Recently I have fallen back into my evil habit of writing a to do list and then ignoring it because I don't think I can get it done. I know from past experience that the best way out of this rut is to read research about productivity. Even if I don't act on the research, taking the time to think about productivity inspires me to be more true to my to do list.

Here are four ways to get out of a rut and start making progress again:

1. Pay attention on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Tuesday is our most productive day at work, according to a study from Robert Half International. Apparently, Monday is the day we get our lists in order, and Tuesday is the day we plow through them.

Bill Driscoll, from Robert Half, recommends that you recognize your peak performance times, and schedule as few interruptions during that time as possible. This is one of those pieces of advice that makes sense, but very few of us manage our calendars so carefully that we are actually implementing the advice.

But also, what about being as gung ho about Wednesday and Thursday as you are about Tuesday?

2. Stop obsessing over your choices and just decide.
Most people overestimate the regret they’ll experience after making an emotionally charged choice, according to research from the University College London. In fact, Karim Kassam, a psychologist working at Harvard, shows that we figure out how to justify most of our big decisions, no matter how good or bad they were. He calls it our “psychological immune system.”

The Harvard Business Review also reveals that we are not good at making decisions with a lot of data points involved. Which means that frequently, the longer you spend on a decision, the less productive you are. This research, maybe, gives you the temerity to take a leap, knowing that your decision won't get smarter or easier to live with if you take longer.

3. Go to church.
Lisa Cullen reports that girls who go to church work harder than other people. Maybe you think this is because church girls are so bored in their upstanding lives that they can’t think of anything better to do than work. But I think it actually has something to do with optimism.

People who go to church regularly are more optimistic people in general, and optimism makes people feel more positive about their work. If you feel like you will affect your work in a positive way, you’re more likely to dig in and do it. (Here is a small study to support my claims. There are a ton of these studies, and I’m hoping the Christian bloggers who read this blog—there are a lot, surprisingly enough—will aid in this cause with some more links.)

4. Put a treadmill in your office.
People think better from getting a little exercise. Not the kind of exercise where you feel like you are going to pass out. But the low-level, reasonable-pace type of exercise. The difference in mental capacity while we are active and passive is huge.

Leverage this knowledge about yourself and do your work on a treadmill. I thought I was a genius taking work calls at the gym, on the elliptical trainer, (until the manager told me absolutely never again because people were sick of overhearing my calls.)

But now everyone’s got an idea for working while walking, and there are workstations designed especially for use on a treadmill. Ask your boss to buy you one. They're $3,000, but that's a great company investment if you can get your to do list done every day.

I have never let anyone guest post anonymously on this blog before, but today is an exception, and you’ll see why if you keep reading.

Every time I write about stay-at-home dads, tons of them write to me. They always want me to tell their story. The only emails I get that say “contact me if you want to interview me about my life” are from stay-at-home dads.

Not much ever comes of this, but there’s one exception: a guy I’ve been corresponding with for the last year about what life’s like as a stay-at-home dad. Today’s guest post is actually a bunch of his emails that I’ve edited, with his permission. I like this guy because he is more honest with me about his life than any other stay-at-home dad I know.


When a person asks “What kind of marriage works today?” they learn that there are so many more options available than there were even 25 years ago. My mother and grandmother never would have been able to ask that question because there was only one type of marriage in the past. My wife and I have pretty much taken the old template and switched genders.

But it’s hard on me having a similar education and background to my wife and yet having her be the big success in her field while I’m not in it at all. There are many times when my wife accomplishes something and I say to myself that I never could have done that. And as my wife spends less time with our family and more time with work people, my focus and my social circle is different from hers.

So let me give you two of the positives about being in my position as a stay-at-home husband.

First, it is so great that my wife has a kick-ass job, makes good money, and provides so well for our family. She rocks. And it’s great for the kids.

Second, she’s really good at letting me do what I do. Not a lot of second guessing or interference. She’s never ever complained about anything I’ve spent or what I do. Not that I’m irresponsible or frivolous, but it’s just nice knowing that I can pretty much do what I want to do. I wouldn’t be staying home at all if not for her income.

Yes, there is a power imbalance, but I’ve gotten used to it. If I thought about it a lot, it would probably drive me crazy. But that imbalance comes with some of the perks that I embrace. Being able to commit and make this huge leap of faith is something that I’m very proud of myself for doing. And I know that my wife very much appreciates it. It’s certainly made me more vulnerable, but it’s added strength to our relationship.

But I’ve also been amazed as to how many propositions I’ve received since becoming a househusband. I have a pretty good sense of myself, so take my word that I’m not Brad Pitt but I’m not The Elephant Man either. But until I started staying home, I was never the object of this kind of attention.

Especially one winter, tagging along with her at a business conference.

On the first day I met a woman who really had her act together, single, about 50, and from Boston. A real flirt too. I flirted back. Same thing the next day. Each time we talked, she would talk about the seminars and other BS she’d attended (which my wife never does), and basically roll her eyes while giving the company-line on all the “interesting” things that she had learned. It was pretty funny.

On the second to last night, she said that, finally, tomorrow afternoon, she was actually looking forward to a meeting. I asked her what it was about. I’ll never forget what she said: “The two of us. I’m leaving the morning meeting early. Come to my room and we can have lunch and the afternoon together.”

The next morning, slinking around and probably acting like a burglar, I knocked, went in, and we spent three really great hours together. And that was it. At the last cocktail party, we bantered again.We’ve emailed a few times since them, but never gotten together.

At times I can’t believe the course my life has taken and I doubt that my wife has a huge amount of respect for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a chauvinist and always had a condescending view of women who stayed home, who live very pampered lives. Well, now I’m one of them. But I have to say that I’m really no different than a lot of women who are married to power husbands and play a supporting role. I just do what they do, with a masculine twist.


ADDENDUM: YIKES!!! The comments below (there are now about 40) ask the same question over and over again: What is the point of this post? So here are some questions that I think the post brings up:

Is being a stay-at-home dad any different than the life that Betty Friedan and Sylvia Plath worked so hard to get away from?

Is the world really ready for stay-at-home dads? Will the world ever be ready? We have done a more successful job, I think, integrating women into the work world than men into the domestic world. Are women crossing these boundaries more validated than the men who cross the boundaries?

Why is the world not talking about the downside of being a stay-at-home dad? Moms complain about this lifestyle all the time –when they are doing it — but men don’t.

Do women respect their stay-at-home husbands? I wonder if women might have to work very very hard to respect their husbands who stay at home. Perhaps gratitude comes easily, but respect takes a huge effort and a lot of mental tricks.

Why do women hit on stay-at-home dads?

One of the most important indicators of whether or not you should switch jobs is if you are in line for a promotion. It’s not so much that you should be climbing a ladder, but more that if you are not being recognized for great work then you’re probably not doing great work. And if you are not doing great work, this is not the job for you. We should all be doing great stuff.

So take this quiz to find out if you will get promoted.

1. Are you friends with your boss?
The hardest workers don’t get promoted. The most likable people get promoted.

Here is the big test for you: Did that sentence make you angry? You lose one point. That’s because you are wishing that you did not have to be likable and you are mad that people who work less than you do get promoted ahead of you.

If the sentence did not piss you off, then you are in good shape. But maybe you should work a little less and do office politics a little more. This is not obnoxious advice because office politics is about being nice.

Did you already know it’s about being nice? Give yourself a point. If not, click here to read about it. And then give yourself a point for reading. Hold it. Look. I’ve just invented a new form of the self-quiz where you become more likable by clicking on my blog posts. Great traffic-building tactic.

2. Are you working on high-profile projects?
Do you work on the project that everyone else wanted? Give yourself a point. Did you say to yourself, “Who knows? I don’t know what everyone else wanted.” You lose a point. How can you get yourself onto good projects if you are not in the middle of the fray finding out what’s available and what’s hot?

The key to making yourself useful to your boss is to work on the stuff that matters to your boss. Sure, everything matters, but some stuff matters more than others. The stuff that your boss’s bonus depends on matters more than properly filling out your expense report. That’s a good place to start. Hopefully you can approach the issue of managing up in more nuanced ways than that.

If you made a mental note to click on the link to managing up, give yourself a point, because you care. If you moused-over the link and saw you already read the post, you can still take the point.

3. Are you paid at the high end of the range for your position?
Investigate the salary range for your job. Check PayScale, and then ask around at work — don’t be shy because everyone else is asking too. If you’re at the top of the range, give yourself a point. If you were embarrassed to tell your co-workers how much more you are making than they are, give yourself two points, but don’t bring this topic up again.

If you’re at the low end, then you were not highly valued to begin with, so getting people to switch their opinion of you is going to be hard. You can do it by asking your boss to get you to the top of the range, and then back up your request by listing all the achievements you’ve made in your new position.

Too scared to do this? You lose three points. Did you do this and the boss ignored you? Lose two points (and remember that you got a point for trying—it’s a good lesson meant to inspire fearlessness later.)

4. Do you work fewer hours than everyone else?
If you work fewer hours than everyone around you, I can promise you that they are annoyed. Did you just click to your email to tell me that you work less hours because you’re smarter than everyone else? Take away two points. Because no one cares how smart you are (see number one on this list).

You should not be the hardest worker because that makes you look desperate. But you can’t work the fewest hours either, because then you look like you don’t care. And that’s being a bad team player, even if you are getting the work done. If you find you have a lot of extra time because you’re a total genius and you finish everything early, spend more time networking at the office. Because you can never have enough time for that.

Can you remember the last time you initiated a conversation with someone who dislikes you? Give yourself a point for good office politics and a point for bravery.

5. Do you feel like you are due a promotion because of your experience?
No promotion is set in stone. Even if you have it in writing. You can be laid off, right? So you need to work constantly campaigning for yourself if you want to get that promotion. Do you spend your days focusing on doing your job, or do you do a little bit extra so you can be a star performer?

Give yourself a point for setting aside time each day to let people know how great you are. Take a point away if you think people who do this are annoying.

Give yourself a point if you can think of the last thing you did where you consciously said, this is way beyond the call of duty, but it will be good for my career.

Score yourself:

5 or more points – You will probably be promoted. Maybe you should announce your score in the comments section of this blog and leave a link to your resume, because everyone should want to hire you.

3-4 points – You’re doing well. Look at where you lost points and fix it. Obvious advice but in fact, very few people can actually fix their shortcomings. With a score of 3 or 4 points, you probably can.

1-2 points – You need coaching because you’re not understanding what you need to do at work in order to meet your goals. You’re focusing on the wrong stuff and you’re going to come to a point where you want things in your life and your career that you can’t get because you didn’t understand the underbelly of the business world.

less than one point – You’re in trouble. Maybe your best bet is to retake the test…

I love that each twitter has to be 140 characters. I love the game of that. Word choice is so important. I am not prolific, but I am infatuated.

I think that most of the blog readers here don’t use twitter, so I wanted to let you know that my recent twitters are listed on the sidebar of my blog, and you should read them because I love writing them so much.

I am enticing you with two:

Friday I leave chocolates for the guy in the next office. Maybe I like him. Today they are still there, and I have PMS, so I eat them.

My second book is very late. Barack and I have the same book editor. His fame keeps my editor distracted, so I give money to his campaign.

You can see all 21 twitters listed here:

A lot of times we think we know what we’re doing in the job hunt, and then someone surprises us with information we didn’t think of. My latest bunch of surprises came from the book, What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here? by Cynthia Shapiro, who I have interviewed before, and she is always super smart.

So here’s some advice, based on the surprises I found in the book:

1. There’s one trick to all trick questions.
“All trick questions, even the really scary psychological questions, are crafted so that you will give a negative answer.”

The truth is that positive people are hired more often. And in an interview, people can show that they are that type of person by intentionally presenting their information in the most positive way.

So get all your bitching about your career out of your system before you get to the interview. And each time you are inclined to say something negative, change it or leave it unsaid. Once you get hired, there will be plenty of time to open the spigot of animosity if you need to.

But you work so hard on presenting yourself in your best light in the interview — why not attempt to extend that best you to your whole life instead of those two hours of interviews? People will like you better at work, and your positive outlook will help you to make all your experiences in life better.

2. A thank-you note is too late to express enthusiasm for the job.
“A hiring manager’s mind is made up in the first twenty minutes of an interview, and often nothing can be done to change that.”

During this twenty minutes, most hiring managers are subconsciously screening for enthusiasm. Because people want coworkers who are excited about their job. Ironically, though, most people who are interviewing for a job go into that interview unsure if they want the position, and they tell themselves they’ll make a decision based on the interview.

But if you decide to be enthusiastic about the job at the end of the interview or, worse yet, when you write the thank you note, you are way too late.

To solve this problem, go into the job convinced that you want it. Be enthusiastic about the job and get the job. You may decide later that you don’t want it. That’s fine. But this way you’ll have that decision to make. Note that this means the interview is not the time to ask difficult, probing questions about the company. Save those for after you have a job offer. Ask questions that convey a positive, sunny attitude toward your interviewer and the company. That will get you an offer.

3. No one will tell you that you’ve made a mistake.
“No one will tell you that your resume wasn’t up to par; it will simply land in the trash. No one will tell you that you said something that scared the interviewer during a phone screen; you’ll just never be able to get that person on the phone again.”

Part of the reason is that you never get feedback is it’s too high risk to tell candidates what they do wrong: There is little benefit to the company, since they are not going to hire you anyway, and there is the remote chance that you will bring up a discrimination lawsuit.

The other reason no one will tell you what you did wrong is because it takes extra energy to take time to help someone, and we can’t do that with everyone, so we help the people who look like the strongest performers. It’s like that axiom, “the rich get richer” but in this case, “the best candidates get better.” How to fix this in your own life? Ask for a lot of help from people who are in a position to help you.

We all know that the workplace is a minefield for sexual tension. Where else do you lock up people of the opposite sex for eight hours a day, and tell them to talk with each other but not touch? It is unnatural, and ever since men let women into the workplace, we have been adjusting.

It is totally normal to have a crush on someone at work. And it is totally normal for people to tell you not to act on it. And it is totally normal to throw caution to the wind. According to Helaine Olen, author of the book Office Mate, more than fifty percent of the population is dating someone from work.

So if you're going to do it, here are some best practices for getting the guy:

1. Flirt verbally rather than nonverbally
According to research reported in the Journal of Psychological Science (via Live Science), men are not good at reading nonverbal cues. They mistake a friendly smile as a sexual overture, for example. But researchers found that men also missed nonverbal signs of sexual interest: “When images of gals meant to show allure flashed onto the screen, male students mistook the allure as amicable signals.”

At work, the context of flirting is less defined than a science experiment, which means there will be even more missed cues. On top of that, if your office is full of knowledge workers, who are paid because they do a good job of synthesizing information, the missed cues will probably be even higher.

Why? Because research about Asperger's syndrome tells us how the brain develops its ability to read nonverbal cues. We know that children's brains learn this skill early in life. And we know that kids who seem to think like a young Einstein often have Asperger’s syndrome, where the side of their brain for logic, spatial abilities, and memorizing grows at the expense of the side of the brain for reading nonverbal social cues.

So it seems to me that the cluelessness of men when it comes to reading sexual overtones is actually on a spectrum, and the more extreme their abilities are in the high-IQ side of the brain, the more extreme their inability to read nonverbal sexual cues will be. (And this explains why the conversation about this research on the geek-genius blog Slashdot is so spunky.)

2. If you know he's interested, play hard to get
If you know the guy is interested, make him work to get you. Live Science reports that the male need for the chase is so strong that it even happens in lab mice—given the choice of two girl mice, the boy mouse goes for the girl mouse who is more difficult to conquer.

And we know that both men and women do not take relationships seriously if there's no chase, because, according to Cosmo magazine, only 3% of couples who have sex on first dates end up getting married.

So you are going to have to play hard to get at work if you want more from the guy than just a fling.

(Interesting side note about the chase: Most women intuitively play hard to get, until they find Mr. Right, and then men and women want to have sex—and violate societal sex norms—at the same rate.)

3. Don't make the first move if you are not the same age reports that roughly 80% of both sexes are willing to make the first move. But when the man and woman are not in the same age group, men usually make the first move at work.

In a study of long-term relationships between older women and younger men, more than 95% of the men made the first move.

And research from University of Santa Cruz shows an almost institutionalized way for older men to make the first move is to initiate a productive mentoring relationship with a woman and then follow that up with a sexual overture.

So if the guy is your age, buy the book Office Mate, which is a handbook for making passes at co-workers. If the guy is not your age, play hard to get. And either way, remember that the average worker today changes jobs every eighteen months, so if things go bad dating at work, you'll find a new job soon enough anyway.

And in the end, the problem of figuring out if you want to be involved with someone at work might be harder than actually making it happen.

If you are coming here because you read the article about blogging about divorce in the New York Times, here is a road map to this blog: The blog is primarily about careers but when my family life relates to that topic, I write about my family.

Here are posts about my divorce:
My first day of marriage counseling July 5, 2007 (183 comments)

Five communications lessons learned in marriage counseling November 28, 2007 (90 comments)

A case study in staying resilient: my divorce February 27, 2008 (116 comments)

Here are posts about other aspects of my family life:
An unexpected lesson about procrastination January 1, 2007 (22 comments)

Five steps to taming materialism, from an accidental expert August 7, 2007 (88 comments)

Blending my kids and my career (not really) June 7, 2007 (45 comments)

I actually feel misquoted in the Times today. For example, I don’t blame my divorce on my son. But I’ve written before that if you talk to the press, you should expect to be misquoted, so this is a dose of my own medicine: Why journalists misquote everyone

If you want to comment to me about the New York Times article, you can do it on this post.

I started using Twitter, after thinking about starting for at least six months. It’s very scary to start something new and have no idea what I’m doing.

But I also know that all the excitement in my career has come from my willingness to try stuff that is scary—because I don’t know if I will be good at it and also because I don’t know if it will pan out. So, here are five steps I took to overcome the scariness of trying something new. (And until I get Twitter onto my blog sidebar, here is where you can find my Twitter feed.)

1. Trust the buzz on what’s worth a try.
Many people in my life think Twitter is totally stupid. So for months and months, every time I said something out loud about how much I would like twittering, a cacophony of naysayers would send me in the other direction.

Then Guy Kawasaki told me I should Twitter. And Laura Fitton. And I told them both that I was too busy and I thought they were too busy too. And they told me Twitter is an amazing way to connect with people and I’d love it if I just tried it.

They told me that nonstop, over dinner. And every time I tried to steer the conversation to our sex lives, they would steer it back to Twitter.

After dinner, I went to and started clicking on peoples’ feeds. To be honest, they all looked stupid. Even Guy’s. I didn’t understand Twitter at all. But I knew that if Guy and Laura were both telling me I’d like it, I needed to try it.

2. Don’t hide the lame stuff.
When I started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing, and Dennis Yang walked me through each first step. I asked things like, “Can I list columns that I wrote before I started blogging?” Dennis said, “Yeah, that would be cool.”

I remember him saying those exact words, because I thought it was nuts. I didn’t understand the rules of blogging and in print media, that would have been totally insane. But I did it. And then I spent a month trying to figure out what to blog about.

I wrote very short pieces and I tried to be funny and clever. But gradually I started writing longer and trying less hard to be clever. And I found that when I was back to writing a regular column, just with a lot of links, I was writing my best. Being my true self was writing my best. It’s so hard to find our true selves in a public forum, but really, that’s what we do offline every day when we leave our house.

3. Get mentors.
Social media changes peopleslives. So anyone who is blogging or twittering or uploading photos to flickr would be happy to help because that is what mentors do, they are enthusiastic to help you with what they love. I know this because I am so willing to help someone else start blogging, and I should not have been surprised when Laura (read her Ode to Twitter) spent a whole morning emailing back and forth with me about how to get started on Twitter.

4. Just start doing it.
I was touched that Laura’s final email to me that morning was so similar to the advice I give people who spend months emailing me questions about blogging: Enough. Just get started. You cannot learn about social media by talking about it. You have to do it.

So here’s the advice I give to you, and to myself when I worry that I’m doing Twitter the wrong way: There are no mistakes. There are just ways that make good connections and ways that don’t. Experiment to find the ways that do. And all time is well spent when you are searching for ways to express yourself and make connections. After all, what are we doing here, on earth, if not that? And in this respect, I love Twitter already.

The jobs that are the most fun are where our learning curve is high but we can still achieve results. Usually the list of requirements for a job like this is a little beyond your experience. So how do you get one?

First of all, realize that the people who write job descriptions actually have little clue about what they really want in a candidate. That means they are easily influenced if they see a resume that grabs them. The other thing to keep in mind is that candidate requirements are usually insanely optimistic so most people applying will either be way out of the price range for the job, or not quite meeting the qualifications for the job.

In any case, you should always reach for a job way above you, but do it in a way that makes you seem like a reasonable candidate. Here are some tricks:

1. Use the informational interview as a sales pitch.
If you know someone is hiring, and you know you’re not qualified, you might still be able to get an informational interview. In that meeting, first find out all you can about what that particular department or company (depending on size) needs. Then find out what really matters to the person you’re talking to.

If you can sell yourself as someone who has the right type of personality and demeanor for the type of work that needs doing, the hiring manager might believe that you can grow into the job quickly. This leap of faith becomes more realistic when the hiring manager believes that you know a lot about the job and he knows a lot about you (which you selectively reveal in the informational interview).

Tough part: Shifting the meeting to a job interview even though it wasn’t scheduled that way. Be subtle.

2. Sell yourself as a consultant.
People want good ideas. Note, though, that a good idea is one that you can actually implement—one that you can see through from start to finish. People say that their particular industry is not like this, but in fact, every industry is ripe for a good idea sold the right way.

This is typically what consultants do. They go into a meeting selling an idea rather than selling themselves as a fit for a job description. A great example of how any industry needs good ideas is the funeral industry. There are tons of new ideas for how to bury peoples’ remains, and the industry is dependent on the quality of new ideas flowing in.

This is true of all industries, no matter how obscure. So if you come up with a good idea and sell it to the right person in the organization, you might be able to land a job implementing that idea even if you have no experience doing something like that.

Tough part: Learning how to sound like a consultant if you’ve only trained to do an interview.

3. Get people to use you as a reference.
Headhunters don’t fill entry-level jobs, they fill mid-tier and top-tier positions. The headhunting business is all about sourcing, so the more you know about how headhunters source online, the more likely you are to get tapped for a job that is a little beyond your qualifications.

Eric Muller, from Prizm Consulting, says he often searches for resumes with respected corporate brands on them and then he looks for the people listed as references—and he goes after those people. So try getting your friends at your level to list you as a reference and you get a chance to be considered for a higher level position.

Tough part: Getting the right friends.

4. Blog to become an expert.
It’s amazing to me how many bloggers in the Brazen Careerist network are people with 1-3 years of work experience who sound like someone with a lot more work experience. The reason for this is that blogging forces you to become an expert in your field a lot faster than a day-to-day office job forces expertise.

Blogging focuses on ideas and the person who is writing those ideas. You can position yourself as top in your field offline by becoming top in your field online. Your online position gives you access to people who would not consider hiring you based on your resume and experience, but would consider hiring you based on your blog and your ideas.

Tough part: Having good ideas. Really.

5. Have a realistic idea of your skill set.
It’s very hard to sell something you don’t believe in. So you are going to have a hard time getting a job that’s a little bit beyond you if you don’t really believe that you’re good at what you are saying you’re good at.

Also, though, it’s very hard to sell something you have blind faith in. Think about the evangelists that knock on your front door. Their arguments are not persuasive because they “just believe” they are right. If you “just believe” you can do it, you won’t be able to cut a deal.

So in order to land a job that’s beyond your experience, you need to tread that fine line between having a strong belief in your strengths and not going off the deep end to the point where you sound delusional.

Tough part: Seeing your true self and believing in the person you see. This is actually the tough part of all of life. Which explains why I like writing about career advice so much.

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.