One of your most important career decisions is who you have kids with

Kristin Lemkau manages a $US5 billion marketing budget as the CMO of JPMorgan Chase. Lemkau stopped by Business Insider for an interview with CEO Henry Blodget. She explains why the most important career decision most people make is who they choose to have children with – not necessarily who they marry.

Following is a transcript of the video, which has been edited for clarity.

Henry Blodget:Anything else that you feel as you look back and you say, “Wow, I have this amazing career and job” that you feel like it’s because of that?

Kristin Lemkau:You know I think the other thing that I said up on that stage that I’m a big believer in is the most important decision you’ll make in your career is the person you choose to have children with. Because there’s nothing in your career that you will take more seriously or important than your children. You will prioritise them over everything at all times. And that’s not necessarily the person you married, because those can come and go. And you can have children in all kinds of different arrangements. But it is such an important decision for how that person can either support your career or detract from your career in ways that you can’t possibly understand until you are in it.

Blodget: Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook said something similar. I think you made the distinction about having children. Also, I have never heard a man say that.

Lemkau: Is that true?

Blodget: I will go ahead and say it, it has certainly been true for me. If my wife hadn’t been there in many critical moments including the day-to-day, it would have been a heck of a lot harder, put that way. Is that something you can know in advance?

Lemkau: No. I mean you should test out character in advance, but you don’t know. My husband and I have been together for 13 years. He was working intensely at the time, we were at similar points in our career, and my career just started to take off and it became clear that we were either going to outsource child rearing or one of us was going to stay home. He raised his hand to stay home. It would be incredibly difficult for me to do this job in the way I do this job without that support. And be the kind of mother I still want to be.

Blodget: Is it possible for you both to have had careers? I think in Sheryl’s case, both she and her husband had very strong careers.

Lemkau:Everybody has to figure out what their own arrangement is. And the other thing I think we all have to not do is judge one another, like “Oh they both work.” There’s been way too much of that. Stay at home mums judging working mums, judging dual-career parents, judging single parents. Let’s all get over it. Being a parent is hard no matter what. Working is hard no matter what. I think it’s whatever system works for you and even then, if you’ve got a system that’s awesome there’s going to be days where it all goes to hell and you’re a hot mess and you have to admit that too.

Blodget: A lot of people talk about work-life balance, Jeff Bezos, you mentioned him a few minutes ago. He said it’s actually not the way to think about it. You have to think about integration, harmony, not balance. Is that the way you think about it?

Lemkau:Absolutely. I think technology has blurred the lines and I think you have to be present and confident in whatever you’re doing. There’s a tendency to have your mind at home if you’re at work, or have your mind at work if you’re at home, devices down and being present. And using technology to your advantage. So ok, I’m at my son’s soccer game yesterday on Mother’s Day in the driving rain and 45 degrees. He’s on the bench, I can get a couple of emails done. He’s playing. I’m totally there.

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