Feminism fails because women lie to each other about work. Oh, and go Cubs!

I’m in the Houston airport waiting to fly home and I am sad that I’m not with my kids. It doesn’t feel fun to fly around the country making deals when you have a home life that depends on you. Which is why most women who have control over their lives don’t travel for work.

But look, if you have a career where you earn more than $100K, you either routinely work late, or you travel for work. Which is why a huge majority of mothers want to work from home, or work part-time.

It’s just that once you decide you are working from home or working part-time, you are not going to build a career with any achievements big enough to brag about. So many women tell me they want to work part-time but they want to do work that’s fulfilling, that matters, that blah blah blah. But people who commit to something part-time end up mattering part-time. Which is to say not at all. Sorry.

There is no war between working moms and stay-at-home moms. There is a war between women who construct their lives as lies and women who believe them. The women waging war are the the ones who talk about how they magically give nothing up. They spend their lives propping themselves up as a goddess of work-life balance while inadvertently putting down all other women in the process.

The big famous spotlight seeking liars? I’ve already called  those women out as full of shit. Now I’m going to start calling out do-gooders; the women who look the most sweet, the most humble, the most pulled-together are also spewing lies about their work.

In the airport I was remembering going to Cubs games as a kid and then I started googling Theo EpsteinHe’s the boy-wonder of baseball who became the youngest general manager at age 28. He won the World Series twice with the beleaguered Boston Red Sox, and now he’s in Chicago trying to do the same thing.

I couldn’t help also googling his wife. It’s my nature. I like to know how women manage their lives.

Her name is Marie Whitney and she went to Harvard for graduate school in public health and she worked with disadvantaged kids, and blah blah blah, she’s a do-gooder with a great smile and a hot body. No surprise there.

But what is a surprise is that she has her own business, Two Penny Blue. I clicked the About section.



Two Penny Blue began in 2010 AFTER MY HUSBAND WON TWO WORLD SERIES AND WAS THE MOST VALUABLE MAN IN BASEBALL in a humble 8×10 office in the attic of an old home on the outskirts of Boston, MA. ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE HOUSING MARKETS IN THE US. I would work whenever I could steal a few moments away – usually while my baby son napped. At first the task – creating a incredible line of jackets and blazers with a social mission of educating girls around the world – with no formal fashion training BECAUSE YOU DON’T NEED ANY TRAINING IF YOU’RE RICH and a tiny budget seemed.. well, impossible. EXCEPT THAT BECAUSE “TINY BUDGET” IS RELATIVE THE FEAT WAS ACTUALLY NOT AT ALL IMPOSSIBLE. It was exciting, scary, exhilarating, and by most accounts, simply crazy. The order was a tall one and the standards of excellence for the collection were exceedingly high and uncompromising BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE UNLIMITED FUNDS YOU CAN LINGER FOR TWO YEARS OVER THE DETAILS – the fit needed to be perfect, the fabrics the finest in the world, the craftsmanship the best I’d ever seen BECAUSE I COULD AFFORD TO HIRE ONLY THE BEST, and the jackets modern classics. But hour by hour, day by day, sleepless night by sleepless night, the passion for the company only grew stronger and the dream of Two Penny Blue became a reality. In July, 2012 I launched our first collection of blazers on our website. The response was overwhelming BECAUSE BOSTON WAS OBSESSED WITH EVERY SINGLE THING MARIE AND THEO DO and I packed orders up to the ceiling in the attic until 2am thinking “wow , we might just have something here.” And we do. My baby boy is now 7 years and that tiny, dusty attic in the office has grown into an eclectic design studio in a great shopping district in Chicago. NEXT TO WRIGLEY FIELD BECAUSE MY HUSBAND IS WITH THE CUBS NOW The passion, the mission, the fear, the excitement, and crazy determination are stronger than ever. Our story is just beginning.

If I had not accidentally done research, and then annotated this story you would have thought you could launch a fashion business, too. You would have said you want to have kids and open a business on the side. Like that would ever be possible.

Why does Marie have to tell this story? Because she wants people to feel like she did something that is bigger than quitting work to raise a family. She doesn’t want people to think she went to Harvard to save disadvantaged children and then just married well. Because it’s really hard for anyone to get a great education and feel like they can do anything and then realize you can pretty much do nothing once you have kids.

Unless you have TONS and TONS of money. Or you have a career that is very very well established before the kids arrive.  The New York Times has told us that women who launch successful businesses with young kids have husbands with money. But we tune that out. We don’t want it to be true. Instead we want to listen to people like Marie Whitney Epstein who tell us tall tales about small business struggles.

I also want to point you to the incredibly small amount of press this company has received since inception. In fact, every single mention in the press begins with the Cubs. This is because Marie doesn’t do press. She doesn’t need to. She will never find herself having to leave her kids at home so she can go to some odd-ball city for a press junket.

That, I guess, is why I’m so angry. I’m angry that when I write about how hard things are for me — that having a startup and raising two kids is totally unmanageable — people offer me suggestions. Like, oh, I’ve seen lots of women do this, surely you just need a new strategy.

But no. Really. If you don’t have a lot of money you cannot build a company after you have kids without destroying your whole life. Not even small, tiny, just-for-charity company.

When we talk about women trying to work while they take care of kids, there’s a lot of finger pointing: maternity leave laws should change, companies should provide flexible jobs, men should do more emotional labor… But what we really need is for women to stop lying about their choices, achievements and struggles. A key step toward institutional reform is for women to be honest about what they are able to do and the resources that have to do it with.

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  1. annclary
    annclary says:

    So true
    I read your blog and I wish I had read it when my kids were tykes instead of spinning my wheels. Thank you for the link to the box scores because those are my memories as well.

  2. made up my mind
    made up my mind says:

    Yep, this definitely helps me feel better about my decision to not have kids.

    I’m 26, I’ve read Lean In and I love it, and I also read Penelope Trunk religiously.

    I used to think that I’d want to adopt kids someday… but Penelope has helped me see the truth of the situation. Having kids isn’t just a fun thing to do because it seems like a good idea at the time. It’s the biggest career choice anybody ever makes.

    I have a lot of things I want to accomplish in this world, and raising kids is not high on the list. Penelope has helped me realize that I need to deeply consider my priorities in life, because you can’t do it all.

    • International flyer
      International flyer says:

      As a 50-year old woman who just got an offer by the CEO of a medium-sized company listed as a top place to work for to “write my own job description”, I’m here to tell other women o keep in mind that having kids should be treated as a choice, not a mandate.

      I love how my mother (who is now retired after a long, successful career in education) never pressured me after I got married to have kids. “I wouldn’t have been fulfilled in life without children,” she says, “but it’s already very hard when you want them, so if you don’t, it’s fine to remain childless”.

  3. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I’ve never wanted kids, but everyone said, “Oh you’ll hit 30 and you’ll change your mind. Every woman does.” I am two months away from 30 and so I am white-knuckle-waiting for that ‘magical moment’ when I suddenly want kids. Except I have a sneaking suspicion that if I do change my mind, it will be gradual, and then I’ll feel cheated. Like no one told me it was going to happen that way! I wasn’t prepared! I don’t know. I do know I talk about it with my fiance a lot. He doesn’t mind not having kids but I’m scared one of us will change our minds (most likely him) and the other won’t (most likely me), and then what? He directs a company, and I was late to work so am still closer to entry-level than not, and I can’t stand being so far behind in the work world. Why would I make it worse with kids? Already I wake up at 5am and go to bed at midnight on weekdays to get everything done and still there’s so much I want to do, I don’t know how I could ever be satisfied putting some of those things on hold (permanently?) to have kids. And if I think this way now, would I ever even be a good mother? I’m a jealous person and I’d be too jealous of my partner succeeding at work, and my friends pursuing their dreams, and yes, women like Marie Whitney just for having set up their lives in a way they’re able to lie to me and have me believe it. Plus– and people think I’m awful for having this as a reason, but it is– I just don’t want to leave our one-bedroom flat in Hackney.

    • Kaitlin
      Kaitlin says:

      Think about your deathbed. Seriously. When you look back on your life what do you want to see? This helped me decide to have kids. I haven’t seen my career advance since…but I’m not in a rush. I have totally given up my pre-kid career path (although I’m still in the field). My identity has changed (although not overnight. It has been a process). I go back to the deathbed scenario often to remind myself my priorities. I’m not saying to have or not to have kids. Just think about your priorities, objectively if possible (deathbed scenario), and see what you come up with.

      • Pirate Jo
        Pirate Jo says:

        What if you simply don’t like kids? I think they are very grabby and sticky, and I don’t like all that screeching, either. I don’t really care what happens on my deathbed because it’s only going to last like five minutes anyway. I’m more concerned about the 80+ years I’ll spend living than the brief amount of time it takes to die.

        • AMarie
          AMarie says:

          “I don’t really care what happens on my deathbed because it’s only going to last like five minutes anyway.”

          Wow. That is so true but I’d never thought of it before. Love it!

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        When I picture my deathbed I don’t picture children, I picture my paintings. And maybe one of the nieces or nephews for whom I’ve been a mentor.

        There are many ways to die. Often, they don’t even involve beds.

      • Robert J Carocari
        Robert J Carocari says:

        I recently went to the funeral of my ex mother in law who died at 90 years old in the house she had lived in for over 60 years.She had 8 children and countless grandchildren and great grandchildren.She was borderline poor much of her life,never went to Europe,or a cocktail party,but she raised 8 of the best human beings I’ve ever met,and was fulfilled(not necessarily happy all the time)in her role.As we put flowers on the coffin,I envied her the richness and accomplishments of her life.

    • brooklynchick
      brooklynchick says:

      I know people who waited for that change and it never came. Not everyone wants it. And it’s hard as HELL even when it was wanted.

    • Lolita M.
      Lolita M. says:

      I agree it is a very difficult decision when there are so many options for us. I had my son at 34 years old. I have been a career woman for over a decade and I was scared at first to think of how I would adjust. I still work AND I have my beautiful son who I adore and brings so much joy to my life. I have always wanted children so even with tough days I know it was my choice and that makes it better. You only know whether you would be happy with children. Good luck

  4. Maria
    Maria says:

    This article is so full of BS. Really! I feel bad for the young ladies reading this. The article tries to represent a universal situation that is applicable to every one. I am 37 a mother of two, successful in my career and yes I also own a small fashion company together with my brother. And it is not easy… but it is fun. Running my own company is a learning experience a very valuable one. Maybe as good as my MBA. I took 2 years off of maternity leave to take care of my kids (one year with each). I went back to work and it took me two years to position myself again in the corporate world. Today after 3 years I am level-up. Yes, it is not easy. But I enjoy my jobs (coporate + entrepreneur). My husband is taking a year off from his engineer and quality management job, so he is helping out a lot with the kids and the house. He is really happy he got the chance to take a year off to do his pilot license. I think we are not a conventional family. But we dont care what others think. I care about our happiness and our dreams. When my husband said he wanted to quit to get his pilot license to flight commercial aircrafts … I said go for it. Life is only one! We will manage with savings and my income. It is not perfect.. but it is possible. Or maybe I am just lucky…

    • Caroline Byrne
      Caroline Byrne says:

      You can afford to do all this, and have your husband take a year off work to train as a pilot because you have savings, resources and a husband who minds the kids which is rare.
      I think this is Penelope’s point- that you need to have quite a lot of money to build a business when you have kids – and people with money don’t realise/acknowledge that they have that safety net and are privileged when they talk about their achievements.

    • LeavingThePeanutGallery
      LeavingThePeanutGallery says:

      I agree with you… my husband makes way less than I do and I was able to start a successful business (from home) with two little kids that I take care of full time. I make 50% more than my husband does.

      And the part about “mattering part-time”, and thus, not at all? To who? Since when does our work value to strangers- who don’t really give a damn about us- make us what matters? (and how is working full-time to make more money really “fulfilling” and what “matters”? Most jobs are mundane and utterly irrelevant)

      I don’t want to make it personal, so I’ll just leave it at this: The thinking in this post and her general attitude about what makes a woman matter explains a lot about Penelope’s personal relationships and level of happiness. And with this, I’m unsubscribing from emails and regretting I subscribed some months back.

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      It amazes me how “siloed” our society is and Maria’s comment is evidence. All of the privilege provided her in her youth is completely taken for granted.

      • c byrne
        c byrne says:

        exactly. it’s quite eye watering just how blind some people are to their privileged lives. just had to endure a ‘friend’ attribute her success to hard work, neglecting to mention that daddy’s connections got her her media job and daddy’s wallet paid her bills til rich hubby came along! Oh, and she never hires women, because they ‘just go and get pregnant’. Rock on feminism!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      @ Maria
      Are you telling us in this comment that you have a fashion business, a corporate job that you just took a promotion in, and you have two small kids?

      I actually find it hard to believe that you just told us you’re doing all that, but if you are, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not doing any of it very well.

      Life if not a list of boxes to check off — done or not done — that’s kindergarten.


      • Sarah f
        Sarah f says:

        she said her husband took a year off from his job so there is the answer. The home life was failing, with two higher powered careers. Now the home has a stay at home parent, with a working parent. Which I believe is what Penelope says all the time, one parent can work and one has to stay home for success.

        • Karelys
          Karelys says:

          But I think it’s fine if it’s failing. Or just not good. The thing is, find ways to make it work or suck less or whatever.

          That’s just what a lot of life is.

          Maybe they were overextended and figured they’d rather have less money but more time. Okay. What is wrong with that? Nothing. Some people truly focus on the positive as a way to find solutions.

          They don’t even dwell in a lot of what they give up because it ends up not mattering as much to them when everything is added up.

          I have reached a somewhat financially stable point post divorce. It doesn’t occur to me to talk about what I give up. Because I kind of forget about it. Because, at the end of the day, what I have is more valuable.

          There is room for only a handful of things in our lives. So either you choose a ton of tiny things that meaningful or meaningless, or you chose two or three that are meaningful or meaningless. Depending what’s your jam.

          When i was married my husband took some time off work. And you know what? at the time I didn’t know my marriage was going to end because I was in total denial of the signs. But that was the funnest, most relaxed time we had since kids, and it opened so many good doors in our lives. It gave us insight into how different life could be if you didn’t subscribe the to the norm. Yet, when people ask what happened, they quickly point to the time we both agreed for him to not work. They think that’s it. And it wasn’t.

    • M
      M says:

      Let’s also be clear that your kids are not special needs and probably have an easy temperament. One of the biggest lies parents believe is that “good parenting” makes kids sleep well, and bad, inconsistent parenting makes kids sleep poorly. Bad sleep=first domino in whole range of massive behavior problems at every age. The fact is how kids sleep is mostly due to their DNA; very little is based on environment. Also how easy your kids are to parent is also part of their DNA– Some kids are compliant and some kids will make you feel clinically insane–not because you’re a bad parent, but the kid has DNA that makes them less likely to comply, more likely to break rules, less likely to sleep, and they will just be hellraisers. At least one in 60 kids born today are on the spectrum of autism. Having a kid on the spectrum and what that does to the parent is something I notice is completely taboo topic to discuss on the Web — because the affects on the parent(s) the first few years especially are so horrible, they can’t be spoken about out loud because there would be much more infanticide. Eventually most parents adjust, most parents recognize their moral duty to handle the life situation they are dealt and parent the kid as best they can — but make no mistake, the reality of having a special needs kid (kid’s sleep takes years to regulate, which means parents can be sleep deprived for years, which affects driving safety and parents earning ability, the costs of therapy for the kid which you either have to fight with state agencies to help defray the cost–which takes time–or you pay out of pocket, the amount of time you need to help the kid with his therapy, the time you spend researching to understand what your kid is dealing with…)… I could go on … is so horrible, they can’t be said out loud and it’s a kind of gallows humor that gets you through it. You got “lucky” (had privileges most people don’t have) with easy kids and a financial situation that allowed you to take a year off for each kid and not starve or go without medical attention and then go back to work, and go back to a corporate position. For you not to recognize this makes you lack empathy. “There but by the grace of God, go I.” You too could have a completely different life, if the DNA lottery of your kids was different, and you started with less financial capital.

    • Severin
      Severin says:

      Sorry, but if you were anything like the majority of families out there, you couldn’t afford to get an MBA (and perhaps not even an undergraduate degree, increasingly) and having either one of your two incomes lost for a single *month*, much less a *year* could mean bankruptcy and the loss of roof-over-head for the whole family.

      Your husband took a year off?! You took a year off for each kid?!

      Sorry, but you are rich. You started on third base and think you’ve hit a home run. You are the one tossing BS out at young girls, most of whom couldn’t get to “I can afford to take six months off once, for one child” even after a lifetime of hard work. And you don’t even realize it.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        pretty sure she’s in europe and isn’t a full on entreprenuer because she would lose the paid year benefits/ holiday/ etc.

  5. Maria
    Maria says:

    Ahh and forgot to say… I read Penelope because I think she is smart and going through the roles of been a mother and an entrepreneur. I find that interesting. But I also get she is full of doubts, just like most of us… what I really dont like is when she discourages other women to do exactly what she is doing. Exactly what makes her interesting. I love when she shares her challenges, and how she overcomes them. But I really dislike when she gives this one-fits-all fatalistic advice to younger women. It does not seem fair…

    • Sarah b.
      Sarah b. says:

      She fully admits her parenting difficulties and marriage difficulties amd career difficulties….she doesn’t that she is Wonder Woman and what she does is easy. That’s her point. She wants women to choose with their eyes open.

  6. Erin
    Erin says:

    Kudos Penelope you are greay! I love people who have the courage to say things plainly as they are.As a working mother I have being jumping through hoops to work full time (I’m a single parent) and raise my child with a lot of help from grandparents. I’d love to work partime if I could afford it as I am very tired and I absolutely hate when women with rich husbands boast they work while all they do is to spend time doing something hobbish just not to say they are housewives.

  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I thought I was going to hate this post as just a collation of rants against powerful women but the annotated marketing bs won me over, genius!

  8. Pecunia
    Pecunia says:

    This story rings true to my ear but still feels hugely disappointing – what are women who have dreams but did not marry rich suppose to do then? Just give up their dreams?

    • Sarah f
      Sarah f says:

      Use birth control…. Either your dreams are a high career or they are being parent. Most people can’t afford both.

    • Severin
      Severin says:

      Um, speaking as a man, the same thing applies to us.

      Some of us didn’t do well in high school because we were working jobs to help mom and pop to pay rent so we’d have a *place* to study and an address to *register* at the high school. Then we couldn’t get a scholarship as a result because while we worked hard (at our jobs and at school and at staying awake with no sleep), our grades were “passing” and our extracurriculars were “night job.”

      Then we took out huge loans for college because our parents couldn’t afford to help us out. And at the same time we worked full-time to try to make up the difference and to pay down interest in the process. And because we were older and more skilled, we did better, maybe even got a 4.0 GPA by the time we got our undergraduate degree.

      Then we were faced with the prospect of choosing between graduate school (earning nothing while our loans continued to accrue interest) or stopping there (in a society in which a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you much, and only the well-connected really get the opportunities).

      And a decade or two on, whatever our choices, we are still working 18 hour days and trying to balance life to try to make ends meet and climb *just a little bit* on the corporate ladder, but because of our humble beginnings, we had to go in the front door and climb from the bottom, a minor promotion and a 1% raise every 18-24 months. Start a business? Bah!

      Meanwhile, we see multiple peers that came to the same school in flip-flops, attended only half the classes, got C averages, but came from trust fund families—now running corporations as CEOs. They went to the right parties and lived in the right neighborhoods and hung out with their families at the right country clubs. They graduated without any debt whatsoever and of course magically had available to them ample seed money (from family, from friends, from dad’s CEO friends Bob K. and Jim Q. at the country club) to start their own business, which of course failed, and then to do it all over again with a second business, which of course failed. Nobody suffered because the money wasn’t missed by anyone—everybody continued to eat, and everybody continued to play golf at the club.

      And after spending a decade driving two businesses and who knows how much money—hundreds of thousands, millions, it doesn’t matter—into the ground, they were “experienced at failure” enough that they were seen as assets by other companies—especially when endorsed at the club by C-levels (now) emeritus Bob and Jim.

      And so in their early thirties they are set for life, ready to hop from C-suite job to C-suite job drawing six figures and golden parachutes and golfing every weekend and talking about how they “struggled” and “failed” and put in “lots of hard work” and “learned a lot” and able now to freely and without risk offer seed money to the next generation of up-and-coming C average students in flip flops in the good families at the country club.

      And every now and then they friend some of their peers—people like the rest of us—on Facebook and ask how we’re doing. And we tell them that we’ve made it as far as middle manager since college after five promotions and lots of long hours, and we should have our student loans from undergrad paid off in another half decade or maybe from our own MBA in another decade, and they offer a lot of helpful advice like “Be willing to fail and learn from your mistakes. Take big risks and be bold. Have vision. Follow your passion. Work hard, but have work-life balance.”

      They have no concept of the fact that there is no room for risk because the last thing the rest of us want, after all of these years of hard work and indebtedness just to reach middle manager and have one full month of savings in the bank as a rainy day fund is to take a bad risk and see it all come crashing down and end up back in the trailer park in a patched up fourth-hand trailer doing odd jobs to cover the lot fee as the “college boy.”

      No, it applies to women and to men. It’s a class thing.

      • Nancy
        Nancy says:

        So, so true. It is so easy to be risk-tolerant when you have that class-based safety net. It’s not so easy when one wrong step could spell disaster. It’s even more difficult when you know that you can do all the right things, but someone else’s decisions could bring calamity to you.

  9. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Penelope adds such a strong and honest voice to the conversation of women and work. I’m pretty certain we are going to see more and more women choosing not to have kids, which I think is exciting! Penelope, why don’t you write a post on what that would mean for our culture? I’m interested, as always, in what you have to say.

  10. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I’m a young mother (32? We can call that young, right?) with three kids who has a small business as an artist. I wasn’t able to start that business until 6 years of insanely hard work had passed: my husband and I put ourselves back into school with two young ones, I ended up accepting a FT position to make sure at least one of us had the funds to finish (his degree would make more). He had 3-4 jobs + school going at all times, I homeschooled the kids while working. We were able to do this because we had help from grandparents and other family members-it wasn’t done all by ourselves. And now our gamble has paid off, we’re solidly middle class, and I’m acutely aware of the fact that many of the opportunities we have now (me staying home, starting an art business, etc) are because one of us has high earning power. I had no creative juice when we both were slogging it out-I was barely keeping my head above water. So basically I agree with Penelope, although I’ve seen several people take off with Etsy and the art fair rounds who didn’t have a ton of startup, but that’s just a crapshoot lol. And to respond to someone else … no you shouldn’t give up on your dreams, but maybe realize that it really is going to take years of hard work to get there if you don’t have connections/money, and it might not turn out the way you had envisioned. But could you live with yourself if you didn’t try? I couldn’t, which is I’m trying, and the skills I’ve picked up will be valuable when I finally finish my degree and reenter the working world.

  11. Monique Harrison
    Monique Harrison says:

    Being greeted in the morning by an email with a subject line stating “women are full of shit” felt abusive to me. The fact that it was sent from a woman made it worse.

    • Terese Hilliard
      Terese Hilliard says:

      Thanks Monique. I agree. Putting people down, whoever they are, is not a path to true success.

    • Tracy
      Tracy says:

      Women are full of shit, men are full of shit. Women are as human as men are, but society likes to perpetuate the myth of ‘female goodness’ that is supposed to be morally better. And many women lie to perpetuate that myth. At least no-one can accuse Penelope of that. To quote Adichie:

      “Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.”

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. I agree. Bad title. I changed it. And then I thought, oh, it’s the people who subscribe to the feed that are going to read the bad title, because it was too late to fix it. And I felt bad. Sorry.


        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Hm. I like it better to. I thought it was poetry but I try not to be offensive in titles. But why is that? I don’t even know. Maybe we’ll vote on titles.


          • Tom
            Tom says:

            Voting on writing?

            So the anonymous offended & trolls can make you flat and PC, like the million other bullshit “You go, girl!” blogs no one reads?

            A better, braver idea would be to disable comments.

          • Mark
            Mark says:

            The original title shows that you bypassed your editor.

            The second one doesn’t work either because it is a mash up of two disparate sentences. Again, I think because you are working without your editor.

            Therefore, I vote for both titles because they are genuinely you. We can all get baby babble from edited content elsewhere. I love when you provoke your readers, and then defend yourself and fight back as well.

            And finally, lying is just something that is so offensive to people with Asperger’s because we are generally not very good at it, and because it is so not necessary. This designer woman could present herself as the spouse of someone “important” and no one would think any less. It is herself that she is lying too.

          • skye
            skye says:

            I’m tired of seeing this old-fashioned definition of feminism as the basis for arguments about how women are faring. Modern feminists know it’s not about being a deceitful show-off. Feminism will never fail or triumph. It’s a perpetual work in progress.

  12. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    My wife works in a megachurch in a wealthy suburb and so knows a ton of people in that area. We like to walk the charming main street, a brick street lined with buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, all well preserved, with flowers in pots hanging from awnings and benches to sit on in case you grow weary of the shopping.

    She points out this shop or that, run by a woman she knows whose husband makes a crap ton of money, usually in finance. One sells toddler clothes, another handmade jewelry. We love this little ice-cream shop in a restored Victorian. It is truly the best ice cream in the entire metropolitan area. Same deal: owned and run by a woman whose husband makes enough that the family really doesn’t need the money.

    I don’t know any more about these shops than that. And I do not in any way mean to say that these businesses aren’t real. The day to day of running any sort of shop is real work, period. But you don’t find businesses like those in my neighborhood, where nobody works in finance.

    This runs both ways. Last summer I had thoughts — and strong encouragement from some VPs and CEOs in my industry — about hanging out a shingle and consulting in my field. But I couldn’t make the economics work out. Health insurance was going to be a giant problem. Not the only one, but a giant one. Well, now that I’m married, starting in January I’m going on the insurance through her employer. Insanely less expensive to do that than for me to get a policy on the exchanges. This doesn’t remove every barrier, but it removes one big one.

    Lesson is that it truly is easier to strike out on your own when you have resources to fall back on.

  13. Madelyn
    Madelyn says:

    Amen and hooray. I’ve been writing about this myself for awhile. In order for the have-it-all scenario to work, you would literally have to be in three places at once all the time. Energy, engagement, time all have to be focused on one thing at a time at the cost of excluding the other things you’re not doing.

    I’m a SAHM homeschooler and I feel pulled in pieces. I finally figured out that those successful-in-everything women are doing one thing at the expense of the others. Even the women who homeschool AND: homeschool AND run a successful home biz, homeschool AND head a successful ministry, homeschool AND become a writer/speaker in the Christian media culture…are lying. If they’re doing the one, they are spending little on the other.

    I am fully invested in the situation I’ve chosen. Most people don’t appreciate what I do, but I have had to stop caring. We need to stop buying the lies and to stop trying to mold our lives after someone else’s pattern.

  14. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Women who seem to have it all have a lot of help. If a boss can delegate business work, a mother can also delegate house work. Maybe they just don’t tell that they have help and follow the fine line between boasting and lying.

  15. Jen T
    Jen T says:

    I’m not a fan of yours, to be honest, but I think this is TOTALLY CORRECT. there is so much lying and bullshit. It is all marketing right? That said, I think a lot of small businesswomen do make it happen, they just acknowledge they don’t have a perfect life or a huge business. I’m thinking the women behind Moop (she makes bags in Pittsburgh, is a single mom and is not rolling in it either) and Whimsy and Spice (also making it work one way or another and not bullshitting).

  16. Terese Hilliard
    Terese Hilliard says:

    I feel really sad for you and all modern women who buy into this crap. Yes, taking time out to raise my sons when they were little kept me from a large salary when I was young. Yes, it took a lot of hard work to put myself through college as a single mom. BUT – life can be a lot LONGER than the 10 year rush to fame/fortune. I have worked my way up for years and now earn a very good salary; which helps me spend lavishly on my grandchildren. ALL of my children are successful and self supporting. It takes lots of time, effort, education, and tenacity to succeed. BUT it doesn’t have to all be done before 35! I didn’t even complete college until I was 40. DON’T give up on yourself, your kids, or your dreams. And I am very, very, very happy. I travel, enjoy life and know that being a millionaire is a ticket to unhappiness for many people. Just saying.

  17. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    THIS IS SO TRUE IT IS SCARY. I just forwarded this to all my 30-ish friends who are losing their minds over pregnancy posts on Facebook and worrying about their biological clock while simultaneously obsessing over career and traveling. I try to explain that freedom of movement, late nights at the office and after work drinks DO NOT MIX well with children! And it will ONLY work like this, if you have a nanny or a stay at home husband. Children are aggressively demanding from the moment they roll out of you and it only decreases slightly as they get older and the non stop worry in your head becomes normal. So whenever I see a celebrity talk about how work life balance with kids is SO POSSIBLE and don’t let people discourage you, I say a resounding SHUT UP. Unless people have the financial resources and literally the extra bodies to help it is NOT POSSIBLE to do it all. You are only ONE person and cannot be everywhere at once. Women, please STOP LYING to other women about this. I make it my mission in life to burst bubbles when ppl approach me about how adorable I look with my daughter: THE WORK/TASKS/RESPONSIBILITIES OF MOTHERHOOD ARE THANKLESS, NEVER ENDING AND MANY DAYS HORRIBLE. You don’t get paid, there are no days off and it doesn’t matter if you are sick, but it’s a CHOICE. Think about it carefully and stop looking at Instagram posts of your friends with children, because it’s a lie. That woman is dying a little everyday. Lol

    • Isabelle
      Isabelle says:

      Oh, Tiffany– YES YES YES. Exactly. I look at my friends without kids and just think “Oh, you have NO IDEA. And neither did I, but GODDAMN I wish someone had warned me.” Warned me that they do NOT get easier as they get older, the first year is NOT the worst, you can’t IMAGINE how expensive everything will be, NO your education(s) and hard work don’t guarantee jobs AT ALL, and finally– the ONLY people who will be “having it all” are those with 1. money (LOTS OF MONEY) and 2. support people (grandparents and nannies, both if possible.)

      I love my kids, and I loved kids before I had mine, and I worked with kids and thought I knew what I was getting into, and my husband is as awesome as spouses get– but our whole culture is a LIE and then most of the women who end up as parents are either medicated into passive acceptance, lying about how great it is, or sounding like a raving lunatic. I probably fall into the third category.

      • Tiffany
        Tiffany says:

        Yes Isabelle! Mothers who fall in the other two categories often try to hush me up. It’s “discouraging” they say. Maybe. But it’s TRUE. If you can hear the challenges of it and still want it, then you are going in with your eyes juuuuuust a bit more open than other women who are force fed by society into thinking it’s blissful.

        • Lou
          Lou says:

          I just want to THANK Penelope and all the mothers out there who tell the truth. As a 33 year-old married woman who loves her work, but still feels at the beginning of a long hill climb…it is a confusing and seemingly impossible decision, and among my friends with children there is very little honesty. Just a lot of cute pictures.

  18. kathleen
    kathleen says:

    I work in apparel manufacturing. Marie Whitney has been a customer since 2010. Marie has never used her married name so your claim that she works to capitalize on her marriage is unfounded. And just because a region of fans is obsessed with a player and his wife, doesn’t mean anyone else is (it’s a big world out there) or even knows. In fact, I’m finding this out for the first time here. On her about page, she’s not using Epstein either.

    I’ve worked with a lot of big names or people associated (yes, often wives) and they act much differently than Marie has. She has been nothing but kind, compassionate, generous -she’s never once acted arrogantly or presumed she was due more than anyone else. She’s gotten in line like everybody else, patiently waiting her turn.

    As to her not having a design degree, most (68%) people who enjoy entrepreneurial success in this business do not have a design degree or any kind of training. Most of them don’t even sew. Even tho I have 35 years of experience in the garment industry, I’m on the fence about but I have had a long standing preference for non-design school grads because they work harder -they know they don’t know anything. Design school grads are difficult to work with because they also don’t know anything but conversely, think they do. Even something as simple as communication is very challenging as design grads use terms incorrectly -crisis erupts frequently as we respectively learn the other didn’t mean what they thought they were saying. We do not have meta-cognition.

    Has Marie gotten on a platform exhorting obsessed fans with platitudes that they can succeed as she has? No. Marie has worked hard and while she certainly has advantages, her venture does a lot to support mothers and children. I don’t understand why you’ve singled her out as a target.

    Speaking of, Penelope, just what have you done to assist the needy lately? Excuse me? I can’t hear you. I see, that would be NOTHING. Seems like sour grapes to me.

    • terese hilliard
      terese hilliard says:

      Thanks Kathleen. Don’t know why this article irked me so badly, but having worked my way up (yes, it takes a long time) it just seems mean spirited to put others down to make a point. I applaud you setting the record straight. We do not all need to be an overnight success to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled. Stepping on others to show how “important” you are seems rather counterproductive.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Look, all that can be totally true about Marie. And I appreciate you weighing in from a first-hand perspective. But why would Marie write her About section on her web site the way she did? Why is it so important to her to tell us that she had to struggle in ways she clearly did not struggle?

      I actually think Marie’s brilliant. I think most women would be very happy to do a life like hers. So why does she need to mislead us?

      What is the point of her About section? Why not just say nothing? Or, if she has to tell us her story, why not say, “I married a guy with a lot of money money and it was a really smart thing for me to do because I could start my business with that money. I’m really happy.”

      If Marie told that story then she’d be giving great advice to women: If you are 26 and you can see you are not going to make a lot of money, fall in love with someone who makes a lot of money so you can do more of what you want in your life.

      Also, of course she does not use the name Epstein when she talks to vendors. She doesn’t need to — she has money and vendors want money. She uses her last name when she gets publicity because the only reason anyone writes about her company is because she is associated with the Cubs.


      • A-ron
        A-ron says:

        Why is it her responsibility to tell the full story? Maybe this is how things are in her world, or she thinks it’s somehow implied, or she’s just naive?

        Her story is probably factual, just missing the colorful details you added. And she’s not trying to convince other women to follow in her footsteps, there’s plenty of predators on the line doing that with expensive “courses” and “you can do it also” bullshit. She’s trying to sell boring, meaningless, cheap product, and stories of struggle that leads to triumph never get old.

        But I think most people get your point, that it’s damn near impossible for women to “have it all.” It’s also impossible to feel forced into choosing, which probably doesn’t mean much coming from a penis-haver. We’ve all been convinced we can have it all, regardless of our position in life. Sky’s the limit, right? Reality is a hot pitchfork in the neck.

        On a broader note, your bitterness lately seems to be clouding your insightfulness. I still love it, but you’re better when it’s disguised in a personal story. God I wish I could delete this paragraph. Loves you!

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      The point is the woman has a lot of time, money, and support (safe nanny, nice husband) to start her business. She doesn’t say this in her about me. Her about me isn’t true. If she’s telling that story to herself I feel bad for her. She needs to get rid of the about me (because it is also insufferable, she is not a victim of hard work or pressure).

      I married well young and when I thought about starting something the first thing I realised was that I was SUPER lucky to be able to a) have the time b) have the resources and c) have a supportive husband. Those are advantages that if you can take them, you should and she did. I doubled down with my kids (we homeschool).

      The last thing I could see myself doing is selling some story about how hard it was for me (sort of like, when people are shocked to learn we HS, and I explain that we supplement with classes and I spend a lot of my personal time with them- something most women get hung up on).

      Then again it’s perspective, and either she doesn’t have any because she is so stratospherically well off or her perspective is so closed looped that this work was really hard for her. Hard to know because I don’t know her, but if she is in touch with the outer world she needs to delete the about me!

  19. Mark
    Mark says:

    Penelope makes a good point about the economics of “self made” business owners such as described. None of that takes away from the two years of effort the woman made to design her baby clothes (or whatever, I didn’t read that closely,) but the article does a wonderful job showing the advantage given to those who start with a silver spoon in their mouth. My takeaway from the article was about the woman’s non-acknowledgement of the advantages she was blessed to begin with. No doubt the design lady thinks she as earned her success just as Mr. Gore might think he earned, and was not granted a Nobel Prize.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I think the real issue is that the about me is so unnecessary to the brand that whoever is working there should delete it and hire a copywriter to fix it.

  20. Crazy Jane
    Crazy Jane says:

    I was ambitious and moved up through several jobs working for and with assholes (the worst were frequently women, BTW), and then “retired” after my husband’s second transfer. We wanted two or three children, were lucky to have one. Best thing either of us will ever do. Competent women SHOULD be having children, and raising them (or letting their husbands do the child-rearing; I’ve seen it work both ways), because the world relies on self-sufficient, capable citizens. Nobody gets it all. Nobody.

  21. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Man, I’d really like some statistics or something in this post that shows the percentage of businesses that fail, broken down by gender/age/income.

    This really feels more like you are ranting against the socioeconomics of a situation that many people experience, but you are choosing to frame is as a feminist thing.

    When I advocate for homeschooling, am I supposed to tell everyone how much money my husband makes and how much I spend on each kid every year to do things the way we do them? If we are following this kind of logic it would disingenuous for me to ever give any new homeschooling mom advice because of my financial advantages in life.

    By the way, my own rant from my own personal life. Two of my kids are actors, and it’s a super competitive business here. Many kids/adults spend money and time on this and come out with nothing. Yet you see the kids/adults with all the right connections that bypass the traditional system and it doesn’t feel fair. Or the person with the means to produce their own content and get credits on their resume, and that doesn’t feel fair either. It is what it is, and ranting about it doesn’t solve anything, and giving up doesn’t solve anything either by the way. But it sure can hurt you in the end when people see the ugliness of the words we use when describing the hard parts of life and pointing out the unfairness of the situation. They may not want to work with you, and doors may close that would have been opened.

    • MyKidsAreFeral
      MyKidsAreFeral says:

      Uh yeah you should tell people considering homeschooling about the financial realities.

      My husband makes over 200k. The community we’re raising our children in has an average income of something like 30k. DAMN SKIPPY I spell it out for people who look at my situation and think they can pull off what I do when they have literally a fifth of the income. It doesn’t make me popular but I’d rather not be an asshole.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I love this. Because it’s real and most helpful.

      It’s not helpful to lie to yourself but it’s not helpful to just kind of wallow. There’s always a way. Find the way that helps you most.

  22. Laura
    Laura says:

    Amen sister. I have come to the same conclusion while pursuing a career and raising children for 15 years now. It’s not bliss. Its damn hard work and there’s a cost to everything. Young women should know this before pursuing both.

  23. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    If someone wants a meaningful part time job they should go work at a nonprofit. A lot of nomprofits are happy to have part time workers because they can’t afford to hire many full timers. Better have a rich spouse, though, or a lot of money on the side where you can afford to not be making a lot of money.

    Anyway, Penelope, your all-caps annotations are hilarious. Your most entertaining articles are the ones where you’re raging about something. Like the Tim Ferriss one. (Hence why it’s so popular.) It’s refreshing to see someone let loose about how someone’s BS infuriates them rather than trying to be diplomatic about it.

  24. Leeann
    Leeann says:

    Posts like this are the reason I keep reading this blog. Thanks for saying the things that other women don’t want to tell anyone.

  25. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thank you Penelope for a great post. When I made minimum wage at 18 I knew the only way to be successful was to have your own business. But finding how to do that was difficult with no money. And, I needed health insurance and was unable to attain it with a pre-existing condition. One of the many huge issue that I had starting out doing a small business on my own. I have had to work for others, close to entry level just for the insurance. This was married and divorced.

  26. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    I think we need to stop defining ‘equality’ as giving women the opportunity to work like men, and instead give equal value to what was traditionally defined as ‘women’s work’: taking care of the home/family. No matter which partner chooses to do that work. Because the last time I checked, the world would not come to a halt if commerce and career went away…but it would if families did. I’m a proud feminist and I’m thankful that women before me fought for my freedom to choose how to live my life, but I don’t believe choosing to build a successful, happy family/home life is in any way inferior to choosing to build a successful career/out-of-home life. After all, we only started having careers in order to feed our families…not the other way around.

    • Madelyn
      Madelyn says:

      Carolyn, I think that is so well said. A lot of the having-it-all crap Penelope is talking about is built on the premise of the devaluation of what has usually been “women’s work.” The remedy for this is to regain our appreciation for what an almost impossible, what a truly noble task it is to create a home culture, to manage a home, to be engaged in raising human beings. There’s no more fulfilling job, but it takes all we have in us to do it well.

  27. ABC
    ABC says:

    This is brilliant. I’m thankful Penelope is not afraid to speak truth! Too many women beat themselves up for not living up to a false idea. Penelope is doing for life-career ideals what the Dove Real Beauty campaign did for women’s physical ideals: Showing the reality.

  28. Emelie
    Emelie says:

    In a dark way, this post is encouraging to me.
    Side note: I noticed the title change – I like the original better. It’s more honest and the reason I clicked through to the post. Ha!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Okay. The votes are in. I’m changing it.
      And you know what’s funny? I think my google discoveries like today’s give me hope, too. Like we will all start being honest with each other if we demand it. And then it’ll be so much easier to figure out what we want from our lives.

      You are my ideal reader: you like me ranting in the headline and you find my tirades hopeful.


  29. Laura
    Laura says:

    I’ve been writing on the flaws of feminism for years. I was sold the lie of get your education and your career first, then have kids. Umm here I am sitting at home part time freelancing, but mostly I only matter to my kids. And kids are cool because it’s true feminism- doing something men can’t do. Men CAN be CEO’s. Men can do all the things women can and vice versa and all that garbage, BUT men cannot have a baby or be a mother…yet…I suppose. Nobody is like mom to a kid yet I’m a dime a dozen at the career I left to have my kids. I’m Ok with that.

  30. II
    II says:

    I love this. This is so true. Also, please annotate everything going forward. This is hilarious, sad and true.

    Also, what’s the point of a career. I keep asking myself this question now that I’ve finished a top MBA and am in mountains of debt and I’ve never wanted to work less in my entire life. I wish I was born into money.

  31. B
    B says:

    Marrying money makes life easier. Who knew? Other than life being goddamn unfair in general, I’m not seeing what this Marie person has done to deserve such rage.

  32. Moira
    Moira says:

    Penelope, I would not have expressed it as baldly as you have, But I notice whenever I see strategies by which mothers can mother their children and succeed at work/career I feel –what is the feeling?–maybe despair. Or sadness. I often leave a comment that says, ‘Look, I suppose it’s just that I’m less disciplined, efficient, energetic etc than others, but I realise I deprived my children of the one thing that was essential, my time and my attention. And they suffered for it. And it had long-term effects. I was too preoccupied. My former husband and I had our own businesses. Did that mean I could make my own hours and had less stress? No! The stresses of start-up businesses are enormous and one works whatever hours are needed to keep the business alive and meet the deadlines. Babies cannot compete for their mother’s time with bosses, banks, customers, etc.
    When I realised that other younger mothers were copying me and looking on me as a role model, I was horrified. I would say, ‘Don’t imagine I’ve got it all together’.
    Penelope, your statement is very blunt and provocative, but, yes, I believe there is a lot of truth in it.

  33. Jeanne
    Jeanne says:

    I wrote something in a similar vein (but without your unique prose, which I love) about 3 tests for a business book…the subtitle was “why I will never open a button shop” Cannot tell a lie, anytime I see a female entrepreneur where the story seems to be missing something I always google the heck out of her story…and nearly 95% of the time there is an investment banker husband or a well timed divorce…

  34. childfree and no regrets
    childfree and no regrets says:

    YAAAAASSSSS thank you once again for having the courage (or enough screws loose) to speak the truth about having kids. Rock on Penelope!!!!

  35. brooklynchick
    brooklynchick says:

    OMG Penelope. So so true.

    My career was VERY well-established when I had a kid, and I am transparent with the young woman who reports to me about what it takes, and where I am phoning it in, of necessity.

  36. Brooke
    Brooke says:

    Penelope, I’m a fan, but I think you conflate feminism with the myth of the supermom. If anything, the have-it-all myth is just another way that the patriarchy keeps women down and makes them feel less-than, incompetent, unworthy, unloveable, or failing.

    Feminism tells us that it’s ok to be a woman, to be feminine (or not), to want what we want, and achieve what we desire, to be in charge (or not), to have big careers (or not), to care about fashion and make-up (or not). Feminism seeks to free women from the ties that bind us – and this INCLUDES belief systems and ambitions that are based on lies.

    Hating on women who lie about their lives is facile. Instead, hate on the system that makes them feel like they need to lie.

    We need to lift each other up, not take each other down.

    • Jocelyn Monroe
      Jocelyn Monroe says:

      Right on, Brooke!

      Penelope- why do you have to tell me that if I have a great job that I love I must be a bad parent?

      -Mum of 2 amazing daughters, and full-time Professor of Physics

    • Geek Mom
      Geek Mom says:

      Right on, Brooke and Jocelyn!

      I’m a mom of 3 awesome kids ages ranging from 4 – 10, a wife to a husband who works full time at a major tech company and am also a full time product manager at different major tech company. I don’t travel like crazy, or stay in the office till all hours of the night, but I still do some pretty cool stuff that really excites me.

      My career has not stalled at all after having kids, but has actually grown considerably. While my house is not clean, our extracurriculars are all in the evenings and on weekends, and our family has our crazy insane chicken-with-a-head-cut-off days, I can’t imagine our life any other way.

      I’m not the mom who brings the neighborhood kids over after school, bakes them cookies and sets up awesome games, I AM the mom who has cool discussions about artificial intelligence and machine learning, My Little Pony, and plays Minecraft and Settlers of Catan with the kids.

      Our family doesn’t conform to the narrow rules dictated by this post or this site in general, but somehow we’re ok and we get along. Our truth does not seem to match the “truth” put forward here. We do what’s right for us, not what society tells us we have to do. And I’m glad to see that there are some others here that do the same.

  37. Tammy B
    Tammy B says:

    I started a business while pregnant and working a corporate gig. My husband makes a lot of money but I used my own and got a loan. My sister is my biz partner. Let me just say that if my husband had not put a sizable down payment on our home and I was dong it all on my own, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My sister and I worked our butts off and were finally able to leave the corporate gigs. If I wasn’t a mom my business would be farther along. Why? Cause I’d be working until midnight every day. But I can’t because I have to make dinner and read to my kid. My house is not as organized and I feel like a chicken with its head cut off because I can’t be the perfect mom, wife or the perfect entrepreneur there’s just not enough hours in the day. So yeah it’s nice to have a financial safety net, full-time nanny and housekeeper and all the time in the world to build a stellar brand but for most of us that’s not a reality. I agree with Penelope this lady’s story is total bull crap– Inauthentic and out of touch with everyday women. But that’s probably not her target market anyway so who cares.

  38. Gunhild Schou-Bojesen
    Gunhild Schou-Bojesen says:

    Thank you, this blog post totally spoke to me in my situation (Mother of two/housewife/on maternity leave/entrepreneur/husband pays the bills). And thank you to all the clever commenters. Your readership is amazing! Love

  39. AJ
    AJ says:

    Great article. The modern American male is just the other side of the same coin, lying to ourselves about “having it all.”

    I am married with three (now older) children, and I own my business. I have been an active and involved father and husband, partnering with my wife in everything with our children and at home, from cooking and cleaning, to laundry and other chores, to yard work and everything else. I helped with the homework, I coached all of the sports teams, I volunteers at the schools.

    During that period of time (which continues almost until they head off to college), my career suffered. I worked fewer and more “interrupted” hours. I made fewer business connections. I gained less experience. I made less money. I often needed to head back to the office, late into the evening, to make up missed time and get some projects done.

    Now my children are older. I have been about to “re-calibrated” my time and spend more time in the office. I work more, produce more, and make more money, because I am spending far less time, attention, and energy being a father.

    There is no magic, no secret sauce, to any of this. It is a zero sum game for men and women, and whatever “gains” are made on one side (family/work, work/family) are lost on the other.

    Thanks for the insightful article

  40. Ash
    Ash says:

    Sounds like it’s better to just not have kids.


    If you want a career and want kids, keep a house husband.

    This society is in need of a little more role reversal.

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