The hardest part of my job is that everyone lies about parenting

When I was growing up, there was lots of chatter in the media about how models gave girls bad role models. Today that’s old news. What we should talk about now is how the media portrays moms.

Take a look at the spread in People magazine of Jennifer Lopez and her one-month-old twins. The photos are so elegant that at first I thought it was a parody. But in fact, it is mommy porn: the visual fantasy of what being a working mom could be. And it really could be that, if it weren’t that someone like Jennifer Lopez must have a household full of helpers in order to keep her career on track while she has kids: a cook, a trainer, two or three nannies, a cleaner, an assistant, a stylist. And others I’m sure I can’t even imagine.

Here’s another example of mommy porn: Angelina Jolie, and her fifty kids. She has a rule that the nannies (plural, yes, each kid has their own) cannot be photographed holding the kids, because it’s bad for Angelina’s image as a mom. But this is the problem: It looks like these very successful women have it all, even though they don’t.

Here’s what happens: Some reporter interviews someone about their big job. And then the person ends up talking about the mythic work-life-balance topic. And they say something like, “Throughout my career I did [insert something that is supposed to be wonderful for children] for my kids.” And now, of course, we must assume that the kids are doing fine. But why do we believe that? Why do we even ask? We have no hope of learning the truth. After all, there are very few people in the world who are in a position to say that their career is, as they speak, harming their kids.

So journalists writing about moms being moms are not reporting the truth. It is propaganda. It is parents saying that they lived their lives in a way that was good for their kids. But really, who knows? The reporter has little ability to check. So all we’re left with is the parents giving their subjective and hugely biased opinion that their kids are turning out fine.

I’m not saying that every kid is messed up from their parents’ careers. I’m saying that I’m sick of learning about how famous families want us to think they are doing by looking at what is really only mommy porn, what is really just parenting propaganda.

So look, in the interest of truth-telling, I’m telling you this: people are not being honest about what it’s like to be with kids. People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. (Notable exception: Sally Krawcheck.) If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I’m gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It’s not interesting. It’s not helpful. It’s not even very relevant. For anyone.

What’s interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don’t love being with them on a daily basis. It’s very scary to write. But I’m telling you, if the feeling weren’t ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they’d all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime.

People are choosing to go to work rather than stay with their kids all day. But no one talks about making this choice because they are scared their kids will read it. I’m not sure what the right answer is. I just know that somehow there has to be a more honest discussion of parenting in this world.

So with all the mommy porn, the media does a lot to make us think that work life balance is possible, in the same way anorexic bodies without treatment for anorexia is possible.

So there’s real damage from mommy porn. Everyone begins thinking that every woman should be parenting gracefully while working full time. This gives people the temerity to ask me, nearly every day: Who takes care of your kids?

That’s right. The genesis of this rant is that I was meeting with an investor — a guy in his early 40s — and we were talking about my travel schedule and he asked, “Who takes care of your kids?”

I told this to one of my board members and he said, “What??? Why did you answer that question?”

I said I answer it because I get the question every single day. Literally. And I don’t think twice about it anymore. But in fact, it’s a totally offensive question. Here’s how I’m so sure: I tried it out on Mr. Sales Guy. And even though Mr. Sales Guy and I work the same number of hours, he said something to the effect of, “I’m not really sure what goes on with the kids all day, you have to ask my wife.” He answered the question as if we were doing girl talk. As if I had asked him, “What brand of tampon does your wife use?”

So I want to tell you something: Women earn more than men in most major cities today. And in corporate America, up and down the ladder, women and men are on equal footing in the workplace in terms of who gets paid what, as long as neither party has kids. But the level of expectations people have for parenting is absolutely insane. The mommy porn feeds this problem. Everyone is drawn to the ideal of Angelina Jolie as the perfect combination of careerist and mother like the Pied Piper’s tune, and these attitudes are more exhausting to me than any amount of actual parenting ever is.

Posted in Journalism, No image, Parenting
167 comments on “The hardest part of my job is that everyone lies about parenting
  1. Norcross says:

    You couldn’t be more correct. My wife has come to the realization that she can’t be everything all at once, and that it’s OK. As a new attorney, she works a lot of hours, and I’ve picked up the slack with our son. When she was home with the baby for the first 9 months, she was super-Mom. A tough transition, at least from my vantage point.

    Luckily, she doesn’t give two s**ts about what celebs do, since she knows that world is fake.

  2. Chris Gammell says:

    Penelope,

    Very interesting blog post. I’m still relatively young (male) and do not have kids yet, but I wonder how the hell I’m going to do it when I’m older and decide to. It’s not a stay at home world anymore, that’s for sure, but I’m not sure it should be either. My mom gave up her career and her training as a speech pathologist in order to raise me and my sisters and I am forever grateful. However, I wonder how this next generation of nanny raised kids will end up (not saying I’m the greatest myself). I’m sure this post will generate a lot of angry moms and dads, but I think you bring up a very important issue for working parents and will generate good discussion. Also, I love the new term “Mommy Porn”

    ~Chris

  3. Holly Hoffman says:

    “Mommy Porn.” I love it. This is the problem I have with magazines like Real Simple and TV sitcoms. It’s the myth that women are supposed to all think at the end of the day, “My, that was tough, but gosh, don’t I have it all?” There’s no reality to it – it’s like Life in a Pottery Barn Catalog. Why is it so shocking to hear someone say they don’t want to be with their kids 24/7? Isn’t that just being human?

    My blood boils at the thought of someone thinking it’s OK to nose around about how a woman cares for her children. I love Mr. Sales Guy’s reaction.

  4. Charles says:

    Very true. People buy into the “happy parent” myth because they want to believe it. Parenting is not as easy as it appears in the media. One difficult child can sap a parents resources. Studies have actually shown the overall happiness does go down when juggling a career and kids. Of course, people don’t want to hear about such studies.

  5. Wendy says:

    If a mother gave Mr. Sales Guy’s answer (“I don’t know, ask my husband / nanny/ daycare provider”) what would people think of her?

    I’m just back to work after mat leave#2, but only half time and flex hours. What I love most about being back so far is how quiet my office is — I can finish a thought. That’s a stress of parenthood — never being able to finish a thought, a sentence with an adult, or complete a task (like laundry, cooking, cleaning) without dozens of interruptions. Playing with the kids is the easy part.

    In the mommy porn world, mommies only need to do the easy parts.

  6. Jim C. says:

    This is a great post. “Mommy porn” may be a strong term, but the gist of this post is 100% correct.
    We should never, never place any credence in the lives of multimillionaire celebrities. How they live is completely irrelevant to the rest of us.

  7. Arlene says:

    “Mommy porn?!”

    Thank you, Penelope. This syndrome has needed a name for at least 30 years, probably longer. Mia Farrow, Joan Crawford, all soap opera families, the Waltons…mommy porn role models, all.

  8. David says:

    Wow, I am not used to this level of bitterness in your posts.

    Here are two things I think you overlook:

    1) you ASSUME all women have your personality type and work a 9-5 as an alternative to being with their kids, i.e. out of choice. This is not the case for most working women. Their working is borne of necessity, and mostly, they wouldn’t be able to make as much “freelancing”.

    2) How do you know Angelina Jolie/Jennifer Lopez are not great mothers? Implicit in what you are saying is that they actually ARE great mothers and you are just jealous of the wealth they have amassed to facilitate their lives. They probably spend more time with their kids than you do and it is probably QUALITY time BECAUSE, as you rightly say, they have cleaners, stylists, chefs etc. That doesn’t make them bad mothers. That makes them successful in their careers. You are always going on about personal branding….here are two women that have built such successful personal brands their jobs consist mostly in being themselves. And you are ragging on them.

    • Robin says:

      You talk about women who build ‘brands’. What does parenting have to do with your ‘brand’?? Isn’t branding what you do at work? Your bankable skills? You career?
      By building brands around ‘being themselves’, these women have incorporated parenting into their mass marketed image, i.e. what will sell best. So you’re proving Ms. Trunk’s point for her, right?
      Would YOU include a picture of yourself with the kids along with your professional resume? Didn’t think so.

  9. Erika says:

    David, I may be projecting, but I think Penelope is reacting to the impossible expectations that are set up when Angelina, or J. Lo., or Gwyneth Paltrow (“I simply *everything*”) are featured, looking like they have it all with no effort. The truth is, that standard is next to impossible for most of us. And seeing them set up as the avatars of perfect working motherhood doesn’t help.

    I don’t think Penelope is saying those women are bad mothers for having all that household help (she uses a nanny herself, and has written eloquently about the choices she’s had to make to be able to afford that help). She’s saying it’s NOT THAT SIMPLE.

  10. Dave Atkins says:

    You are absolutely right. This is one topic I have only obliquely touched on my blog (see “Low Bar for Daddy” post) as my wife and I have talked about it and concluded that you just can’t say the truth about all your feelings about parenting in public unless you want to be pilloried. It is not socially acceptable to be ambivalent about parenting. It is easier for me to disregard the Daddy porn because there is so little of it as men are still not really expected to do anything but love being a father.

  11. Another Gal says:

    I agree in general with the concept of Nanny Porn.

    I checked out the people.com site and found this quote from Marc Anthony, the father of J. Lo’s kids:

    “It’s just us, man. We’re figuring it out and having a great time,” he said. “She expects me to help and she makes no bones about it. I get the late shift. I get literally from 10 on because we don’t have a nanny. It’s just me and Jennifer figuring it out. From 10 p.m. to 8 [a.m.], that’s my shift.”

    So….not sure your argument holds up for that couple, other than as one poster said, they are so wealthy they don’t have to work. Are you saying that these people are lying about preferring to be with their kids?

    • ActuallyDelicious says:

      There’s no fact-checking team scouring JLo’s house every time Marc throws out a quote. :-)

      Also, even if he’s responsible for the kids, he didn’t explicity point out that he’s also doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and all that jazz that goes along with raising a child.

  12. Sydney says:

    I loved this post. I don’t have children, and perhaps that is why many of my friends with kids tell me privately what you just said publicly. They can’t tell anyone else because other parents make them feel badly if they ever say anything other than “having kids is the best thing I ever did in my life.” (Which I’m sure is true, along with everything else that’s not so great.)

    I think if people were more honest about what it’s really like to raise kids, it would be a lot EASIER for women, because their expectations about how to juggle it all would be realistic (instead of all the images you get from the media as you describe in your post.)

    I do think women are getting to talk more openly about the challenges these days (as evidenced by the growth of “mommy blogs”), and I think that is a very helpful thing and will cure a lot of the problems created by “mommy porn.”

  13. Jenny says:

    Penelope, everybody lies about parenting because no one wants a late-evening visit from the local Child Protective Services office acting on an anonymous tip.

  14. annie says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m four months pregnant with my first child and still trying to figure out how I’m going to navigate Mr. Sales Guy conversations.

    I detest Mommy-porn and I can think of thousands of other examples in the media (and in my own pre-natal yoga class). Luckily, I grew up in a family with four children, my mom went back to work 8 weeks after each delivery, and we all went to an amazing, affordable, daycare. I am so so so thankful that my mother did not stay home with us everyday and that she had her own professional life that I was able to learn from and aspire to. Now that I’m getting ready for motherhood, I’m so glad that I have her as my example. I know it’s not going to be like the magazine-spreads but my kid(s) will turn out okay; we all did.

    • Victoria says:

      Thank you so much for saying this. The truth is, if I had one wish growing up, it would be that my mom worked too. I wish I had a strong role-model, or at least someone with practical life experience. But I don’t. I’m sorry to admit it, but I don’t.

  15. Alex says:

    Great post.

    Chris – you’ve given yourself away as a non parent by the assertion that such a post will generate “angry mom and dads”. No it won’t. This is so on the money it ain't funny.

    We’ve taken selling and buying "the dream" too far on every level, so much so it is indeed becoming a bit of a parody of itself – parenting is just where it falls into such clear focus. With two gorgeous kids I know my wife has the harder job as a stay at home mum (right now) – and she’ll have an even harder job to find and re-invent herself post that period of her life.

    But just because corporate have been legally “encouraged" to “accept and integrate” mum returners, it takes a lot longer to change deep held beliefs. And that question, “who looks after the kids”, is one of those – €˜saying so much through saying so little' moments. As a mum it would surely back foot you immediately – €“ by such an "innocent" question they are immediately calling into question your maternality, a fundamental achilles for any red blooded mother.

    I liked your approach with Mr Sales guy, Penelope – maybe next time you get asked such a question (if not accompanied with a clear deeper awe of your powers of striving to get / be aware of any kind of balance whilst maintaining such a full on career) go straight back to the question asker with
    “What your favourite position for love making these days?”

    "None of my business – damned right it’s not! Now to why I’m here today. Business."

    Misogyny is as rife as ever. Mostly we (men) can't help it, almost certainly it's a subconscious blunt male reaction to things we don't understand and therefore scare us – €“ the power of a woman. But unless our own shortcomings are laid out bare in front of us by the strong and brave (in an understanding non-confrontational way – €“ because you're better at that than we are) then there's still such a long long way to go.

  16. Jenny says:

    Sydney — I’m not sure the proliferation of mommy blogs really helps with the “mommy porn”. I’m more inclined to think they exacerbate it, just from the other end. Instead of idealizing have-it-all, do-it-all motherhood, they’re glorifying the grunt work. If celebrity motherhood stories are the porn with the big budget, Philip Glass score, and slick production values, then mommy blogs are the Tonya Harding-esque porn with no budget, MIDI soundtrack, and shot with a cell phone cam. Both sides are incredibly annoying and neither side does real, thinking moms any favors when it comes to the Mr. Sales Guys of the world.

  17. Carla says:

    I love that term — “mommy porn.” It will be my new favourite phrase.

    You’re right on the money about the trend too. It’s not just in pop culture, it’s in the shopping too. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think spending $3000 on a stroller makes me any more capable of parenting, but the mommy porn shows that it does.

    I love my kids, of course we all do, but I love them more for all the hours I get away from them.

    And I never thought too hard about the Mr. Sales Guy conversations, but I have them with women in business settings as much as with men. Of course, with women, it’s usually another mom commiserating.

    Carla

  18. coyote says:

    It’s all part of the myth perpetuated so that normal people will always feel like they can never win, never achieve, never do more. They hear that so-and-so wrote their first novel while holding a 6 month old on one knee and they look at the novel they have been trying to write the one evening a week their husband agrees to handle the kids so she can go to the coffee shop and try to get it done and then wonders why she can’t, because she’s exhausted.

    It’s not so much mommy porn as it is mommy myth.

    and if ANYONE believes that jennifer lopez and marc antony are raising their kids with no help they are smoking crack. even if there is no ‘nanny’ there is certainly household staff to cook, clean, do chores, and manage things. it is nowhere near ‘on their own’. more myth.

  19. David G. says:

    Parents need to get over themselves, and how they think the world views them.

    Ultra-productive career people are not at home wooing over their kids … they either have a housewife, or unfortunately, a househusband, or possibly a nanny at home rearing the kids.

    Mommy porn is a fantastic term to describe this delusional perception that some people give of “having it all.”

    I think it’s sad when people can’t say to themselves and the world, “I proudly have my career, and still my kids are in good shape.”

    Perhaps some parents have misplaced guilt over the idea of not being with their kids 24/7, when in reality, their kids probably don’t even need them around half that much.

    To each their own if you choose to work, stay-at-home, or try to find balance.

    Just be honest about who you really are, versus selling the mythically perfectly balanced career-family arrangement.

    Great post, PT!

  20. Jim Eiden says:

    I don’t think you should be using that term. If you are writing a blog about the work life balance, many of your readers might be reading from the office or company machines at home.

    This term could raise flags with corporate filters and reduce the number of readers to your site by triggering alarms preventing future viewing of your blog from work computers.

  21. Jonathan E. says:

    Let me guess. The investor you mention here passed, didn’t he?

  22. Katybeth says:

    This really TICKS ME off. There should be a disclaimer (in the interest of honesty) every time Angelina is photographed with one of her children: Nanny in background holding diaper bag! “……Angelina Jolie, and her fifty kids. She has a rule that the nannies (plural, yes, each kid has their own) cannot be photographed holding the kids, because it's bad for Angelina's image as a mom.

  23. Brent Wong says:

    I appreciate so many more of the answers in this post than I thought I would. Maybe it is just me as a guy, but I feel that parents should just raise their kids how they feel or how necessity dictates. Who cares how J Lo or Angelina Jolie is raising their kids. Their situation is different from yours.

    My wife is a stay-at-home mom by her own choice. Honestly, I love that she is able to do that. I could not. What is great for me, is that I get to juggle my career and parenting. And I love the balance that it gives me.

    We just need to realize that everyone is different and parents shouldn’t be striving to be like the Hollywood mom or the mom blogger. Instead they should just be the mom that they envision as a “good” mom. (Obviously mom can be switched for dad)

  24. mamaworker says:

    Yay, P: Once again you’ve said something that needed to be said.

    I hate the image of Angelina. I don’t care how many third world countries she’s helping. She’s admitted to having a gun in her house. She’s had an incredibly unstable past. We all make mistakes, but I worry about the safety of her children. Good thing she’s got the staff she does.

  25. prklypr says:

    Great post. All the celebrity mommy porn really gets to some people! I have 3 kids and have tried it all – back to work 4 days/week after 3 months leave with the first two, then starting my own home-based consulting business after the 3rd. After 5 years balancing working at home with 3 kids, went back to work part-time, and for the past 4 years have been working full-time again, out of necessity.

    So I see it from every angle and let me tell you, there is no easy solution. One person’s dream situation is another’s nightmare. I’ve met moms who say flat out that they could never handle staying home, and moms who say the complete opposite. I’ve seen moms who balance the work/family thing pretty well and those who fail miserably. We all know great nannies and awful moms…and super moms and abusive nannies.

    I will say that working from home for a couple of years helped me build a network of stay-at-home/work-at-home moms (and a few dads) that I could rely on for support when I went back to work, which is a godsend. Whatever your choice, do what’s right for you and your family!

  26. Eve says:

    “So there's real damage from mommy porn. Everyone begins thinking that every woman should be parenting gracefully while working full time”
    This is true, and I also think that it isn’t just the “Mommy Porn” that shows the lies…it is also the fact that I (technically a Gen Y-er but I consider myself cuspy of Y and X) have been lied to about EVERYTHING (Money, getting a degree, work, how marriage works…you name it).

    * * * * * *

    Eve, I love this comment. It’s so true. I gave a speech today, and having read your comment beforehand changed how I spoke. The way we talk about the trappings of adulthood is absurd. We promise each other so much, as if it’s coming, as if things will be easy. And it’s all so hard. I go out in the world, and I can’t believe how dishonest things are. And I come back to this community and feel lucky that there is a common understanding among us that what we’ve been sold is not working. Thanks for reminding me that this post applies to a lot more than being a mom.

    -Penelope

  27. Bloggrrl says:

    Thanks for writing this post! Although I haven’t written about it online, in my offline life, I have been honest about the fact that staying home with my kid would drive me batty in no time flat. My schedule as a teacher is just perfect in this regard. The summers? He is at day camp at this very moment. It is what we both prefer. Last summer we were in each other’s hair all summer–he was bored, I was exasperated. Perhaps it would be different if we lived in communities where there WAS community for moms and kids at home, but I haven’t found that to be the case.

    Yeah, you just know that Angelina Jolie doesn’t get stomach bugs and have to change diapers in between throwing up. Stuff like that.

    * * * * * * *
    I really appreciate all the people weighing in and saying that staying home all day makes them nuts. I found it was so hard to face myself at first — to realize that I was one of the people who cannot stay home. I have found that it’s a hard process to get to a point where someone, like Bloggrl, or the many others in this comment string, can say publicly that staying home does not work. I am so so grateful to all the parents who have been honest with me over the past six years since I had kids. The honesty, even if it was in private, helped me to see myself more clearly.

    –Penelope

  28. Pirate Jo says:

    Stuff worth reading:

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/125163.html

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1202940,00.html

    I believe Penelope has linked to Daniel Gilbert’s research before.

    Personally, I think people are happiest when they get what they want – if you want kids, you will be happier if you have them, and if you don’t want kids, you will be happier if you don’t have them. But people should know realistically what they are getting into, and the “Mommy Porn” industry produces nothing of use to anyone except itself.

  29. mary says:

    You are absolutely, 100%, spot-on with this.

    Personally, I dream of staying at home and raising my (future) children. But because my husband and I both need to work, we’re actually putting off getting pregnant until we can “figure out” how we’re going to work this. Meanwhile, I’m 36, and my husband is 39. We don’t have time to waste.

    Meanwhile, JLo and Halle and Angelina are gorgeous, glowing, relaxed, and hailed as amazing role models. Give me a break. I could use a personal staff to keep it all together right NOW, never mind when I have kids.

  30. Bud Bilanich says:

    Penelope:
    This is a great blog. I just found it and really like what I see.
    I like the long length of your posts. I try to keep my blog posts to about 600 words, but I have been advised that they are too long — so now I’m experimenting with about 300 — 400 words. Don’t know if I like it yet.
    I don’t have kids, but I would be fed up if I did and was always asked questions about how I took care of them and worked — of course, no one would aske me that question, because I’m a guy.
    I’ve subscribed to your blog and will read every day. Keep up the great posts with the thoughtful content.

  31. Kevin Cannella - OfficeArrow says:

    Very interesting article. It is a shame. I believe this is what has caused such an increase in autism recently. If parents are not constantly interacting with their children, especially very early on prior to school, children miss out on crucial social interaction with their parents.

    I read about these topics in a wonderful book called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I really suggest the book to everyone, especially those with autism or parents of autistic children.

    * * * * * * *

    Of course I have to weigh in here and say that autism is not caused by bad parenting. But, in fact, it’s just another assault on women who work full-time to even think, for one second, that this would be true.

    Irony: If you had emotional intelligence you would never post a comment saying that autism is caused by bad parenting.

    -Penelope

  32. leslie says:

    Angelina Jolie can afford to hire multiple “wives”.

  33. Chris Yeh says:

    Great post. Having actually been the primary caregiver for my kids when they were infants (I was crazy enough to try taking care of both Jason and Marissa at work, and my friend the CEO was crazy enough to let me), I know more than most non stay-at-home husbands how much work it is to care for children. Work is a breeze in comparison, and being a primary caregiver has made me way more efficient than I was before I became a dad.

    Unfortunately, my experience was very unusual. I doubt many people have jobs where bringing a baby in to work every day would be allowed. And I probably would have worried about things like advancement if I weren’t a member of the founding team.

    The challenge that faces most of us is simple–do we tell the truth about parenting? I’m often reluctant to discuss parenthood with VCs I don’t know well, simply because I think it hurts my chances of fundraising.

    I’m an investor myself, and I know for a fact that I’d rather invest in the insane, driven entrepreneur who will do anything to win. I just don’t want to hang out with them, or, God forbid, work for them.

  34. Jennifer says:

    Woo…Hoo…somebody finally said it. I love my daughter but I was secretly thrilled to send her to daycare. And guess what, she was glad to go too.

    How do I know this because she didn’t cry once on her very first day at 13 months and has never cried or whined since. The daycare said she was so well adjusted.

    Fast forward eight years later. This time away has made our relationship much stronger. We’re both social butterflies and love our own time apart.

    Oh and unlike most moms, I work from home and have done so for five years.

  35. JenFlex says:

    Hey…just another take on the subject: a rant by Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice Walker) that’s a take on the experience of being parented by a mom that didn’t try to have it all:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1021293/How-mothers-fanatical-feminist-views-tore-apart-daughter-The-Color-Purple-author.html

    I read it this a.m. and was thinking about it along generational lines (Rebecca and I are the same age, and I saw a reflection of my own Gen X take on Boomers), but there’s also a critique of “classic” feminism and a healthy dose of debunking the mommy porn issue PT describes.

    Just more food (fuel?) for thought.

  36. Don B. says:

    Understand your thoughts. Remember continue to find helpful adults who are willing to spend some time with the kids that you can trust so that they are times away from them. It is important to spend enough time away from them that you can deal with them reasonably well when you are there because you had a break. It is a dramatic undertaking. Then you do the best you can to do all the things required and expected and realize that you can only do so much. Love helps cover for mistakes so make sure they know you love them even when you are angry or they have failed in some way. Hope the balance gets better for you.

  37. klein3351f says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It is a shame that celebrity moms aren’t more upfront about how much help they truly have. They are being blatantly dishonest and are doing a disservice to women.

  38. Susan says:

    Kevin’s comment about autism is completely outdated, inaccurate and untrue. Autism is not a result of ‘distant’ parenting as was widely believed in the 1940s. It’s a complex combination of a number of factors: the strongest being heredity, most often from the father’s side. And not only Kevin’s comment inaccurate, it’s cold and tactless considering Pen’s personal experience with Autism.

  39. Neil C says:

    Great Post.

    I think the worst channel on TV right now is E! My wife watches it all the time. They gush over how these celebrity moms “are great parents” & “love their kids”.

    The latest thing that made me sick was one E! reporter was talking about Jamie Lynn Spears and said “she is looking forward to being a mom” and “will make a great mom”.

  40. David says:

    “It is a shame. I believe this is what has caused such an increase in autism recently.” – Kevin Cannella

    “And not only Kevin's comment inaccurate, it's cold and tactless…” – Susan

    Let’s be real.

    Kevin is an a**hole.

    There’s no way he wrote that comment unknowing about PT’s situation.

    So he read “a” book re autism.

    And he thinks the limited knowledge accumulated from one book makes him expert enough to make a blanket statement re the causes of autism?

    If he believes that, he’s more of an idiot than his post reveals.

  41. Jenny says:

    Right on, Penelope! I will freely tell anyone who’ll listen that after 9 months of mat leave with my little girl, I was desperate to get back to work. I love my daughter, but let’s face it, I also love my job and at parenting I am just an amateur. I’m quite happy to pay qualified, trained professionals to take care of her during the day. I would love to do away with the cultural myth that mothering is my true calling and my only source of fulfillment, and the expectation that I would choose to stay home if I were not financially required to work.

  42. Suzy says:

    As an American woman living in the Netherlands, I have gone back in time and live in the 1950′s. Only 6% of women with children work 35 hours or more and you are a “Bad Mother” if you work more than 3 days per week. The avg. is 12-15 hours per week, which results in women working completely low level jobs.

    My kids are one year old and four years old. When I first visited a day care center for my son, I asked how many of the kids (out of 60) were there 5 days and the answer was a shocked, none of course!! In most schools, the mother is still expected to pick up their kids (by bike) for lunch at home and then bring the kids back to school. All schools are off on Wednesday afternoons too.

    The culture and structure of this society perpetuate the pattern and the question of who takes care of your children comes up less often because it is assumed that you work part time!

    I do work full time + and it isn’t for the money. I run a non-profit incubator and business center for women entrepreneurs and my baby-sitter earns more than I do as I build up the business! I do not wish I could stay home all day every day with the kids, but I know that I am one of few that can say it guilt free.

    People are also shocked that my husband “helps out” so much!

  43. GenerationXpert says:

    Awesome post!

    Those “who takes care of your kids” – style questions aren’t limited to business contacts, either. My own mother would ask me the most insulting questions about my girls’ day in daycare. Things like, “Do you wonder if the girls will start thinking that (the babysitter) is their mom?”

  44. Fitarella says:

    excellent post.

    I stayed home with our daughter for her first two years and as grateful as I am for having had that experience, I thought I was loosing my mind and needed to get back to work asap. I was just not cut out to be a SAHM. It doesn’t mean I love my daughter any less, it just means I need some time away. My husband is now the stay-at-home-dad and wonderful at it. I am extremely lucky & thankful for all that he does. But still I get comments from people about how i’m not a good mom for pursuing my career or that my husband must be a pushover or wuss for staying home…that’s just such crap! We don’t have to prove anything to anybody, but its shitty that people say stuff like that. Parenting is not one size-fits-all, when are people going to get that?

  45. tinyhands says:

    The myth of satisfying parenthood is a biological defense mechanism that humans evolved for the perpetuation of the species. In all likelihood (admittedly not certainly), at some point, you too will lie to your children so that they will develop the desire to procreate. The question is, will you lie out of love, or spite? :D

  46. Ian says:

    Interesting post to get us thinking.
    I forgot who said this on a keynote/seminar, ‘People don’t like to lie, but they have no problem misleading people’. So it’s not really a lie, they do take care of the their kids … occasionally or maybe less than that; but they misleading us by leting us think that they are supermommies.

    Many of us do this all the time, it could be the face you show at work, in front of your client/boss/director, your kid’s teacher or going on a first date. Would those be lies or just be misleading?

    Many interviews with entrepreneurs would write how they got their success, but not their failures & making them look like super-entrepreneurs. Can we call that Entrepreneurism Porn?

    I guess I’m so use to it & everyone does it, that don’t consider a problem but just part of being human/social. (Image vs the real-situation)

  47. T. says:

    “So there's real damage from mommy porn. Everyone begins thinking that every woman should be parenting gracefully while working full time.”

    This attitude also hurts women who DO prefer to stay at home — if they’re not working outside the home in addition to raising the kids and managing the household, they’re regarded as unambitious or lazy.

    I stayed home for almost two years and mostly enjoyed it. When I started getting restless, I was lucky enough to find a 20 hr/wk telecommuting contract in my field (software). Even with this level of work I find a cleaning person and a part-time nanny absolutely essential to function. So many bloggers out there are trying to do it all without help and boy do they sound stressed!

  48. Sakoro says:

    I read the Rebecca Walker article posted by JenFlex. Very, very interesting.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1021293/How-mothers-fanatical-feminist-views-tore-apart-daughter-The-Color-Purple-author.html

    There’s a danger in parenting with a view towards others’ expectations rather than your child’s needs– whether those expectations are 1970s radical feminism or having Angelina Jolie’s lifestyle.

  49. Andrea >> Become a consultant says:

    People are always telling me that it’s easier to be at work than at home with the kids. I’ve even been told this by people I met less than 5 minutes before. I’ve had people stop me and ask me why I don’t go back to f/t work in an office somewhere.

    People say, things like, “How can you handle it? How can you stand it? Doesn’t it drive you crazy? I can’t do that. I’m not that kind of person. How can you do it? You’re not that kind of person. You must be going crazy. My kid is a monster — I couldn’t handle being at home with him.” and so on.

    Maybe it’s because I’m at home with my kids all day AND I run a business from home. People feel like I must know what it’s like to want to go back to work…and that they can safely tell me how much they hated taking care of kids all day. They figure I must understand how grueling raising kids is.

    I was pretty shocked when people — even complete strangers — started telling me these things. But I slowly realized that a lot of people go to work because they don’t want to be at home with their kids. In fact, if you look around, a lot of stay at home parents have their kids in extended preschool, with a nanny or in daycare for 15 hours a week or more. Even the people at home don’t want their kids full time.

    So I’m an anomaly. I’m at home with my kids all day. I work during naps and after bed time. Right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m making good money, leading a successful career and raising my own family. My partner and I share parenting and home duties. We’re weird, I guess.

    But is all this a secret? Not that I can tell. If it’s a secret, it’s an open secret. But maybe it’s only something people tell to WAHPs and SAHPs.

  50. Jennifer Lynn says:

    True, women have achieved relative equality of opportunity in various sectors of life, but I sometimes wonder if this is only because society has somehow mentally separated “women” from “mothers” – as if the latter is not merely a piece of the former, as man is to father. It's as if a “woman” is her own person, with rights, and worthy of respect. But once a woman becomes pregnant (once she has sex, really), any pretense of equality goes flying out the window, and it's almost taken for granted that she becomes property of society – someone whose uterus can be controlled, belly can be touched unbidden, life choices can be questioned, and private life can be intruded upon. Issues that relate to a woman's reproductive life (including how she parents) are in the public domain, and it's the undoing of so much the feminist movement has achieved. This goes beyond issues of pro-life/choice, and I think it will be the feminist issue of my (as yet childless, Y) generation.

    You know (and I duck and cover as I say this), I don't blame the women who participate in the mommy porn. In a sense, Angelina Jolie and the military mom are victims of the culture too, and sad reminders that even the most powerful women are not more powerful than our America's fidelity to this mommy myth.

    * * * * * *

    I think I probably agree. The media. Yes. I blame the media. But it’s hard to blame moms who participate. It’s so hard to navigate this terrain, that however people do it seems okay. You will never hear Angelina saying how other people should parent. She is careful about that. It’s a fine line. For all of us, maybe.

    Anyway, I hate to think that you feel like you have to duck and cover, because I love a comment like this that is challenging. So thanks for that, Jennifer.

    -Penelope

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