By Virginia Heffernan
AUSTIN, Texas — Finally! A man with a fresh new approach to balancing childcare and hard work!
Spoiler: it involves PILES OF MONEY.
Family life was the unexpected subject of the sold-out discussion between Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired, at South by Southwest on Saturday.
The topic was meant to be Musk's zillion androgen-dense projects, many of which have to do with rockets and Mars. But after marveling at Musk's work ethic, Anderson pressed Musk—briefly but spectacularly—on the subject of his five children.
Musk's answer? "Children are awesome."
"Awesome" sounded good in Musk's lovely South African accent.
"But I don't see them much."
(A friend of mine told me conspiratorially during the talk that Musk was divorced from the mother of his brood, and had had one or two "cheapskate divorces"—which turns out to be well known in billionaire circles.
Musk went on: "I do email while I'm with my children. And I keep a nanny around—so they don't kill each other." Anderson's eyebrow lifted at the heresy; a predatory smile could be heard in his voice. Anderson confessed he found it difficult to do email with his own children. But Musk was not chastened. He did not back down and get Sandbergian or Obaman and talk about the joys of being at ballet recitals or reading "Harry Potter." Musk is a guy who wants to retire on Mars and he's not in the American guilt market around domestic life and who does or doesn't see their kids enough.
Work-life balance? I concluded from Musk's talk the solution is to have a ton of kids, make a lot of money to pay for them, and hire full-time nannies. The old-fashioned way.
Earlier in the day, we got the domestic guilt gang over at Anne-Marie Slaughter's talk with the novelist and journalist Jessica Coen. Last summer Slaughter made some waves with an alarmist article in the wonderfully femmalarmist Atlantic when she argued that she had looked down at other women who didn't work, but now she looks down at other women who don't see their kids enough.
Slaughter kept talking about all the conversations that needed to be had about work and childcare and men and Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer and making it to Little League games. I ended up concluding there is a form of tautological neofeminism that has declared it an inalienable right of women to both raise children and do panels about how it's their right to raise children and do panels.
I wish I could have sat Musk down with Slaughter and let him enlighten her. Just make a billion, pay nannies and, when stuck with your awesome kids, write email about panel discussions. He's on his way to Mars. And you don't see him complaining.
Correction: An early version of this story referred to the wrong Chris Anderson in the third paragraph.
Elon Musk's approach to work-life balance really is from MarsSat, Mar 9, 2013 5:20 PM EST
By Virginia Heffernan
- McConnell: ‘There is a culture of intimidation throughout the administration’1 hour 33 minutes ago
- Small Fla. city wonders who won $590.5 million Powerball jackpot1 hour 18 minutes ago
- Charlotte remembers historic1963 desegregation 'eat-in'54 minutes ago
- US Airways plane makes unusual belly landing at Newark airport
By David Jones NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A US Airways flight made an emergency landing on its belly at Newark Liberty International Airport early on Saturday after the plane's landing gear failed to deploy, but no one was injured, airline and government officials said. Piedmont Airlines flight 4560, operating for US Airways from Philadelphia with 34 passengers and three crew members, landed safely at 1 a.m., and passengers were evacuated on the tarmac and transported to the terminal, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said in an email. ...
- New Xbox more than a game console for Microsoft
By Malathi Nayak and Bill Rigby SAN FRANCISCO/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp is set to make a splash this week with the eagerly awaited unveiling of its new Xbox game console, eight years after the last version, as it seeks a larger share of the $65 billion a year global computer gaming industry. But the small device faces some big competition from the PlayStation 4 by Sony Corp and the Wii U by Nintendo Co Ltd in a shifting market. ...
- German minister calls EU move on China solar 'grave mistake'
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said the European Commission made a "grave mistake" by agreeing to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China and urged the Commission to work to prevent the eruption of a trade conflict. "It's a grave mistake," Roesler told Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday. He said China already warned the duties on solar panels would harm bilateral trade. "That shows: punitive import duties are the wrong instrument. ...
- Bank of England's King sends message to successor Carney
By William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) - Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has urged successor Mark Carney not to bring to Britain his trademark policy of spelling out how long interest rates will remain low. King also said the bank could not be run as "a one-man show," a sign of concern at high expectations that the arrival of the Canadian will lead to a quick fix for Britain's slow economy. In an interview with Sky News television broadcast on Sunday, King praised Carney, saying Britain was fortunate to have him. ...
- Job market gains could lead Fed to taper QE3 early
By Ann Saphir and Jonathan Spicer (Reuters) - The beginning of the end of the Federal Reserve's massive bond-buying program might come sooner than many investors think if recent gains in the U.S. labor market do not prove fleeting. Much will depend on how economic data, which has given mixed signals for growth prospects, develops over the next few months. Reports on job growth in particular will go a long way in helping Fed officials determine whether the time is right to trim the pace of their $85 billion in monthly purchases. The marked improvement in the labor market since the U.S. ...
- Dow, S&P end at records, stocks mark fourth week of gains
By Leah Schnurr NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks continued their climb into uncharted territory on Friday, racking up the fourth week of gains in a row as encouraging economic data prompted investors to pick up shares of growth companies. The Dow and the S&P 500 finished at fresh record highs, driven by gains in energy and industrial shares. The indexes have pushed to a series of never-before-seen levels as part of the rally that has lifted equities more than 16 percent for the year so far. ...
- Wall Street Week Ahead: Correction talk gets old as rally sails along
By Angela Moon NEW YORK (Reuters) - With the broad S&P 500 Index gliding once again into uncharted territory and posting four straight weeks of gains, the talk of Wall Street's rally inevitably hitting a ceiling is starting to get old. Concerns about a technical correction have been a hot topic for weeks, especially as the rally accelerated in May - the S&P 500 is up 4.4 percent so far this month and up nearly 17 percent for the year. But as the three major U.S. stock indexes inch higher and higher to set record after record, many analysts are shrugging off the pullback worries. ...
- Oil price probe widens, senator wants Justice Department help
By Simon Falush and Timothy Gardner LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A European probe into possible oil price manipulation expanded with the investigation of a small niche trading house in the Netherlands, while a key U.S. senator on Friday called for the Justice Department to join the investigation. Dutch trading house Argos Energies, a mid-sized trading company that deals in physical oil products and owns storage facilities, was visited by inspectors from the European Commission on Tuesday, a source familiar with the investigation said on Friday. ...