Five steps to make a breakdown just a little breakdown

I sent this post to my editor and he said to me, “This is not a blog post. This is a breakdown.”

So fine. It’s a breakdown blog post. But it’s a plyometric breakdown. Do you know what plyometrics are? I learned about this when I played pro volleyball. It’s a way to train your muscles to respond fast. You get your jump to happen in a more explosive way by training your muscles to react faster to shock.

Plyometrics are key to any elite training, even elite-level breakdowns.

Step One: Hate as many people as you can, all at once. Also, hate yourself.  

I spent the morning reading education reformers talking about how learning and schools are not compatible and the school model is dead.

But those very people are sending their kids to school. Because it’s really hard to be on top of the national speaking circuit for school reform and also homeschool your kids. So the education reform community is full of people who are full of shit. They say school is dead but they continue to use school as a babysitting service for their kids.

I got so pissed off that I wrote a post about it.

Then I started sorting my email and found a link to Ramit Sethi’s interview with James Altucher.

I think I am running the same business as Ramit but he is doing it better. So, fine. Go watch his videos. They’re great. And here‘s the James Altucher interview. James blogs in a very similar style to mine. And he is better at it because he grew his blog much faster than I grew mine.

But here’s what drives me fucking nuts about Ramit’s discussion with James. The interview is about why people don’t face their fears. And here’s what I think: Ramit doesn’t have kids. He jet sets between NY and San Francisco preaching to people about fear when honestly, my biggest fear is that I can’t keep up with people like Ramit who have no responsibility in their life except to grow their business. What about that fear? The fear of competing with people who don’t have kids.

And here’s another fear I have: Fear of competing with middle-aged men who abandon their family and marry someone younger. Really. I am sick of it. James Altucher married his yoga teacher. He has two kids he does not live with. My fear is that I am the one living with my kids and I’m competing with men who left their kids behind with their mothers.

Step two: Make it worse. List all your fears so you can get them in one place to better obsess over them. 

My fear is that I’m becoming irrelevant to the world because all my fears revolve around being a sub-par parent.

I fear that I hate dealing with people who don’t have kids living with them because their life is so simple.

I fear that I’ll be relegated to the ghetto of mom bloggers, or the ghetto of moms in the workforce, and I hate all the moms. I don’t want people to see me as just a mom.

I fear that my career advice is going to bore the shit out of you because it’s boring the shit out of me.

Also, I have started drinking at 8am. It’s a great way to face the day. Probably this is the last time you’ll hear from me about alcohol until I am in rehab. With Elizabeth Vargas.

Step three: Prepare for action. Figure out the people in your life you have to get rid of.

The other morning some guy called and said, “Hi, Penelope. I’m your neighbor. I live on the farm just over the hill from you.”

I could tell it was time to pour a glass of wine. Which I did not do, because now I am just drinking out of the bottle.

He said: “I didn’t know you were so famous ’til I searched you on the Internet.”

I was quiet. Random calls from the Internet go fast when I don’t talk.

He said, “I found your site by typing into Google women near Darlington Wisconsin who want to have sex.”

Step four: Notice that most of the stuff going wrong is not that important. 

It turns out Matthew’s known the guy forever. Around here people don’t sell their land.

The guy said he’ll say hi when he sees me at the grocery store. Matthew says I should avoid the grocery store.

Does Ramit field phone calls like this? No. He hangs up. He is busy. James Altucher fields phone calls like this. He would think it’s interesting. James likes the underbelly of the misguided. Which is the appeal of James, really. But James doesn’t wake up to needy kids. He wakes up to yoga with his hot wife.

Yesterday I was doing a webinar which, supposedly, I am great at and that’s why I’m doing a company, and my kids had a fight and brought their fight so close to me that I pulled off my headphones and screamed at them to get out of the room and stop killing each other.

I forgot that the audio input was the computer, not the headphones, so the whole thing was recorded.

Check out Ramit’s videos.  You do not see him screaming at people off camera. And why am I linking to Ramit’s video anyway? I’m insane. This post is going to be better for Ramit’s business than my business.

Step five: Find people who value all of you, even the breakdown part. 

Cassie sends links to cheer me up. She sent me research that women who drink earn 14% more than women who don’t. I can already feel the money coming in.

Melissa edits photos for my blog like little presents. And she made an exception to her blurry-is-bad rule for today’s photo, because she cares about me and she knows how much thin legs improve mental health.

Then an angel investor I was pitching looked at one my videos courses on Quisitc and said, “Are you kidding me? People pay for this? You are ranting and nuts and the video quality is terrible.”

Another investor in the room said, “Don’t you get it? That’s why people like her. She is just being her real self and people identify with her.”

And you know what? Both investors put money into my company.

141 replies
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  1. Poptart
    Poptart says:

    Some thoughts on this post:

    I want to comment on this statement “I fear that I hate dealing with people who don’t have kids living with them because their life is so simple.” That is simply not true. Having kids adds another layer to your life, probably a complex layer, but it doesn’t mean mine life, without kids is any simpler. Because I don’t have kids employers assume I have more time to give to the office, to a project, to the team. That I can stay a little later because I don’t have responsibility. That is false. I have a partner and a family and a life that is just as important and I have my own set of challenges in life. It just isn’t in the form of kids. I have a special needs dog and an aging cat and aging parents and I am ADHD and so is my business partner. My significant other has a chronic illness. Life isn’t easy for any of us.

    Second: The reasons I follow your blog and not those other guys.

    I follow your blog because I find it relevant and I don’t always agree with your career advice, but it gives me pause and makes me think about a situation and how to best take it on.

    I follow your blog because you are interesting and direct and often have a unique perspective on work / life situations.

    I follow your blog for so many reasons, but mostly because you are very interesting!

    • mh
      mh says:

      I’ll echo Poptart here, Penelope, I don’t read you because you are perfect. I read you because you are creative and candid, and filling my brain up with new perspectives makes me a more innovative and juicy person.

    • James Altucher
      James Altucher says:

      Penelope, not sure what I have done to deserve such anger from you. We met once and I thought it was nice and I have always offered to help you.

      But why lie about me:

      A) I did not marry my yoga teacher
      B) I did not marry someone younger than me
      C) I spend a lot of time and effort (as can be seen on my posts) on the educational needs of my kids.

      Why say angry things about me? In 600 posts I have never made an attack like that on someone. There is no need and thats probably not the best way to make an argument.

      Please respond to this comment and tell the truth about these things. Why attack?

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Hi, James.
        I appreciate that you left a comment on the post. I think people will like that. Thanks.

        I didn’t actually think the post was mean. You and Ramit have always been nice to me – both online and offline. But still, I do get totally frustrated that my work world is one where people don’t have kids to take care of every day. It’s very frustrating to me since I do take care of kids every day.

        That’s what the post is about. It’s not really about you and Ramit. You guys are just two really good examples the type of guy I meet all the time in my work life.

        Anyway, I like watching what you do on your blog. And I bet this post sent a lot of new readers to you. So there’s a silver lining…


        • Marty
          Marty says:

          Hi Penelope,

          I understand why you feel frustrated. I used to feel frustrated because others had life easier outside of work, so they were able to put in more inside of work. I am a single parent, and sometimes I would take out that frustration on my daughter by not giving her enough help or playing with her, because I had something else to do for work or for a girlfriend, or whatever that didn’t deal with her. I cared deeply about what others thought of me. I realize now (and did then, to be honest) that being a good dad is far more important that making more money, or being successful in my business. It isn’t even a close competition. Don’t worry about others that don’t have a family to be with. I feel sorry for them, because all they have is a drive to do something that doesn’t matter at all, and have a huge emptiness in their life that the drive will never satiate. Of course, you seem to have that same drive.


          P.S. I am not a good writer by any means, and since I wrote this on my phone it exacerbates that problem. I greatly apologize if you cannot understand my post. I also admit that I have much more to say on the subject, but since I don’t know you, I don’t feel writing any more would be appropriate. If you have any interest in talking about any of this, feel free to email me.

        • Emily
          Emily says:

          I didn’t take it as a negative post about James — in fact, I had never heard of him and after reading the references to him in the blog I added his blog to my RSS feed.

        • Sandra
          Sandra says:


          I thought this post was funny. Not because I think trying to manage kids and work is funny but because of this:

          “The other morning some guy called and said, “Hi, Penelope. I’m your neighbor. I live on the farm just over the hill from you.”

          I could tell it was time to pour a glass of wine. Which I did not do, because now I am just drinking out of the bottle.”

          I also didn’t think what was said about James Altucher was mean. Misleading maybe, but not mean. Whether intentionally misleading or not, it helped drive the story.

          I don’t think Ramit’s videos are better than yours. If only for one reason. His, I Will Teach You to be Rich courses despite what they say, project how much product can I sell to make me (Ramit) rich. It’s for that reason that I have no interest in watching the interview with him and James Altucher, even though I like reading James’s blog.

        • melita
          melita says:

          Yeah – I didn’t know who he was and never would have found him if you didn’t mention him. But now I don’t like him because of his dumb comments above. I love how he says he spends time on his kids’ “educational needs” – like, how about their billion and one other needs? He should have just said “needs”. So dumb.

  2. John
    John says:

    I’m normally a big fan, Penelope.

    But while you are basically accusing Ramit Sethi’s of being a more competent businessperson than you who has yet to get married, I don’t see how it helps you to say unfair things about James Altucher.

    • Rachel R
      Rachel R says:

      I just thought, if Penelope is writing about these two guys, they must be interesting. I have a few minutes and apparently you aren’t doing the mailbag anymore, so I’ll go have a look. I got to that stupid I will teach you to be rich blog and remembered I’d been before- SO BORING. Then I went to look at James Altucher, who I hadn’t read before. Barf. I am not surprised he has a yoga wife. Link to someone else as interesting as you, please! Or just bring back the mailbag.

      • John
        John says:

        I agree with you that Sethi’s is not a particularly interesting voice. Altucher’s is, though.

        I guess you imagine you’re being supportive by being just as shitty as Penelope. What an accomplishment.

        She’s not your friend, Rachel. Try getting her on the phone sometime.

  3. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    Your legs really do look great in that photo.

    You should definitely avoid the grocery store.

    People who don’t have kids (or actually *live* with them, day to day) really do lead simpler lives with less responsibility. Even when they say they don’t, they have no way to measure it. It’s true, and you’re just about the only person I’ve ever read who actually admits it out loud. It’s like silently judging someone’s parenting while observing them, without kids of your own. We’ve all done it, and we all eat our words when we have kids. No one can prepare new parents for the amount of dependency kids need.

    My two cents? The fact that those of us who stay home with kids actually only have a small fraction of our lives doing so. They’re in the house 18 or so years, but even less than that demanding tons of time. It’s not your whole life. You’re just in the thick of it and those other people you’re comparing yourself to, aren’t.

    Sarah M

    • rachel
      rachel says:


      Taking care of humans, whether children or the elderly or disabled family members, is a 24-hr 356-day 24/7 100% stressful job.

      It is unfair and irrational to think parents are the only ones who know that type of responsibility.

      It’s annoying that parents insist on being the only ones who get to wear that badge.

      I don’t have my own kids because I already lived through that kind of stress in other ways. It’s not something I would ever choose to do again voluntarily. But life is what it is. We all have to do what is necessary.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Actually, I have a few friends taking care of sick parents, so I see what you mean. I don’t have any experience doing that. Also, though, I think because of my relationship with my parents it’s hard to see how it could possibly be as all consuming to take care of parents as it is to take care of children. But I am taking your word for it. Point taken.


        • rachel
          rachel says:

          Your children will worry for you the same way you worried for them

          It’s soul-crushing leaving parents with a caregiver when you have to work. Are they being mistreated? Are they being ignored? Will they tell me if they’re being hurt? Do they hate me for having to work? Are they being fed? Are they being kept clean? Is the caregiver stealing all of her jewelry?

          You wish you could just be there all day so that they know they are loved and cared for.

          I loved this post, btw.

      • Sarah M
        Sarah M says:

        Rachel, I was mostly responding to Poptart’s comment about the aging animals. It’s completely ridiculous to even think kids and animals (even animals we love) are on the same level of responsibility.
        I do think you have a point with elderly and handicapped. My stepfather works with mentally disabled who need around the clock care, for their entire lives. Accept my apology if you felt offended.

        • rachel
          rachel says:

          No apology necessary. I’m sensitive on that topic.

          I’ve seen parents receive more accommodations and better opportunities in the work world simply because they have children to support.

          Parents sympathize with other parents.

          I was never afforded those accommodations or given those opportunities. I was judged more harshly because it wasn’t a child that I was attending to. It’s an unfair bias.

          So pardon me for jumping down your throat ;-)

    • Dana
      Dana says:

      Sorry Sarah, you are WAY off.

      Yes, taking care of kids makes your life more complicated that it was before you had kids. Not having kids does not mean your life is any less complicated than those that do. This sort of thinking never ceases to amaze me. ‘I have kids, I’m special! My life is complicated and layered! I deserve MORE respect that those that haven’t reproduced!’

      Give it a rest. I guarantee I do more before breakfast than you do all day.

      • John
        John says:

        Maybe if you’re in the military. In battle. Otherwise you’re just parroting a slogan.

        My friends who have kids have vastly more complicated lives than I do.

        It doesn’t mean they deserve more respect than other people, necessarily. But their lives are absolutely vastly more complicated than a single person’s. To say anything else is ridiculous.

        • Sarah M
          Sarah M says:

          Thank you, John, for recognizing that and responding.
          In replying to Dana, I never said I (or other people who happen to be parents) deserve more respect. You’ve projected that.
          I have not yet met a parent who doesn’t agree with me that at some point, we’ve judged other parents when we didn’t have kids, and after becoming parents, have eaten those words. If at some point you choose to parent a child, you will probably have that same experience.

        • Dana
          Dana says:

          You should know John as you know all the intricate details of everyone’s life, right?

          If your life is less complicated than your friends that have children, it’s simply because YOUR life isn’t that complicated, not that everyone’s life isn’t. That your friends have children, doesn’t automatically mean their lives are more complicated than your friends that don’t have children.

          Yes, I am sure every parent has had to change their lives in some way when they had kids. The logic that their lives are more ‘complicated’ than those who don’t have kids doesn’t follow. It’s just a juvenile way, – ‘I have kids! My life is complicated!’-, to make themselves feel superior/ more put upon/special/whatever their issue is.

          • Annie
            Annie says:

            Why is this even a debate?

            The point is that anything you endeavor to do will be made far more complicated by adding children to the equation.

            I have never heard anyone say that because they have kids they are in a special class or deserve some special recognition.

            Get the fuck over yourself and your false offense Dana.

          • Dana
            Dana says:

            It’s a debate because no one died and made you king. Annie.

            The point is that anything you endeavor to do will be made far more complicated by adding ANYTHING to the equation.

            “I have never heard anyone say that because they have kids they are in a special class or deserve some special recognition” – Then you haven’t lived in the world or even read the comments here obviously.

            Go fuck yourself Annie. It would obviously do everyone in your world some good.

  4. Sheela Clary
    Sheela Clary says:

    The reason you homeschool is not primarily to make your own life more convenient, right? It’s to give your sons a better chance at a fulfilling, interesting, self-sufficient life. The kids of the globe-trotting ed reformers are taking a predictable path, and are less likely to be prepared to succeed in an unpredictable 2030 economy. The Atlantic writer who did his daughter’s homework for a week to show how stupid homework is ends his article not with a call to rebellion, but right back where he and his poor kids started, in school. Point is, you’re on the right side of history…you know Nelson Mandela was officially a terrorist according to the US until 2008? Point two is, who says the top of the world is a good place to be? I am an INFJ, so I am guessing that makes me an uncompetitive type……The reason people take your webinars is because you are the traditional webinar antidote, which includes interruptions to yell at your kids. You should make sure they have at least one interaction with you per webinar. No one else is real about this stuff…..the NYTimes article about Kirsten Gillibrand this past weekend is case in point. Sounds like she is the image of both motherly and political perfection! “I don’t know how she does it”. ” She’s ubiquitous.” The only thing I was thinking was, ” Her poor little 5 year old…..John McCain is his playdate.”

  5. chris
    chris says:

    Penelope, you keep upping the ante, and even your scary photo shows you running/rushing.

    You have thought everything through. But have you quieted your frantic thoughts and smoothed your ruffled feathers via meditation?

  6. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Great Boots! You are real and that’s why people like you. You are “being Penelope” as Gretchin would say.

  7. A-ron
    A-ron says:

    Here’s my guess how this whole thing came about:
    Ramit calls you or emails you or however you celebrity bloggers talk to each other.
    He says, “I got a great idea for a post you can do to help me with my business and make you some money also.”
    You giggled a little, maybe twirled your hair while listening.
    He continues, “write a post about fear or frustration or some shit, and sprinkle in links to my stuff pretending to hate me a little. Oh, and tell that story about that guy who called you that one time, but add something about him wanting to have sex. These idiots lap that kind of shit up.”
    You agree.
    Then you both laugh and light celebratory cigars with a hundred dollar bill.
    Ramit says, “you know who’d get a kick out this?”
    “James. Let’s call that mother fucker and tell him our plan. He just loves stories about his stupid readers.”
    Sources withheld.

    But seriously, ps, I love you.

  8. Tara Sayers Dillard
    Tara Sayers Dillard says:

    Of course they invested in YOU.

    A lot of fear out there! Easier to trust honest crazy than smooth dishonest good video. They need to be in the next wave creating $$$.

    Do they understand the dynamics of you & your paying audience? No, but they understand the money.

    My blog pays me well. My mom still thinks Garden Design is a bag lady career. She has no idea how the blog brings in clients, or what I do that a client would pay for.

    Would love to hear a meeting at Facebook about Houzz & Pinterest. They can hear the money running away, worse, feel it in their pocket.

    Off topic. Adore your vocabulary. Can rip into it too! Courtesy of training from my NASA dad.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    Was quite happy to pay for your webinar, worth every penny.

  9. rachel
    rachel says:

    It should be obvious to anyone that your company is a good investment. I was just looking at courses offered at the local community college, and pure boredom radiated through my computer screen into my body just looking at the options. Any type of learning is good, but what you offer is interesting, fun, useful, and feels like a night out all in one.

  10. Jamie Chavez
    Jamie Chavez says:

    I subscribe to James, too, but yours is the email I open and click through to the website. Every. Single. Time.

    I also would like to say a lot of things about this post, Penelope, but most of them would relate to things you cannot change (autism). However, you’re so smart. So, so smart. So here’s what I think.

    You’re overthinking some things. Don’t worry about the other guys. (I write a blog I think is fantastic. And people I respect think so too. So why is it growing so slowly? It’s a mystery. I’d kill for your numbers. See?)

    Focus on the things you ALREADY KNOW you should focus on: your kids, your relationship, your business, being kind. (When I first started reading you, you wrote that frequently: be kind. You haven’t, lately. Think about that.)

    Stop drinking in the morning. That’s not good for you or your kids. (Five words: Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents. ’Nuff said.) Other than that, relax, friend. I’m thinking really, really good thoughts for you right now. I wish I could do more.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is really good advice. I think the being kind part is really good. Thank you for reminding me. The next post you read here about kindness, you’ll know it’s because you reminded me.


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I decided it was a distraction. Maybe I am wrong, though. It’s so hard for me to tell. I should have a vote on the site or something – to keep the mailbag section or not. Maybe I should put it back. Isn’t there someone here in the comments who said I overthink everything? This is one of those things…


      • KellyC
        KellyC says:

        A distraction for you or your readers? Your wording is unclear. If you find it distracting, and it keeps you from getting your work done, get rid of it.

        But I enjoy it and think it adds to the blog rather than distracts from it. I’m going to guess most of your readers will agree.

      • Lynne
        Lynne says:

        Another vote to keep the mailbag. I loved it. It was also a chance for those of us who currently can’t afford the coaching fees (even though I’d love to and am sure it’s worth every penny) to have a chance to get a little bit of advice/coaching from you.

      • mh
        mh says:

        Penelope, I am begging you.

        Round up all your INTJs and let them take turns responding to your mailbag.

        When all the respoonses go:

        1) Lighten up
        2) You’re not that special
        3) If it really mattered, you would do more of it

        You’ll know it’s an INTJ Day.

        That’s me, being helpful.

    • Lucy Chen
      Lucy Chen says:

      Jamie, you’re a nice guy and you seem to really care.

      Penelope, I’d love to read that you’ve stopped drinking in the morning, too. You’re great, and you’ve always been do and will continue to be so. You just really need to stop over-thinking something and get yourself stressed out.

  11. IV
    IV says:

    Thanks – I had no idea I was an emotional voyeur.

    I can’t stop reading your emails, even though I probably should. You are one of my guilty pleasures, it turns out.

    I also look at People magazine in Dr.’s office, but I’m too embarrassed to actually get a subscription. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in this affliction.

    I think people are attracted to your insight and naked humanity. We are all just trying to make it and one or two events away from being our knees.

    Please get help for the drinking, tho. It took more than I care to think about to break that cycle in my family and pretty much destroyed us.

    And I know people don’t like to hear it, but Jesus is real and can save even you. Jer 29:11

  12. Cynthia Lindeman
    Cynthia Lindeman says:

    Hey Penelope, this is my first comment here but I’ve been reading you for a few months. I consider myself pretty damn good at breakdowns, both big and little. But I tend to get stuck on step 3. That’s why I started baking and giving the food away. Made me feel less alone and full of my own little breakdowns.

    Anyhow, you have so much guts lady! Please continue to be yourself (even if it’s the un-blurry, edited version most of the time). The world needs more people being + bringing their whole selves.

    Cynthia Lindeman

  13. Ellen Pitts
    Ellen Pitts says:

    I recently realized that every time I see a girlfriend of mine who is also an ENTJ but doesn’t have any kids, I get really negative. And i realized that this attitude was nothing more than fear and envy. i have made it a mission to get over the fear and envy. And, Penelope, you have to get over it, too. We all wake up every day and make a choice: happiness or something else…anger, fear, discontentment, envy. We are what we repeatedly do. Choose happiness. I know that sounds easier said than done. I struggle with it. But I think it’s is possible to achieve it at least most of the time.

  14. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    Penelope, I would bet that very few people are reading your blog for the career advice. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You are an interesting person. Reading your posts is watching someone’s life story unfold, the good and the bad and the ugly and the way we try to make it all mean something. You’ve said that when you were younger you did your masters in creative writing and wanted to be a writer and then decided you didn’t have the personality for the writer’s life. But darling, you are a writer. I don’t compare your blog to Ramit Sethi. For me you’re more akin to David Sedaris or Jeannette Walls, only in real time.

    Now all that being said, I have one other thought: you don’t need to have breakdowns and be dysfunctional to be interesting. The juxtaposition of photo and random sex caller with confessions of day drinking and laments about the yoga wife illustrate that you’re away that dysfunction to a point can be sexy and magnetic. It’s a motif you return to again and again. It’s fine for now but when the day comes that you’re ready to move away from it, I assure you your readers will be ready too.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi Samantha. Thank you for the good advice. It’s very hard to see ourselves, right? I think it’s not just me. I think we all are not quite sure how we look to other people. Your view of me makes me happy – and I wonder what posts would look like if my life felt really calm.


      • Dannielle Blumenthal
        Dannielle Blumenthal says:

        Hi Penelope,

        I agree with Samantha. You’re really a writer. You don’t need to have the breakdowns to make the blog work. I am worried that one day you will wind up dead. Like in that movie with Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts where the medical students try to cross over to the other side, and then come back, and it’s a dangerous game to play.

        Do you want to leave your sons orphans?

        You really have no competition. Why are you competing? You’re naturally good at starting companies. You obviously loe your kids to death. You have a husband who loves you.

        Do you feel guilty if you’re not working all the time? Stop punishing yourself.

        Happy wife, happy life. Relax and enjoy your success.


    • D.S.
      D.S. says:

      I would like to add that Ramit is not really a writer, he is more of a psychologist / abruptly honest guy who happens to write. I follow him AND you. Because you each give something different.

  15. Kerri
    Kerri says:

    Penelope, this is a great post. You are great. I love your commitment to integrity with the homeschooling; it is so lame that other people criticize the system but keep their kids enrolled for the childcare.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the pressure to parent well that you write about (and that I am very familiar with) is something the non-parents will never understand and it’s silly for non-parents to write that they get it when clearly they don’t.

    Lastly, it’s systemic sexism that allows men to have ‘easier’ lives if they are not looking after their children or they don’t have any children. I am so glad you write honestly about this. You are not crazy.

    • Susan Lundin
      Susan Lundin says:

      I agree with Kerri, Penelope, you are great! I adore your insight, transparency, integrity, and humor.
      After discovering you, I felt convicted (a good thing) and apologized to my grown daughters for the public education they endured. Homeschooling was a missed opportunity they’ll hold against me forever, but I’m hoping the commitment they have to homeschooling their children will help heal their own hurts.
      Btw, your delivery is impeccable and refreshing. I wish more people would appreciate your comedic timing. Thanks for making so many of us feel validated and sane.

  16. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hi, Penelope! I agree with Marie-INFP. Please do the Mailbag.

    “My fear is that I am the one living with my kids and I’m competing with men who left their kids behind with their mothers.” The fathers are the ones losing out here, not you. Sure, they might have more money and more free time, but they are not with their children most of the time. You live with your children and even homeschool them. As a result, most of us who read your blog have become richer because of your experience.

    Good call about not going to the grocery store.

    • Annie
      Annie says:

      So true. Must be hard as an ENTJ to see the riches you have, with the choices you’ve made to homeschool and remain in your children’s lives. But you’re doing so amazingly well Penelope. I’d say that I’m not sure if this is true, because you never know what people’s lives are really like… but you’re so transparent, I think it’s a safe assertion.

      I love your blog, it’s my favorite. You’re the reason I just pulled my 5-yr-old from kindergarten, and why we’re making plans to do the same with my special needs 8 year old. You and your blog have changed my family’s life.

  17. Mary
    Mary says:

    The way you compete with people who don’t have or raise kids and therefore have zero emotional investment in the development and growth of another human being is by using all the amazing things you’ve learned by being a parent.

    No childless person can compete with that.

    Why don’t you make a list of that: 100 things you learn from having and raising kids that childless people can only read (or dream) about.

    And then don’t forget the next list: 100 things childless people try to use against you as a parent.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      you are kidding, right? Not all childless people are childless by choice – some never met the right partner, some took care of parents during their formative years, some are gay, some cannot have kids for medical reasons. That does not make them worse human beings – they just have a different life and it also does not mean they care less about other human beings. Many of the social assumptions which make it easier for men to succeed in their careers do not distinguish between single or married women – they only select for gender.

  18. Alicia
    Alicia says:

    You describe thing Remit’s blogs reference. It’s not a comparison because the perspectives are different. Do you, Penelope!

  19. Barbara Angele
    Barbara Angele says:

    This is a WOW!!! My fave post of yours so far. I just love rants like this because they are soooo true and I thought I was the only one that did this. My friends think I am nuts but yes I go all negative blaming everyone and everything no matter how irrational in order to get myself out of it.

    They tell me I am too extreme. Now I can refer them to this post. Thanks Penelope!!!!!!!!

  20. Kirk
    Kirk says:

    I value all of you, even the breakdown part. Why? Cuz I now have the vision of you yelling at your kids while giving a webinar.

    I love it! Thanks.

  21. Katybeth Jensen
    Katybeth Jensen says:

    Good point about homeschooling. Not sure of the answer tho. I chose Waldorf Education. It’s worked for us for 15 years. Not perfect, but better than good enough. How does the Pioneer Women, do it? JK!!
    If it’s any consolation my kid put an e-mail together to send you and ask a few questions…and that doesn’t scare me. You can even yell at him if you want too.
    Ramit bores me. It’s like one long informercial. Maybe it’s an age thing. However, I did click over a long time ago to his site because of you.
    I look for James in my in-box and he seems to show up at the right time. I met him because of you too.
    The only person I’ve spent money with is you, tho.
    I’m reading Gary Vaynerchuk and while he is not a primary care giver he does have kids. I like him.
    Go ahead and whine but don’t have sex with the neighbor. This too shall pass and you’ll care on.

    If A-ron ^ is right…I applaud your creativity and team work :-D.

  22. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    Yesterday there was an article in the NY Times about successful women on Wall Street and how they do it. They have stay-at-home husbands.
    That must have been pretty funny when you yelled at the kids while the webinar was open. Oy.
    Well I thought it was funny anyway.

      • John
        John says:

        It astounds me how relentlessly vicious women are to other women. The “yoga wife” comments — you should all be ashamed. You demonstrate zero character. The fact that you are aping Penelope in her moment of weakness does not make you loyal, does not make you part of a sisterhood — it makes you desperately pathetic.


  23. Tony
    Tony says:

    I enjoy reading James A’s blog so I say this as a fan of his as well. James is a pitchman. The ideas he pitches are good and at very least worth considering, but after reading some of his ideas I am often left wondering how I might get burned if I follow his advice. With your blog I appreciate the fact that you are very upfront the challenges of doing the things you are advocating. I have kids as well and my priorities are a bit more than trying to start a VC backed company. The preachers of Silicon Valley don’t seem to account for that very well.

  24. Ann R
    Ann R says:

    Those of us who are trying to balance our careers while being caretakers of others NEED you to be our torchbearer. You give great insight that no one else can give.

    And while you were trying to stop your boys from arguing while on the seminar, I was trying to get mine to do the same so I could watch it! :-D It’s nice to have you as a mentor for those of us just starting out. We can relate to you.

  25. Clinton Fleenor
    Clinton Fleenor says:

    Although counterintuitive, IMO those willing to expose their weaknesses appear to be strong…which means step 5 will end up being easier than the others.

  26. Alison
    Alison says:

    There’s not a finite amount of awesomeness to be had in this world–it’s not a zero-sum competition. You can be awesome while they are being awesome.

    Ramit and James are great, but they’re also placing all their identity chips in a very narrow space. Part of your excellence, Penelope, is that you’ve constantly moving your identity chips across a network of different places, which means you can cross-pollinate ideas in a way that they simply can’t. You circulate ideas–you’re a circulator. Trust those that those rhythms of moving across identities just fluxes your experiences compared to the steady, narrow-focused men. You have higher path-breaking highs than they do, and you have seasons of lower productivity. It just makes you a different kind of awesome.

    I think you really need to both read and watch some Brene Brown. I can’t remember where, but she talks about how people sometimes use shock as a way to draw a connection (herself included), and how we might draw connection in other more sustainable, reliable ways. 3 million plus hits on this one video alone: she’s really got a handle on shame and resilience and excellence.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, I love this comment, and I love Brene Brown, and I love the idea of seasonal productivity and idea shifting. You make me think about what I’m doing differently.

      I think we are all scared to shift our identity – it’s so uncomfortable every time. I have to keep reminding myself that the rewards are really good if I can be brave enough to take a meandering path rather than a narrow path. It’s just that people on narrow paths always look so stable and so driven.


  27. Jody
    Jody says:

    Is having children the only way a person can have an “emotional investment in the development and growth of another human being”?

  28. christina
    christina says:

    Dude, don’t you know that guys like Ramit secretly wish that he was married and had kids to yell at?

    You have two beautiful, bright boys. You are married (again). You are healthy. You have a blog. If that investor said your video quality sucked, make it better. But you have so much to be thankful for. Stop the crazies. And stop promoting other people on this site. We come here to read about you. We don’t care about Ramit (I stopped reading him years ago even though I knew about him since his “I hate” blog days.). We don’t care about Tim Ferris (please take his ugly face off the front of your site under “Most Popular Posts”). We don’t identify with these men.

    Those two guys will NEVER have what you have and THEY KNOW IT.

    Penelope, you’re very, very, very smart. You know this. Please bring back the smart and hold down the crazy.

  29. Rachel R
    Rachel R says:

    What a great post! I love the questions about competing with people who don’t have kids (of course people looking after disabled siblings, ageing parents, etc. must share this fear). I love the rant about the yoga wife. The story about the phone call is inspired! So is the bit about the investors. Seriously, wine in the morning is probably not the best thing. But what a brilliant, funny and touching piece of writing. Your blog is great. I don’t read it for career advice–reading it is part of what convinced me to give up my career and stay home with kids– but I do read it to feel like I have my finger on the pulse of new thinking. And it’s really entertaining and moving and very, very human. Thank you!

  30. Kate
    Kate says:

    I read you *because* you’re screaming at the kids off camera. Because you wake up to needy kids, not yoga with your partner. Because you’re not a man who left his kids behind with his ex.

    These things, plus your great content.

  31. karelys
    karelys says:

    I can’t get behind the idea of thin legs. But whatever, to each their own.
    I did laugh when you described Ramit being someone who preaches about facing fears and he has no family/kids. And then James doesn’t live with her kids and married someone else.

    I laughed because when I feel that their advice makes me feel small and pressured and like I don’t have what it takes to make it better….well then I realize that none of their advice applies to me.

    I certainly avoid drinking as means of calming myself down. But I don’t get why it’s such a big deal to drink in the morning. However, I am forever interesting in how you make things work with two kids. At home.

    That I am interested in doing.

    Because it applies to me.

    (ps. I don’t care if I am dirt poor forever I am never leaving my husband and I won’t ever think it would’ve been better if I married to a rich dude.)

  32. karelys
    karelys says:


    I think you’re relevant because this is such a hot topic as women become much more high earners and better educated by the minute. It’s still much more the women’s thing to care for the children.

    It’s gotta be hard for the good men out there to adjust to the changes too though. This blog deals with a family where the man does his thing that he’s been doing for so long and is very successful at (my impression is that since you came into the Farmer’s life things took a sharp turn for good for him). The woman is driven and wants to do more than cupcakes but that doesn’t mean she’s willing to sacrifice her children’s well being.

    This type of thing is hardly going to go into obscurity any time soon.

    So you’re in the right path. Just are really charting new courses. You don’t have a stay at home husband and you’re not making a “meh” career. You’re not doing a lifestyle business either. So really, you’re right a the sweet spot of being ahead of the curve but not too ahead because that’s what a lot of us want to figure out. (Essentially what you said about spotting trends).

  33. Ami
    Ami says:

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Just wanted to say that I absolutely relate to so much of this post. I’m currently doing a start-up while raising an 8-year-old…making it work, but you are so spot-on that it’s…a drastically different experience than the work life I had in my twenties (which I also mostly spent at start-ups.) I was never conflicted in my twenties. I am so conflicted now. It’s enough to give anyone a breakdown.

    Keep writing!

  34. skye
    skye says:

    My favorite part of this post is your sarcastic remark about how you can “already feel the money coming in,” since you drink so much alcohol. Never read James Altucher before you linked to him today, but to me the difference is that he makes fun of himself less guardedly, and he gets really good and sappy sometimes. That combo = addictive reading.

  35. Brent
    Brent says:

    Two things:

    1 – I love this. Your authenticity and fears are so relatable. You are real and don’t shy away from it. That’s part of your brand and the reason for your success. I have so many of the same issues hating myself–or others–for their success relative to my own. But they are lacking in so many areas that are so much more important when I really look at it.

    2 – Know your audience. Who do you think is reading your blog regularly? Do you really know? How many of us are also reading your homeschool blog? Here’s a guess: We’re Gen X’ers, married with kids, balancing career and family, really concerned about our kids futures…maybe even (like me) have a kid on the spectrum. We just want to matter to our families, to ourselves, to the world (see #1).

    Give yourself permission for the occasional breakdown. (I can relate). Just keep writing about it when you do.

    God bless.

  36. Gary
    Gary says:

    Sheesh, P, keep your eye on the ball. You’re paying attention to clutter! Remember the 1% rule!!

    Have a nice day, ☯

  37. Alina Anderson
    Alina Anderson says:

    This post is perfect timing! Yesterday I decided it was time to stop making excuses for not starting. I purchased the “Learn How to Write About Your Life” course.

    Yes, the video quality is terrible. Yes, it was a recycled webinar. Yes, it was unpolished.

    It was exactly what I needed to hear and makes me want to learn more.

    Thank you Penelope and Melissa.

  38. Lucy Chen
    Lucy Chen says:

    Penelope, I like as you are. Of course I figure that you’d be terrible to live with (just like I am), but I don’t live with you ;)
    And yes, the video quality is terrible and the audio quality isn’t great either. But you know what? I’m saving for another course of yours – though I’d love it if you can improve the audio.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Here is a good story about the audio. My friend who is a big tech startup guy in San Francisco told me he knows the exact right person to help me improve the video.

      So I called her and she had great ideas, but a lot of it involved creating a studio in my house. And she said she can’t come to my house because she has a nine-year-old boy at home and she can’t leave him.

      So I said, “Bring him! It’ll be a farm party! It’ll be a family vacation with a video studio on the side. Pigs! Goats! Cows! Snow!” So she’s coming. Kid in tow. And I’m happy to be getting higher quality video soon!


  39. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    The photo is sweet . Your son (I’m assuming) looks happy and energetic. I wonder if there is a correlation between happy child and tired, stressed parent.

  40. NCS
    NCS says:

    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”

    Who gives a shit about Ramit and James. I’ve never heard of them. I’m a married, mom, with kids, who is trying raise 3 little human beings to make a difference in this world. Your homeschooling blog has been a lifeline to me when, 4 months ago, I began homeschooling because my kids were being suffocated in the public school environment.

    Until your blog, I thought I was going to have to give up everything for homeschooling, you’ve shown me everything is just now becoming available, to me and my kids.

  41. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    “….my biggest fear is that I can’t keep up with people like Ramit who have no responsibility in their life except to grow their business. What about that fear? The fear of competing with people who don’t have kids.”

    I subscribe to Ramit, I never open it. I always look for, and read, your new posts as soon as they appear.

    You are you. I love reading your stuff.

    I’ve been trying to scrape up the money for one of your classes during this holiday (spending) season (as a single mom, business owner, with an ex who has pretended to be unemployed for 5 years while living in a gorgeous, expensive loft downtown with his new wife and no kids. Tell me an educated, charming, formerly successful white man in America cannot find some type of work….please…..) because I KNOW I would get a lot out of it. I just know it. I don’t consider anybody else’s online classes at the moment because it’s all too much noise. I have to narrow my focus. You are part of that.

    There is room for everyone. You have a unique voice and I love it. You may think you are competing with those other guys, but they have their niche too. Nobody attracts everyone. Each has their own voice.

  42. christine
    christine says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I know what you’re saying. So I check out your blog today and you’re saying it. I’m just happy you’re out there saying things one is not supposed to say. You make me laugh, free and never want to give up. Thanks!

  43. Camille
    Camille says:

    Another brilliant piece of writing – crafty, clever, truthful and hilarious.

    Every subject always sidled up to rather than head on, surprises at every turn, and with the true craftsmanship of a master comedian.

    I LOVE your writing. The sheer audacity of it. Thank you !

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Camille, today is my birthday. And your comment is the present that makes the whole day special :)


      • Tracy
        Tracy says:

        Happy birthday P… hey wait, this breakdown isn’t all just about getting older is it? Who cares, love to indulge in some vicarious ranting!

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