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.

And I am SO INCREDIBLY BLOWN AWAY BY THE CRAP SHE DISHES OUT ON HER SITE THAT I’M PRINTING IT ALL HERE. RIGHT NOW.

NO. WAIT. I’M GOING TO ANNOTATE IT.

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 junkets.

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. The Study of Humans
    The Study of Humans says:

    Marie’s story reminds me of the sort of advice rich, white people give poor minorities.

    As if they could possibly understand what it’s like to be a minority and born into a low income bracket.

    Just study harder in school. Get a college degree, they say. Right. While they’re attempting to figure out how to meet the most basic of needs for their family day in and day out.

    Sue

  2. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    I really don’t see anything wrong with the “about page”. It’s not a lifestyle blog and I think you are inferring a lot of things that aren’t really stated there. She shouldn’t have to apologize for any privileges she’s had on a company blurb.

    • DV
      DV says:

      Doesn’t matter what Marie said, or what she didn’t say, or how she didn’t say it. Penelope hates pretty much anyone who is too rich/beautiful/successful/happy.

  3. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    Penelope, I had to laugh when I read this. Nobody attributes credit to their support network when they talk about their achievements. This is not a women only problem, and it certainly has nothing to do with feminism. How many men do you know who openly say, “Yeah, I’m a CEO and it’s been a ton of work, but a big part of why I was able to do this is because my wife agreed to give up her career, be the primary parent, and support me as I climbed the corporate ladder” Furthermore, how many men are advertising this information prominently on the about me page of their business?

    I’ve never seen it.

    What you’re dealing with is growing up and losing some of the privilege that you always attributed to your own talents. Of course, it’s probably easier to blame feminism and claim that women are liars unless they meet impossible standards of ‘authenticity.’

  4. DrPrivilege
    DrPrivilege says:

    For a while now I’ve been a little confused by the running assumption that in order to do work that “means something” or to “make the world a better place” requires you to work full-time. I’m coming from healthcare and I’ve met many women with children who work part-time- physicians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, the list goes on. Maybe I’m missing something, but I believe they are making positive contributions to both their communities and their families.

    Are healthcare careers “bad” or “bad” for society? That seems to me the only reason to unilaterally declare that it’s impossible to have a “good” job/career and work part-time.

    And btw, yes, I married someone rich and he has 2000% supported my luxury career in academia/raising our kids.

  5. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    I think there is a class thing here. Educated-class men and women are expected to differentiate themselves from the lower class by being more than breeding machines, darling. They must be educated; they must have careers; their children must be perfect.

    Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe it isn’t. But it sure twists life into knots.

  6. Severin
    Severin says:

    Thank you for this.

    The self-serving Facebook culture of self-aggrandizement and self-affirmation is out of control. Lots of people born on third base out there claiming they’ve hit masterful homers. (To continue the baseball analogy.) And lots of people who are self-centered losers out there affirming themselves with faux new-age wisdom about how “everyone struggles, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person” and they “just haven’t found their mojo yet” but of course as soon as they do no doubt they will be rich and famous too because they’re not a loser, they’re just like everyone else!

    Some brief wisdom:

    (1) If you have more than three digits in freely available cash to start a business, you’re privileged and had a significant advantage. If you have more than four digits in freely available cash to start a business, you started off rich and that’s why you succeeded. Not because if you hard work, not because of your ideas or your special skillz, but because you had an incredible head start.

    (2) If you have ever posted a meme about being a drunk mom, showing up late for appointments, not being able to wake up on a Monday, losing track of your money, or failing to do something that you’ve set out to do over and over again, it’s not funny, and it doesn’t mean that you’re “just like everyone else” and that one day soon you’re going to wake up to be Sheryl Sandberg. It means that you are an inconsiderate loser and you’re going nowhere until you shape up. Internalize it.

  7. dcline
    dcline says:

    I don’t understand the haters here. Especially not the long-time-reader haters. Penelope is a storyteller.
    Read the original page. It’s the “rags to riches” story of the wife of a major league championship baseball team owner. No one acquainted with this blog should be surprised at Penelope calling bullshit.
    The story could have been, “I was defined as a new mother and the wife of a rich successful man, so I started my own business to improve the world while still being a hands on mother.”
    To me, the more interesting tell is that Mrs. Whitney hasn’t created a company where someone could contribute that.

  8. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny,

    It’s writing like this that keeps me coming back for more. I still think that you are crazier than a sh”””e rat, but in the lucid hours that you take to write some of these posts, you hit on many social themes that people choose to ignore.

    My wife and I are immigrants, we came here for school and stayed after graduating. Between us we have 4 graduate degrees and both graduated from top tier institutions. That’s where our idyllic existence ends. My wife realized that in order to raise our six kids optimally, one of us needed to be at home – and in her words, given my penchant for breaking things, it was not going to be me. So the good doctor has been homeschooling (virtual school) for the last 20 years – given that our twins are 13, and entering high school next year, we have 4.5 more years of it.

    The great part is that we have great – not perfect – kids. Even though one is special needs, most people can’t tell that he is because of the efforts we all as a family put into “socializing” him. We have a Rutgers graduate, two current Ohio State attendees, a high-schooler who is “gifted” – an overused term for many kids who have had the advantage of adequate parental attention, and two middle-schoolers who are incredible.

    The not so great part is the fact that to this day, my wife takes all kind of flack for not practicing. This kind of S**T infuriates me and I have ended relationships because of it. Kids need time, love, attention, goals, and good examples, and this is what my wife has provided by staying home. The fact that the phone gets cut off regularly, or the mortgage is often late is important but we all like being around each other and that is often rare in families these days. WE COULD NOT HAVE ACHIEVED WHAT WE HAVE AS A FAMILY (as readily) WITHOUT ONE OF US BEING AT HOME. Your callout to the fakers is needed. Thank you!
    My2centsworth

  9. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    So, Hillary is a liar, Marie is a liar, in general all feminists are liars (not sure if that was implied here, it was by virtue of title, no?), but coaching people how to lie on their resumes and in interviews is okay though, and not really lying. It is reframing.

    I am not trying to pin anything on PT, but I come here for help and advice and lately I just feel really lost, and everything I read here makes me feel more lost.

    Tell yourself the story you want to hear, and then if anyone calls you out about it, bully them into believing they must be mistaken and cannot trust their own instincts because you are no liar.

    There must be a difference between putting a positive spin on a story, simply leaving out certain details, and lying, or perjury. Is it important to understand the differences? If you don’t know the differences can you still be a good person? Can we still treat each other with humanity, knowing we are all fallible? Can you do it without being a sucker? If you see someone telling an untruth and you know it, but the person speaking it thinks its true, do you have to call them out on it? Can you just let them live in their own positive world? Does it hurt anyone? Is everybody so stupid we need somebody else to point out every nuanced untruth in everything?

  10. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    I get what you’re saying. I don’t believe you can “have it all.” But I do believe you can prioritize. I have two kids. I’m 45. I have a decent enough job and I get to telecommute. My husband now makes 3x as much as me also working from home. His gig kind of sucks but he does it for us.

    We have LOTS of time with our kids. We camp. We go on vacation. We cook dinner every night.

    We’re both educated and talented. Could we make a lot more money? Sure. My BFF and her husband work their asses off so they can be “successful.” But we chose this life. And it’s good.

    I’ve noticed this trend in younger women saying they don’t want kids, just a big career. Hey, that’s fine with me. Your choice. And this was my choice.

    But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my 20+ years of working, your job is just not that important. Not wanting kids does not have to be about a job you do want. It should be about a life you want.

  11. Marjorie Weir
    Marjorie Weir says:

    Interesting read, and quite true. Might I add “if you are beautiful, you are likely to have a much easier time getting funded and followed”.
    My mother always worked or volunteered, putting work first a bit too often. I always worked, at least part time, even though married with 3 kids. But trying to get an invention off the ground (see PrepAndServe.com) and start a restaurant – lost the family, lost the husband, lost the house… I was nearly destroyed. My experience was women (who have done very little in comparison) just wanted to push their life coaching, biz coaching, seminar, readings, etc woo woo onto you. So not only did I feel guilty about not achieving the huge promised success, it was likely because I just did not want it enough – or I was not enough. In reality, I was fucking exhausted.

    There are some comments about “the men keeping them down… ” that has not been my experience. I’ve had men all along try to be helpful, but not want to invest, where as quite a few women wanted not only payment, but outrageous compensation.

    I’m just writing to say to you, it has all turned out ok in the end – all three kids survived and thrived. (all now early 20’s) They all know how to work and why, and have skills for life. I really felt my choice of putting work (and volunteerism – lets not forget the busiest person is always asked to do more) before my kids would have dire consequences. I’m very happy to say that my daughter pretty much just followed in my footsteps and is an entrepreneur that is doing well. She has a pretty great work / life balance (and without a life coach!!) At 24, she says she’ll never have children. Who knows if that will change but sounds quite set at this point – and it doesn’t matter the least to me. I adore my grand-dog and love what I do, and spending time with my adult kids.

  12. Fatcat
    Fatcat says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    I think most moms would say that having kids was the best thing they ever did and I think Penelope says this too.

    Just go into it with your eyes open and know that career goals probably will have to be sacrificed. I personally feel that it was worth it to spend all the time I spent with my kids.

    And to someone above who is so envious of people being born wealthier than them, just ignore them and take steps to make YOUR life more of what you want it to be. Don’t worry about what they’re doing.

  13. JEN
    JEN says:

    I found this post after writing one with my ranting on this subject. Yours is more eloquent, but I think we both make the same point – women need to stop lying to themselves about it!

  14. Emma
    Emma says:

    I feel so sad reading these comments – Penelope is spot on with the glitterati bollocks – it’s fake and therefore unsustainable and not anywhere close to happiness as that’s born from authenticity. (And that’s true of chaining a shitty nappy while trying to read email or sipping your latte and wondering what’s for dinner and if your client will show up – it’s all a dance – there is no balance)
    But children and family vs working for some dinosaur corporation, or maybe building your own?! Wow 😳 Has any of this served women before now? Only if they choose kids or career … I call that bullshit. I’m truly shocked … perhaps this is the next stage of evolution and for it to die. The genes of those who feed it die with it. Family, connection LOVE is what this life is actually for .. not the fucking bottom line … that’s a happy outcome when your swinging things well – other times we don’t swing it and the outcome isn’t a massive payout or fulfilling WIN after the hustle … oh perhaps I am born out of time …. I’ll come back in 100yrs when this is settled LOL
    For us to thrive, even in the fuck up, we must find and carve a new way for women to live and work ❤️
    Much love xxx

  15. Allison
    Allison says:

    It is hard to have kids and work, it can be done, but no one ever says how hard it is and there is not one recipe. My husband and I have raised three kids, 23, 19, and 17, and I recently reached a high level in my company. It took me a few years longer than most men and in general it is interesting work, and I am helping to break up the boys’ club. In a board room the other day, I needed an analogy for keeping important data secure so I used the analogy of putting fine jewelry in a vault and insuring it, while costume jewelry, or less sensitive data could go in a drawer. The room of men got the point and I called out the cultural breakthrough of talking about jewelry for the first time in a financial meeting and it was funny. Most of the women at this level don’t have kids. I have managed it because throughout our careers either my husband or I worked part-time, or he worked second shift at a newspaper. We had lots if help, but in general one of us was almost always around and that is true to this day. We also live in a small friendly city, which may have limited our career options, but made it easier to live day to day with minimal commutes. I graduated from Harvard Business School. I did not pick a career or move to a city where I would have to travel a lot or work extraordinary hours. I work hard and am very committed, and by the time my kids were older I could take on more responsibility. So I believe that my career arc has been longer and slower, fair or not, but I am alive and our kids turned out ok due in large part to the fact that we were around. And my husband’s career may have been less than he wanted, but now we are almost empty nesters and are thinking of what we might do next. Some other factors…we have lived below our means, used our money for private school instead of big house and new cars, and kept our fixed costs low. Also, none of our kids had special needs. Had this been the case, I don’t think it would be realistic for me to have had the career I have; also, while I had a few health scares, I was treated and am fine. Life is unpredictable, I could not have foreseen the twists and turns, ups and downs, but I think the most important decisions I made in retrospect were to marry a kind and helpful husband, and live in a manageable place. Beyond that, we have worked hard and we have also been very fortunate.

  16. Diane
    Diane says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I love this article. Reminds me of a friend of mine who’s American mother was born both beautiful and into a wealthy family.

    When she was in her mid 20’s, her father lost most of his money in the stock market. A much older man saw his chance, and offered to save the family financially if she would marry him. She did. After some significant transfer of wealth to herself (apartments in London, etc) and her family, she dumped the guy and married another man, who was also rich, but younger.

    She converted to his faith, moved to Paris to be with the new hubby and had 3 kids. She learned French and started a women’s empowerment group, acting as the main guest speaker at all events. She focused on things like “chastity” and fidelity to one’s spouse, the importance of family, etc..

    She’s a beautiful, angelic looking beauty whose husband has deluded himself into thinking that she’s the only man she’s ever been with.

    She now has grandchildren and is a “respected” member of her religious community.

    My friend found this out about his mother’s past through a family member in the US. He confronted her about it and she confessed.

    So it turns out that her two daughters also ended up marrying high earning men. One when to business school, another got her MBA. Once they had children, they did what a lot of women with means do- start a pet “fashion businesses”. Of course, funded by either their spouses or father.

    I won’t name names, but they were recently featured in some high profile magazines, and spewing lies about work/life balance.

    So yes, a lot of women who get ahead have been lying intergenerationally, since the beginning of time. Even morally righteous women of God.

  17. R. Shawn McBride
    R. Shawn McBride says:

    I’ve studied businesses for years — seen the great and I’ve seen the bad.

    You really need to get focused on something high value added and concentrated. The roll that out. You can’t be failing. For the baseball wife she used her husband’s income to build it before going to market.

    In most people’s situations the key is to do something more routine (consulting, working for someone else, etc.) while you build your high value added magnet for your business.

    My most successful clients have done this — struggling early and getting a more and more powerful business and time goes on. And revenue and profits will follow.

  18. Angela
    Angela says:

    After reading the article and some of the comments I think Penelope’s point is that without loads of money and resources/help, it’s tough running your own business with kids. I can attest to this because my husband’s sister and her husband are both trying to grow their own businesses while raising 3 children under the age of 5. I can tell you that it is no easy feat and that they rely on family for support in order for them to be able to pursue their endeavours. Without that family support, there is no way they would each be able to do what they do. They don’t have loads of money, but having help to free up their time helps tremendously to bring some money in while progressing their businesses.

    I don’t, however, think it’s fair to pass judgement on people commenting that say they are doing a multitude of things by telling them that they aren’t doing any of them well. Maybe their yardstick for success is different from yours. And because of that subjectivity, the fact that success is means different things to everyone, we should be encouraging, rather than destructive. Because that’s the problem with women. We pass judgement when we are jealous without realizing that we are all living very different circumstances to which we assign varying degrees of meaning. The reason feminism doesn’t work, is because the fight is individual, rather than collective. Each woman wants her own meaning of the term to rule. Chill out, sit back and enjoy the ride. Make of life, success, everything, what you want it to be.

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