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How Aunt-ernity Leave Made Me a Better Investor

Investing for the long-term is simply noticing life.

I spent the last five weeks (with the exception of a few days in Seattle speaking at Amazon) on accidental pseudo-maternity leave, taking care of my newborn niece and her momma, my sweet sister (aunt-ernity leave?). My sister’s husband travels for work and I couldn’t in good conscience leave her alone with a two-week-old infant for days and nights on end when I had the flexibility to come help (I’m lucky that my investing work and podcasting can be done from anywhere, I don’t have kids, and my husband was supportive) — but it didn’t come naturally. I’ve certainly never been a “baby person”, so I expected to parachute in, do the cooking and housework, and leave the actual baby stuff to the parents.

Um, no. Instead, I’ve been up at 3 am when my sister hands the baby to me so she won’t fall asleep and drop her, so I physically walk my sister to bed, soothe the baby and sway her in my arms with white noise blasting from my phone trying to devotedly follow the 5 S’s from Dr. Karp that I spent the previous night staying up till 4 am reading over while searching online for additional reviews on baby chat boards. I’m now a f**cking awesome swaddler and have a black belt in baby jiujitsu.

Turns out, love is crazy stronger than all the exhaustion, bodily fluids, and not being a “baby person,” combined. Being part of the first postpartum weeks was an unexpectedly incredible experience that burst my usual bubble of life. Before, I didn’t GET the exhausting, exhilarating, heart-opening, roller-coastering of keeping a newborn alive and thriving — but now I get it, and can connect with people over an entire part of life that I had never even noticed before. That guy in the baby jiujitsu video is Rorion Gracie, who literally created the Ultimate Fighting Championship and is one of the toughest guys around — and he’s making a baby fart! Is there a better definition of love?

Living Life Makes Us Better Investors

Being constantly on baby-call took me away from my work and my investing, which I know I 100% chose to do, but I can have two emotions at the same time and the career part of me still felt yucky about it. My book, Invested, came out six months ago and my mind was telling me I “should” be creating content for my readers on their own Investing Practices. We all need help starting, and I should have been helping more. Shame around “should” is really hard for me to handle. I felt like I was always failing at something.

I couldn’t change anything while, of my two charges, at least one was half-naked and crying uncontrollably at any given time. In my mixed-up state of acceptance and vulnerability, I discovered two key insights that changed my Investing Practice:

  1. Life happens. Distractions come and interfere in my Investing Practice. We’ve got to build in an expectation that there will be fits and starts, that sometimes things like a new baby or a new job or major travel really do put Practice on hold. The beauty is that long-term value investing is uniquely positioned to be the kind of investing we can do and ignore for a month. That’s why it works for part-time investors like us. It’s going to be ok.
  2. My accidental aunt-ernity leave is actually making me an even better investor. LIVING LIFE makes us better investors. Hold the phone on the massive guilt, because I noticed that, without trying, I STILL read the business news on the daily and checked into companies that intrigued me.
Why did I read the news? Because I enjoy it. Reading investing news doesn’t feel like an intrusion. It feels like a great addition to my life—one that I miss when I DON’T do it. So I read the news, even when distracted and even when exhausted, sometimes to wind down before sleep. Business news! To sleep! Who knew? Furthermore, if I had stayed in my kid-free bubble, I would have never known that Graco and Chicco both make popular baby car seats and, when I checked them out, found they’re owned by huge public conglomerates. I would never have discovered the Snoo, an insanely expensive robot bassinet with VC investment that some smart company is going to buy from Dr. Karp and I’m going to notice their good decision.
Fund managers are overwhelmingly men, and I’m sure many of them have children, but I wonder how many of them took part in this newborn experience extensively enough to notice that useful investing knowledge could come from it—or if they punted it aside in their minds, categorizing “family life” as separate from “investing life”.
If they did, it was a mistake.

Investing = Life

Investing for the long-term is simply noticing LIFE: living distractions, noticing what is useful and likable and probable, and then putting money into useful and likable stuff and the great people who create them. That’s it. That’s it! There is no separation between investing and life, whether with my consumer money or my investing money. My money represents me, whether I make a conscious choice for it to represent me or not – so I’d rather make the conscious choice. I was terribly careful to choose safe, healthy, sustainable, environmentally-friendly products for the baby; it’s exactly the same process in my investments.
I’m extraordinarily privileged to have the ability to take aunt-ernity leave, and to be an investor at all. With that privilege, do I have some responsibility to know my money goes to wonderful companies that my niece will be proud of me owning in fifteen years? I believe so.
Choosing good companies to invest in, whether with consumer money or investing money, is such an integral part of our normal lives that it cannot be separated. That’s how it should be. And if we all did so with our investing money, we would change the world.
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