This past week was Spring Break and toward the end, somehow my ex and my nanny fell out of the picture, and I was doing a lot of taking care of the kids, which, I have said before, is not what I’m great at. I wish I were. I tried for four years to be a stay-at-home mom, only to discover that I am not meant to do that.
So, in a moment of innocent desperation, I wrote on Twitter: “No school today and the nanny’s on vacation. A whole day with the kids gets so boring: all intergalactic battles and no intellectual banter.”
I almost didn’t post that Twitter because it’s so banal.
But, in just seconds, because that’s how Twitter works, there was a firestorm of men telling me that I’m a bad mom. Really. Yes.
Here’s one from David Dellifield:
“@penelopetrunk sorry your kids are a burden, send them to OH, we’ll enjoy them for who they are”
I couldn’t believe it. It’s one thing to be a total asshole to me on, say, Yahoo Finance, where someone used to spend a good portion of each day making sure that the C word did not appear in the comments for either Suze Orman’s column or mine. (The best days were when the C word appeared in a way that linked us. Really, those were some creative commenters on Yahoo Finance.) The difference between Twitter and Yahoo is that Twitter is intimate, and real-time, and pointed directly at me, not at the editorial board of Yahoo.
Like many people who are total assholes online, David’s contact info was easy to find. I called him at work, because, big surprise, he is not a stay-at-home dad talking about how everyone should love parenting. He is a dad who is not home all day talking about how everyone should love being home all day with their kids.
There was no answer at his work. But I noted the number so I could ruin his life there if I ever felt like he needed to be taught a lesson.
Then I called David Dellifield’s house. I thought maybe his wife would answer and I could ask her if she knows that her husband is emailing other women to encourage them to send more kids to his wife to take care of. All day.
There was no answer. Maybe by then he had alerted his wife that he is being pursued by a psycho who maybe will kill her kids or maybe will kill him. Maybe they will never answer their phone again.
So I wrote to David — a “direct message” in Twitter terminology: “I’m surprised by what you wrote. Are you intentionally being mean to me in a public forum?”
He wrote back: “no, but it seemed you were complaining about your children on an open forum, kids have faults, lets love for who they are”
So here’s the problem: Parents need to be able to say that parenting is not fun. The day-in and day-out of parenting is very, very difficult. This is not even news. There is a reason for the reams of research showing that having kids does not make people happier.
Nattavudh Powdthavee, an economist at the University of York, published research in The Psychologist, that concludes, “Social scientists have found almost zero association between having children and happiness.”
So first of all, anyone who says that parenting makes them happy is probably lying. Just statistically speaking. But also, we know the people who are well positioned to like parenting. There are sixteen personality types, and only a handful are perfectly tuned for staying home with kids.
People can have competing feelings. For example, I love my job but I hate getting up and going to work every day. Or, I love this blog but I often have to force myself to sit down and write a post.
It’s a big deal that women are writing publicly, in real time, about how difficult it is to stay home with kids. Look, I get emails every day from women who left the workforce for kids and feel lost. Here’s the blog of a woman who wrote to me two days ago: The Reluctantly Frustrated Stay-at-Home Mom.
These women feel lost because you can love your kids and still be bored. Kids are not nonstop fun. Talking with young children is stultifying. Yes, they are funny. But in general, you have to pay attention to them every second, even though they are not really doing something every second.
And as soon as your mind wanders too far, something bad happens. For example, I took the kids on a hike yesterday, taking a coat for myself but not for them. Because I checked out. Because I wanted to think about things that are more interesting than coats. This is normal behavior. I mean, intellectuals need intellectual stimulation, and that’s not something kids give.
This does not mean I don’t love my kids. Only an asshole would suggest that because I don’t want to stay home with them all day, I must not love them.
And all you people who say you’d love to stay home all day with your kids if you could, you are completely full of shit.
I know because I was living at the poverty line in NYC while I stayed home with my kids. That’s how important it was to me to stay home. I wanted to be with them for every moment, be a great mom, all that. So I did it no matter what — no financial situation could have stopped me.
And if you really wanted to be home with your kids all day, you’d do it. David: That means you, too. But, newsflash: going to work is 10,000 times easier than staying with kids all day. Yes, I know, staying with kids is more important. I agree. So is saving children from starvation in Malawi. But we each do what we can. And the best of us are honest about it.
For all you guys who Twittered back to me that I’m a bad mom and that I should love being home with my kids, here’s a link for you: CEOs who are on Twitter. Because let me tell you something: None of these people needs to earn the money they are earning. They have enough money. They can stay home with their kids. But instead, they are at work.
David, can you publicly ask each of these guys if they want to send their kids to your wife in Ohio? Because each of these guys is choosing to go to work instead of stay home with their kids. Do you know why? BECAUSE THE CEOs THINK KIDS ARE BORING. This is not news. The top 10% of the tax bracket system does not need to leave their families to go to work every day. But they do. Why is that?
Here’s another idea, David. How about approaching all those guys with Blackberries at soccer games? Let me ask you something. Do those guys check their email when they’re getting a blow job? Of course not. Do you know why? Because it’s INTERESTING. They are checking their blackberries during soccer because soccer is boring. The kids can’t figure out where the goal is. The kids and their parents lose interest. They want snacks more than they want to learn soccer. They are cute, yes. But even cute gets boring.
Here’s another Twitter from David Dellifield: “been on twitter several months, still trying to figure out the conversation part of it”
@DavidDellifield Maybe you don’t understand the conversation because you have so little self-knowledge to add to the party.