TIME Parenting

I’m a Male CEO and I Decided to Lean Out

I realized that the only way to balance fatherhood and my job was to step back from the role as head of my company.

Earlier this summer, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mom and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.

While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:

● I have three wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.

● I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every two to three weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car, or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.

● I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford, where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high-risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful and infinitely patient with me. I love her; I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job. MongoDB is a special company. In my nearly four years at the company, we have raised $220 million, grown the team 15-fold and grown sales 30-fold. We have amazing customers, a great product that gets better with every release, the strongest team I have ever worked with and incredible momentum in the market. The future is bright, and MongoDB deserves a leader who can be “all-in” and make the most of the opportunity.

Unfortunately, I cannot be that leader given that the majority of the company is in New York and my family is in California.

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have a meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice, the more certain I am that it is the right choice.

In one month, I will hand the CEO role to an incredibly capable leader, Dev Ittycheria. He will have the task of leading the company through its next phase of growth (though thankfully not of commuting across the country while doing it!). I know the company will be in great hands; his skills fit our next phase of growth better than mine do. And I will be there to help (full time, but “normal full time” and not “crazy full time”) in whatever areas he needs help. More about the announcement can be found in today’s press release.

I hope I will be able to find a way to craft a role at MongoDB that is engaging, impactful and compatible with the most important responsibilities in my life. As great as this job has been, I look forward to creating one that is even better.

Max Schireson is currently CEO of MongoDB, Inc., transitioning into the Vice Chairman role in early September. This piece originally appeared at Max Schireson’s blog.

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