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.

174 replies
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  1. Mrs. Micah
    Mrs. Micah says:

    Sounds not unlike the four-hour workweek concept. Outsource the things that you don’t need to do. Actually, what I thought of first was housekeepers. While the title is different, this sounds like a combination of what the housekeeper and butler would do back in the day. People who have the money and feel their energies would be better spent elsewhere have always been doing this.

    But in our culture, having servants is looked down on. But as someone who has been a research assistant I’d have to say it’s pretty much the same thing. And that’s ok as long as you have a respectful relationship, we had a great one.

  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    It seems like a just read a column where you said women were no longer interested in being above the “glass ceiling” because what was above it was so absurd. Actually, it was a column from a recycled or modified blog entry.

    Anyway, it seems that you’ve decided to go above the glass ceiling and are discovering, as you pointed out in your column that “women CEOs don’t raise their own children, someone else does”…they probably don’t manage their own home either.

    Everything comes back to choices and the run off of those choices, which is, of course, complicated. The choice to have children is laden with sacrifice and any person or couple not planning for that (especially “high powered” career couples) is foolish. The choice to exit a marriage when the children are small and need so much attention, well that has consequences too.

    I would argue that if you could modify your expectations (and you would have to after having the limelight on you your entire life) to truly be in the presence of your children and enjoy raising them, you could probably work less and be there more. But you have to adapt, your children can’t…they are, after all, children.

    I agree that having someone home is a tremendous bonus. With 15 years professional experience and my Master’s, I left a dreamy, lucrative job to be home full time with two children. It is hard but this window is so small; they are young so briefly. And the opportunity so great (how awesome to be able to scale back our lifestyle and have someone home), that it is worth it.

    I don’t think you have to justify having a house manager but I think you should understand what is happening internally with your professional, personal choices (which are very public) that drives the need for more and more help.

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m glad to hear you hired a house manager because if that’s what it takes to give you quality time with your kids, time for yourself, ability to concentrate on your career, and maintain a sane household then you made the right decision. You especially have a lot on your plate right now with your divorce and new start up company. You may be able to find a less expensive or a better arrangement in the future but I think you’ve taken a good first step forward and you’ll learn by doing which is what you do.

  4. john q public
    john q public says:

    Right on!!!

    Thank you for peeling back the thick layer of whitewash around how “easy” life is for senior level dual career couples with young children. We’re a dual career couple (both director level) with two young children (1 & 3) – it’s been a very rough ride for the past couple of years. This is despite some mitigating factors:

    – Minimal overnight travel (her zero, me < 15%)
    – Liberal work-from-home polices
    – Minimal focus on career advancement (both of use gave up staff management responsibilities, didn’t pursue much training/certifications, and set firm boundaries around workload & face-time).
    – Great bosses that fully supported us (granted we were both very strong performers beforehand).

    Part of the challenge is that most senior level jobs don’t stop/start in neat intervals… it’s Friday night and the network’s down? deal with it. Don’t care if you spend all weeked on the phone, just get the system up before Monday at 9am when 2000 call center people report to work. Honked off sales manager fires off a nasty-gram to senior management that the new pricing policy is costing him customers? Deal with it – now – before he manages to start a revolution and get senior management to throw away six months of planning and change management. And don’t get me started on pitch writing or contract negotiation (see you next week sweetie). Generally speaking, when they’re paying you $100K+ a year, they want you to do things that the 9-to-5 crowd does not have to deal with and complete them instantly, excellently, and without question.

    Drop a sick child in the middle of two crunch periods (her budget for the CIO, my update for our CEO & owners…a meeting we affectionately named “the boardroom” since the non-performers tended to get canned soon afterwards) and things can get hellish. And that’s before you add the two other stressors in my business – overnight travel (most of my peers travel 50%) and client entertainment…and there’s no way we could have done it. Most of my work friends have multiple divorces due to the lifestyle…

    What’s funny about this whole thing was after three years of low-level “class warfare” from my stay-at-home sister in law (sniping over how we spent my wife’s income), she decided to go back to work as a teacher….her comment to my wife after one week of teaching….”I don’t know how you do it”…and that’s with two older kids and a job that is usually pretty family friendly.

  5. Katy
    Katy says:

    As a 24 year old woman wanting “to have it all” one day (and now wondering just how that’s going to happen) – I appreciate the honesty.

    Of course, I could have just looked at my mother – she’s a fantastic mom, a caring wife and a CFO. And I haven’t known her to get more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep in a good many years. That’s with my dad staying home to raise me.

    Thanks for a good read, Penelope.

  6. Rhonda
    Rhonda says:

    Amazing post. Right on!!!

    The world judges you for making these arrangements. I think you set a wonderful example of a woman working hard as hell to chart a career and not drop out and have kids when it gets hard. Too many women stay at home to “assist” their hard-working husbands. I think it’s a BAD deal for everyone, especially the stay-at-home.

    She may bust her butt at home doing what an hourly worker can do (you’ve proven that), and if they ever divorce (which is common b/c he loses respect for someone with whom he can’t relate anymore), she may get some child support and a little alimony (maybe!) Now her skills are dated, she can’t make the living with the education her parents sacrificed to pay for … and she’s alone.

    Message to all women. Work hard, build your own career and retain the respect of your husbands, your kids and yourself. Don’t stay home and make a sacrifice that will never benefit you, but presents an incredible level of risk.

    RP

  7. Ruby
    Ruby says:

    Love your blog, support your decisions, not that we should have to when, as you mentioned, men already have all these things at home as a housewife.
    Having read your prior posts on hiring help, I’m hoping and praying I’ll be in an economic position to hire help when needed.
    In my country (a 3rd world one) we have servants. (The next few posts will now be bashing me). My mother is a senior economist and government advisor, my father busy with his professional life. My uncle is a CEO, his wife a university professor. All high-powered families need staff to take care of the mundane things: chauffer, cook, cleaner and maybe gardener. And they don’t have young kids, for those that do it’s usually two more “nannies”.
    Good for you P, I hope you get everything you want from life. Life is short, and those who are saying you need to spend time with your kids… well, my mom was always a professional, I do remember not wanting to be with babysitters and the like, but I’m also very close with her, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pursuing a high-powered career. Good luck.

  8. Nita
    Nita says:

    I think that housekeeping, cooking, looking after children needs to be valued a lot. I tried to have a high powered career just like you have but my husband had one too and finally it was my decision to work part-time and take care of the house. It was no sacrifice in case it sounds like that. I love children and enjoyed being the health manager of the family. That is what I call myself, not house manager but health manager because today the right diet is extremely important for everyone. Growing kids also need healthy habits, be it of exercise, eating etc. What I am trying to say is that the work at home is as important as that which brings in the money. More important because tomorrow whether someone in the family gets a heart attack or the kids turns out to be a drug addict depends on the quality of house and child care. I was quite confident that no nanny or housekeeper would be as brilliant as me when it came to the work at home. I read voraciously, in fact 50 books on how to bring up kids in just 3 months! Penelope Leach was one author I remember. I read another one which tells you how to enhance the intelligence of kids.
    I did start working again full-time after about a 10 year break but I was behind and had 30 year olds at my level and I was 40. I did it for about 5 years, and then went back to free-lancing.
    Today I am a proud mother of two beautiful healthy balanced and brilliant daughters and I am mentally fulfilled. I am working on my novel, do a lot of creative writing and write a blog. I am happy and if I had to go back in time I would do the same. I am not saying that everyone should do what I did, no not at all! At times quality care at home is what one needs and not everyone enjoys motherhood and nor is everyone confident about it. Everyone should do what makes her/him happy.
    I live in a country where nannies and drivers and cooks are routine and in fact you don’t have to be a career woman to have them or afford them. Everyone has these things. I chose not to keep a nanny and chose not to keep a cook. I am proud of the work I do, picking fresh vegetables and fruits from the market, cooking two meals a day, and using health food and using the healthy ways of cooking. Every single thing that goes inside of us does something to our bodies.
    And I write a lot too as writing is my passion.
    I think it’s time we gave as much value to mothering and housework as we did to corporate high fliers. Both are simply the different sides of the same coin. Both are needed and workload has to be shared.

  9. John Doe
    John Doe says:

    I fear you will end up having a great deal of regret, one day, for these decisions you are making.

    You are sacrificing your children on the altar of your personal comfort.

    How far we’ve departed from the days of our grandparents and their grandparents… who sacrificed so much for us.

    If you get nothing from my comment – get this… please ponder my last question.

    Doesn’t it bother you that you’re letting *someone else* raise YOUR children?

  10. Dan
    Dan says:

    I thought stay-at-home dad took care of the kids before. So why are they with you now, when you have so little time for them? For their sake, I hope the reason is because dad is an unfit parent. Any other reason makes you look, shall we say, unfavorable.

  11. Murray Trillionaire
    Murray Trillionaire says:

    All this makes me jealous of polygamists. It just seems like it takes more than two adults to raise a family these days. Years ago mothers stayed at home, and there were often extended families. So I guess the question to ask is would you rather have three husbands to deal with or one along with his mother and father?

  12. Elena
    Elena says:

    Right On, Penelope!

    Usually I read your posts to enjoy being annoyed, but this post I read and salute. It’s absolutely true. Thanks for writing it.

  13. pam
    pam says:

    Penelope,

    Great post, and I see nothing wrong with having a house manager, or any other support that helps you run your business and home smoothly.

    But, and I’m surprised no one else commented on this…you really should have your own bedroom! Sleeping in the kids room is bizarre, surely you can afford a room of your own? Your kids need their own space too.

  14. Queercents
    Queercents says:

    Penelope – perhaps your next spouse should be a woman. Seriously! Partnered lesbians with demanding careers seem to make it work. Sure, many still employ child care, but the women power couples I know share the load in an equal way that I don't often see in double-income heterosexual marriages. Why? Because both women assume the burden of "primary" parent, head domestic, etc. and when two people step up to the plate with equal zeal, well, it's just easier. I'm not saying that a man can't do this. I just don't see it often enough.

  15. Kelly O
    Kelly O says:

    Oh my word. Yes. Totally. I was forced out of a job (not fired, but definitely pushed) after having my second kid because my boss thought I wasn’t keeping it together. She said lots of my colleagues had babies and could still stay late for a last-minute meeting. That’s true, but all the other people had stay-at-home wives.

    Also, for everyone who says working moms let someone else raise their kids: you have no idea what you’re talking about. No, seriously, you don’t. Just stop it already.

  16. karen
    karen says:

    Could not agree more. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is a freelance writer and works from home. The money we don’t spend on daycare bills and take-out meals helps us stay afloat, because I’m still building my career. It also means whenever there’s a stay-late project at the office, I can put in overtime (and face time) without worrying about where the kids are or having to pick them up and shuttle them around. I tell him all the time he’s my hero and the backbone of our family. Stay-at-home spouses more than make up the lack of a second paycheck.

  17. JenFlex
    JenFlex says:

    I've been trying to figure out how to respond to this post. It's hard to characterize my reaction. What I've always liked about B.C. and P.T. has been the universality…that there were things which I could relate to, even if my end-goal wasn't creating a company or ending up in a C-level exec. suite.

    The posts I'm seeing lately seem more purposefully controversial, strident, even bitter. The advice (plastic surgery is the way of the future successful person in business, being an exec makes impossible demands on personal life) seems more about justifying what P.T. is choosing to do now, than it is about something really relevant. And as someone who's been part of this blog community for several years now, it's also pretty contradictory to earlier posts.

    It just seems less relevant. Actually, it just really seems kind of sad.

  18. JB
    JB says:

    This is one of the big reasons I just quit my job. I’ll do something freelance or contract or part-time, but it’s damn near impossible to keep a household running when both parents work 50-60 hour weeks. You need outside help or you need to step back and reconfigure.

  19. InMadison
    InMadison says:

    Nice to see that sexism is alive and well. Negative comments like this would not be posted if P was a man.

  20. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    I actually don’t think the vitriolic comments are about gender (at least not entirely). I think it’s more about money and class. I think people are angry that you said, “$50,000.” I think you’re being judged most harshly for that.

    Anyways, I’m single and responsible for no one but myself and I still needed to hire a dog sitter 5 days a week. :)

  21. Dale
    Dale says:

    What on earth is controversial about getting household help?

    In life, you can spend time or you can spend money to accomplish the various things that help you to achieve success.

    If you don’t have one, then prioritize your use of the other so that you achieve your strategic objectives efficiently. End of story!

    Just my two cents worth.

  22. TM
    TM says:

    Wow — this is a topic that everyone has an opinion on. Sounds like we need some national therapy, regardless of where you sit on this issue and how you balance career and famiy! I was moving up the ladder swiftly before having my daughter. I thought I would stay home for 3 weeks and run back to work. I stayed home FT for three years, and now have a very different outlook on life and a very different career. Here is what I believe, as contradictory as it sounds (1) only you know what is best for you and how you can best contribute to this world, (2) P is very lucky to have the CHOICE to hire help, have a lucrative career, etc — think about all of those families stuck in the middle with more demands on them and less resources to help, (3) our country needs to take a hard look at itself and what we are doing to families, children, etc. There must be a better way, and (4) I do miss a fast-paced career. I definitely miss the salary and respect. But every time I see my daughter learn something new, or skip through the park, or smile at me – I know there is no place I would rather be. It is hard to admit – but I was easily replaced in my old job. No one can ever truly replace the important role a Mom plays in her childrens’ lives.

  23. Scott Williamson
    Scott Williamson says:

    Sounds like you have your hands full Penelope. I’ve been there from the single dad side, it’s def not easy. I would encourage you to find better balance and let some of the professional stuff go. Again I’ve been there and made the choice to put family first, career second. I’m not a VP or CEO, except to may family and that’s far more important than any company I would ever work for or own.

    We only get one chance with our kids and as you know they grow up way to fast. Don’t trade a moment with them for anything.

    Good luck!

  24. Rich
    Rich says:

    Penelope, great post!

    I have seen this or similar topics addressed on your blog before and I always find it interesting that whatever choice anyone has made (career v family) they always feel morally justified…and seem to feel somewhat guilty/defensive as well.

    There seems to be research available to support any decision you make. I work from home and my wife stays at home. So we both see the kids off to school, and we are there when they get back. We coach little league, never miss a game or a recital. Once a month I travel…maybe for 3 days. My kids have a fit when I leave. I used to have a job, where I traveled 75%. My kids had a fit when I left then too.

    The point is that your kids want 100% of your time, no matter the circumstances. Since this is impossible, you have to find something that works for you as well. Kids will adapt, and if you tell them that you love them enough, they will know it is true.

  25. leslie
    leslie says:

    Penelope,
    What I was interested in was your decision to buy a small house. We moved from a 3,000 square ft. house to a 1,400 square ft. one and I like it a lot better. I hope I get to the point where I can hire a house manager but until that time, a smaller home is less demanding timewise. I don’t miss the possessions I sold or gave away either.

  26. Julie
    Julie says:

    Like a couple other people, I’m really curious about what your house manager’s responsibilities are, which is what prompted me to leave a comment. Like so many of your posts, I found this one totally fascinating, thought-provoking and honest. To me, your insights about work and life usually seem dead-on. Thanks for pushing the conversation to a higher and really interesting level.

  27. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    First off: Penelope, I think you brought up some great points. I agree that a house manager is necessary. And if you have to pay one, then at least NOW you have one.

    I “gave up” my career, willingly, because I longed for an organized, sane home base. It’s great; it’s fine for me, and it doesn’t have to be forever. My DH wasn’t a good fit for the position, and I was. We’re all much better off now that I’m our house manager.

    Colleen: I think I worked with you! You are one of the many reasons I am not a career woman anymore. So, here I am, smiling, not looking back, while you are seemingly not very happy with your choices in life. Hope you change that.

    Thanks, Penelope, for another entertaining & enlightening blog.

  28. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    Dear Penelope,
    I appreciate what you wrote, because it makes me feel the value of what I do. (And I respect what you do, too).

    I’m a free-lance writer who stays home. Although sometimes I’m crazy busy, and I’m not the most domestic person in the world, I do manage to take care of a lot of things that would be exhausting if I wasn’t around–getting the car fixed, getting child’s cell phone repaired, bringing child’s ##)%!@ forgotten lunch to school, waiting for Comcast repair guy, making weekend plans, planning vacations, making dinner, taking cat to vet, taking children to doctors, grocery shopping, laundry, driving kids to friends’ houses, picking up sick children from school, going to school conferences, taking time to research how to help children in ways they need help, and probably most important of all, listening to children and husband. The being available for children and listening attentively to them and understanding them deeply is probably the most important aspect of me being at home, in my view. I remember my mother being home after school, always available for a cup of tea and a talk, and that’s what I wanted to do for my kids.

    However, I do know full-time working mothers who raise fantastic kids, too. I say good for them!!

  29. funkright
    funkright says:

    Take a look @ these 2 books Penelope, possibly they’ll help put your life into perspective.. Pursuing material gains at the expense of all else will never fill your bucket or your life.

    Power of Now
    A New Earth

    both by Ekert Tolle, he isn’t saying many things that are new, but reiterating and amalgamating various wisdons for our generation. Read them with an open mind.

  30. Kenneth Wolman
    Kenneth Wolman says:

    Last year, I came across a school called the Starkey International Institute for Household Management. It’s in Denver (http://www.starkeyintl.com/). The school trains butlers and other private service personnel to help manage complex households. I really considered borrowing the money (a small fortune for 8 weeks), getting some nice suits (mine do not fit), and going for it. Apparently there is real folding money to be had out there from taking care of someone’s home. It’s a major industry in the area I live in–Rumson in Monmouth County, NJ.

    I wish I could have done it, actually, but I was not at all sure about my disposition. I envy anyone with the disposition to do that work, and also am impressed when you can come up with the money to pay someone to do that work.

  31. Kenneth Wolman
    Kenneth Wolman says:

    I must add a couple of extra thoughts. Years ago I was good friends with a woman whose life was pure clutter. She and her husband had no children but he was a traveling computer consultant, so was away a lot of the time. Her comment to me, facing the inevitable clutter, was “I need a wife.” Every woman I’ve repeated that to, including the one I live with, has nodded in agreement.

    Now the nasty questions. Are men incapable of caring for children and managing a household? Are they unwilling to do so? Is some code of masculine honor at stake? In 1982 my then-wife spent two or three days in the hospital. I became Mr. Mom. We had two kids, five and two years old. Those days were a nightmare. I called my wife one evening after I finally got the boys settled in. I had poured myself an 8-ounce tumbler of cheap scotch. I put on the Met Opera production of “La Boheme.” I whined into the phone “When are you coming home? I had no idea of what you did all day!” She almost fell out of her hospital bed laughing.

    I know a man now who is Mr. Mom. He’s getting $80K a year disability for PTSD after he saw people flipping out of windows onto the pavement at the Trade Center on 9/11. His wife makes more than that. He loves being a househusband.

  32. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    Penelope,

    This post has CHANGED my life.

    Honestly, I thought I was CRAZY or just broken and not at all with it. HOW are all these women around me flying to Japan (and they have small kids) – doing doing doing alllllll the time.

    I TRY so friggin hard to manage the decent corporate job I have – and it is by no means a powerjob – and try to give the kids enough time – and try to manage the house – and maintain the cars and garden and run the moms group and and and and YES – I too, need a stay at home mom!!

    BRILLIANT for bringing this up and out into the open. Hats off to you for having to take all this crappy criticism, as well. YOU GO GIRL!

    The most important thing to take away from all of this is that individually we need to find the right pieces to put in place, over time, to make our lives work. And guess what – as soon as we make progress and it starts going better – the landscape changes again. It is a total process to finding out what works in EACH person’s life.

    BEST POST YET!

  33. Jenn S.
    Jenn S. says:

    Another wonderful post – attested to by the HUGE number of comments! I LOVE that you are hiring the support that you need to make life less stressful for EVERYONE in your family – this is an amazing accomplishment, perhaps better than many of the rewards of corporate life.

    I don’t have children, and I don’t want them, for some of the reasons stated above – I KNOW I cannot be supermom/wife/worker. The work I’ve chosen in the non-profit world is important to me, but not lucrative enough to hire the help I would need to find balance as a parent and person. As an INTJ, I know that I need time to re-charge my batteries!

    BRAVO for sharing your life, and how you do it, with all of us!

  34. mair
    mair says:

    Excellent post and I can only say what others have said. If you were a man posting this, it would be a non issue. Outsourcing work (home or personal) would just be a matter of fact. I love your post and am sending it on to a bunch of my friends who don’t read your blog.

    Keep up the excellent writing, you keep us on our toes.

  35. Danny
    Danny says:

    Okay Penelope lots of great points within this Blog but, are you kidding me? Running a household and being a stay at home Parent is a demanding job but come on, a house manager??? In addition to a nanny??? Most of us that sold our soul to the Devil known as Corporate America would trade it for a second. I hate to get sexist here but I’m going to just for a few minutes. I’m getting tired of hearing how hard it is being a stay at home mom boo hoo. Being a stay at home parent is a choice that most of us would jump on in a second if we had the means.

    When my wife became pregnant with our son, we made a choice. One of us would be a stay at home parent. Not only did I volunteer for this job, it made financial sense to do so since she was bringing home 65% of our household income. But, my wife wanted to be a stay at home mom even though she was further along in her career then I was. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what she does more then anything in the world and you are correct on the point that it creates an advantage for me in my career. That being said, lets really take a look at why people think it’s so damn much work.

    I blame it on Spoiling our children. How did our parents with 5 kids pull this off with a fraction of the money? It’s simple, most of us born before 1980 were expected to pull our own weight (within reason and in proportion to our age). We had chores. Not bogus ones, like you see today, we actually cleaned our room, took care of the garbage, mowed the lawn, we even helped our dad paint the house when it needed it. Then there is the part about taking your kids to this and that in the SUV that takes hours of your day. We walked to Football, Basketball and Baseball practice. We walked to Band and Guitar lessons. We had a choice to Ride the bus or walk to school that was about a 45 minute walk.

    My only point here is that running a household is not the $100,000 task we make it out to be. We bring that on ourselves.

    Last point, I promise. In support of what you are currently doing by having a house manager, we have to make a choice about anything we hire out and that choice is based on your income. As your income increases, you need to evaluate those things you do yourself. I can plant a tree myself in in about 3 hours if you count locating, digging, fertilizing, staking it. It costs about $100 to have it done. Simple math, if you can earn more then $100 dollars after tax in three hours, hire it out. If not, break out the shovel. Kudos to you if you have the financial means to have a 50k person doing what I think would be doable work, but I would rather put that 50k to an annual kick-ass vacation to regain my sanity.

  36. Ken
    Ken says:

    I’m going to block your site from our home computer.

    My wife is a SAHM. I pay all the bills, cook dinner after work, do dishes, give her nights & weekends off (she is free to do whatever she wants when I’m home from work so I can spend as much of my free time as I can with our son…he’s growing so fast and my hours at work are stripping me of these precious moments) & give her funny money, but it’s nowhere near your house manager rate.

    If she sees this post, she may want a raise. That and the added bonus of reduced stress/responsibility.

  37. Ken
    Ken says:

    Interesting quote from your March 20th post (“Don’t Wait Until Retirement to Live the Good Life – Do It Now”):

    Penelope Trunk: “Your job cannot be a stand-in for relationships and people who care about you.”

  38. Deb
    Deb says:

    Penelope doesn’t exactly live in the real world. The vast majority of Americans do not make $50K and probably never will. I count my family fairly lucky that between my husband and I, we make more than $100K. Since I bring home about 70% of our income, becoming a stay at home mom is out of the question for me, and so is hiring a $50K house manager plus a nanny plus a cleaning service. While it would be great to have help with cleaning,errands, etc, for most people that just isn’t realistic. Penelope seems to be more interested describing how wonderful it would be to be Penelope instead of real career issues.

  39. hardworking_single_mom
    hardworking_single_mom says:

    Penelope, good choice!

    I will not repeat what others have said about you doing the right thing. But I’ll tell something nobody has said so far – about you possibly regretting your current choices later. NOT NECESSARILY :D

    Both my parents worked full-time. When me or my brother were little and got sick often, my mother had to take some time off. She even ended up quitting her job for a few years to take care of us. All while staying home she was dreaming of the day to go back to work – she loved her job so much and missed it a lot. Both of us were in daycare on days we weren’t sick, by the way :) She did house cleaning and cooking. Luckily, in our country (not US) nobody would even think that there is something wrong with having kids in daycare when you work at home or at work.

    Anyways, back to my POINT:
    My mom is in her fifties now. When she looks at her life, you know what she regrets the most? What do you think? Not spending more time with her children? HA! Nope. Not having help from anybody to watch over her kids in order to advance further in her career. She had gone pretty far in her career, by the way. But I’m sure she would’ve achieved more had she hired a nanny ;)

    BONUS POINT:
    I, her child, totally understand, support and love my career-driven mom. I’ve been happy because SHE was happy. For those who yell “do what makes your kids happy, not what makes you happy”: kids cannot be happy if their parents aren’t. If Penelope is happy, her kids probably will be just fine :)

    Salute, Penelope!

  40. Carol
    Carol says:

    I wanted to add a comment about what “mair” had posted: “I blame it on Spoiling our children.” I wholeheartedly agree with that. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but we have our kids help out A LOT around our house, and we couldn’t function with out their help, unless we paid someone else (what am I going to do when they go to college?? Pay someone else to do it!) What’s wrong with having the kids do a little work while they live at home?? Our children (2 boys, 14 & 11) have had a working mommie & daddy all their lives. They have been taught since they were quite young that they needed to “pull their weight.” We have given them age-appropriate chores since they were old enough to walk, and now that they are older, they do quite a lot to help keep things running in the house while my hubby & I work. They do between an hour and an hour 1/2 per day of normal household stuff, which doesn’t cut into much of their sports/friends/school life. They also get parents who are way less stressed out when they get home from work because we don’t have to worry about a second shift every night, and we get to do mostly fun stuff on the weekends, because we aren’t cleaning the house all weekend. It’s only fair, we feel, that they do their bit to keep things running smoothly–we are a family and a team. We all do what we need to do. And my kids feel important and valued because of it (I also pay them, the 14 yo. gets $25 per week and the 11 yo. gets $20). We started them off with a salary that equaled their experience and ability–just like in the Real World, and they have gotten steady raises as they have been asked to take on more work and more responsibility. My husband and I really like how this has worked out, even though yes, the boys bitch about it sometimes and no, our house is not “Better Homes & Gardens.” And my kids have told me that they sure notice how some of their friends are totally spoiled, have no chores (to speak of) but still get paid, and can’t do anything for themselves (which, I have to admit, makes hubby & I feel just a slight bit of smugness–we are human after all :-))

    Anyway, a little off topic, but I just wanted to put my 2 cents in.

  41. 20 something career girl
    20 something career girl says:

    I learned absolutely nothing from this post, in fact, I’m angered by it. I’m in my 20’s, and currently in a job that’s on the path to my dream job, but at a very very low level, which also means very low pay. I do everything I can – work overtime, take on extra projects, etc. But I still have an income that would probably be astoundingly low to most people. So what am I supposed to glean from this post? I should try to make a lot of money? Um, ok. From what I can tell, this post and Penelope’s other writings is telling me that I should abandon what I *want* to do for a living, in order to find a job – any job – that will pay me a lot of money. Then, I should get married and have a baby as soon as possible, as Penelope wrote a few months ago, regardless of whether I want to or not. Then, after all of that, I should hire tons of people to hang out with and take care of said children, so that I don’t have to.

    If I listened to all of this advice from Penelope, I might be rich and married, but I’d also be unhappy. I’m going to stick to my low income job, which will hopefully lead to higher paying gigs (though I’ll probably never make enough to pay a nanny, a maid, and a house manager), my boyfriend, who I love but don’t necessarily want to marry and have kids with immediately, and do things on my own terms. And I’m going to go find blogs to read that are less conservative and single-tracked and more worthy of my time.

    Penelope, I’d recommend thinking about the fact that, in this failing economy, there are all types of people out there who need career advice, and most of them can’t even make $50,000 per year, let alone PAY someone $50,000 to work for them. Broaden your horizons, girl!

  42. Sidney
    Sidney says:

    Finally a serious, fairly thoughtful post, albeit controversial I guess to some people. What is sad though is what this says about modern American society and the lack of support given to families by so-called “family values” politicians. And, as stated above by another commentator, domestic help is fairly common throughout the rest of the globe, only here in America is it considered a “luxury”.

    Some comments for the responders:

    Richard-Forget about asking for more food money, ask for more sex.

    Sarah-My, aren’t we smug about chasing the people at the top who “make millions”. Our atoms all end up back in the ground we came from so who cares? My wife and I make just under $200K a year combined but have those boring 9-5, home for dinner jobs, you so hilariously deride. Well guess what, we are the ones who can volunteer, and coach the sport teams and take off for three day weekends when we like and turn off the email/voicemail. With a lifestyle below our means we can save 20-30% of our salary, and with pensions, both retire long before Social Security kicks in (and with a paid-off early mortgage). So you keep chasing the other hamsters around the wealth wheel. I’ll stay at my project manager level and enjoy my leisure/family time without worrying about my missing “millions”.

  43. Carol
    Carol says:

    Not sure why it said my identity was hardworking_single_mom. No, I am a hardworking married mom.

  44. Will
    Will says:

    “I know the first thing going through your mind is that I'm loaded” – uh, yeah. “But I'm not.” Yes, you absolutely are loaded, in addition to being completely out of touch with reality.

  45. Tammy L
    Tammy L says:

    Thanks for this, Penelope. Women really need to stop apologizing for not being able to hold it all together. We are not meant to be SuperWoman – how can you be when you’re juggling competing roles of mother, wife, employee, caregiver, friend, mentor, volunteer?

    And anyone who chooses to outsource (and can afford it) deserves kudos for having the courage to finally prioritize and say “no” to the madness that comes from having a full menu of kids, jobs, and family. This frees up your mental and physical energy so that you can concentrate on whatever your focal point is – in this case, a career.

    And this blog entry is not about making sure you make oodles of $$ so you can afford a house manager. It’s about making choices with your life so that if you DO choose the high life, that you accept that you may have to sacrifice some of the personal things in your life to maintain your professional sanity.

    For some, that might mean being childless. For others, it may mean they choose a lower income job to gain a higher quality of life to be caring for children or elderly parents.

  46. frieda
    frieda says:

    I haven’t made it all the way through the comments, but I have to say I really appreciated this post.

    I don’t have kids, and at 38, am about 98% sure we won’t be having them. There are way too many reasons why to get into here, but what you talk about was a big factor for me.

    I love my work, and my husband love his too. We’re artists, so find creative fulfillment and make a living at the same time. I know I’d love a child, but I just don’t believe in this myth that women CAN HAVE IT ALL…at least for me, not being a type A personality and superwoman type. I prefer a simple, non-complicated life.

    The decision became all the more clear to me when my husband and I were discussing how we could do it, and I said, “Well, we’ll probably have to get some help.” He said, “No way! If we have a child we’re raising it ourselves.” At that, something inside me said loud and clear, “No thanks.”

  47. Grace
    Grace says:

    Thank you for the fantastic blog. I have been both a stay at home mother and a mother with a full time job outside the home. There are three comments I’d like to make:
    – My friends and I were once talking about how we would change if we won millions. They said their lives wouldn’t change much. I said mine would change SO much. The few hours that I have at home each day are spent cooking, cleaning, doing homework, etc. If I had the money, I’d definately hire assistants to handle the grunt work so that I can spend the quality time with my children!
    – My husband is the stay at home parent. The way people treat him, you would think that he is a saint because of it. And they give me dirty looks for working full time! (A single dad would never get the flack that you are getting!)
    – That said, I am still the one responsible for most of the household duties. He’s a loving father, but he doesn’t seem to remember to do laundry, feed the fish, or talk to my son’s teacher about a problem. So, even with a stay at home partner, I still feel swamped.
    – Consider it a strength to know your needs and get them met for the benefit of your children and yourself. It’s expensive, but, as you know, some things are more important than the money. Good for you.

    And, I liked the toe fungus story. Thanks for being a normal, flawed human being.

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