Advice from the top: Marry a stay-at-home spouse or buy the equivalent.

I just hired someone to take care of my house for $50,000 a year: A house manager. This is in addition to the full-time nanny I have. And the cleaning service. And the assistant I have at work.

I know the first thing going through your mind is that I’m loaded and I’m lucky. But I’m not either: for instance, the house I live in is so small that I sleep in the kids’ room. I chose a house like this because I think having money to pay people to help me maintain a sane household is more important than having tons of space for tons of possessions. Having to make choices like that is what makes this topic worth writing about.

But I wasn’t sure if I was going to write at all about hiring a house manager, so I tried telling someone in person first, my friend Jason Warner, who is a director at Google. He said that that every high-level woman he’s ever worked with—at Microsoft, Starbucks, and Google—has had to pay for tons of help at home or had a stay-at-home husband or has been literally falling apart at work.

For the past year, at least, I have been in the last category—falling apart. It’s clear to me now that to be a woman competing at high levels in corporate life, you have to have people helping you. Serious help. Most men who make a lot of money and have kids also have a stay-at-home wife. She holds their world together while he focuses on work.

So I want you to know what it’s really like to be a woman competing with the men who have stay-at-home wives: Expensive. There are jokes about the hyperbole of the annual study that says that housewives are worth six-figures. I think it is not hyperbole. Those men are getting not just a house manager, but someone who adores his kids, is there all the time, and someone who is willing to have some sort of regular sex life. For all that, the estimate of $100,000 a year seems very low.

My new house manager’s specialty is families with moms who have very time-consuming jobs. I told the house manager that I’m worried that she will not be able to deal with how eccentric our family is. She says she has only dealt with eccentric families. She said the last family used to have birthday parties at breakfast instead of dinner because the mom couldn’t get home for dinner.

I told the house manager that I am always home for dinner. And violin lessons. When I’m not traveling. I felt smug. For a minute. But really, I don’t think there is an honest mom in the world who works full-time and feels smug.

I am hiring a house manager because I don’t think there is any way I can compete in my profession if I have to do things like clean up gummy bears for an hour a night, or make a toy-store run in the middle of the day for a last-minute birthday party after school.

Jason was telling me that his wife went out of town for five days. She told him he had to take time off from work. He said he didn’t want to use up vacation. He said he’d be fine.

But by the second day, he was going nuts. He said, “Penelope, it’s unbelievable. I am telling the kids I’ll be there in a minute and then I send an email. And I instant message chat while I’m driving. And I take phone calls when the kids are in the other room waiting for me. This is crazy. It’s so hard.”

But I have been doing this every day for years. That’s really what convinced me to hire the house manager. Because Jason was doing my life for four days and he thought it was crazy. And Jason is the type of guy I’m competing with in business. He has a housewife. They are a good team.

When Jason was writing guest posts on my blog I was talking with him all the time. He asked about the time stamps on my emails, he asked me when I slept (for about six months, when I started blogging, I basically stopped sleeping), and he asked me when I relaxed. Mostly I was jealous that he had someone at home taking care of so much stuff.

So now I’m not jealous. But, I have to confess something. I’m jealous of all the guys who kept a family together while they built up their career. I wish I could have done that.

So here’s my advice to women who want a big career and a stable family: You need to earn a lot of money to make that happen. I don’t know a stay-at-home dad who is seriously taking care of kids full-time, over the course of five-to-seven years, without a lot of money in the bank. And I don’t know a woman who has a huge career without money to support a bunch of people to take care of things at home.

For women, the difference between success and failure at the top of the ladder is, I think, a house manager.

Posted in No image, Parenting, Women
173 comments on “Advice from the top: Marry a stay-at-home spouse or buy the equivalent.
  1. bindy says:

    Penelope,

    Very interesting post. I totally agree with the need to have help if you are running a household – I’m single, working full-time as an attorney, have no kids (though I do have a number of pets), and still feel that I have lost control of my small home. This house manager may be just the thing to allow me to find time to breathe again – how on earth did you find your manager??

  2. sarah says:

    The mixed fonts in your post look really classy. A couple of hours until the red lines through the words appear in my RSS feeder? You do need a ‘person who makes up for the deficiencies’ in your blogs presentation, grammar, spelling etc. (I wouldn’t dare to venture a title, since I’m not in book publishing and therefore couldn’t possibly know the proper title. Not that I’m sure what blogs and book publishing have in common that scientific editing don’t, but never mind.)

  3. deepali says:

    Aside from being distracted by the different fonts, I found this post fascinating. Not because I can relate in any way, but because it’s so alien to me. I think you offer great advice for a certain segment of society (none of my friends complain about raising kids and managing careers), but honestly, you sound a bit… defensive. So you have to hire a house manager. Own it, and stop feeling like you need to justify everything.

    * * * * * * * *
    The reason I sound defensive is because I am inundated with comments like the two below this one. And all the women I know who have careers similar to mine are defensive. In private. One of the things I try to do with this blog is to make generally private discussions public in order to take the power out of the discussion. To be honest, this discussion is so scary to me that I was even scared to bring it up in private.

    You can tell people to own their decisions and to stop being defensive, but the most important decisions in our lives — like, what is fulfilling work, and which school events cannot be missed — are never clear cut and it’s never possible, I don’t think, to be certain that what we’ve done is right. So the best thing we can do is discuss it in public and get as many perspectives as we can tolerate.

    –Penelope

  4. klein3351f@yahoo.com says:

    I’m still not sure why the kids to begin with? Were they happy accidents? It doesn’t sound like you are particularly focused on anything more than yourself and your career.
    What is this need to always be out their advancing and achieving? Someday you are going to realize how pointless it has all been and you will have wasted so much time and energy that you could have been using to ‘live your life’. By live your life, I mean spending time with friends and family, taking in a movie, going to the theater, watching tv or reading a great book. THOSE are the things that matter.
    *********
    Probably the hardest thing I’ve done since I’ve had kids is work on figuring out what is fulfillment to me. What do I need to feel intellectually satisfied? What does it mean to be an ENTJ? What do I need to give as a parent in order to feel like a “good” parent? What do I need to give to friends and family and what do I need to take for myself. These are very very difficult questions. I was a stay-at-home mom for a bit. And I have to tell you that I was absolutely blown away by how wrong that life was for me. I was a latchkey kid and hated it, and I always expected to be home with my own kids. It is so hard to know ourselves. We think we know ourselves, and then something changes. My favorite discussions are the ones where we are all honestly trying to do this together.
    -Penelope

  5. LP says:

    For someone who writes alot about work-life balance, this post seems a little misguided. It might be true that ‘at the top of the ladder’ most women need someone to pick up the domestic slack, as *most* men aren’t interested in staying at home. But who wants to be at the top of the ladder? Unless getting to the top means retiring young and wealthy, it seems like you’re just getting on a treadmill you can never get off.

  6. LP says:

    Also, thanks for fixing the crazy mixed fonts.

  7. Arlene says:

    I “did it all” for over 20 years and nearly went nuts. How I did it: Horrible quality of life with slipshod cleaning, little personal time, and lots of fast food. Not great but what most of us actually do when push comes to shove.

    Ironically, I’m a housewife now, though not by choice, but our everyday quality of life is admittedly better. Anyway, your post was very cheering to me.

    Please don’t apologize for outsourcing this stuff–men NEVER, EVER do.

  8. Colleen says:

    I am a working mom of one with a husband who’s never home and suddenly feel very, very depressed. Misguided, I thought I could do it all.
    And people, who cares about the fonts? Read the post a couple of days ago about typos.

  9. Adrian L says:

    This post was the straw.

    I’m done Penelope. I remember when I first found your blog, I found it really interesting. But somewhere along the way your perspective seems to have lost its grip on reality.

    I didn’t have to do this. I could have just removed your site from my RSS reader and never said anything, but I’m trying to be constructive.

    I’ll not be reading any more. I’ve removed your site from my RSS reader. There are other writers out there who deserve my reading time, other writers who provide genuinely meaningful thoughts on careers and the work environment. They take the time to spellcheck their posts, and don’t whine when people tell them they’ve made errors. They take the time to respond to many of their readers, not just the ones that are easy.

    And they don’t talk about anal sex, or toe fungus, or plastic surgery. They don’t talk about how they used to look in bikinis. They certainly don’t air their divorce laundry. Maybe that works for you, and maybe that works for some readers, but if I had to guess, I’d say your traffic has gone through the floor and you’re desperately seeking a way to get it back.

    Goodbye Penelope. I truly hope you can find the “careerist” part of yourself back. The “brazen” part has left the bad taste of desperation in my mouth.

  10. Jim Eiden says:

    First of all. I am not using an RSS Feeder, and her post on her website looks just fine.

    Those of you with readers may want to stop jumping to conclusions. Maybe something happened in the conversion in sending out your reader.

    Nope, technology is perfect, can’t be the RSS feed, must be Penelope.

    Secondly, my wife travles 100% for her job and we both have full time jobs. When she is out of town, I am basically a single parent. it is not easy to come home from work, get the kids to soccer practice / tutoring / games / do homework / clean house / make dinner / do bills.

    Most nights I do not get to bed until after midnight. I catch up on my sleep on weekends.

    I have help too. I have someone watch the kids after school and someone who cleans our house every other week.

    It is just the way it is.

  11. Kelly says:

    Wow- colleen, that’s tough criticism. we’re all different, with different thoughts on what constitutes reality. that’s the beauty of blogging, you don’t have to agree with the blogger. “whining” and “desperation” seem far from anythhing constructive.

  12. J says:

    Hi Penelope. I’m asking this sincerely, what does a house manager do that a cleaning person, nanny and personal assistant does not? Is it more of a running errands and keeping your personal (as opposed to professional) calendar thing? This is the first I’ve heard of it and I’m curious.

  13. Latoya Peterson says:

    Whoa. Lots of anger in the comments section.

    Anyway, Penelope, as a 20-something already feeling the pinch of balancing a career and a relationship, thanks a lot for the heads up. I think sometimes women are afraid to outsource these things because it is like admitting that you can’t be a “good wife.” And there is a lot of pressure not to let anything drop, to be good at everything, effortlessly. So, I applaud you for sharing this and I know this information will help me make decisions about career and family.

  14. funkright says:

    Where’s the value in sacrificing your interaction with your family to pursue greater material rewards and upward mobility? Will it make you happier?

    The stuff we acquire in life is filler and is so impermanent, it is the interaction with those we love that lasts forever. Anything else is just a temporary high.

  15. Richard Best says:

    Penelope,

    As a brazen “non-careerist” I appreciate your support. I took time off my job when my daughter was born and never went back. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad, semi-pro writer, teacher, and house manager. My wife has a challenging and, fortunately, high-paying job, and knowing that the house and all its sundries will be looked after is, I think, a blessing to her. Sometimes she even says that herself. I also appreciate that you’ve pegged my value between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. Hmm… maybe I should ask for a raise (i.e. higher food budget).

    Regards,
    Richard Best
    Oakville Ontario Canada

  16. Sean says:

    I find it interesting that people talk about how meaningless this blog is, but then write multiple paragraphs about it. If something triggers so much emotion, then it has to have meaning with you, whether you want to acknowledge it or not…

    Penelope, keep it coming… If everyone loved your posts, you wouldn’t have a career…

  17. Hagar says:

    Everyone wants to read this and get onto you about putting your need to get ahead over the needs of your family. Everyone wants to think that you’re putting your effort into something that doesn’t last (your career) instead of into something permanent (your kids). It’s not that simple, people. We have but one life–and it’s all mixed up together. Penelope can no more not strive for success than she can decide to be a different personality type. She has to make decisions that are right for her needs. And in this post, she’s recognized that the needs of others who are important to her (family) needed more attention–hence, the house manager. If she could have met both sets of needs (her own, and her family’s) alone, she would have. It’s not like she never tried. This is a mature assessment of a complex question, and a reasonable response. And oh, a bonus, we (the readers) get to be in on the details, and maybe learn something.

  18. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    Well said. I’ve always thought that cloning myself would be the perfect solution. Woman at home, woman at work.

    I’m a SAHM who finds satisfaction in my life…but let me tell you, there are many things that “Mommy” does not have to do that can easily be outsourced.

  19. Maureen Sharib says:

    Reading Penelope’s stuff is like being that proverbial fly on the wall that most of us have wanted to be at some time or another…

    …that’s what reading blogs/social networking site communiques between members/SOMEONE ELSE’s EMAIL are sometimes, really – watching crumbling cookies, milk spill and train wrecks.

    I appreciate ALL of it.

    I think it was Barbara Walters who said…A LONG TIME AGO…a woman can have two of threee things:
    a husband
    children
    a career
    She can have two of these things but not three. I think your horizon is clearing Penelope. Keep up the WONDERFUL WORK that you do!

  20. Carla says:

    I don’t for a moment fault you for hiring help to accommodate your busy life and help you build success. But it’s not for everyone. I think there’s a lot to be said for the argument that women need to redefine business success on our own terms.

    Work life balance shouldn’t mean superwoman doing it all, with or without help. There has to come a point where success is measured in the balance itself. I work, I have a good professional reputation, I enjoy what I do, and I have time for personal endevours. The Gen Y folk seem to be heading more in that direction. Why shouldn’t we help push society in that way? If we really want to enjoy both work and personal lives, let’s just redefine success.

    Carla

    * * * *

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes that fulfilling looks similar to everyone. I think some people are more competitive than others, some people are more intense than others, everyone’s natural pace is different. The most competitive aspects of the business world cater to a very certain type of person, and the stay-at-home life that includes sewing and cooking and home schooling caters to another type of person. And there are all the people in between. The people in between need some sort of balance to feel fulfilled. The people at the two ends of the spectrum probably don’t need as much of the half-and-half thing for their fulfillment.

    -Penelope

  21. bananas says:

    I found this post fascinating and forwarded it to a couple of my working mom friends with a note that said “this has a lot of truth to it.” THEN I read the comments. Wow. You know how to get people riled up!

    My takeaway from this post AND from my own experience is that a pursuing a career and being serious about family are two full-time endeavors. Whatever your gender, you can’t do both well AND keep your sanity… you need HELP. Better to admit it and make the changes that you have to make in order to LIVE than to go on in denial popping xanax and feeling miserable.

  22. Tracy says:

    Great post.

    Unless you have a husband who will pick up a lot of the slack and/or low standards for household maintenance, hiring domestic help is the only way to get it all done.

    Unfortunately, right now I fall into the low standards camp…my house hasn’t really been cleaned in months.

  23. Liz says:

    I second bananas, I really liked the honesty of your post and then was surprised at the polarized comments. I guess this is a really hot issue, the balance of work and home life. I like that you put this all out there, and talk honestly about the types of sacrifices that you make and see other people making. Thanks!

  24. Anna says:

    I read this and my heart sang! I totally encountered the exact situation (minus kids, strangely) when I was earning a big salary and traveling 100% of my workweek. My fellow business travelers- all men- had spouses at home that managed their expense reports, figured out fun vacations, and did lots of other quality of life stuff while we were heads down in big projects. I really envied them. The significant others in my life complained that I wasn’t there enough, still left social & quality oflife stuff up to me, and, of course, the relationships never lasted. My personal epiphany was that if I continued in this vein, I would never find someone who wanted to call me and ask what kind of towels I liked for our house- something one of my coworkers got called on while I was sitting in the cube debugging something with him. I was so envious I could spit.

    So- I stopped traveling, took a pay cut, and I’m a lot happier. Everyone finds a different solution, part of it is recognizing an unfair system, and it sounds like you made some steps to rectify it, and while regardless of whether it’s the answer, or not, you’ve admitted to yourself that you only have the hours in the day.

  25. Leets says:

    I think you guys are missing the most important part of this post. Somewhere a woman is being $50K per client to be a “house manager” where said clients already employ a nanny and a maid. How do I get this job? Seriously.

  26. Jeremy says:

    Couldn’t a great (and well-paid) nanny have taken on this role? She’s already getting the house cleaned by someone else, and she’s taking care of the kids. What else is there that requires an additional $50,000 salary?

    I’m not sure how you could study and internalize any of the lessons from recent happiness research and then make these kinds of decisions. It doesn’t fit. From the outside, this looks like a collision course with a full-on nervous breakdown and total family collapse…and I guess it’s already started.

    I don’t believe that careers are an all-or-nothing proposition. The most successful (in holistic way, not accumulating wealth) parents I’ve seen have found ways to set realistic expectations for their impact in the working world, at least until their kids are a bit older. That doesn’t mean dropping out — it means doing enough work to feel productive, pay the bills, and have something meaningful happening outside the family circle. That usually leaves enough time and energy to maintain relationships and take responsibility for parenting your children. No, it’s not easy to compromise and make sacrifices, but the alternative is to give up on your kids altogether.

  27. Veronica Sawyer says:

    Just wanted to say something to those who say Penelope has lost a grip on reality.

    One of the most compelling things about this blog is that it IS Penelope's reality. I get frustrated reading other career blogs where the writers dance coyly around personal issues. The personal is part of what allows us to succeed or fail in our careers. What's brazen about Penelope is that she talks about things other people are afraid to address. (And really, what grown person is unable to handle a frank mention of health, sexual or relationship issues online?)

    Hiring a house manager is not a reality for me, or for most people – but it is for Penelope, and obviously for enough others that she was able to find an experienced house manager where she lives.

    And the interesting personal story proves the bigger point that she talks about all the time: it is not possible to have it all, be the best, and do it alone – for women or men. We make choices and sacrifices in our careers and our families all the time, and most of us have the best intentions but don't know how to make it work.

    The advice here is always interesting and thought provoking, even if it doesn't specifically apply to everyone's reality.

  28. Norcross says:

    I think it’s a fantastic idea. If my wife and I had an extra penny to our name, I’d do it in a heartbeat. After all, having someone manage the mundane things leaves you with the ability to spend what little time you DO have with your kids enjoying it.

  29. Andertoons says:

    I’m a stay-at-home dad who runs his own business (5 years running, thank you) and it’s all about choices. If you want a stellar career, maybe kids aren’t for you. If you want kids, you might have to sacrifice that corner office.

    I clean, I cook, I change diapers, and I’m waiting until the kids are both in school to focus more on business. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    But that’s me.

  30. Steve says:

    This is the fallout of bad life decisions.

    She is a single mom now, who wants to be rich. The tradeoff will be time with the kids and no mother at home with them while she travels and works.

    Maybe Dad should get the kids so she can have it all on the career side.

    Let’s just hope for the sake of the children that her pursuits will allow them enough time with her as a parent.

    Divorce brings the same pressures on whomever has the children.

  31. Bill says:

    Your post reminded me Elizabeth Warren’s theory of “The Two-Income Trap”–it’s more costly for both parents to be working than for one to give up the income and stay at home to raise the children and tend to those matters (man or woman).

    the book: The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke

  32. James Mc Fadden says:

    You must make a ton-O-money.
    A house manager for 50,000
    A full-time nanny est. 40,000
    Cleaning service est 15,000
    Total $105,000.00

    The average household brings in around $40,000.

    You spend two and a half times what an average household brings in on support.

    Like I said you must make a ton-O-money

  33. DAR says:

    Not just women. I’m a dad who works full time *and* have a stay-at-home wife taking care of the kids full time (one of whom is on the autistic spectrum, like yours) and yet my career is still suffering.

    My wife is stressed and overwhelmed, which in turn is making me the backup for her, and harming my ability to compete in my career.

    Personally, I think we need to hire help … to free up time for me to compete more effectively.

  34. Muddypelican says:

    I am totally for getting help, but this seems excessive to me. I’m a single mother, travel 25% of the time for a demanding job but have no domestic help other than friends to keep the kids while I’m travelling. You employ 3 people to help, so essentially, if you were not working, you’d still need 2 people to help?

  35. Sarah says:

    When I worked for a huge insurance company, we had stats on how much it would cost to replace a stay-at-home mom should something happen to her so that husbands would buy enough insurance to keep working. Sure we were a little biased, but P’s numbers are NOT off. There are many other stats out there on this.

    If every man who wanted a career decided not to have kids because he should be at home changing diapers, we’d have a population crisis on our hands. Why are we telling women to do this? BS!

    I think everyone is really quick to judge how other people live their life. That one commenter is right: this IS P’s reality. These are her choices.

    Who is bashing the dads for working 80-hour weeks?

    Nannies are not the same as house managers. Have you tried to run errands, plan a party, write email or schedule appointments while watching three kids? Is it easier with or without the kids?

    I don’t have kids because I don’t earn enough to have someone take care of them. I have too many chronic illnesses to be able to carry them and their equipment, and I’m a high risk for a stroke/heart attack so I shouldn’t be left alone with kids in case something happens.

    If I could adopt a child and have full-time, round-the-clock nanny, maid and assistant, would I have one? I’d at least consider it. Would that child be better off in foster care or with me?

  36. jim says:

    The thing I think is hilarious about you, Penelope, is that you equate your career/success to some high-powered exec’s career. From what I have read, you haven’t had a lot of success. You sure Daddy isn’t paying the $105,000?

  37. Sarah says:

    It seems to me that several people are not clear–P wants to compete with the big guns–the people who work 80 hours a week and earn millions.

    Those of you who have careers and are home at 6pm for dinner are not. Period. Your choice.

  38. stephanie says:

    Thanks you Penelope for voicing what so many ambitious, career-oriented women are or have already experienced. We are part of a generation of women who are struggling at the crossroads of “You can be anything” and “You can’t have it all.” I like hearing what choices you’ve made and why, and I admire your courage in documenting and encouraging the debate. My decisions might be different, but I’m still trying to balance the same set of variables – career, relationship, parenting and sanity. Keep blogging, we need your voice!

  39. Sarah says:

    Jim–have you heard of aiming high?

  40. sophie says:

    I completely agree with hiring whoever it takes to run a smooth household. If you’ve got the money do it.

    But here’s the glitch. Do it for your kids, not for yourself. Kids thrive on stability, consistency, routine, familiarity, guidance, attention and on and on. All of these give them a sense of security and well-being.

    I can’t help but notice Penelope’s verbage in her response: “What do I need to feel intellectually satisfied? … What do I need to give as a parent in order to feel like a "good" parent? …What do I need to give to friends and family and what do I need to take for myself. ”

    What do I need? I, I, I. Me, me, me.

    If you have kids, it’s no longer about you. It’s about the kids. What do you need to do so the kids feel secure? What do you need to do as a parent, so you ARE a good parent to your kids – not so you FEEL like a good parent.

    Put the cell phone down. Close up the laptop. Spend your time with your kids and give them your focus. They need to know they are more important than your work.

    They are, aren’t they?

  41. Maggie says:

    Um, I’m with Leets–where does one get a job as a house manager for $50k? Too bad I don’t live near you, Penelope, because I would do all three jobs–house manager, nanny and cleaner–for $50k!

    I’m not even saying this to be snarky but since you are all about telling it like it is, I wish you would write a post sometime about how much money you do make. I’m totally serious and don’t mean it in a nasty way at all–I honestly would like to know how much money your collective endeavors–Boston Globe, Brazen Careerist, book, etc–bring in. If I ever crack $100k in this lifetime I will be shocked; I can’t imagine having $50k to spend on a house manager. Nor–and no offense–having any job so great it would require hiring a house manager to earn it in the first place.

  42. Ginger says:

    I’m just amazed that there’s this implicit assumption that those of us who don’t make a six-figure salary have oodles of time to clean house, run errands, etc. I make a bit over 65K and work very hard, and hiring anyone to help out beyond the kid who mows the lawn for $20 every other week is out of the question.

    And you live in Madison. And you work at home. I’m just agog, is all. I would love to have a rich husband or money to hire the equivalent, but most Americans are cutting back, not scaling up, in this recessionary economy.

  43. Hagar says:

    @sophie: My kids are more important to me than my work, sure. So why do I go to work? To support my family. To show my children the value of work. It’s not an either-or situation. You don’t decide to put your family over all other things 24/7/365–it’s untenable. And if you happen to be highly competitive and find great satisfaction in success (which isn’t defined as a huge salary for everyone), then how do you balance your needs? You are the only one who can judge your needs–that’s an “I” question–your kids can’t judge your needs or help you balance them. No one can, except maybe a therapist or a good friend. That’s the question–how to pick the balance point. Penelope has given us her answer. If you have a better one, then post it.

  44. Matt M says:

    Overall, great post. I continue to read your blog because you are someone who is finally honest about the demands of work, home, kids and actually puts a dollar value figure on it. The book “The 2 Income Trap” basically echoes your conundrum in that people don’t realize the true value of a stay at home spouse.

    At a previous job in public accounting I regularly worked 60 hour weeks plus traveled 10 weeks a year and worked as much as 80 hr weeks sometimes. Many people at that job always seemed to talk around the problems you mention here and I often wondered if their kids could even identify them in a police line up. I also wondered if some of them would have gotten divorced if only they had had time to do it.

    Keep doing posts like this.

    BTW, I don’t use RSS and the fonts and colors look perfectly fine to me

  45. Nodding in Agreement says:

    Penelope, please count me in as one of your supporters. For those who have made the decision, regardless of the reason, to climb the proverbial career ladder, be it man or woman it is necessary to do what you have described. I find myself wondering if some of the comments posted would remain the same if your name had been Paul instead of Penelope…

  46. Rose says:

    Three thoughts:

    1. No seriously, tell us more about a house manager. Because I googled it and have seen it as part of a broader job description (nanny/housekeeper/house manager), but what does just a house manager entail?

    2. You are right that noone would blink if a man wrote about this. Not. At. All. Every male executive I’ve dealt with had a wife/PA/company assistant. One in my current office has three assistants just for work, one just to read his email (and she makes $50k).

    3. HOPEFULLY, what shocks some people is not that you’re a woman hiring a house manager, but more the unfathomable life of the “executive”. I suppose that you’re right that working to death brings you absolute pleasure and satisfaction, whereas chilling on a tropical island would give you hives. Look at those shows about the fishermen and loggers who have lost limbs and state that they hope they die “dropping dead on the job”. For a lot of us, that mentality is absolutely insane, but I suppose its as valid as anything else. And you’re supporting those of us who prefer to chill out on those tropical islands….

  47. Jennifer Lynn says:

    In the end, this is really just about creating the life *you* want, and being realistic about what you need to do to make it happen.

    And women, for goodness sake, must (must, must!) stop equating “good wife/mother” with “good floor sweeper” or “good stain-getter-outer.” It’s not about that. There was definitely some juggling, but both of my parents worked, and my Mom was (and is!) the most amazing mother. But she’s also an amazing person who taught my sister and me through words and example how to be a fabulous, whole woman–in her own world, with her own talents. We kids weren’t the sum of her existence, and we knew it. And we thought it was awesome.

  48. Bloggrrl says:

    I used to be a nanny for a very successful woman in Manhattan. While the kids were at school, I took care of everything that a house manager would. She also paid me extra to put together dinner parties, and would hire extra help while I oversaw the preparation, etc. While she paid fairly, it wasn’t anywhere as much as you’re spending. How about adding some job responsibilities onto the positions that you already pay for? That said, having all of that help sounds wonderful.

  49. Meredith says:

    I’m a stay-at-home mother, and I’m only surprised by the vehemence of the comments here.

    House manager/nannies make similar salaries in my Southern city. It would definitely cost that much to replace what I give to my family.

    My husband is a public servant, but there is no way he could work the hours he does without a full-time wife or her professional counterpart.

  50. Grace Briones says:

    Penelope,

    I especially agree with the saying that a woman can have two of three things: a husband, kids, a career. I just returned to work after having a baby. The reality is that I’m not nearly as productive or spectacular at work as I used to be. In fact, I think I’m a pretty lousy worker. I come in at 8 and I’m out at 5 (not a minute more or less) AND I turn my company cell phone off when I leave the office. I do just enough to be considered a satisfactory team member – and our engineering department just went UNION. However, I think I’m pretty damn good at meeting my husbands needs as a spouse and a pretty spectacular momma to my baby. My husband and I have also made critical choices/sacrifices to ensure that we at least get the most family time with each other. We are a two income family in San Francisco, CA – not exactly the most affordable place to live. Rather than move to the suburbs and battle a 1-2 hr commute plus $$$$ gas and bridge tolls, we decided to stay in our loft. Our work commute is about 10 minutes each by car. We have our daughter in daycare while we’re at work and we pay $1300 a month. We also pay a cleaning lady $60/week. The day is still hectic even with all this help. The important thing is that we work as a team and we put priority on our family. Since I met my husband and we had a baby, reaching the top of the corporate ladder no longer appeals to me. That type of role/position will not fulfill my need to feel significant. My husband loves me so very much; my baby loves me….this is what makes me feel significant and special; nothing else. Being at the top in my career would ultimatley mean less time with my family. More money, YES. But consider the trade-off. Definitely not worth it to me or my husband. I know that you are now a single mom with a child with autism. It is expensive to care for a child with autism. You’re in a tough situation and it no one who hasn’t been in your shoes can criticize your choices. Good luck. God Bless.

    Grace from SF

30 Pings/Trackbacks for "Advice from the top: Marry a stay-at-home spouse or buy the equivalent."
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  8. How Kyle Sandilands makes it work: caffeine and no sleep « The Art of Work says:

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  9. on pitching myself to penelope trunk « original remixed says:

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  11. When You Need Twice as Much Time as You Have: Life Lessons from Planning a Wedding : Brazen Careerist says:

    [...] is worth it. They're right. It's up to you to decide how often and to what extent you want to pay other people to help you, but it's an option worth considering, especially if your only other option is to stop [...]

  12. Resources: Working and parenting at home « Shannon’s Stuff says:

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  21. Why Comments Matter | What About Mom says:

    [...] can drown out the whining voices. Calculating how much your efforts are worth, monetarily, as a home manager, etc can soothe the sting of being paycheck-less. In blogging, it’s okay to treat it like a [...]

  22. Dorie Morgan’s Rising Up » Honey do? Honey Don’t. » Navigating Twenty-Something Suburban Life says:

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  23. Another Reason to Avoid Doing Housework « But I’m Not a Housewife! says:

    [...] as Caitlin Flanagan, and Penelope Trunk have – or have had – nannies, cleaning services, and “House Managers.” (And by the way, when Penelope Trunk announced that she hired a House Manager, her reader response [...]

  24. The Family Way « Kyle Hepp says:

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  25. Ambivalent Feminism « Double Drudgery says:

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