Would You Trade Your Family for One Billion Dollars?


Ok just kidding.

This question actually popped into my mind at 3:11am in the morning as I was feeding five-month-old Caroline a midnight snack. A night earlier I took Olivia to pick up takeout food from a new restaurant near our house for Valentine’s Day. She wore a full princess outfit for the occasion, which is hard not to notice, especially when her dad is wearing gym clothes.

Princess Olivia
Princess Olivia

While I was paying the bill, a lonely looking man eating by himself at the bar advised me to “cherish these moments” three or four times. I felt bad for him and couldn’t help but wonder whether he was regretting something he hadn’t done.

This is obviously a hypothetical exercise, but if you came up to me with a truckload of $100 bills and offered a trade for my family I wouldn’t hesitate to say no. In fact, there’s no amount of money you could put in front of me that would get me to accept the trade.

And I don’t think I’m alone. Millions of other husbands, wives, fathers and mothers would easily come to the conclusion that their family is more valuable to them than any amount money. For all of that, however, people effectively trade their families away for far less. Not even millions of dollars, let alone billions.

How does this happen? Often by working too much. Although a lot of that “work” would be better called “wasting time while feeling busy.” Because checking for email updates on my phone during dinner isn’t exactly productive, but it sure does a great job of pulling my attention away from Pam and the girls.

The problem is no one actually shows up in your driveway with a tractor-trailer full of $100 bills, so there’s no “big decision” moment with parenting. Our human brains are relatively good at deciphering those in-your-face moments, but much worse at the small “death by one thousand cuts” decisions where the immediate costs and benefits aren’t very clear.

For me, each five or ten minute interaction with Pam, Olivia or Caroline requires a decision. In any individual instance, the cost (stop “working” on something) is obvious and immediate, while the benefit (a stronger family) is far harder to measure and won’t materialize until some distant future.

This is one of my biggest motivations for developing the WordBug. Why should the deck be stacked in favor of choosing work over family? By offering an immediate reward (positive feedback from the WordBug) for family interaction, I hope to level the playing field between kids and every other distraction in life.

This piece was originally posted at VersaMe.com. VersaMe created the Starling the world’s first wearable engagement tracker that helps encourage and reinforce positive parenting behaviors.

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