Humbled

I visited a friend on Friday. We hadn’t seen each other since high school, essentially, but we kept in touch on and off via Facebook. Recently, I asked if anyone knew of a good Chinese tutor, and she volunteered herself. I happened to be in the area, so we met up the next day.

She had a newborn baby girl, three months old, and while we caught up, I found myself unable to take myself seriously. I rattled off what had happened since high school, all my ups and downs and career changes, and my current projects. But I realized something then; I could become a millionaire, I could change the world, or I could become the president of the United States of America, but none of that would have the gravity of bringing a new life into the world.

It put my life into a different perspective. I felt like I was a child, myself, playing with toys and make believe. I am, for better or for worse, largely free of responsibilities. And any responsibilities I have, or might take on, are still nowhere near as important as the responsibilities a mother takes on with her child.

We talked a bit about women feeling more pushed to have children young, and about how her parents’ generation were all forced to have children at a later age due to China’s Cultural Revolution. And then she repeated something I’ve heard time and time again – that she had asked around and she had gotten the same advice: have more kids and have them younger. My mother had gone through a similar process and gotten the same advice a generation ago.

I think I understand the “biological clock” a little better. With a responsibility like that…

It also made me reflect on my own values. My dad has said again and again through the decades that he always put family first. It’s something I don’t take lightly – I will have a family someday, and I will put them first. I may have dreams and ambitions, but they will take a backseat if need be. “We” will always be more important than “me.” This is a fact of humanity. None of us would make it alone.

It did make me wonder if it is a business advantage to be able to put family second, though. I don’t think I would ever want to prioritize something over family, but at the same time, I wonder if that’s the reason for the personal problems in so many high profile people’s lives, or, conversely, the reason for their success in business. Elon Musk is said to have asked something like, “How much time is reasonable to spend on family? Ten hours a week?” and Marissa Meyer is able to maintain her productivity by offloading care to hired help. I doubt she is spending much time with her child. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?