Can You Have Kids AND A Great Advertising Career?
(by Felix Unger)
In one of my recent articles on advertising, the subject of kids came up in the comments thread. Kids, it seems, can cause some serious problems for people in ad agencies. Those with kids want more time with their beloved offspring. Those without kids clearly couldn’t give a rat's ass and, therefore, want everyone in the agency working at the same rate and with the same passion as they do.
The biggest issue I had with all of this came from a comment that basically said “no one held a gun to your head and forced you to have kids.”
In effect, you wanted kids, you now have to deal with not seeing them because you chose this career. You knew, from day one, that advertising required a greater commitment from you than most marriages.
If that’s the attitude, it seems apt that more and more people, good people, are leaving the ad industry for other ventures. Why should advertising require you to work 15-hour days, week after week, plus weekends and holidays? It’s not for the money, we all know that. It’s not for the amazing lifestyle, those champagne and coke parties vanished a long time ago. Why should there be this sacrifice? And why should people who want kids have to choose other professions? What if the next great advertising creative wants kids, or has them already? Should this genius be relegated to a career they do not want because they dared to be a parent?
I really don’t understand this attitude towards people with kids. And trust me, I have seen this from both sides of the coin. For the majority of my career, I didn’t have kids. I was a junior working late on pitches when the older crews were leaving at 7pm to see their respective families. I used to beat my creative director in, and leave after him. He had two kids and he wanted to see them. What a fucking bastard!
To be honest, I never thought that actually. I never, even in my youth, thought that people with kids did not belong in this industry. I never thought that people with wives and husbands were somehow second-class citizens. I usually thought “good for them, must be nice to have a life outside of work.” Sometimes, it would be more like “man, that guy’s been here for 10 hours and he has to go home and change diapers.” Either way, I wasn’t pissed at anyone. While the folks with kids were off home at the stroke of 6pm to go and deal with yelling and screaming and drama, I was working at the agency with a beer, or out late having a few cold ones with the other agency folks who enjoyed real freedom.
And make no mistake, you childless peeps, kids and family take quite a lot away that you used to take for granted. While you may see these family types scurrying away early when you’re still stuck at the agency, they’re also missing out on the fun (when there is some, I know advertising is not quite party central). So, you haters of people with a family, give it a rest. Do a paradigm shift and realize that a parent is not some slacker who’s watching the clock because he or she dared to procreate.
Now having said all of this, I refuse to use kids as an excuse for not being a hard worker. That’s just lazy. If you are working with someone who does poor work, or doesn’t put in the hours, then you have a legitimate gripe. Kids do take more of your time away, but you can make that up. You can concept at home when the kids are in bed, and you can get in early and think through lunch. As with any other important commitment in life, you need to balance work and your personal life. Balance, my friends, is key.
And that’s a nice segue to the real crux of the matter here; can you have kids and a GREAT advertising career? Not a regular career, but the kind of resume and portfolio that makes people drool and curse your name at the same time.
That, I think, depends on when you have kids and what kind of balance you decide upon. To be honest, if you have kids early on in your career, and want to be there for them, then you have your work cut out for you. You usually have to sacrifice a lot of your free time to build a good book and good career. That sacrifice will impact the quality of life you have with your children. Is it worth it? Ask yourself why you want(ed) kids and why you would want to see so little of them in order to produce posters and billboards.
Later on, after you’ve built a solid career for yourself, it’s certainly easier to do great work and enjoy a better balance. People will cut you more slack if you’re an advertising genius who has already proven what he or she can do. But there’s still no getting around the fact that, unfortunately, great careers come from making great personal sacrifices. This industry demands more of your time than others, it always has and it always will. This is no reason not to have kids. As I have said earlier, you should be able to balance work and home life and still enjoy a good career.
But to be one of the greats? All I can say is, it’s possible, but your kids may just grow up hating advertising because it robbed them of a mother or father.
Originally posted in The Denver Egotist
Felix Unger is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He's been in the ad game a long time, but he's still young enough to know he doesn't know everything. He'll give his opinion, you can take it or leave it. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He has been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does. Email him at email@example.com.