work-life balance. I feel like the “advice” they gave here, though, only works if you are neither the primary caregiver nor the parent primarily in charge of scheduling care for your kids, etc.

I want to hear more from startup guys about these issues, not just “oh if I don’t go to the bar I can see my kids before they go to bed,” but thoughts on paternity and maternity leave policy, flexible hours, etc. etc. Actually, that would make for a great panel, one that ideally would have both men and women on it.

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