Ten bad reasons to get a job

I’m going to tell you right off the bat that this post is for people who have a spouse who makes money. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. But it’s gotta be about $55K, which is what you have to earn in order to feed and clothe a family. No extras. Just that.

If you have a spouse earning that much money, then you don’t have to work. You can stay home and take care of the kids. I am giving you permission, since society does not really do that anymore.

Here are ten reasons people tell me they need to get a job. But they are all bad reasons—every one of them—and if any of these is your reason, then you should just stay home with the kids. You’ll be happier.

I want to feel independent.
Once you have kids, there is no such thing as independence. The kids have two parents and the parents will always, for the rest of their lives, be parenting together. Also, making the money doesn’t make you independent. Because when a kid is sick, one parent will work and make money, and the other parent will go get the kid at school. On that day, the working parent is dependent on the sick-day parent. The idea of independence is a feminist chimera.

I want to be okay if we get a divorce.
If you live your life preparing for a divorce, you’ll get one. And there’s nothing to make you not okay like having to arrange your family holiday with your ex’s new spouse who just planned a trip to Mexico and your kids want to go. So very little is okay after a divorce. But also, if you can feel okay during a marriage then you can feel okay after a divorce. Feeling okay is a state of mind. So focus on having a good marriage instead of a preparing for a good divorce.

My spouse doesn’t want to have all the financial responsibility.
The marriages that work the best are when people divide the labor. One person is in charge of the kids and one is in charge of earning money. It’s very difficult to do either of those jobs. But it doesn’t make life easier to decide you’re going to do both jobs. A better decision is to do one of the jobs really well and leave the other to your spouse. Adult life is hard. But it’s not as hard if you divide up the work load.

When we got married I promised I’d keep working.
Deals change. People change. The hardest part about marriage is that people always change but almost never how you expect. Adapting is a gracious response to the natural shift in personal desires as time goes on. In other words: tell your spouse you are not keeping that promise. And say you’re sorry.

It would be wasting my education to not have a job.
You do not need to earn money to justify being educated. Education is something that makes life more full and interesting. You deserve that just because you’re who you are: curious, challenging, and thoughtful. You do not need to have a job in order to pay an imaginary education toll.

I want people to respect me.
A job doesn’t get you respect. Respect comes from inside you. And that respect could get you a good job if you wanted one. Because people who have good self-esteem get good jobs. But if you are just getting a job to get respect, then you probably wouldn’t need one after you found the respect from inside yourself. Moreover, people who look for external validation are at risk for depression.

I want to do something bigger than just raise kids.
This is one of the most commonly held, but completely false, reasons. Because if you are smart and bright then people have been telling you since you were little that you’re going to do something big. But what they didn’t tell you is that doing something big that people notice requires the type of singular, impassioned focus that is not child-friendly and not part-time. Doing something big requires a big commitment, and that’s probably why you are making a big commitment to your kids right now. Because you can see that.

I want to earn a little bit of money.
It’s part of being human to always want 20% more. It’s science. As soon as you earn 20% more, you’ll get used to it and you’ll want 20% more again. It’s a hamster wheel with no end in sight. Think about this: Imagine you are a cave person and you collected berries, and you said, “This is enough. Let’s stop working.” When there was a shortage of food, you’d die. But the person who always thinks she needs 20% more would live. That’s why always wanting to earn more money is in your DNA. And you need to override that with the logic of modern knowledge.

I want to be a good role model for my kids.
This statement presupposes that being a stay-at-home parent is not a good role model. Which is, of course, a despicable idea. Because it’s a dishonor to kids and family to say stay-at-home parenting is not useful. But also, taking care of kids is way more difficult and more meaningful than going to work. So do the hard task of showing your kids that making them important is being a good role model.

All my friends have jobs.
Get new friends. We shift friends all the time because, unlike family, friends are mostly about proximity and life timing. If you’re at the same place in life that your friends are, you’ll feel more stable and happy with your choices. So stop hanging around people who have huge jobs. They won’t see their kids and they’ll tell you all the time how their kids are doing great without much parental involvement, which will mean that you are unnecessary. Get friends who make the same types of life choices you make. Happiness is relative to the people around you. Get people who value what you value and you’ll be happier. Without the job.

Now you are going to ask, why is Penelope working? What is Penelope’s reason that she is working instead of being with her kids all day?

The answer is: I like working.

But it’s not a real answer because for the last week I didn’t like working, so I didn’t. No emails. No blog posts. Just turkeys and pancakes and pig litters and snowmen. And sex with a good attitude. Because I am much more easy-going about sex when I don’t have to pause in the middle of work to take off my clothes.

So I’m a big fat liar maybe. I don’t know why I’m working. And maybe my family would be happier if I didn’t work and used that extra time to reap all those mental health benefits from going to the gym every day.

But I really liked writing this post. I liked the process of listing all the bad reasons. And I liked the process of telling you that I haven’t found a good, honest reason to work.

I like talking to you. That’s why I work. Because I like talking to you and I like that you listen.


99 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Jack
    Jack says:

    Love the honest and direct communication.

    Life and death – the two things that can dramatically impact your life. Until you’ve had a child, you have no idea what it will do to your state of affairs. But the beautiful thing is, you don’t care as much, because your child is what matters.

    So many people in American society let social pressure dictate their behavior, especially around financial matters. Do what works best for you and gets you what matters most to you, and forget the rest.

    Or if that doesn’t work, just do as my old coach would say – Suck it up. Walk it off. Rub some dirt on it.

    In other words, get on with it, and stop worrying about what doesn’t matter.

    Well said.

  2. Michelle Butcher
    Michelle Butcher says:

    Damn. This is probably one of the best of your many eye-opening posts. I love your honesty and your ability to clear out the fluffy emotional stuff and break things down into objective facts. YES! Thanks for this, really. I’m getting to the point where I’m considering whether to go back to work, and this gives me some things to really think about. I *think* I want to work doing something *I* enjoy, but if it’s not right, I’ll pass. Making my own schedule sounds ideal, IF its something I want to do. Otherwise, I’ll stick with my volunteer work. Thanks for this!

  3. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    I love listening and I love what you are saying. It’s challenging and true. The value of mom staying home – it’s been lost in our society.

  4. Marina
    Marina says:

    This post made me think. I am a mom of a toddler and soon to be second baby with a “medium-sized” technology career (FT, 6-figure salary, but not much upward momentum at the moment). I love technology and working, but I can see that I’m not going to change the world with my job right now, and sometimes wonder what the point is.

    But talking to older women who have persisted with working despite the doubts and difficulties convinces me. My grandma was a pediatrician (this was in the former USSR where it was more normal, though still difficult, for women to work back then) and felt it was her calling. She helped thousands of families so her work mattered to her and to her community, she enjoyed it, she stayed mentally sharp and involved with the world outside her household, and still had/has a great family. She wasn’t the greatest homemaker compared to others in her generation but… so what?

  5. Jay
    Jay says:


    If you could spend the rest of your career focused on one subject, this should be it. The impact of this message scaled up would make the world a far better place and would be worthy of your effort.

    But that would be work, so you have to decide.


  6. Jennifer G
    Jennifer G says:

    I love this post and your message. That said, my husband is in a dangerous profession. We’d be seriously SOL if he wasn’t around anymore to hold up his end of the bargain. I like working but I also like the idea of being employable just in case.

    • Shelly
      Shelly says:

      My husband and I purchased term life insurance for exactly this reason. It’s pretty inexpensive (we pay about $60/month for $500k on me and $1 mil on him), and it gives me the peace of mind that I can still be home to care for my kids if anything happens to him.

      Maybe it oversimplifies things but that’s been our solution.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Why isn’t this more peoples’ solutions? I don’t get it. It’s a very simple but solid solution.


      • Natasha
        Natasha says:

        And, should anything happen to you Sally, he can hire someone to take care of the kids (lets not forget the value you bring to the family!).

        My husband and I do the same thing.

  7. SEB
    SEB says:

    I work. I have two kids (4.5 and 3). I have to say my initial feeling to your first words of the article was anger and confusion. I’m new to your blog, and from what I’ve read so far, I just wasn’t expecting this. Then, I got to the end which made me smile.
    I love my job. I love working. Of course I don’t need to do so, and sometimes I feel selfish putting my own happiness over (maybe!) my kids’ needs, but then I think, if I’m happy and fulfilled, then that must be a good thing for them and my family, right? Plus, I’m home by 5pm. So, it’s not so bad.
    And If I were to be honest with myself, I would absolutely NOT be happy at home all day with the kids (and laundry and cleaning), and yes my budget would be cut, and I wouldn’t like that either. I love walking in the door at 5, and being able to spend real quality time with my girls, completely focused on them….whereas I don’t know if I could be so attentive to them if I were home all day.

    • Marina
      Marina says:

      This. I think Penelope over-estimates how different she is from most women. Sure, many are longing for the day they feel financially/emotionally free enough to quit their paying jobs (is this really a huge majority?), but others of us, like her, actually enjoy working!

    • Genia
      Genia says:

      I think Penelope loses her train of thought at the end and starts looking for justification (as was your interpretation) for why she shouldn’t follow her own ostensible advice and stop working.

      But she’s baited and switched herself to this destination. The fact is that the initial intention of the blog is offer women who *aren’t working a sensible way to justify their lack of employment.

      There’s nothing in the original premise that suggests that working is bad and/or that those who opt to work are being in some way irresponsible or depriving their family of something essential.

      So… Penelope, if I may sum up for you:
      If you’re working and your work is making you happy and your family benefits from the happier (wealthier) you, then mazeltov.

      If on the other hand you’re not working and feeling anxious about this situation and looking to remedy it under the duress of one of the excuses listed above then here is your get out of work free card. No need to fret.

      One tiny quibble is that $55k is an arbitrary number that is not entirely valid across the country. If you happen live in Marin county where the to qualify for government subsidized housing a family of four needs to make less than $87k (I shit you not!), 55 isn’t going to get you very far.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Sub 130k, family of 3 or 4 (can’t remember which) in Manhattan now gets you on the list for subsidized housing.

  8. Maria Killam
    Maria Killam says:

    I blog for the same reason, I love hearing from my readers. I love how you just say what you’re thinking, it totally inspires me to do the same when I write but you’re still way better at it than me!
    Loved this post!

  9. Maria Killam
    Maria Killam says:

    PS. Fun pic in your blue room! Looks totally staged even though you don’t do those things are I know from personal experience you don’t have any extra ‘what not’s’ hanging around :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I do have those things hanging! I became obsessive about plates. I have plates everywhere. I have been meeting ceramic artists and buying from their studio. And, no surprise, I keep thinking of business models where ceramic artists can make more money.


      • Jim Grey
        Jim Grey says:

        They could use the help. I bought a lovely ceramic coffee mug from an artist way back in 1987. The number of cups of coffee I’ve drank from it has to number in the thousands by now. Haven’t bought another thing from him, because that one cup has met my needs for 28 years now. Not a viable business model! Poor guy. His name is in the bottom of the cup so I’ll never forget: Joe Chomyn.

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        Part of the ‘problem’ with ceramics is the association with craft which means lower prices than fine arts.
        A friend of mine is head of Ceramics at China’s best art school (CAFA Beijing). His students have incredible careers ahead of them. But in China, it’s ok to market your art in a straightforward way. Not true in the west for anyone aspiring to fine arts. Not yet.

  10. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Is there a good reason to work? i work part time. I’m a yoga teacher and personal trainer and I love my job. It offers me the opportunity to teach what I love and to be there when my kids need me the most. Granted, I have amazing child care and I only work 3 days a week in the morning, so clearly money isn’t an issue, but you have me thinking? Why am I working? I could forgo the childcare and keep my little one at home with me every day all day. I think I work because it gives me another sense of self and the chance to share my knowledge. I don’t know. I guess I work for me. Where does that fall on the list of terrible reasons to get a job??

  11. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I love working because it recharges me, and gives me the energy I need for my kids & husband (well at least until I inevitably overdo it).

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a good question. It’s work because in order for me to get the time to work on my blog I have to make sure to earn enough money for other people to do stuff for me. And in order to make sure the blog makes money, I have to do stuff I wouldn’t normally do. Like, write posts that are paid. Learn to sell via email marketing. Do SEO. Stuff like that.

      Also, I love doing the courses on Quistic. And those take a lot of time away from the family, so I have to earn money to have people cover for that, as well.

      Finally, I love the game of earning money. I coach so many people who need to do meaningful work, but I don’t care so much. I see work as a game and you find out how well you play the game by how much money you make. Vapid. I know. I mean, I can see that it’s vapid when I coach people who want meaning in their life. I just think the game is fun.

      Did this answer your question? It’s such a good question and I want to think more about it.


      • Chantell
        Chantell says:

        You’ve answered my question and provoked even more. This is fun. I don’t think it’s vapid that you value the game more than you need meaning; the economy probably needs both kinds of people to keep things moving in the right direction. You’re just doing your part by being yourself.

        • J.E.
          J.E. says:

          I also think it’s more self protective that Penelope is more interested in the game of work than in a specific kind of work. In today’s shaky workplaces where stability isn’t a sure thing, sometimes if you’re more into the game of work without your identity wrapped up in one specific type of career, you don’t feel your entire world has collapsed if your kind of work goes away.

  12. Kito Rodriguez
    Kito Rodriguez says:

    This is great. Really hits close to home.

    Of course Penelope is speaking from a place of empowerment, from a place of having a choice. Most families dont have a choice.

    We were living on $55k a year no too long ago, uh, it was hard as I recall. No money was being saved, bills were rarely paid in full and barely ever on time and debt just kept piling up.

    Penelope has been working, is currently working, highly educated, making very good money in her endeavors and doing so to feed her own ego apparently.

    Having her cake and eating it too, so it is easy to point these things out and make light of them when it comes to the rest of us. Making us feel good, stroking our stay at home parental egos saying : “Its ok.” While standing on the apex of Mt. Capitalism and looking down on the rest of us saying: “eh, it isnt all that” whilst enjoying the spectacular view, consuming high end wine and cheese up there by herself.

    I rationally understand all her very well made points and arguments but life and people arent that simple. Emotionally it just dont equate…

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      My bills are never paid on time and we don’t have savings. That’s the life of an entrepreneur. I have made $15K/year, $150K/year, $350K/year and nothing changes. I am who I am.

      The same would be true of you. You’ll never feel like you are saving enough money. If you like to save you always want to save more. It’s like collecting berries.

      That’s why saying you go to work for the money doesn’t make any sense after $55K. Also, if the second parent work, after taxes, childcare, and more expensive meals, the incremental increase in standard of living surely cannot compare to the increase in standard of living you get from having someone home all day taking care of the family.

      It just doesn’t seem honest to me to say it’s about the money.


      • Fellow ENTJ
        Fellow ENTJ says:

        As a fellow ENTJ, (and, for full disclosure, one with incredible flexibility at work) I feel compelled to reply that I 100% work for the money. Perhaps this isn’t honest for YOU, and surely you have to write from a voice of generalities, but it is a truthful answer for me. i love, and am good at work. i love, and am good at homemaking. We parent from our personalities. Some folks obsess over plates and ceramics business plans ;0)….I…well, I spend my down time on a compound interest calculator. I can’t help but rationalize that I will spend the majority of MY life with ADULT children, not little kids, and (by my VERY regular estimations) our investment accounts will make it possible for our kids to enjoy debt-free futures, with generous resources more …such that they’ll be able to follow THEIR own paths. This makes me very happy and is all i want for my family and my money. Coupled with “warm” parenting, I am of the belief that being of a high socio economic status comes with some pretty amazing outcomes … i think you’ll agree since you’re pretty into empirical evidence yourself. What say you, P? :0)

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          ENTJs do work purely for money. But because they love the game. Me too. I love the game.

          When anyone who is not an ENTJ says they work for money it’s because they think their family needs it. When an ENTJ says they work for money it’s because the ENTJ needs to play the game.


          • Blandy
            Blandy says:

            It amazes me what a one-letter tweak does to one’s motivations and behaviors. As an ENTP (took the class; loved it!) I understand why I am so different from my ESFJ daughter, not to mention my ISFP son, but also very different from my INTP daughter and Penelope and all of the other ENTJs. The game of making money holds no interest; the fun (and important) part is *how* I make it.

          • Jay S.
            Jay S. says:

            Couldn’t agree more. I am an ENTJ and have a full time job. On the side I collect rental property like some collect Hummel figurines. Can’t help myself – love playing the game.

  13. Carlos
    Carlos says:

    Loved the post, but in my experience, $55k is too low a threshold which is why most marriages have 2 earners (eg we pay about $1k/mo. just for health isurance). Also worth considering is most people are risk averse and job loss is a scary prospect. Having 2 jobs minimizes the expected impact to the family’s financial well-being of that risk.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Every family can find somewhere to live that they do fine with on $55K. It becomes not enough money when you need a big city, a big commute, a big vacation, a three-bedroom house, an expensive school district, etc. But none of those are must-have’s. It’s just how you organize your life.


      • Kito Rodriguez
        Kito Rodriguez says:

        Penelope, with all due respect, you are making blanket statements here about how folks live and their “needs” and so on. Again bordering on coming from a place of what sounds like “entitlement”, “privilege”. I wont even start on the social issues like racism, classism and universal access to education, healthcare, a car that works, etc. that get in the way of families being as productive as they can be.

        Our lives revolve around our kids and marriage and keeping it all together the best we can, first and foremost. Then we worry about covering our bases and figuring out how not to have to eat cat food for dinner when we are retired and giving our kids a shot at a great education, something we didnt get which is why we are in debt.

        Saying things like “No one with kids in the middle class will have money for retirement.” and “no one in the middle class can pay off a big student loan” and suggesting that we should just throw these cares away and pay our dues to the system sounds awful and defeatist at best. This only proves my point. Our anxieties are warranted. This is not “the American dream” Penelope.

        Our bills are being paid incrementally. Some of us “NEED” to be in a big city where the employment opportunities to make enough money lie. Not all of us are willing to live with a family of 5 in a 2 bedroom home (we were just doing that until recently).

        Have you been able to pay off your student loans? Own your home? Own your cars? Have you saved enough for your and your husbands comfortable retirement as well as college for your kids? Are you, just throwing your cares and anxieties into the wind? No Penelope, you are hustling and grinding for that 20% more too! You are lucky to happen to enjoy what you do for a living. Just sayin…

        • Melissa
          Melissa says:

          1) having a great education is no longer a guarantee of having a great job. Lots of millennials are well-educated with huge student loans.

          2) covering the bases is different for different people and this often falls along generational lines. That’s why Penelope has posted about how Generation Z will lower their standard of living. That’s why Standard & Poor’s blamed millennials for not driving enough to maintain America’s road infrastructure through the federal gas tax.

          3) it’s not necessary to own your own home and your own cars. Even though the real cost of car ownership is heavily subsidized by the government, it’s still not really affordable for a lot of reasons. But ultimately, if you can’t afford to go into debt to buy a house and a car, why are going into debt?

          4) if your kids aren’t going into a STEM field, why do you need to pay for their college education?

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            Melissa I love your comment. Thank you. Number two, about the roads just blows my mind. It’s so amazing. It’s so so fun to watch a generation change the values we live by. I love the inherent challenge to all our assumptions about a good life.


          • Kito Rodriguez
            Kito Rodriguez says:

            Without a college degree there is absolutely ZERO chance of any kind of upward mobility. Now or in the future for my kids.

            Having a car is still a NECESSITY to get to any kind of decent paying work in most places outside of big metro cities and even in a big metro city like L.A.

            We dont own our home, we just paid off our aging vehicles that will need to be upgraded or in constant repair if we dont upgrade.

            If my kids have the grades, do decide to go and are worthy enough as adult human beings for our help to go to college for a STEM field or honestly, any other field for that matter, I would like us to be prepared to be able to offer that help. Are the Humanities not worthy any longer? We need money for survival and to thrive and so that our kids have lateral if not upward mobility. In order for that to happen, folks need to “stay hungry” as well. Complacency=death in a hyper competitive world.

            Forgive me if I am wrong but you wouldnt be writing this blog without them. Are we accepting and enabling the “bottom lining” by the rich of our society here? Not me. That is why I am spending time on this.

            Ladies excuse me but, are we living in the same world? Are you guys speaking hypothetically like, “in an ideal world” parents would be able to just be content with staying home, or what?

            I understand the purpose of this blog is to make folks feel better about things but please dont insult our intelligence.

            Thanks for your time.

  14. Rhoda
    Rhoda says:

    I loved this post. I wish I had it to read 20 years ago when I decided to stay home with my daughters; it would have been validating. But I did stay home, and it has made all the difference in their lives and mine.

  15. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I’ve missed you, Penelope. I’ve looked at your blog every day going, “WHERE ARE MY POSTS?!? I NEED TO LEARN SOMETHING FROM PENELOPE RIGHT NOW!!!” Your post made me smile because you said true things and also because I know you’ve been having good sex and making snowmen. Why shouldn’t we live magically if we can?? And that’s why I read you, because you’re right that people should be honest and then be happy. In that order. :)

  16. Kito Rodriguez
    Kito Rodriguez says:

    We are making considerably more than $55k a year, yet burdened with $70k + in student loans to get us to that higher yearly salary, still worried about taking care of two retirees in 30 years from now even though we are saving and still, not making enough to save for our kids college education which will deplete all savings if all 3 kids have good grades and want to attend full time college here in the USA.

    So yes, I (Father) still feel the pressing need to go back to work anxiety. I have been out of the real workplace for over 10 years. For me (stay at home Father), going back to college is financially daunting at this point. Going back to low paid- high hours hourly work dont make sense with 3 children/ full time executive level working Mom and following my dream is not bringing anything in as of yet. So I stay home with anxiety and keep following my dream.

    Rationally this post could make sense but emotionally it dont jive.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Some things to think about: No one with kids in the middle class will have money for retirement. So why do you need to be different? And no one in the middle class can pay off a big student loan. So why can’t you just pay a little bit of debt every month? It’s like a fee for living or something. Just pay it and keep the bigger number out of your mind.

      I guess my point is that everyone with kids is worried about money, everyone (almost) is in debt. If you can’t live with that then you are probably obsessing over something that doesn’t need obsessing over.

      School loan companies will negotiate with you. Of course if you have two kids and a house and you make $55K the school loan place will let you pay less in loan repayments each month.

      It just seems like a sad and unnecessary decision to run your whole life around school loan payments instead of choosing the life you want and calling up the loan people and negotiating.


    • Jim Grey
      Jim Grey says:

      I make considerably more than 55k a year, and am divorced and pay child support, and am paying to put one son through college and will pay to put the other through in two years. I deliberately live well below the standard of living of all of my peers, in a simple, small, older home in a neighborhood nobody’s heard of; driving an older, paid-for car. Because yeah, even though I do save for retirement as best I can, there ain’t no way I’m retiring with an income anywhere near what I make now, that’s not reality. So my goal is to live a cash life, and cruise into retirement debt free, so that whatever I do have to live on can work. My parents did that and with very little savings they are living fine in their retirement.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Hi Kito, I don’t know if this would be any help to you, but this site has helped me change how I view $, how I save and earn it and why: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/ He’s an engineer with an attitude, found him via a comment on Penelope’s blog.

      Like you(?), it’s important that what I do for a living be meaningful and creative. Compensation can sometimes be terrible for that kind of work, and the middle-class lifestyle & aspirations can be expensive. But what I’ve learned is that, beyond a certain point (Penelope’s 55k is a good metric to start) it’s not so much how we earn, but how we spend that makes the real difference in our savings potential: our cars and commutes are a major factor in bleeding away our $. It’s about lifestyle design, prioritizing efficient ways to get to our financial goals, and learning to appreciate the simpler life.

    • Mysticaltyger
      Mysticaltyger says:

      Kids and the Los Angeles metro area just don’t go together. Most people in L.A. with kids would do much better financially living elsewhere.

  17. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    This is a great list, and very validating (thank you, it seems I get so little validation as a stay-at-home, homeschooling parent). I’d argue you could stay at home for less than 55k, though, because I did it with as little as 40. It’s all about where you live. I could easily do that in NE, but where I live now (BC), we did it for 45K and it was awful. Thankfully we make quite a bit more than that now so we’re comfortable….except I’d like 20% more…. ;)
    Sarah M

  18. Amy S.
    Amy S. says:

    I’m a stay-at-home mom who has a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, and I’ve made a number of these statements more than once. Thank you for posting this. It feels good to have someone else, who’s not connected to me in any way, say these things.

  19. Darrel Crane
    Darrel Crane says:


    Right on point.

    You might decide to reduce your workload and go to hobby level until the kids take less time and guidance. Then pick up again.

    The job of supporting kids is huge!!!!

    The documentary Diplomat on HBO talked about how a guys career and at the end he didn’t want to die at work (where he was all the time) and he did.

    Few people want to be at the end without family, unless they have broken it already.

    After the minimum money to take care of food, shelter and security, the happiness comes from relationships (and your adult kid wanting to play games with you, and sharing their adult lives with you). That doesn’t happen often if they didn’t get to know you when they were young.

    Great post.


  20. Caroline Byrne
    Caroline Byrne says:

    Great timing. I was feeling guilty lately for being a stay at home mum. As I have ADD, working, commuting, keeping house and taking care of my child was all too much. Hubby earns £55k in UK and we get by in the outskirts of London (super expensive city). We have debt but who doesn’t, like you say. It’s vital to get comfortable with debt and not obsess about having enough for retirement or kid’s college. We’ll manage somehow. The time I have with my son is priceless. I like having a home made meal on the table for my husband. I like listening to the radio when I clean the house far more than playing office politics or getting stressed over deadlines. I stopped hanging around with friends with big jobs because I can’t afford to meet them in restaurants and they don’t want to hang out in suburbs, but also because big- job friends moan endlessly about how they hate their jobs whilst bragging about what they just bought. Boring! I spend time going for nice walks and have written 3 plays in 3 years – all have been produced. I never imagined such creativity would flow as a result of being relaxed and happy at home. Thanks for such a great article. Made my day!

  21. Robin
    Robin says:

    Penelope, I do not want to work as an employee, although I love to work all day long as long – but creatively. In fact, I would now like to go full steam ahead on my own business as my girls are 16,18 and 20 years old and I am divorced but I find every week that I have a lot to do anyway on the domestic front. One factor which makes this bearable and is a benefit of living in Santiago is having affordable domestic help (I choose that over a car). I can be reasonably present with the kids (some moms are more hands on than I), but at the same time not have to spend hours on housework. The alternative is far too costly in terms of women hours, as housework here for some reason takes hours and hours: more dirt from city and mountains, less effective appliances and products, stricter society rules in terms of appearances, less available ready-made food, kids stay home during university and aren’t able to work while studying. A little less spent on house, less on cars…might allow people to afford someone who comes 3 or 4 hours a day. Those hours can be invested in earning, and in turn the house worker can arrange his own schedule. I am just wondering why this is not more common, although I am sure there are good reasons.

  22. Christa
    Christa says:

    I always wonder where people live when they talk about salary requirements. To me, $55k sounds like a whole lot of money. I’m in rural Tennessee and would be fine with much less as a single mom in my thirties with student loans. My living expenses are very low compared to national averages and my lifestyle is simple. I can’t really imagine a place $55k wouldn’t support a family of three or four, but I guess that’s common. ?

  23. Public Interest Lawyer
    Public Interest Lawyer says:

    Student loans are a very big reason why a lot of my generation (older millennials) need to work. I am 31, have a nonprofit legal job I love, earning about $70k, but I have close to $300,000 in Federal student loan debt from law school. I am in a loan forgiveness program, and I have seven out ot ten years of public service work left before my debt is forgiven. I could not pay my debt if I stopped working, nor could I qualify for forgiveness, which requires ten years of public service. Even after I have children I will need to keep working.

    Realistically, only someone with no debt or with a spouse comfortable with paying off their large debts can afford to quit working.

    I think your rationale is telling, though– you like to work. So do I. Plenty of things are worth doing for no other reason than because they bring us meaning and enjoyment, but work has the added effect of allowing us to service our debts.

  24. Ann
    Ann says:

    I’d like to wave a flag for the irrational forces within us. I’m an INFP. Devoting yourself to your kids is a great thing to do. No doubt about it. Does it mean they will understand your sacrifice and appreciate it? Not necessarily. Could they do well with you being very interested in them AND being very interested in things that are not them? Of course!
    Is independence a myth? Yes, but it’s good to FEEL independent.
    It is true that feeling okay is a state of mind, but it’s easier to feel okay if you have a nice, safe place to live, near to your family and not in some place where its ‘cheaper’. It’s worth working for this.
    And as for ‘wasting’ your education? The issue is not about wasting it. The education you got probably reflects some of your interests and curiosities. It is fulfilling to pursue these. Unfortunately staying at hime with kids involves washing, cooking, cleaning, driving around etc, especially if you can’t afford to eat out occasionally or get help. Great if that’s what you like, but if you’re preoccupied with questions of public policy or whatever, you might actually have to be medicated to cope with the at-home life. It’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to be doing something big. But you might just have to be doing something bigger, or something as-well-as or something that you are here to do. Wanting a little bit more money is irrational. Yep. Many of us have enough and enough is good enough, but pursuing the twenty per cent extra is GREAT FUN. It’s a game. It make us feel better. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. Why fight the DNA?
    There is affirmation you can get at work based on contributing to society with your God given talents, doing what you are here to do, that you cannot get doing a job you are not suited to (eg. home management). Full-stop.
    That’s why some of us like working. Its better not to neglect your kids. True. But kids have to take the world as they find it and life is a big balancing act. Sometimes what we are balancing are the rational and the non-rational forces.

  25. Reena
    Reena says:

    One of your best posts. It is not easy to justify being a feminist who wants to stay home with kids, after getting a degree in engineering. It can be done but there is a cost, emotional, financial and answers have to be given. You have done a great job of elavating all women no matter what they choose.

  26. Jude
    Jude says:

    Great post – honest, challenging and great advice for everyone at every stage of their career. I love working and can’t imagine my life without it. You’ve really given us a lot to think about.

  27. Moms on the Sidelines
    Moms on the Sidelines says:

    I recently blogged about one good reason for choosing to be a working Mom.

    After being a working mom and a stay at home mom, I realized working from home, on my terms, makes me the best Mom I can be.

    I can’t think of a better reason to work.

  28. Julia Webv
    Julia Webv says:

    I am almost 44 and have been working full time (or more) for 25 years. My son is 9, and my technical sales job ($115-125K) took me away too much. So, a few months ago, I quit.

    Your blog didn’t inspire me to quit. I just did what I’ve always done: what I had to. Your blog has helped provide that sense that I’m not alone, even if I am a bit crazy.

    Thanks for continuing to share the journey.

    All the best!

    PS: And thanks to Melissa, as well. I love reading your replies to people.

  29. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    Thanks. Your blog was so awesome today. I think I’ve heard the voice in my head grumble about everything you mentioned. It’s like you’re inside my head.

  30. jill
    jill says:

    Your blogs are always so entertaining and mostly I feel like you just say the things I think about all the time. These are not good reasons to feel you need to get a job, especially if you don’t want to, but they are things women who don’t work think and worry about often. My guess is that you feel like you don’t work because you are not Melissa Mayer or someone like that running something big, even though you could, so you can relate to those of us who don’t work at all.
    I find this topic so fascinating, how some women end up staying at home and some women forge through and rise to the top of their careers. I am not sure I could have predicted at 20 who would be doing what at 40. I think some of it comes down to luck and that sometimes things just happen. Some women will end up in jobs they love and feel rewarded in enough to forge through. Others will find their rewards more abundant at home, often to their own surprise. Which is better, I don’t know. There is something magnificent about spending those childhood years fully immersed with your kids. It’s hard to quantify but it’s like being around good art and majestic scenery everyday, not to mention overcoming enormous challenges that children can bring. There is also something magnificent about a woman who presses onward, finds balance with her spouse and feels the joy and accomplishment of work. I respect both, but they are incredibly different paths.
    What I hope for women is that they can make good career decisions early on so they can have some productive working years before having children. I hope that when they have children they have a choice and can feel good about their choice to stay home if that’s what feels right. And mostly I hope that for women who stay home that they have a opportunity to come back to work, if they need to (death or divorce of spouse), or want to, for whatever reasons they may have.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      And one more thing, I don’t think Penelope is suggesting all women stay home (correct me if I am wrong), but that if you really want to be home with your kids, but feel you “should” work, that these are perhaps not strong reasons enough for you to set aside what you really want.

  31. Gena
    Gena says:

    We do what makes us feel alive, and these thing are different for different people and they change all the time. And they are not necessarily rational. (may be never rational). For example, for a mom who travels all the time and doesn’t see her her kids, some would say “how can you do that, don’t you miss your kids?”. And the little voice inside her head goes “blah blah blah… I love feeling important seeing the world and I love having it all (kids growing up with babysitters)… it’s what makes her feel ALIVE. Another mom hates every hotel room and cries, travel sucks the life out of her. No chance she’ll do that for long, she does NOT feel alive, She will gravitate to her kids, make sacrifices. We praise her, rationalize her decisions… but she’s just doing what maker HER FEEL ALIVE. Just another way to look at things, somehow makes things clear in my head and helps not to be mad at people for what they choose to do.

  32. ADV
    ADV says:

    Exactly- the last reason you wrote, what if you just like to work?? Also, what about insurance? What if your spouse , in a good year makes that much, but in a bad year, half of that? And cannot get any insurance benefits whatsoever. We can’t afford not to have insurance, but also, would not be able to have ANY if I were not employed via the state. And with a family plan (just 1 and done here with kids) the cost of that is insane and it must come from my paycheck which is at least consistent, whereas my husband’s who knows.

    • cw
      cw says:

      Great point. My husband makes over $55000 for a small company. I make $30000 part time but carry all the insurance.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have purchased my own insurance for the last fifteen years. Some years it cost $1500/mo. Some years we earned so little money it was government subsidized. Most years it’s one of our highest monthly expenses. But that’s not a reason to get a job. Anyone can get insurance outside of a job. It just costs money. Like everything else in life.


      • ADV
        ADV says:

        Well yes, you can purchase it. It costs money. In my state even MORE money than what the state portion paid for by my JOB would cost. So, if Idon’t have a job and the money for private insurance has to come from my husband then no, I no longer have the 50,000 from my husband’s salary to support my family with. And we live in a rural low cost of living area too, yet Healthcare cost what I pay out of my paycheck has tripled. But to pay out of pocket is even MORE. There’s no way we would have enough left to live on without more money. If you aren’t working who is making the money?

  33. ruo
    ruo says:

    it is hard reorganizing a family life of $55K for a family of 4 when i was 18 and my sister was 3. I was going to ramping up college debt and my sister was barely out of her diapers. my dad worked 4 provinces away, my mom was staying at home. we survived but no one wants to go back to that.

    i think for me, i want to work because i want money to solve problems that can be deleagated away with money. so the reminder time is spent with people i care about and give them the opportunities to be confident about money that i never had. i am lucky i have a job that does just this without sacrificing time.

  34. Jane
    Jane says:

    Penelope, I have been an avid reader of this blog for the last couple of years and this post is so timely for me as a new mum who has just resigned from a ‘good’ job and is weighing up some interesting part time offers versus staying at home with my toddler and doing ad hoc remote work. When I was pregnant I was certain that I would go back to work full time after 6 months but my life has completely changed and my little one has totally rocked my world. Even the part time offers are less appealing at this point, this might change later on with an older child – I think the commenter above makes a good point also about doing what makes you feel alive. Also for me I think it’s doing what I won’t regret, trying to live life with no regrets :-)

  35. Dane
    Dane says:

    I was reading the first paragraph and I was a bit shocked of how straight forward the topic is. I guess you made a good point, these are really bad reasons to get a job. One fact caught my attention is “I want people to respect me”, somehow it is right, when you really do well on your job then people will start appreciating what you do and later on respect you. However, generally speaking, people will respect you on how you respect and love yourself. It is not only on your job description, but mostly on your behavior and values. Thanks.

  36. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I am at a ‘between spot,’ a transition. I read this and it cleared away half the junk in my head and made me see my choices more clearly. I love this article. And I love the honesty. We lie all the time. You can have it all, it’s balance, lean in, the kids are fine… then the school calls because you have a kid who’s going through some stuff or your spouse takes a job with a lot of travel and suddenly, there’s no balance…

  37. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I am a big fan of your brave honesty. This is truly one of your best posts. Respectfully, some of the comments surprise me. I have been a working woman, no fancy titles but a 6 figure income form many years and the primary (sometimes) only breadwinner in the family. Over these years I have felt good, bad and sideways at different levels about how our family ran — but I have always tried to know that the choice of how I did what I did was mine. That was important and and gave me strength. And as I look at others I want them to make their own choice wheather it is full-time mothering or working or some hybrid. And I want people to do that with confidence and happiness and respect for themselves – and others. Not always easy or natural but it creates a great foundation for an individual and a family. Once again I rally love your blog and am always looking forward to your next post. Thank you.

Newer Comments »

Comments are closed.