Category Archives: Girl Talk

Top Countries to Be a Mother? USA Ranks #31

As I approach the years when — if it’s going to happen — I will become a mother, I’m thinking a lot about what that means, logistically speaking. Growing up in America we’re taught to think that we live in the world’s greatest nation, or at least one at the top of the chain — powerful, successful, prosperous. But in terms of places where it’s best to be a mother (at least according to an annual Save the Children report) the US is dropping fast in rankings, from top 10 in 2000 to above 30 in 2014.

This report largely focuses on the health, educational, economic and political status of mothers. While the goal of the report is to remind us that there are many countries where being a mother is terribly grim, it isn’t looking so great for America either.

For a country that’s so gung-ho about making abortion illegal, and pundits noting that hell is freezing over (or something like that) now that women earning the majority of income for their families, you would think that at least our conservative nation would support the family values of making it possible to afford being a mother. Not so. In fact, the U.S. is the ONLY western country that doesn’t require paid maternity leave.

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Maternity Leave at Startups: Does it Exist?

They call us job hoppers. The average tenure of a millennial employee is just 1.5 years to 3 years, according to various studies. If only there were opportunities to actually move up within our own organizations, we won’t be so tempted to hop. But there often is a great divide between opportunity in one’s current position versus the opportunity outside of it. Leaving becomes the only way to move up.

I’m very committed to my company, so committed that I’ve probably stayed longer than I should have given the opportunities that have presented themselves. I am just hungry for a new challenge, a new topic, a new game to win. I also have, in my deep reflective thought over the past few days, realized that at this point in my career I need to surround myself by positivity and growth, not stagnation or worse.

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It’s Not Impostor Syndrome

As I’ve been thinking more lately about the next 5-10 years of my career, I’m trying very hard to be confident in my abilities yet realistic. Everyone talks about “Impostor Syndrome” these days, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg (who clearly suffers from a case of it herself), but that’s not what I’m facing. Or maybe, a teeny tiny bit of my struggles is self-doubt and feelings of being and impostor, but most of that feeling is fact, supported by hard evidence. While I have some learned skills and natural talents, I’m not prepared for any sort of next step in my career – whether that be a step up, step sideways, or even down.

I’ve read numerous job listings, applied to a few just to see if I could get any bites, even partook in a couple of interviews as an exercise. While I’m not devastated that none of them landed at an offer (I am focused on adding value in my current role at least for the next year), I’m also hyper aware that I’m not setting myself up for long-term success.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this, of course, but every day that goes forward is another day passing where I imagine a future for myself of under or unemployment. Yes, I can definitely take steps to improve my prospects, but I feel like I need to commit to a clear direction before I move forward.

My social anxiety and general anxiety is crippling, yet I hate using that as an excuse. But any job that requires constant nurturing of numerous social relationships is not for me. This pretty much excludes most, if not all, senior-level marketing and business development functions. There is a small space for someone like myself as an expert in content production and data analysis, the later area which I can certainly improve in, but I’m not sure I want to spend my life dedicated to hiding in a cubicle crunching numbers.

That leads me back to the question of whether I want to stay in technology to begin with. I completely fell into tech, and I’m glad I did, but it’s also an industry filled with highly intelligent, well-pedigreed individuals who are so talented at learning quickly and effectively to continue optimizing their daily process and deliverables. That said, I do really enjoy working in an industry that values brainpower over fluff. I could have ended up working in media given my background, maybe even having found myself in LA instead of San Francisco after college, and I imagine now I’d be lost in how to move up inside a highly social, “who-you-know” relationship-based industry.

Nonetheless, in Silicon Valley, those who succeed without seriously high IQs are brilliant on the people side, and as I’ve already stated, while I’m an extrovert my social anxiety limits me greatly on this front. I cannot have a job that requires me to go to drinks and sustain conversation with a business partner, prospect, or industry analyst. I might be able to do this once in a while, and at times enjoy engaging with other people, but the amount of stress it causes each time I imagine must cut into my overall life expectancy.

Even if I was to successfully obtain, say, a content marketing manager job in the future, where does this lead? At 20-something, content marketing is a good role because it exposes you to a lot of areas within marketing and business overall, and then you can pick which to pursue. That said, a good content marketer looking to move up the food chain will have similar options (and limitations) to what I have today. The content marketer could just build out a team of content writer in a large organization and manage global content strategy – which is a good and important job but seems to end at that. I don’t think I’d feel fulfilled in a role limited to content creation. Or, the content writer could move into a more external-facing role, but I’ve already discussed that I’m not suited for such a position.

Work is work, yes, and no job is perfect. It’s possible over the next 10 years, when/if I have a family I’ll realize that my “kids” are what’s most important and my job requirements will shift dramatically. Perhaps then becoming a terminal content marketing manager with clear deliverables and reliable hours will seem more than palatable. Or then I could freelance as a writer and charge heaping fees for each document I create, which by then would be high-quality due to years of high velocity output for some global 2000 technology organization. Maybe I need to tell the little girl voice who wants to change the world to shut up because it’s time she grow up and find a stable, albeit unsexy career. I’ve spent too long at startups that no one has heard of, and this makes me unemployable.

This is what goes into getting hired in a non-technical position in Silicon Valley, from most to least important:

  1. Pedigree: Where did you go to school and what company’s have you worked at in the past? What was your degree(s) in? One successful company that is respected, even if you spend just one year there, helps greatly. (If there were some pedigree score on resumes from 1-10 I’d say at this point I have about a 2.5.)
  2. Analytics Savvy: Can you speak data? What results have you generated from your work and how did you measure them? How can you use data to add more value to an organization?
  3. Social Skills: Are you able to maintain a hour-long conversation with different types of people on topics ranging from how great they are to last week’s football game? Do you come off as not somewhere on the autism spectrum*? (*The tech industry has plenty of room for people who are brilliant aspies, but mostly in technical roles. However, if you are very strong in analytics than this is acceptable and expected even in a non-technical role.
  4. Writing Ability: Can you write in complete sentences? Have you ever created any collateral which drove quantifiable results (sales revenue metrics are best if you can figure out how to measure this.)
  5. What Have You Done? If you pass all of the qualifying items above, then, and only then, does what you’ve actually accomplished matter.

So if I want to stay in Silicon Valley I need to work on at least #1 and #2. I’ll never be strong at #3. I’m ok at #4 and can focus on improving this in my current role. For #2, I want to figure out how to become a quant-minded marketer. I’m trying to get the right analytics set up to measure goals and such, but I don’t know where to start. For #1, well, I think my goal needs to be really beefing up my analytical skills in order to obtain my next position at an established, soon-to-IPO startup. I desperately need that at-least one year of a success on my resume to be taken seriously in the Valley. Alternately, if this still proves impossible, I could get an MBA in order to get into one of those “just about to be successful” companies, but that requires getting into a Stanford or Harvard, which is just as hard if not harder (esp as a 30-something.)

So I just am taking a hard look at myself and my future to decide how badly I want this. It’s not like if I go into another industry suddenly I’ll have a clear career path and not have to work at it, but I have a feeling that outside of tech there’s a bit more opportunity for people who aren’t former valedictorians and student council presidents. I definitely can make something of myself here – I feel I’ve established a wavering baseline of competency as a tech marketer – but it’s going to be a lifelong uphill battle. Yes, it’s even harder as a woman, with few female role models at the top to look up to (not that I’m a typical woman and not that I get along with women anyway, but it is what it is. There are additional unspoken limitations when you are female and cannot have a close yet informal mentor relationship with a senior executive without dirty looks from fellow employees.)

I really need to figure out how much I want this. And what is “this” that I want?

Well, this is what I want, but can I get a job that fulfills this, and how on earth to I pivot from communications to something that does:

  • To create a product or experience that many other people use and that improves their lives
  • To be able to get to the end of my life, look back, and think of all the great things that I’ve built (or been a part of building)
  • To disrupt industries that are inefficient and limit value to the everyday person
  • Enough money to afford a house, infertility treatments for 2-3 kids plus the resulting 2-3 kids, international vacations at mid-tier resorts
  • Time to spend with my future family, traveling, painting, writing
  • Being around smart, witty people all day and laughing whenever possible
  • *Or, maybe, I just want to take a road trip to anywhere, picking up stories and experiences, and become an author, somehow, and creating stories that address psychological and sociological issues generated by our current and future technologies and economies… hmm.

Considering Liposuction

Ok, before the personal finance sphere has a fiscal conniption, let me remind you that not all personal finance bloggers are frugalistas. At 30, I’ve saved up nearly $250k, and that’s with occasional bursts of poor or otherwise non-rational financial decision making.

I don’t usually spend a lot of money on things, except designer jeans. I bought my car used with cash, and while it’s nice enough it’s no BMW. I live with two roommates and spend $650 a month on rent when I could easily spend $1500 or more on a 1br, which most people my age making my salary ($110k) would. So I don’t really spend a lot all things considered.

When I look back on what I have spent on in my life, one of the biggest expenditures outside of my car and computer has been laser hair removal. With PCOS, my hairy beast-like nature was hurting my quality of life. It was really bad. I shaved constantly and always had dark, five o’clock shadows everywhere. The hair made a total mess in my bathroom. It was just gross. So I splurged on $5000 for unlimited laser hair removal. Eventually (recently) the place sold and I no longer have unlimited sessions, but I definitely got my monies worth. My life has improved significantly. I still have some hairs here and there, but nothing like what I had in the past. My relationship is better. Everything is better. Best $5000 I’ve ever spent. Continue reading

Marry for Love or Money?

When I mention my boyfriend and likely future-husband-to-be is unemployed, my commenters frequently point out that I’m an idiot for dating him. “He’s pulling you down,” wrote Erin on a post I wrote over the weekend. Maybe I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life by falling for him, but I don’t think that’s the case. Here’s why:

I never knew what I wanted in a relationship until I met *Derek (names changed to protect the innocent.) I had dated a few guys before off and on, but everything felt fake, like I had to be something I’m not to be with them. Derek was different. We met performing in a local community theater. He was shy yet extremely handsome. His smile melted my heart from day one. As I got to know Derek, I discovered he was perhaps the sweetest man on earth. He cared so much for others and lacked all selfishness which was so common in my family and in myself. He made me realize that no matter how much money I had or didn’t, I could always be happy just cuddling up to him and watching our favorite TV show. For better or worse, wealth started to matter less when I met him.

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You Already Know: Weddings Are Ridiculously Expensive

My boyfriend and I are planning to get married in 2014 or early 2015. Even though I do not have a ring on the finger yet, I figured it’s never too soon to start wedding planning once general agreement on the year of nuptials has been reached. So I started to think about my ideal wedding. What would it be like? I’ve always assumed it would be bigger and grander than parties of my youth — my bat mitzvah and sweet sixteen. My Bat Mitzvah was a particularly expensive affair to throw for a twelve year old. But as I learned during my Bat Mitzvah, the party was as much for my parents as it was for me. I didn’t know more than half the people invited. Many were distant relatives I had never met or friends of my parents, and I barely had time to introduce myself. Was my dream wedding really like that but even bigger?

Approaching my 30s and settling into west coast life, my tastes have changed. Whenever I return home to a suburb outside of New York, I recall how obsessed many in the area are with the superficial, materialistic items compared to where I live now. Sure, I watch “Say Yes to the Dress” marathons more likely than I should and oogle the $5000+ dresses that the show makes seem reasonable. But then, the semi-frugal, personal finance blogger mind of mine ticks on and rolls its proverbial eyes at the commercial celebrations that weddings have become. Even though my father has committed $50,000 for the wedding, I can’t help but think that it’s ridiculous to spend anywhere near that much on one day, let alone five hours. $50,000 is one forth of my current networth, that’s not pocket change.

There’s definitely a part of me that wants to elope or have a small destination wedding, and keep costs under $15k. It wouldn’t really benefit me personally as my dad isn’t the type who would offer the remaining funds for, say, a downpayment on the house or the IVF fund I’ll likely need to procreate. I’m in a fortunate spot in that sense – my parents can afford a $50k wedding (for now), though certainly they’d hold this over me for the rest of my life should their own funds run out “we paid for your wedding!” Not that I would let my parents live on the street, but I’d rather be able to help out of the kindness of my heart, not guilt over their spending so much money on my special day.

It’s not just me that dreams of a large, magical wedding. With the list of my mother’s extended family, my preliminary 150 guest list suddenly became 250. My boyfriend and I don’t even have a lot of friends, but the list became quite a monster. Then I started wondering if I would want to invite colleagues or my boss. I read numerous etiquette forums which recommend inviting your boss, while others say to only invite coworkers if you consider them friends outside of work. While I get along with my boss (and other executives in the company) I’ve never envisioned them attending my wedding. It just seems too personal for a professional acquaintance to be there. Actually, there are some that have been colleagues for longer, back when our company was much smaller, and I’d actually want them there over never colleagues, who joined when our company had a more corporate environment. Also, there are a few colleagues who are starting to cross over into friend territory, and by the time I select a date and send out save the dates, perhaps I’ll want to invite a few colleagues. But if you invite one or two, it’s hard not to invite others, including those who probably don’t want to attend in the first place. Yikes.

Besides the guest list, I started to scope out venues. While my boyfriend and I live in California, we are considering having our wedding on the east coast, where I am from, since my grandparents are unable to travel and my father, ill from terminal cancer, may not be able to travel by the time we actually get married (knock on wood they will all be healthy enough to attend regardless of venue.) So I’ve been looking at venues in NY, NJ, PA and CT. I’ve discovered my dream wedding will be pricey, and likely impossible at $50k given the size of our guest list. Of course one can always cut back, but I’m an all-or-nothing type of person. I’d prefer to elope then have a wedding that feels cheap. Maybe I’ll get over that further into the planning phase (at some point every bride except perhaps Kim Kardashian has to.)

My dream wedding is set in a rustic venue with a beautiful outdoor garden, views of green mountains, with lots of organic architectural texture such as stone, wood, and brick, as this looks heavenly behind a white wedding dress. We’d have rental of the entire property of a private mansion with a barn for the weekend, where my close family would stay before and after the wedding. Food would be high quality and drinks would flow liberally, including a specially created and named cocktail for the day. And my dress would highlight my newly trim physique following a year and a half of hard work exercising and dieting. Guests would dance to music by a band or DJ, and one of my friends would surprise us with a musical number. Our photographer and videographer would have an artistic style and have a portfolio of work representing their quality and eye for composition, lighting and capturing moments. Meanwhile, close family would consider the wedding a three-day event, with a family baseball game the day following the wedding. Most importantly, I want to provide the time for his close family and my family to get to know each other.

But my dream wedding may be best off as a dream. $50,000 is a huge amount of money. It’s half of my annual salary. It’s the amount I want to save in one year, only made possible by potential bonuses. But if we invite 250 people, even if just 150 attend, a $150-a-plate wedding brings just the reception venue and food to $22500, leaving $27.5k for everything else. That still seems like a lot, but it will go fast when all the other items are added in. And, thanks to tradition, my parents would foot the entire bill. I would normally push back against this (performing remnants of the dowry tradition claws at my soul) I’m fully aware that my boyfriend would be just as happy having a small yet lovely 50-person wedding in a park. It’s my giant family, and specifically my mother’s desire to invite every last living blood relative that makes our list overwhelmingly large.

Thinking back to other weddings I’ve attended, cost wasn’t the only factor in the quality of the experience, but I recall the weddings that were clearly cheap as a result of budget were actually really lovely, and the ones that had the budget to support a fancy wedding were nice, but those that tried to be more than they could afford and where corners were cut were the most awkward.

Wedding #1 — a public park in miami with low-cost catering and a homemade cake (budget guestimate: $2k)

This bride and groom had tied the knot in a courthouse a year earlier, and saved up for their wedding in a public park. Their parents did not have anywhere near $50,000 for a wedding. Instead, the wedding was about bringing the families and friends together. The bride wore a prom dress versus a “wedding dress.” The food was catered but nothing special, and the homemade cake matched the color of her dress. Raccoons hung around to eat all of the crumbs. There were very few decorations (perhaps a ribbon hung up in the covered area.) However, it was a lovely reception and provided time for friends and family to talk and enjoy the sun together. There was beer served and the event felt more like a barbecue than a wedding. It was very low-key and made sense for this couple. I enjoyed it as an attendee, but could not imagine members of my family finding such a gathering acceptable as a wedding.

Wedding #2 — a country club with full cocktail hour and reception inside, traditional ballroom (budget guestimate: $30k – $40k)

Back on the east coast, my good friend got married in a nice country club on a rainy evening. The ceremony, in a basic room with standard chairs and typical carpeting, was nice thanks to a live guitar player, and the love of the family. However, there was nothing special about the venue. After the ceremony there was a cocktail hour with a lot of appetizers and drinks. Then the reception was very traditional, in a ballroom with a DJ. I don’t recall if there was a fully open bar or not. The wedding suited the couple, however it was too traditional for my taste. And the venue was likely expensive without offering any unique architecture or design.

Wedding #3 — a botanical garden with an outdoor ceremony and the wedding in a rustic venue (budget guestimate: $20k)

This wedding began in a beautiful outdoor setting with great views. While it was warm in the sun during the reception, it felt the most organic and charming of the wedding’s I’ve attended. The reception had a DJ, but there wasn’t a lot of dancing. It was a small space and felt a bit packed with all the attendees. The bride seemed to really enjoy this event with her husband. The event occurred during the day and once it was over, guests could walk through the botanical gardens nearby, which was a lovely way to end the event. I wasn’t completely in love with the architecture of the venue, but enjoyed it’s organic and rustic feel. I find this very romantic.

Wedding #4 — a public park in Michigan with higher-quality catering and cupcakes made in a bakery (budget guestimate: $5k)

Much like my friend’s Miami public park wedding, my friend’s wedding in Michigan was held in a park. However, this park was more scenic and provided a small lakeshore where the ceremony was held. The bride wore an untraditional green dress made in China. The reception was held in a covered area, which was decorated by friends with a very DIY crafty look, which was charming and perfect for the couple. There was no DJ, so the event focused on conversations held at tables. As the sun set, many wandered off to other areas of the park, which were quite beautiful. The event felt very long as there wasn’t a lot to do, but it was so nice out it didn’t matter. Luckily the rains of the morning cleared up by the time of the wedding. This wedding was perfect for the couple, but I do not think it would be acceptable to my family’s standards.

Wedding #5 — a hotel in an east coast seaside town, with the ceremony on the beach and the reception in a traditional ballroom area (budget guestimate: $40k)

This wedding was held in a historic hotel in a seaside town, right on the beach. The ceremony on the beach was beautiful, despite the chill and grey skies. Unfortunately no one could hear the vows as the wind made for challenging acoustics. Yet in a way the fact that no one could hear the vows was romantic, as you could see the bride and groom talk to each other, but what was spoken was private (why should everyone have to hear these personal exchanges of love and devotion?) The wedding reception was held in a split ballroom with a large room for tables and another room for the dance floor. There were also bars in the hallway that were open for drinking. I didn’t like how the guests were so split up during the event, though it was nice that the older adults who didn’t want to be right in the action with loud music were able to escape and have conversations with each other, but then that made the event feel much less intimate.

Wedding #6 — a private estate in wine country with the ceremony and reception outdoors (budget guestimate $30k)

This was my favorite wedding of the ones I have attended in recent years. I was in the bridal party and the bride was a very close friend. The venue was absolutely stunning. Most weddings of this quality would cost more but my friend has so many friends and family friends who I think offered free or discount services for the event. From her makeup artist to her cake baker to her floral designer, these were all friends of the family. I think she may have only paid full price for the dress and DJ. It doesn’t really rain in wine country the time of year she held her wedding, so it wasn’t necessary to have an indoor or tented option in case of weather issues. There was a beautiful small house with a dressing room for the bride and her bridal party, but the rest of the event was outside in two distinct areas — the garden area where the the ceremony was held with a beautiful view of vineyards, and then the seating area which featured long tables under strung lights, a small dance floor, and space for a “take your own photo” area, as well as a full open bar. The party went until dark and seemed to end at the perfect time. The entire event was magical, and suited the couple. I would be happy if my wedding could be like hers, but there are a few things that my mother would not be satisfied with. She would want more traditional table settings and a sit-down dinner versus buffet. I am not sure how many guests were at this wedding but it was fairly big, something like 150, so similar to the numbers that I would invite, so a good comparison to what I’d like to put together for my own wedding. However, if I were to get married on the east coast, I would need an indoor option in case of rain, which adds to costs.

Wedding #7 — a secluded area in a park in the bay area, with the ceremony and reception outside (budget guestimate: $8k -$10k)

Good friends of ours held their wedding in a local park. The ceremony was held under tall redwoods in an intimate area. Most guests did not attend the ceremony. It was a little too informal for my tastes, but it suited the couple. The reception was held in an outdoor area without a lot of shade. It was quite warm that day, so this was a little bothersome. The couple had a live band who could sing a range of music, and there was some dancing under a covered area. During the cocktail hour the food was swarming with bees, which was unnerving.The food was family style at each table. The couple had a special drink designed for the event. Booze was reserved to beer, wine and the special drink.

Wedding #8 — a country club with the ceremony outdoors and reception indoors (budget guestimate: $20k – $30k)

This wedding began with a lovely outdoor reception with a beautiful golf course view. There were flower petals laid out creating a lovely organic, romantic feel to the event. After the ceremony, the reception moved indoors. The decorations were home-made and gorgeous (the bride is a designer so she did an amazing job on the DIY decorations.) The room was a bit tight for the total number of attendees but I liked that it kept everyone together and made for a more intimate-feeling event despite a large number of attendees. I think she served wine and beer only with a cash bar for other options. At the end of the event, she had karaoke after party for her guests at the venue. I loved the after party that started naturally at the conclusion of the party for those who wanted to continue the revelries.

Wedding #9 — a winery with both ceremony and reception indoors due to rain (budget guestimate $20k – $30k)

This wedding ceremony was forced indoors due to rain. The barrel room where the reception was held was very beautiful and rustic, which was a great backdrop for the bride’s colorful Indian wedding gown. However the space was very tight and made me feel claustrophobic for the number of people attending. The dance floor was small but seemed to be big enough for the people who wanted to dance. A frozen yogurt sundae bar for dessert was a nice touch. I cannot remember if the food was served or buffet style – I think it might have been buffet. The wedding seemed to suit the couple well, it just needed a slightly bigger space.

Wedding #10 — ceremony at a mission in carmel followed by a lunch buffet reception indoors (budget guestimate $10k – $15k)

This ceremony was held in a historic mission with a catholic priest. While I’m not religious, I felt the ceremony was charming due to its venue. The reception was a buffet-style gathering. There was no DJ or dancing. The reception was on the short side, which made sense since there was no entertainment beyond guests talking amongst themselves. After the wedding, the bride and groom held a bonfire at the beach to continue celebrating. This was lovely as it provided time for guests to bond with each other in a more informal environment.

One thing I’ve learned recalling the weddings I’ve attended over the past few years is that my favorite weddings were generally outdoors and in non-traditional or unique historic environments. Very few of my friends likely spend over $30k for their weddings and most kept costs relatively low by opting for a public park, buffet-style or family-style food, and refraining from a full open bar.

I’ve also realized that I am going to have to be very careful to ensure this wedding is something that suits myself and my boyfriend, and doesn’t become a nightmare due to my mother’s unrealistic expectations. Her mother planned every moment of her wedding down to the dress, so she thinks it’s her time to take charge. On one hand, it would be nice to have her involved in the planning – she will be on the east coast (where she lives) where I’ll be on the west coast except for the occasional visit, so she could do all the things that require one to be on location to plan for the wedding. And she has all the time in the world and loves to organize events. I just don’t think the two of us will see eye-to-eye on this event, starting with the guest list. I understand why it feels like we need to invite all of the distant relatives as we usually receive invites to their weddings, and chances are they won’t come, but what if they do? It could get out of hand fast.

And I know my boyfriend and know he will feel very uncomfortable in a traditional wedding environment. I think we can come to a compromise on an event that we both love, but it’s going to be hard to please my mother. My father will have his opinions as well (as he’d be the one footing the bill unless I make a decision to pay for the entire event myself) and I’m a little concerned he won’t understand the rustic aesthetic (but I don’t think he cares enough to argue as much as my mother over it.)

All of this leads me back to the question of whether I should have a wedding in the first place. Wouldn’t it make more sense to convince my father to provide us the $50k for a downpayment on a house, or to have my parents keep this money for their medical issues and retirement? Or for grad school should I want to get an MBA? I just can’t fathom spending that kind of money on one day… or even part of it… when that is much more than pocket change.

Still, there is a reason that the wedding industry exists. People like to have nice weddings. A lot of people do spend $50k or even more on their wedding day. People do buy expensive dresses and splurge on dream venues for their special day. Why should I deprive myself of that moment? Would I regret it? Can I find a middle ground that makes everyone happy? These are all questions I’ll have to find answers to in the next two years.

But first things first, my boyfriend needs to propose!

I’m turning 28 and craving babies. Yes, I said craving.

Hello biological clock. I hear you loud and clear. Every time a family walks by with a little itty bitty one, you can’t help but smile and get that gooey feeling, like you really ought to be popping one of those out yourself any day now.

Lately, I can much picture myself as a mother much easier than I can envision myself a bride. Apparently, among Millennials, I’m not alone in this notion. We value parenthood more than marriage.

Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage — meaning there is a 22-percentage-point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

What scares me is another report by Pew that finds the average age for U.S. mothers who had their first baby in 20062 was 25, a year older than the average first-time mother in 1990. Among all women who had a baby in 2006, the average age is 27, up from 26 in 1990. The prime child-bearing years remain 20-34 — three-quarters of mothers of newborns are in this age range.

I feel so far behind, even though I wasn’t ready to have kids until now, and really, a lot can be said about how I’m not ready now either. Now doesn’t mean this second anyway — it means in the next few years. Continue reading

She Wanted to Be Married with Kids By Now, Instead She Makes $12/hr.

My friend, I’ll call her Jessica, graduated high school with a plan. Well, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she wanted to get married to a man who could provide for her, live in a big house, have kids, be a mother, and have a job that let her spend a lot of time with her kids.

Jessica grew up in a household where her parents worked multiple jobs to afford their middle class lifestyle, and was often left alone when she was young, so her goals were clearly aligned with having a family where the mother could afford to stay home and be around for her children’s lives. Continue reading

The Next Steve Jobs? Most Definitely Not a Woman.

The other day I read an article in the Mercury News titled “Who will be Silicon Valley’s next Steve Jobs?” This photo sums up the article:

That reflects the industry I work in. Thinking back on my past jobs, everyone in the C-suite were men. White men. My first startup was founded by four white men. My last job was at a large, international public company, where all of the C-level executives were male. My startup now — of 32 employees, four are female. For a long time I was the only woman. We’re adding on our executive team, and not surprisingly, the employees brought on for the high-level positions are all men. Is it just that there aren’t enough women working in tech, or is it something more than that? Even at my last company (the large international technology company) there were many female mid-level managers, but they were all stuck in middle management.

And even if women are few and far between in Silicon Valley, isn’t there one that deserves to be in the running as the next Steve Jobs? How about Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook? Heck, it was only a few months ago when the same man who wrote the “who will replace Steve Jobs” article wrote an entire piece on the Top 10 Women of Silicon Valley — I guess he forgot about them when capturing the key execs to highlight in this piece (oh, wait, Sandberg is mentioned down below as one of the reason’s Mark Zuckerberg is so brilliant — for hiring her.)

Watching the leaders of companies I’ve worked for — especially the ones that I think are really GOOD leaders — I see that these leaders can come off (like Steve Jobs) as assholes at times. It’s not that they are assholes outside of the business world, it’s just that they don’t care about much other than what is best for their business. And if someone isn’t going to contribute to that, then they are worthless to that leader. But — the leader will also go out of his way to motivate and reward people who are actually contributing to making the business run well and succeed. I don’t think I have the asshole in me. At least, if I let her out, she’d come out at all the wrong times, and it wouldn’t help anyone or any business. It’s rare to find a woman who is able to stand up for herself and her ideas that much, especially in an industry that’s primarily men. Women are taught to compromise. I think there’s truth to that as one of the reasons so few of us rise to leadership positions in technology or in any industry (though it’s worse in tech and other male-dominated industries.)

Everyday I switch back and forth between dreams of being a truly innovative person in Silicon Valley — who happens to be a woman — and having absolutely no confidence in getting anywhere near accomplishing that feat. It’s frustrating because I feel like a many times as I’ve failed thus far, I’m still on a trajectory that could lead towards success. I’m turning 28 in a few months and I’m already at a Director level role within a fast-growing startup, I have a book deal on the table (though that’s far from a sure thing right now), and I’ve become fairly known across a few key industries in technology (I could do a better job at promoting myself, but for what I’ve done, I’m always surprised how many people have heard of me.) Still, going from where I am today to VP level or C-level, just, well, it seems impossible. I certainly don’t represent all women, but if the picture above signifies reality, I also feel I fit in that picture — as in, not in the picture at all.



The Cost of Having a Social Life: $200 and a High Tea Weekend

Four separate checks were brought to our table, with four separate pens with the elegant Neiman Marcus logo scripted on their sides in gold ink. Two hours of quality social interaction was ready to be swiped on my credit card bill for $44 plus tip.

The $44 wasn’t about to put me in debt, but the cost of my social weekend was adding up. Most of my weekends are spent hibernating in my apartment and being a couch potato, which is probably for the better, because once I get out I end up spending way too much money.

My expensive weekend started on Saturday night, when I had dinner with my aunt. We split a bottle of wine and each had an entree. The cost of that meal was split, and put a $50 something charge on my account.

The next morning, I drove to the city, and borrowed $20 from my aunt for a $6 bridge toll (which ended up costing me a lot more than $20 in repayment… I’ll explain in a minute.) I spent $12 on breakfast meeting with a friend, and then went to a coffee shop to get some work done and waste a few hours before another dinner with my aunt, along with my cousin and their friend. But a good friend saw a Facebook update of mine that mentioned I was in the city and called me with an invite to high tea at Neiman Marcus. A fan of tea, high tea, and friends, not to mention jealous of all the women who were at the coffee shop with their own Sex & the City cliques, I immediately accepted the invite, not thinking of the expense.

So I drove across the city and found a free spot on the street about a half mile from Union Square. I felt giddy on the walk down to the restaurant, excited for this random invite to high tea with my friend that I hadn’t seen in ages and two women who I hadn’t met yet.

The tea menu had three options, starting at $37. Then there were two more expensive options with champagne. I didn’t need champagne, but as the other women decided on it (the mid priced option) I figured we’d end up splitting the bill anyway, so I might as well indulge. And the entire experience was so worth it — the conversation, the tiny tea sandwiches (which I scarfed down despite not being hungry), the champagne, the delicious fruity black tea… and at that point my weekend had added up to about $110 for dinner, breakfast and lunch, not counting the cost of gas. And the women I had tea with weren’t about to spend that much on tea the next weekend — we all discussed making this a seasonal thing, with our next high tea at another restaurant tentatively scheduled for June.

After tea, I went straight to dinner at a sushi place. I wasn’t hungry at all at that point, but everyone decided it would be best to share a few rolls. They were really good, so I had some of the sushi, when I shouldn’t have even eaten anything more at that point. Dinner was enjoyable, and I was so happy to be having one great social experience after another… when normally I’m depressed due to being a hermit or nervous due to being in awkward large social experiences where I don’t know how to interact with people. That dinner, however, ended up costing me something like $70. My aunt brought up that I owe her $20… which I did… and I paid the bill plus tip, which came out to something around $84. She gave me $13 cash.

So my social life this weekend cost me $200. One thing I’ve been thinking is how much more money I would spend if I move to the city… not just on an apartment, but on all the things I will do (and eat.) At least living in the burbs makes it impossible for me to have the opportunities to spend a lot on being social… well, mostly because my friends all live in the city. But then… what’s life without these experiences? I’m making $90k a year and I feel guilty for spending money… I’ve become such a miser. And despite not exactly saving as much as I could, I’m also greatly limiting my life experiences right now so I may have enough money to live in retirement. It’s a major trade off.. and I’m starting to think a social life today… and my happiness today… may be more valuable than an extra couple thousand dollars down the road. What do you think? How much money do you spend on your social life?