Fed up with feeling “terrible” about spending little time with his 2-year-old daughter, Anand Iyer quit his high-powered, high-paying, technology gig to be a stay-at-home dad. Now three months in, he tells Yahoo Parenting why it’s the best investment he’s ever made. (Photo: Anand Iyer)
It wasn’t just one thing that pushed Anand Iyer over the edge. Like all working parents who often struggle to balance career and family, the San Francisco tech guru had just endured one too many nights of rushing home only to find his 2-year-old daughter, Ava, already asleep. He was missing too much and “felt terrible,” the dad tells Yahoo Parenting.
“I wasn’t spending any time with her in the evening,” says Iyer, noting that one conversation with a fellow father really got him thinking. “We started talking about how hard this was, being a working parent. My friend said, ‘My son is 2 months old and I haven’t bonded with him yet.’ And I felt the same way. I started to ask myself, ‘What am I working so hard for? Why are we trying to make our lives so great but aren’t investing in time with our child?’”
So on January 23, the former Microsoft product manager, then chief product officer at Threadflip, walked into his boss’ office and quit.
Iyer announced that he’d decided to stay home and focus on spending quality time with the toddler before it was “too late,” he writes in Tech Crunch, describing how he decided to tackle the “work-family imbalance” as he calls it, and urging others to spark a conversation about it too.
For the sake of his little girl, that high power, six-figure gig he’d climbed the ladder 15 years to score would have be on hold for a while. And to his surprise, Iyer tells Yahoo Parenting, his boss applauded him for it.
Photo: Anand Iyer.
“He told me, ‘I totally get it,’” says the 34-year-old, whose wife Shreya, 36, became the primary breadwinner with her job managing recruiting for Splunk, a technology company that does data analytics. “My boss said, ‘You have to realize who you’re working for.’ His words, not mine. He was very understanding. It actually wasn’t a tough talk at all.” Colleagues followed suit. Iyer’s father, not so much.
“The one person who really questions me is my dad,” admits the Indian-born, Bahrain-bred, Purdue college grad of his retired-entrepreneur father. “He says it’s an ‘interesting move.’ He’s curious about it but is really more concerned about whether we’re OK financially.”
Turning your back on a seriously well-paying gig isn’t something most people would — and could — do, after all. “I’ve had occasional sleepless nights over our finances,” Iyer admits. “But the reality is that I’m fortunate that I’ve been working nonstop for a long time so it wasn’t as difficult a transition for us financially as it could have been.”
Shreya initially asked, ‘How are we going to be able to pull this off?’ he says, “Her thoughts now are, ‘Take this one month at a time.’”
The same strategy can be applied to Iyer’s stay-at-home social life. At first he says he felt seriously out of place at the playground during the day with Ava. “I would look down at my phone a lot because I didn’t know how to socialize there,” says the former exec, who still relies on the nanny to help out as well. “I didn’t know what to say. But I’m slowly starting to make my way into that circle. It’s about being there over and over again, I think. And now that I’ve done this a few times, and I’m recognizing people in the neighborhood, it’s gotten better.”
Initially he says he thought people were looking at him like, ‘What’s that dad doing here?’ But then, he continues, “I realized it’s just that I was the new parent. It wasn’t a dad-vs.-mom thing, that was really just in my head.”
So while he still has a “freaking out hour” now and then — and cops to worrying that if he’s not feeling guilty or worried there is something wrong — Iyer insists he has no regrets. “People say that they can multi-task well, but that’s actually really hard. If I had the stress of knowing my daughter didn’t eat breakfast that morning, when we’ve been trying to help her gain weight, and I go into work, it’s on my mind as I deal with other things. It’s not easy to compartmentalize and leave stuff behind. Being home has really helped with that.”
Photo: Anand Iyer.
Instead of hurrying off to get to work each morning, “I look forward to getting up every morning and feeding Ava,” he says. “And when I first read that study about fathers being more happy the more time they spend with their kids, I was like, ‘That’s totally right.’ I feel magnificent. This experience has been so rewarding and I can see that Ava is benefitting from it.”
Watching the toddler’s social skills blossom only reinforces his resolve, says the proud papa. “That’s one of my biggest clues for figuring out that this is right,” he notes. “My brain is wired to look for patterns and goals. And I can see that her communication skills are improving and I feel like that’s a signal that my time with her is really paying off. It helps feel like I made the correct decision and stops me from second guessing it too much.”
Looking to his own father, Iyer says, “He talks about how he wasn’t there for so many things with me and my sister, and how burning the candle at both ends he missed lot. And I want to be there for Ava.”
She’ll be going off to preschool three days a week this fall, so at that point Iyer is planning to dip a toe back into the workforce. The worst-case scenario of not being able to return to his career when he wants to — or burning through all of their money— “can be really, really scary,” he admits. “But on the flip side these six months probably won’t have a big impact.”
The present is perfect enough to settle his fears for now. “Seeing Ava grow from little girl to a big girl is so rewarding and I can’t say that I would have seen it this way if I’d been working all day, every day,” he says. “From that lens, if we can live like this a while, it’ll be totally worth it. It already think it is.”