One of my favorite twitter feeds is GSElevator. It’s stuff people overhear in the Goldman Sachs elevator, and most of it features bad behavior that confirms it was better for me to marry a farmer than the bankers I dated before him. But sometimes there is a gem like this one:  “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence because it’s fertilized with bullshit.”

That is how I feel about women watching other women run their lives.

I am constantly wondering about other peoples’ lives. I’m fascinated by how we don’t tell each other what sucks about our life. We don’t tell our partners why we hate ourselves. We don’t tell our friends why our marriage or our job sucks.

Mostly, I have to get this information from the National Enquirer, which is one of the only places that people are honest about their lives. Not out of choice, of course. But because the honesty is worth so much money. It’s not worth money to anyone if you tell the truth. It’s worth a lot to you, of course—it’s very freeing to be honest about everything. Believe me, the criticism I got for staying with my husband after he bruised me in a fight was a small price to pay for coming clean about our problems at the time.

So here are some things I know: Giselle says she earns millions of dollars a year (posing for photos like the one up top to promote breastfeeding) but she doesn’t spend any of her earnings on her household. Instead, her husband,Tom Brady, pays for everything because Giselle wants to feel taken care of.

I get it. And I like that she admits that. Most women want to be taken care of. It’s just not possible. I want to be taken care of. Sure, I’d still do this blog and I’d still do interesting things. But I’d like having money pouring in from a source that is not me. It’s the ultimate career luxury, right?

Here’s another thing I read in the Enquirer: Jennifer Lawrence said she is getting ready to stop doing movies so she can have kids. She said she’s much more interested in having a family than a career. This is, of course, a luxury she can have because she had a career early. She’s 23 years old and she already won an Oscar.

And she’s not an aberration in Hollywood. Mila Kunis said she’d rather have a great marriage and a couple of kids than make a movie. I love how she poses it as a dichotomy. Because she’s just being honest: You can’t have a great marriage and be a great parent and have a huge career.

You know that. It’s just very few people will come out and say that to you.

Some people will tell you that such an admission is a throwback to the 1950s and it’s discouraging. That’s true.

Except for one thing: divorce law protects women today. In the 1950s, if you allowed a guy to take care of you, if you put your career aside for kids, then there was no protection for you. So women went nuts – fighting for rights, fighting for jobs, fighting for an equal right to a piece of the pie. But now women are guaranteed money to raise the kids, whether the guy stays or not.

So now that we have laws that protect kids, why do we need to choose a job over family? We can get a divorce settlement that ensures we have money. Okay, so it’s not a ton of money, but if you didn’t want to work when you were married, you probably don’t want to work when you’re single with kids, and divorce law ensures that you can pay for your kids while you’re single. (And now, for the best link ever on this topic:  YungSnuggie’s comment about women being assured money for raising the kids. Scroll down the page – his comment is yellow.)

I know, there are exceptions. But most women want to cut back work to be home with kids. And most women want to put family before career. But very few women are brave enough to say that out loud.

Maybe the biggest problem in this scenario is that while cutting back work to spend time with kids presupposes you have a career you like. Which is pretty hard to pull together by your late 20s, when it’s time to start having kids. The pressure on women to have a big career before kids is extreme and something men do not experience. Most women want to have kids when they are 30, most women want to have a career when they are 30, and if they don’t have a career, they don’t have one to cut back on.

Which means there are a lot of women who simply don’t want to work. They have either proven themselves at work, or they didn’t find work they love. In either case, work is not important enough pull to them to leave the kids in daycare.

Let’s stop taking pot shots at women who don’t want to work. Let’s start respecting people who get an advanced degree and then don’t use it.

Do we ask people to commit to staying home eight hours a day with kids to justify having a family? Then why do we want people to work eight hours outside the home in order to justify getting a good education?

What I would like is for all the women to come out of the woodwork and start speaking like they are in the National Enquirer. I want the women who are breadwinners to confess if they wish they weren’t. Because every anonymous study in the world shows the vast majority  don’t want to be breadwinners.

And I want the women who love being breadwinners to tell everyone some statistics:

Number of nannies.

Total cost per year for childcare.

Number of dinners per week with the kids.

Number of children’s books you have memorized from reading aloud to kids so often.

So I will lead the way. When I had a startup and two young kids in 2009 I had two full-time nannies that cost a total of $110K a year. Anyone needs that if they have a job where they travel and they have a spouse who does not want to be at their beck and call.

I ate four times a week with my kids.

I memorized about 50 children’s books. Which you might think shows that I was snuggled on the sofa reading with my kids all the time, but it really shows how easy it is to give misleading statistics.

240 replies
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  1. ps
    ps says:

    I have a fairly high powered job in academia by most standards, but I made a lot of changes in my early 30s and found a career path that I loved. This makes it easier to do without feeling pulled when the kids came. I could have been in more high powered job (i.e. flashier, big name institution) or one that paid more, but I suspect it would have taken it’s toll when the kids came.

    Both my husband and I work, neither of us have jobs that require much travel, my son is in preschool and home with a babysitter from 2:30-5. Each of us work from home one day a week, and the other days one of us is home by 4:30. We have 7 family dinners a week, I pack all lunches for us and we eat breakfast at home. I don’t clean – we have a cleaning lady once a week. Next year when I have another baby we will probably spend $25K on a nanny. I volunteer at my sons school for a couple of hours every couple of weeks. I read him books every night.

    A lot of this ease is possible because we have chosen to live in a small town and focused on jobs we love and pay us decently, if not a lot.

    I love my son, but I have no interest in staying home. I like doing something I enjoy and getting paid for it. And I love paying my babysitter who wants to think up games to play with my son. I think that working or not-working is a false dichotomy. It’s about figuring out who you and what kind of job (or not) you want. It’s not easy to configure a situation you love and you have to make sacrifice’s, but it’s possible.

  2. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:

    Penelope,

    This post reads like bullshit to me. It is disrespectful both to women who stay at home and those who work outside the home. And it is disrespectful to men, too. Aren’t we past all this?

    Dannielle

  3. Susannah
    Susannah says:

    I have a high powered job and so does my husband. I love working and I love my family too. They are fulfilling in different ways.

    I enjoy reading your blogs, you are funny and eloquent. But it is sad that you push such an old fashioned agenda.

    I don’t want what you advocate for my daughter, any more than my mother wanted that for me. Women should feel equally entitled as men to aspire to have interesting careers and happy families.

    • Career Bliss
      Career Bliss says:

      Susannah, I agree with you. Women should feel equally entitled as men to aspire to have interesting careers and happy families. Women should also feel equally entitled to stay home and raise a family and understand that this is just as valuable a choice as one involving a career. The principle of family doesn’t need to play second fiddle to the principle of career.

  4. Shandra
    Shandra says:

    Number of nannies: 0, although we did have one until my youngest was old enough for Montessori.

    Total cost per year for childcare: $20k Montessori, $3k other afterschool (abacus math, martial arts)

    Number of dinners per week with the kids: 4-5; I will note we solved this by having a family breakfast before 7 am.

    Number of children’s books you have memorized from reading aloud to kids so often: I don’t know, but I read to my kids 5 nights a week. Often then I go back to working, but I’m there for bedtime.

    Career level: Midlevel, same with my husband so we make more but not terribly more than your two nannies.

  5. AJ
    AJ says:

    This was very insightful. I’d just like to add the career/kids juggling act gets harder the more kids you have. Raising one child with two midlevel careers is doable in most places. You can even raise two, although cost of living plays a larger part and you both need to have career specialties that are wanted in many markets. For three or more, someone has to stay at home while the other person makes something approaching six figures or more.

    I have a J.D., but plan to do mediation and legal consulting because Big Law is shrinking and the price of making partner is way too high for me. Meanwhile, the market for lower priced, a la carte legal services is growing significantly. My husband works in computer engineering & software development. We plan to have just two kids and I know we can make it work, especially since both of us will likely have jobs that allow us to work from home when needed.

  6. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Penelope, I work part time and as needed for our family e-tailing home-based business. Of course I would rather not work at all because it’s impossible to both work and run household/care for kids well and it’s also been bad for my health.

    Husband grew up in a country where all the women worked and it has felt like he’s had that expectation of me. Also when we left our previous (low paying, high stress) professions, he really needed my help launching the company. Now he’s more confident and is launching a new company without me. Yay!

    Money spent on child care or private school until recently – $2000/month (half paid by grandparent)
    Dinners at home – 7 per week without fail. We work at home. We are introverts and we spend a LOT of time together.

    For 9 years older child went to private school for gifted which we loved but it did run my life – it was like having a part time job, just keeping up with everything, and my son almost never had homework so I’m not even talking about that. Now, younger son is being homeschooled and older son gets himself off to public school. Life is easier. We have money now to get a new roof and to get a dental implant and such things. We do miss the wonderful social network at school….so we have to initiate that more now.

    Thanks for informing people it takes 150k+ for middle class life now. I would say 200k for anyone wanting to save for retirement, anyone needing medical care, and anyone who likes to travel someplace other than the inlaws’ home, and I live in a place with lower cost of living.

  7. Tamara
    Tamara says:

    I had to pause and think about your comments. I love making my own money but I also love that my husband makes more than I do. If I ever decided to quit my job he could definitely take care of our family no problem. But being a stay at home mom would be blah. I envy SAHM’s complete satisfaction with being home–their selflessness and complete devotion to their kids. Does it make me a bad mom for wanting success outside the home? I spent thousands on an MBA and I love running my business and the creativity and challenge it provides. I would never be completely happy without a level of success outside of the home. I get to create jobs, solve problems and launch new ideas and revenue streams. I delegate what I do not enjoy, house cleaning and laundry. So there you are.

    • Career Bliss
      Career Bliss says:

      No, Tamara, it absolutely doesn’t make you a bad mom for wanting success outside the home. It also doesn’t make a SAHM a bad woman for wanting to stay at home full time with the kids.

  8. Inge
    Inge says:

    This is a really interesting discussion. Personally, I am single, childfree by choice and that is the way I want to live my life. If I do couple up, it would be living apart. Therefore, I have to be my own breadwinner and arrange things for old age myself, which I’m happy to do.

    The way I am doing it now – working 36 hours a week for a company in exchange for money and a pension plan, so I can do what I want after work hours and retirement – doesn’t feel like the way I want to live. I’m an INTJ and would be perfectly content staying at home, learning and thinking. That is not to say I do not want to contribute to society, the point is that I want to do it my way. The reason I am working for a company now is that I am risk averse and they take care of things that give me peace of mind, even though I don’t like being stuck in the office for many waking hours. It’s a conscious choice. To be clear: my work is meaningful and challenging, but I am not passionate about it.

    So I guess I’m saying my comment is similar to Rachel Gray’s: I don’t want to be supported by someone else, I do want to contribute to society by doing useful work for the benefit of us all, but I am not happy doing it by means of working in corporate nation / selling my time until the end of my days mainly to the benefit of my bosses and relative peace of mind.

    I’ll find my way, but in the mean time I’m in the office…

  9. Kathryn Sollmann
    Kathryn Sollmann says:

    Hi Penelope–great post. Honesty is important when it comes to work+life issues, but so is realism. What’s missing from the whole lean in/lean out debate is the fact that most women (even those who live today in affluent communities and feel very comfortable) need to pursue some kind of work, to continue generating even a small income–to ensure long-term financial security and the ability to fund all of life’s “you never knows”. So few people have enough money saved for a retirement that could last 30 years or more–and even a small part-time income saved and invested well for several decades can make a huge impact on future security (financial advisors tell me women forget the basic “power of compounding”). Being a good parent is not measured in the number of dinners you have together or the number of books that you memorize. “Being there” for your children is a concept that transcends 24/7 physical presence. (I do judge women who contend that 100% at home parenting is essential for your child’s life success–how damning is that for the majority of women who MUST work to put food on the table? Just can’t be true that all their children are drug addicts and thieves.) Women worry about shortchanging their children today by working, but how about being a huge financial and emotional burden for those same children if you run out of money in old age? For more than a decade I have worked with thousands of mid to senior-level women who want to get back in the workforce after a long, self-imposed hiatus–because now they want more self-fulfillment and stimulation or because of a husband’s job loss, catastrophic illness, elder parents who need financial assistance–the “you never knows” go on and on. Even the most uber, “marge in charge” Moms who told me they would never, ever work again…are working. My message (that I deliver in my 9 Lives for Women blog) is lean in the direction of financial security! If you’re in the lucky 1% and your long-term financial security is sealed vacuum tight, you have full license to drop the word “work” from your vocabulary. If not, realize that “work” has many definitions (beyond the traditional 60 hour a week corporate job), and consider my blog tagline, “Find the Work that Fits Your Life”!

  10. Bogdan Elenecejlc
    Bogdan Elenecejlc says:

    If women want to be taken care of and want to be able to say it out loud, ok. They should be able to.
    But they should be able to stomach and accept when men say:

    “I don’t want to work. I want to be financially taken care of so I can live a satisfying life doing only what I find interesting and rewarding.”

  11. Robert
    Robert says:

    The corollary to that is that if the woman doesn’t want to be the breadwinner, she should be willing to make a home that the man breadwinner is happy to come home to and continue to support. That is getting rarer and rarer for men to find (society is telling the woman she is being oppressed). Which may be why more and more men are opting out of marriage altogether. Or opting for foreign brides who have not had decades of “empowerment” drummed into their heads.

    For most men in the 21st century in America, marriage is a suckers bet.

  12. Maria
    Maria says:

    P wrote: “I am constantly wondering about other peoples’ lives. I’m fascinated by how we don’t tell each other what sucks about our life. We don’t tell our partners why we hate ourselves. We don’t tell our friends why our marriage or our job sucks.”

    Girl…who are your friends and where are you living? (I know, I know…) because I tell my friends/ family what sucks about my life. We talk about it. I tell my partner why I hate myself. We talk about it. I tell my friends if my job or marriage sucks. We talk about it.

    I thought everyone did talk about these things with their close friends/family?

  13. olivia
    olivia says:

    Today is my son’s third day at daycare. For the first five months of his life, I took care of him exclusively, which was exhausting. Then he had a nanny, and now (at nearly a year old) he’s getting the benefit of spending most of his day observing and playing with other kids. While he’s there, I’m working on finishing a PhD, which I probably won’t ever use. I can do this—pay for daycare and afford to live on a student stipend—because my husband earns six figures. He’s great at what he does, but he has to travel a lot and work long hours. It’s not so bad. He works from home a lot. I spend two or three hours a day proofreading things for him, rewriting important emails or documents, critiquing his ideas, bringing to his attention resources (books, ideas, articles, research) that he repurposes in his work. Over the past few years, he’s become a much better writer and thinker, and I’ve become adept at editing his documents without eliding his voice. He says that he’d never be as successful without me, and that’s not a compliment. It’s dead fucking true.
    I love what I do. I get to read interesting things all day, experiment with those ideas in the real world, spend as much time with my son as I want, and my schedule is incredibly flexible. The only problem is that the skills I’ve cultivated are not valued outside of my marriage, and as my husband’s success continues to grow, he might decide he wants to be with someone who brings in as much money as he does or whose boobs haven’t been sucked out by a bunch of babies. (Even I am ambivalent about what’s worth more in a marriage: great boobs or a great editor). I guess I can buy better ones, if the time comes. Anyway, my point is: for many centuries, smart women provided intellectual support that made their husbands’ careers possible. Their education—formal or informal—didn’t go unused just because their names weren’t on the paychecks. Maybe as more people transition from working in offices to working at home, we’ll start to talk about this kind of contribution in a way that makes it possible to parlay into a post-kids career. But fancy boobs, alimony, and an expansive brain wouldn’t be so bad either.

  14. NewEnglander
    NewEnglander says:

    Enjoy reading your posts Penelope, you often strike at the heart of what most are dealing with but are afraid to say. There’s a book that was profiled recently in an interesting post on the NYT Motherlode column addressing Millenials struggles: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/08/millennials-want-children-but-theyre-not-planning-on-them/.

    Wonder if this sentiment stems from watching Gen Xers struggle with having a successful career + marriage + family and knowing it all can’t happen at once (unless you’re the woman promoting breastfeeding in the photo). That said, there’s not one human being that isn’t silently struggling with a relationship/family issue, a health issue or a job/career issue, supermodels included.

  15. Nichole Clare
    Nichole Clare says:

    Thought provoking post regarding honestly about women and careers but what I really want to comment on however is your assertion that,

    ” But now women are guaranteed money to raise the kids, whether the guy stays or not.

    So now that we have laws that protect kids, why do we need to choose a job over family? We can get a divorce settlement that ensures we have money. Okay, so it’s not a ton of money, but if you didn’t want to work when you were married, you probably don’t want to work when you’re single with kids, and divorce law ensures that you can pay for your kids while you’re single. (And now, for the best link ever on this topic:

    As both a woman who has personal and professional experience with the financial realities of divorce the comments above do not reflect reality for most women who have chosen to be stay at home mothers or have lower earning part time jobs

    After being a working mother for two years after my daughter’s birth, I myself left a thriving career to be a stay at home mom. Ten years and three children later I was blindsided by a divorce.

    My tale is much like many of the women I work with as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst(TM). Yes, women are awarded property settlements and child support. Some even are awarded alimony for a period of years (often five). Unfortunately, unless a woman is divorcing in the top 1% of earners and there are more assets than debt she will have to go to work. Period.

    Women often remain primary caretakers, children have to adjust to change thereby needing more time and attention while they are expected to embark on a new career. Really? It’s hard enough to be a working mom in a two parent household; now you have to do it all solo? A new employer is not going to say take whatever time off you need for your kids. You’re new to the job and have to prove yourself. As a single parent you only have so much of yourself to spread around. It’s a terrible predicament especially if you don’t have family help and/or can’t afford to hire help.

    It’s not easy to find the kind of career oriented jobs that were available when you were fresh out of college. When you are 40 and have been at home for an extended period of time your not considered up to speed with the current workforce. Whether that is real or perceived It’s hard for employers to see your value resulting in entry level earnings. That’s why many women see their settlement money dwindle in a matter of years; incoming cash flow cant keep up with the outgo. There are NO real guarantees. It’s better than it was in the 50’s,but except for the very wealthy, being a single parent can be financially difficult unless you already have an established career.

    I have two daughters. I struggle with what to advise them. I’m an ENFJ and understand the struggle to decide whether to work or stay at home after having kids. Here is what I tell them:

    1. Who you marry matters.
    2. Get a skill or education that can translate into work.( No liberal arts degrees and I agree with Penelope don’t go to MBA school or Law school unless your company wants to pay for it.)
    3. Find a career that can be scaled back if you want to work part time.
    4. Always have an emergency savings account of your own.
    5. Did I say who you marry matters!!!!!

  16. sporty
    sporty says:

    I believe that women can do both career and taking care of family. They do not need to go outside of their own homes and have the nannies take care of their children. They can do both at home if the career they choose can be done online. Women are more attached to their loved ones that’s why they would rather choose taking care of their family rather than careers. There are still exceptions but the percentage is still big for family-oriented women.

  17. Tara
    Tara says:

    I totally admit I would rather be at home. And I’ve said so many times to my friends that if I could be “kept” it’d be even better. Hell yes I’d be happy to re-decorate the chalet in Gstaad, shop in St Moritz and lunch with the other ladies. (I work in Switzerland.) In fact, my reality is commuting/lost time, high gas costs, a cleaning lady, dinner out a lot, stressful work, late evenings… Oh, and total exhaustion.

    I make 7x my husband’s salary, so clearly it makes sense for me to be the breadwinner. But I drive almost an hour each way in heavy traffic so we can own a nice home and the kids can go to a good private school (that is a 5-min walk from the house).

    My husband also works, but only 35 hours (we live in France), and only 15 minutes from the house. He doesn’t have to work, and when the kids were smaller (they’re middle school/high school now) he was at home.

    I was the one who really pushed him hard to work again. I *hate* being the one who makes all the money. So as the kids are more independent now and he doesn’t need to be at home with them, I “made” him go back because I didn’t think it was fair. In any case he is earning ‘points’ for retirement and it keeps him active. He is not exactly the best housekeeper or cook.

    I tell my daughter all the time that she should aim high – get a great education, travel, be independent, do what she loves, etc. BUT marry wealthy, if she can find the right guy.

    I adore my husband, and we’ve been married 21 years. This works for us, but if I had to do it all over…

  18. Frank Kelly
    Frank Kelly says:

    Here were out statistics

    In 2009
    Location: Cambridge MA
    AGI: $227k ($170k from Husband, rest from Wife)

    After taxes and childcare my wife brought home $300 per month. After two years of that my wife quit – it just wasn’t worth it. And we were both in regular 9-5 jobs!

    Much happier now with Wife at home but now wife is going to work part time as a Special Ed advocate.

  19. Career Bliss
    Career Bliss says:

    Yes, definitely cheers for women who say they don’t want to work.
    I’m all for women working if they want to. I also believe we live in a predominately masculine culture (not male) where the feminine energy is not valued as much as the masculine energy.
    But I believe the culture is such that women who don’t work or women who are “barefoot and pregnant” are not valued as much as women who do work.
    I believe the system is set up that way, so kudos to any woman who say they don’t want to work. I see no problem with that. Not only do I not see a problem with it, I feel we need more of it.

  20. Eva Harris
    Eva Harris says:

    $110,000 for two nannies is outrageous, and idiotic.

    Where I live with a 6, 4 and 2 year, I pay $150.00 a week for childcare for a small family ran program. My oldest child is in full-day kindergarten and loves it. Because I have a flexible job, I can eat lunch at my oldest child’s school whenever I desire. We have dinner six nights a week!

    I have friends who work in corporate jobs, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and pay for a large corporate childcare center. The rate is $125.00 a week.

  21. bt
    bt says:

    I’m happy you are raising this conversation topic. There’s a similar taboo topic that I run into. My husband and I have chosen not to have kids.

    On a regular basis I take meetings with other women in my field (law) asking for advice on how they can build a more successful practice. The reality is, the responsiveness that I am able to provide to my clients is barely feasible with a supportive work-all-the-time (no guilt for me doing the same) husband and a housekeeper to help insure our home doesn’t fall apart. There is *NO* way I’d be as “good” at my job if I had kids to take care of.

    But, of course, if I state it that way, people will feel that I’m judging their choices to have children and/or how they choose to manage that task. So instead, when I have these conversations, I try to focus on examples like: take the time to be educated in your field — know more than anyone else in the room on current issues when you take a meeting, submit nothing less than excellent quality work product, be ridiculously responsive, be dedicated, etc — reasons my clients have repeatedly given me for why they use me instead of other service providers.

    Guess what? All of these examples are things that require flexibility and huge time commitments. They make it very hard to have a “work-life-balance” of any kind, much less one that allows for personal involvement in children’s day-to-day existences.

    When I look at how hard it is to manage the demands of my career, I can’t imagine how *anyone* (male or female) would do it with children *unless* they had lined up 24-7 help (professionals, life partners, grandparents, or someone) who understood that often *everything* will have to take second fiddle to the demands of clients.

  22. JustynaK
    JustynaK says:

    You are back to the good stuff, Penelope. A great post.

    There are many reasons why breadwinner women did not post their stats, as per your request. My first guess would be that breadwinner women do not have the time to be honest on your blog; they are not reading blog posts.

    When they are not working 70 hour weeks, messing up their circadian rhythms traveling across 3 different time zones in one 24 hour period, they are writing nanny cheques and reading bed time stories. Statistics are indeed misleading.

    “Do we ask people to commit to staying home eight hours a day with kids to justify having a family? Then why do we want people to work eight hours outside the home in order to justify getting a good education?” is a great question!

    My guess as to why people have a tough time with the answer is that people want other people to contribute, to be of service to society, to leave a legacy. A legacy can be children, or a great career, or both. But people expect others to contribute in some way to making the world better. So they don’t feel comfortable with the idea that someone gets an education, and then doesn’t pass it on to others – children or adults. People expect that the learned folks teach others, whether they be their children or their colleagues. But they teach and pass on what they know.

    This idea is not new. It “only” Drucker.

  23. raafi
    raafi says:

    I guess I’m considered the breadwinner (I make about $15K more than my husband). I don’t love or hate it – it doesn’t matter to me.

    I don’t know if my career counts as “big”, but my income (alone, not counting my husband’s) is in the top 90% of U.S. incomes.

    My answers to the questions:

    Total cost of childcare per year (1 school age, 1 in daycare): $20,000

    Dinners per week with kids: 2 weekday, 2 weekend

    Children’s books memorized: 0 (but I read a story to one of the kids at least 5 times a week)

    My husband and I go to work early (my husband at 5:30, me at 6:30) so we can be home more in the evening. We have a babysitter come over in the mornings for a couple hours. If I had a “normal” start time, I would see my kids for about 15 minutes during the week.

  24. ihargamobil.com
    ihargamobil.com says:

    Hi Penelope–great post. Honesty is important when it comes to work+life issues, but so is realism. What’s missing from the whole lean in/lean out debate is the fact that most women (even those who live today in affluent communities and feel very comfortable) need to pursue some kind of work, to continue generating even a small income–to ensure long-term financial security and the ability to fund all of life’s “you never knows”. So few people have enough money saved for a retirement that could last 30 years or more–and even a small part-time income saved and invested well for several decades can make a huge impact on future security (financial advisors tell me women forget the basic “power of compounding”). Being a good parent is not measured in the number of dinners you have together or the number of books that you memorize. “Being there” for your children is a concept that transcends 24/7 physical presence. (I do judge women who contend that 100% at home parenting is essential for your child’s life success–how damning is that for the majority of women who MUST work to put food on the table? Just can’t be true that all their children are drug addicts and thieves.) Women worry about shortchanging their children today by working, but how about being a huge financial and emotional burden for those same children if you run out of money in old age? For more than a decade I have worked with thousands of mid to senior-level women who want to get back in the workforce after a long, self-imposed hiatus–because now they want more self-fulfillment and stimulation or because of a husband’s job loss, catastrophic illness, elder parents who need financial assistance–the “you never knows” go on and on. Even the most uber, “marge in charge” Moms who told me they would never, ever work again…are working. My message (that I deliver in my 9 Lives for Women blog) is lean in the direction of financial security! If you’re in the lucky 1% and your long-term financial security is sealed vacuum tight, you have full license to drop the word “work” from your vocabulary. If not, realize that “work” has many definitions (beyond the traditional 60 hour a week corporate job), and consider my blog tagline, “Find the Work that Fits Your Life”!

  25. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I just want to say thank you to everyone for sharing their stories and advice. I have learned so much from this comment string – the honesty and insight from such a wide range of people is just lovely. A great resource. Thanks, everyone.

    Penelope

  26. Mel
    Mel says:

    PT, THANK YOU for the link and the YungSnuggie tip. I live in a city and work in an industry where I see what he’s talking about (with NBA players) ALL THE TIME.

    That was an entertaining read. On Reddit no less. Who knew.

  27. Dougles Lowe
    Dougles Lowe says:

    This is thinking of peoples. Some want to do work, some not. Some want to go outside for dinner lunch, want to spend money on things. But some want to stay at home. These things depend upon needs and situations.

  28. Denise M. Petersen
    Denise M. Petersen says:

    This is an amazing blog. I thought I was the only one I knew that actually admitted that I hate working. I am 56, have to get up at 5:00 a.m. everyday of the work week, be in to work by 7:00 a.m., and work 9 hours a day. I like my job; however, have lost countless hours of sleep having to get up that early, and contemplate retiring almost everyday. My husband is an early retiree, and has his own home-based business, and doesn’t know how envious I am of him. I carry my own health and dental insurances because it would be too expensive for him to put me on his. And yes, I have wished since my kids have been little, that someone, somewhere, would just take care of me for a change. Thank-you!!!

  29. The Corporate Sister
    The Corporate Sister says:

    Yes, it’s time for us to stop lying to ourselves! Most of us hate the rat race, the 9-to-5 makes us queasy, and we feel so guilty to not spend more time with our families we could puke! And there’s no amount of independence that could change that…Oh and that work-life balance, doesn’t exist either…Neither does the whole “lean in” thing really solve all our problems…Just sayin’..

  30. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I am the breadwinner and I don’t want to be, but my husband was unemployed for 2 years and now is trying to figure out what he wants to be. I want to have the choice to stay home with my daughter for at least part time. I am fighting for that choice now. On the plus side. The extra 2 years has helped my career advance to a point where I can have the freedom to choose. hopefully.

  31. Kelly Kelly
    Kelly Kelly says:

    I LOVED this! I just started blogging and one of my five posts… is called “the green grass”. That piece is very much related to what you just wrote. It’s part 1 and I’ve been scared to write part 2. This gave me a different perspective. Off I go to write…

  32. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I tend to appreciate women – and men – who get advanced degrees and then don’t use them. To me, it shows that they have the intellectual and disciplinary capacity to achieve great things, but they make a choice not to. Instead, they choose to live the lives that they actually want to. At least that’s the ideal.

    I would appreciate a little more honesty as well. To me, the whole system still seems a little crazy. I think in order for women to be really successful in the working world, they’ve had to (unconsciously or consciously) masculanize themselves. They’ve had to, to some degree, leave themselves behind.

    If we all followed a path of honest – a real, true, and deep honesty – perhaps we’d all be doing exactly what we want to be doing, and it would fit together perfectly.

  33. Vicky Downs
    Vicky Downs says:

    I love being a breadwinner I have two girls and I think it is important to show them that they have options, and how will they ever know that they can work and still have a family if no one around them is living that life?

    My husband and I agreed long before having kids that he was going to stay home with the kids when we had them. Which he did/does. We have a “traditional” marriage where the one staying at home does the cooking, cleaning, homework. When they were born we made around 50k. They are both in school now and we had 0 nannies and 0 chilcare costs. I eat dinner with them 5 nights a week, (the other two I am in school for my MBA)

  34. Melissa Gordon
    Melissa Gordon says:

    Thank you for this post. At 28, I am one of the few among my friends that has a thriving career I love, and a family, and the flexibility to make the parenting choices we desired (such as extended breastfeeding). None of this would be possible without nannies.

    We have had a M-F, full time nanny since my daughter was born. Never a live-in, but these wonderful women may as well have at times — they traveled with us for business and pleasure, were there for all of the milestone moments (often taking photos of me being a parent!), and I paid them well for it (yes, even offering health insurance!)! The fact that my spouse is in the Marine Corps withstanding, it would never be possible to “do it all” without this help. Help that costs us something to the tune of $40k a year.

    Well, maybe it would be “possible” but I would probably be enjoying a lot more therapeutic vodka.

    We are regular people that have made the decision that our careers and our child are both critical priorities. I work from home, so I get all kinds of extra negativity about my choice to employ a nanny. And, I don’t care. My real friends are honest – we are all trying really hard to figure out what’s best. And, most of the time, that’s the best there is.

  35. Hendo
    Hendo says:

    THANK YOU. Thank you, Penelope. I’m going to promote this. I am an overachiever who’s ‘dropped out’ and I haven’t even had kids yet – I just got tired of the pushing for the next step up the ladder. I moved back to where my extended family were (from city to country) 3 years ago as a single person, met my partner, dropped my income for a different industry.

    I already feel the need for a more flexible and calmer life. It doesn’t mean I want to think or create less, I just don’t need the stress.

    What I find most fascinating is that as you have noted… it’s not just a few of us… it’s most women. I have worked with a LOT of young overachieving women who have had amazing jobs by age 25. We’ve had the big career (young people were really encouraged in my old industry – I didn’t realise it was unusual until I changed industries where I’ve pretty much been screwed over because at 30 I’m still young, ha). And we’re over and out. I have had a number of quiet conversations with different friends about this. Some want to have kids, some have had kids, some aren’t fussed – doesn’t matter – we are all quietly adjusting our jobs, or moving back to the country, to get more time with the people we love or do other things or just relax a bit more.

    I want to change industries again to a more supportive environment where I can be developed and learn skills as a worker but not be driven into the ground in pursuit of endless stupid goals. I want to be judged by my results, not by being expected to work according to the clock all the time. (I realise I have the same problem I did in high school: I can finish all my work really quickly and then people get annoyed when I take a break. But that’s how I work best!) I already thought I had work in a ‘meaningful’ area but my boss was terrible so it kind of ruined it.

    I absolutely don’t know how I will get to having kids (I want to) but I’m hoping that the steps I’m taking for myself now will help lead along that path.

    Thank you again Penelope for writing about what no one else will. You’re on the ball with the trend once again.

  36. Andatech DVR
    Andatech DVR says:

    Women who stay home are divided into two categories: women who did not feel like work and hide behind a screen saying that staying home to take care of children, family and household, and women who recognize that work is not done for them and which often seek to be maintained. Every woman knows best what he wants from life, if he wants to be an independent career woman or if he wants to be a maintenance gets bored between nail polish, clothes and soap operas.

  37. Denise
    Denise says:

    This is a ridiculous response to a serious blog, and it sounds like it was posted by a man. Further example that Andatech doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Denise,

      I have already chided Andatech, but I need to ask you: is there some problem with men commenting on this issue? I should think many men have well-thought-out opinions on this issue.

  38. Laura
    Laura says:

    Anyone still reading down here? lol Penelope thank you for a great post, please post more like this. I appreciate you having the guts to raise issues and be controversial. I often disagree with what you have to say but I really enjoy that what you write is generally thought-provoking without being off putting.
    The problem at the heart of this is that women tend to be so judgemental of one other. Why can’t we support other’s choices rather than feeling as though another woman’s choice is a referendum on our own? Your point of how uber successful women can’t be in two places at once should be fairly apparent to most people. Even if they don’t share that information, we can infer it, right? I appreciate you raising this issue because the media only focuses on the success part, and then so do we.

    I was one of those highly successful women – graduate degree from a top university, work cited in front page of newspaper, etc.
    Before I decided to have children I read a book by Peggy Orenstein that pretty much called out the ‘you can have it all’ myth. I thought hard about if I had to make a choice – career vs. family – would I be okay with that choice? I quit working when my oldest was born (with a serious medical problem, but regardless…)
    I got sick of: working ridiculous hours (weekends, what were those?), sexual harassment before there were any laws, having to deal with so many toxic bosses and coworkers, always having to justify what I’m working on. I could have chosen other work, but all those same problems existed in other jobs, whether in corporate, non-profit, large company, small business.
    So, I haven’t returned to outside work (had another child) but I started my own business, pursued my own interests/life of the mind, etc. I am very busy during the 9-4 hours when the kids are in school. I miss many things about outside work but find this situation preferable in a world where I don’t get everything I want. All my college friends are working moms – lawyers, doctors, MBA, etc.). In college they probably thought I would end up in Congress, and now I’m out of the workforce. They are supportive but probably wonder what the hell happened to me. But you have no idea what hand you will be dealt when you have children, how it will change your view of yourself and the world, so you just do the best you can, muddle through with fingers crossed.
    My college friends are wonderful role models for their daughters and sons, and I admire and applaud them. They are also wonderful mothers and I don’t think that my children are better off, will turn out better, love me more, etc. than theirs. But my situation and their situation, who I am and who they are, are different. And hooray! We don’t live in a country where only one choice is available to women.
    I agree that it’s good for women to be aware of the dangers of becoming financially dependent on their husbands, as many commenters have made apparent.
    And yes, my husband earns six figures and wants me to do whatever I want. He works from home and honestly we probably spend too much time with our kids. lol!
    Few of us have the ‘perfect’ setup and some part of that is dumb luck and much of it is great calculated choices (e.g. marry a man who will support your choices, ladies!). I wish all women could just focus on what is best for ourselves, and our families, in this moment, and appreciate that all other women are doing the same.

  39. Nichole
    Nichole says:

    Penelope,
    I have been reading the comments for days, enjoying them, and debating about commenting myself. Thanks so much for writing about this issue. And for bringing others like me out of the woodwork in the comments. I am an oddity in every community I belong to. I stay home, have no kids (not by choice), and unlike most of your commenters I did not finish college. My husband is a great bread winner. I am a so so housewife. :) I have no angst about being taken care of. I have a little about no kids, and a little about what I have accomplished in life. Especially since turning 40 last year. Overall, I am happy and know how lucky I am to have this rarefied existence.

    My husband has gotten some very interesting reactions about my status from female colleagues and clients. At first they are shocked, then they try to see if he is annoyed and maybe encourage him to be annoyed about it (he’s not at all, he would be lost in more ways than one without me). By the end of the conversation they are usually jealous.

    Thanks again for writing about this, even when it makes your investors crazy.

  40. Victoria Pynchon
    Victoria Pynchon says:

    It’s all about choice and risk. My greatest fear, having lost my father to parts unknown at 9, was being economically dependent on anyone. My mom – no job skills – took a minimum wage job during the day and clerical classes at night. My grand-parents moved in to help us or we would have lost our home and our school district. Nothing, of course, is certain. But for every U.S. marriage there is one divorce/death of husband (17.6 marriages per 1,000, 9.7 divorces, 7.8 widowhood). Having grown up in a bad marital household (till dad took a powder when I was 9) I was as much worried about being held financially captive in the bad marriage as I was worried about divorce/widowhood and my ability to support myself and the children I supposed I had (which I never did). We’re probably all relatively satisfied with our life choices because we have to be to keep on going. I’m pretty damn satisfied because I am finally married to a economically responsible man (my ex was not) AND I am fully able to support myself in the event of his death or the unthinkable (but possible) divorce. Of course I could have fitted myself out for the wrong profession or found that I couldn’t combine career and children had I had them so I’m not saying “look how good my choice turned out.” I’m just saying, each of these decisions contains risk. We should be alert to those risks and we shouldn’t judge one another for making them.

  41. Frances
    Frances says:

    Penelope, you nailed it. Every last word. I’m almost 40. My friends are in their 40’s. We all have kids. We all work full-time and are not the primary breadwinners, but husbands don’t make enough that we can stay home and keep life comfortable right now. We all wish we could quit and stay home. Or at least have the choice to pursue something we think we’d like and have it be ok that we may fall flat on our faces and not make any money at whatever creative endeavor we might pursue.

    This is something we could only admit to each other after years of friendship. I think more women are starting to be honest about it though.

    My niece is in her 20’s, just got her master’s degree, and had her first baby shortly thereafter. Even though she has higher earning potential than her husband, she makes no apologies about the fact that she is staying home and may never actually work. Her husband does NOT have a high income.

    I recently remarried after being divorced for 6 years, but before I did, I had the discussion with my husband-to-be that I do not want to work outside my home. It literally took me til age 40 to just come out and admit that. Let’s just say we’re working on making that happen.

  42. Mitzy
    Mitzy says:

    I personally think we have ALL mostly bought into being made slaves of the minority few that actually OWN these companies. We way OVERVALUE the dollar, which, for most only allows “ant like” existance. The people that are “fullfilled” by working..mostly state they like the “non dependant” aspects of that.

    What about interdependance? I personally feel we have lost the reason for living, and need to place more value on living, not just existing for a paycheck.

    The divorice rate skyrocketed with “enlightenment” and the dual workforce NOW required because more and more women chose or had to work.

    What brought this on, the “sexual revolution” where the was no stigma to so called “free sex” without benefit of marriage or committment. What brought that on BIRTH control.

    We may “mock” the fifties, but I lived though some of them and I can honestly tell you life for all was BETTER then. Why, there was structure to OUR lives, and order. There were also fewer divorices because getting divoriced required FAULT. And the loss of children, home and finance. People tried harder. How many 50 year marriages do you hear of now?

    Men were less likely to say “It is MY money”. It was “understood” that was his role as a man to provide and protect and his wife had the “luxury” of being what nature intended her to be with security.

    There will always be people who do NOT fit that mold, they may be wanting to answer the call of selfish indulgence. Which for most could easily be achieved within the framework of the “traditional family”, MUCH easier than it is now, for most.

    After the revolution of the sixties me me behavior and brainwashing…we seem to have many many more problems as a society, including children entering school and randomly killing all they can.

    Does anyone else remember that RARELY ever happened? We had a society with VALUES. I think we have lost so many VALUES over time that in effect we have gone backwards as a society, to a very large degree.

    We now live in an age, where “anything goes”, at my age and in my current circumstance, what really happens with that selfish and immoral “culture”, we have INCREASED not decreased the value of LIVING, and the standard of living, and reduced the value of society as a whole.

    We are now NOTHING more than a nation of ants, easily replaced by other ants. In our lives, jobs and marriages.

    I, personally, do not see this as progress unless you open your eyes and see the backward progress. The dollar is even worth less, as are ALL our lives and roles.

  43. Mitzy
    Mitzy says:

    we have INCREASED not decreased the value of LIVING,

    Obviously I didn’t proofread., I have that stated backwards we have DECREASED the value of life, and living not INCREASED it,

    We have devalued what we all valued at one time, and it worked for the majority to support interdependence of men on women and women on men in a way, for most, was nature intended rule.

    At one time, men and women paired up and then eventually to procreate out of SURVIVAL for themselves and the society at large. That is still true. But, there are so many many more acceptable “threats” to that interdependence that we as a society have said is ok behavior, and no “punishment” for screwing around or screwing up. This, attitude actually hurts us all, we are seeing the results ALL around us, of why.

    The problems we are seeing in men, women and children is life dissatisfaction. I think that comes from not understanding interdependence as a good VALUE,

    Divorce, in reality benefits no one, and certainly is NOT the thing we as a healthy society should see as “solution”. Massively high divorice rates is the symptom, not the problem.

    However, all the “temptations to be self indulgent with no punishment economically or morally” has severely threatened the ability to retain, the best case working model of interdependence.

    The bad marriages and repeat marriages, and the chaos resulting from this “rotating” lives and families and serial marriage behavior is so self indulgent, and yet, so a by product of the loss of values and the concept of right and wrong,

    We NEED to be a valuable thriving society for the future survival of that society. So many of todays “issues” stand out glaringly to me as a backwards progression into an uncivilized society, full of chaos and disorder that serves NO one.

    Most of the “issues” in todays marriages, and stressors that cause them to unravel,are a direct result, of our failure to understand the importance of the value of striving for INTERDEPENDENCE, and or society punishment for those that threaten this “good working model, for those that choose it, in any way. .

    Anything goes and is ok attitudes hugely threatens those previously widely held beliefs, that WORKED for society.

    We should live in a world where there is fault and right and wrong BEHAVIOR that negatively threatens our species and society to thrive and continue on past us and our children and their children.

    How a society conducts itself, is a measure of success. I don’t think we are doing too well here. All this “freedom” to screw up isn’t helping anyone.

  44. Karen
    Karen says:

    Very interesting reading. My kids are now in their 20s and I did both: being with the kids and working part-time until they were teenagers (and we always had a low income). I didn’t want to put my kids in daycare so it was my choice to stay at home with them and be poor. I was a stay at home mom but most of the time had part-time jobs…. I think that’s a nice compromise to bring in extra money and not have to put the kids in daycare. I did odd jobs even though I had an advanced degree including teaching preschool (brought kids with me), being a nanny (brought my first with me), being a substitute (school hours), delivering newspaper (kids asleep), writing for the local newspaper and then finally had a great part-time job, teaching at a Community College. After an abrupt divorce when they were teenagers I was forced to work more…I worked day and night, multiple jobs while doing volunteer work in Scouts (as leader). The house turned to shambles and the kids didn’t see me as much unfortunately but we survived. Now I work one job 40 hours per week which is easier in comparison! Anyhow, after doing all three options (stay-at-home mom, working part-time and full-time work) I can certainly say that being home with kids is much, much easier than going out in the workforce and the main reason is you have freedom to make your own schedule. Working at home is easier so enjoy it while you can! And, I had to work to pay the bills even while married but even if I was rich I would think I would have to do some sort of work even volunteer work for my mental stimulation and high energy level requirements (!) My main point here is that there are many options…not just full-time versus stay-at-home mom. I think working part-time is a nice option!

  45. Teisha
    Teisha says:

    I stumbled across this article while searching for other ANYTHING about women my age who have NO idea what they want to do in life but DO can truthfully say.. WORKING and running some large firm, married to some billionaire and having my kids in any and every sport or activity is NOT it!

    Being originally from La. All I knew is that I didn’t want to be like ANY of the women in my family or the ones I grew up with. It was bread in me to grow up and DO something – get married and have kids. But no one ever told me about REAL life aside from what seems to be the “norm”! I got married twice.. NOT out of love, but because I was told that a single woman with 2 children would not find a man who wants her! (WHAT – men have always wanted me lmao)

    I had my first daughter at 19 and I didn’t want to become the statisic for young ethnic women. I tried to go to college for whatever would ensure I made allot of money. With NO help from anyone and a serious LOATHING for anything other than art.. I left school and decided I am going to be a success regardless. Over the years, my income and knowledge was upward bound. By 2005 I was making 6 figures as a contractor. No degree – One failed marriage to a bisexual – bipolar- mama’s boy and a family that sucked the life out of me. I purchased my first home at 250K with a credit score of 713. I married my first child’s dad who was an ex con because we…. got along well and again – I had to marry somebody right! Fast forward to present time… Home foreclosed.. lots of debt, unpaid taxes and wondering where the hell did my life go and wondering if I ever really had one or was I just trying so hard to become what the world says I should.

    Now I am almost 40 – 2 divorces – 2 WONDERFUL daughters who saw nothing but the best in me regardless of my failures and this new desire to LIVE!’

    Now Living to me means to get married for LOVE to a man who will take care of ME for once! I want to get an Arts degree – live out my desires of becoming a famous photographer and abstract artist and not worry about how I am going to do this so freely AND find a job to pay the bills. I don’t mind cooking and cleaning and making a wonderful home… I have always wanted that… I just couldn’t always maintain it and work as I did with NO help! Even the men I married never made enough money to ever give me a break and they never did any household work to give me a break.

    I felt like what I want is so unrealistic in today’s society. I feel like I am taking major steps backwards.. but I don’t care! It’s MY truth!

    If I wasn’t so dam cute, I wouldn’t believe I was a woman at all. I have never had the opportunity to FEEL like a woman! I haven’t had the chance to be sick and trust all will be taken care of. I haven’t had the opportunity to NOT work and trust I will still have somewhere to live. I can’t just say “fuck it” and trust all will continue to function properly at all.

    I know I probably went a bit too far – but boy have I been wanting to see that I am not alone in this feeling from someone who gets where I am coming from… Not just some bimbo who has NEVER done anything and STILL doesn’t want to… at least I think we deserve it!

    Thank you for sharing!

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