In the Mailbag section of my site I answered a question from a woman who is worried about becoming financially dependent on her spouse if she doesn’t work.If you’ve been reading my writing for even a short amount of time, you already know what I told her:

All people who have children are dependent on their partner. Because being a single parent is a million times harder than being a team. No matter who is making the money.

And I will tell her to get married by 30. And I will tell her no one can hold onto a full-time career that is on an upward trajectory and also take care of kids. The only people on an upward trajectory after age 40 are people who are not primary caregivers.

Wendy commented that I always give the same advice.

It’s true. Because I’m right. But I’m sick of being right. It’s time to move on. I have never talked with a parent of fifteen-year-old kids who disagrees with any of my advice. It’s just you have to get there to see that the advice is right.

But now I’m thinking, what is the advice for the parents with a fifteen-year-old kid? I should write that stage of adult life. I don’t actually know what’s true. I’m just learning that now, with my own fifteen-year-old kid. But at least I’d learn something about myself while I wrote the post.

It seems that if I want to write for people who are too old to care that women cannot have it all, then I could just write about myself. I am that demographic, after all. But I can’t write anything about myself. My whole life is off limits right now.

I can’t write about the Farmer because I know you think my whole not-marriage has exploded, and I am picking up the pieces, but actually it has not completely exploded. It’s more like a minefield, and I’m in the process of organizing humanitarian demining methods for minimizing collateral damage.

You can imagine that Geneva convention guidelines do not include week-by-week commentary on a personal blog. So I can’t write anything about that. At least not now.

The New Yorker has an article about how people are moving into vans and taking pictures of themselves in great places and doing yoga on the roof of the the van, and being hot and tanned in some beachside parking lot doubling as a trailer park.

For me that’s a social media branding instruction kit. People want pictures where life is perfect so they can fantasize about tossing it all away and living in heaven.

Like this.

The problem is that this social media marketing scheme also falls into the category of fucked-up people who are not-yet-parents thinking they can win at some game that involves taking the best pictures of a life that is, aside from those pictures, totally vapid. It’s the purview of Gen Y. And I’m sick of it. And my new target audience of parents with fifteen year old kids is sick of it, too. (Though I can’t help thinking some of them might be hoping their kid could get in a van and take selfies to put themselves through college.)

You might be expecting me to write about cello. After all, most of my life has been consumed by cello lessons or rearranging the non-cello part of my life to accommodate cello lessons.

The last two posts that I wrote about Juilliard were a big hit. And by big hit, I mean  gazillions of people saw the posts, not that I made a ton of money. That’s not how a blog works.

How it works is that now I count as a media outlet that needs to adhere to Juilliard’s media guidelines. So those photos I took from inside the building are the last you’ll ever see on this site; it was against the rules.

And it turns out people are contacting my son’s teacher to say that not everyone has to give up what we gave up to get to Juilliard.

WTF? I would really like to dissect that. Does it mean that I’m just more stupid and incompetent than the other parents whose families gave up so little?

But we will not be dissecting that here. Because I’ll just make enemies at Juilliard and then it’ll be a minefield, and my son will be sick of wearing protective gear to go through a life of bombs planted to contain his mom, and then he’ll go off to Europe and take lessons with a teacher who speaks no English, and he’ll fall in love with the teacher’s daughter and they will move to an obscure city that is not obscure to European music snobs, and I will never see my son again without paying full price for plane tickets to see him perform.

So, okay, cello is out. I can’t write about that.

There’s always Melissa. She has always been my go-to topic when all else fails. She’ll put up with anything.

Well, she used to put up with anything. You can tell how serious Melissa is about a guy by how much I can write about him. And you will notice you have heard nothing from me. Right now Melissa is staying at his place every night while still paying for her obscenely expensive apartment in San Francisco in order to make herself feel like she hasn’t moved in with another guy before she had a ring.

That makes me feel better. Because something you know about when you have a fifteen-year-old kid is that you think you are going to change, you have big hopes for changing, blah blah blah. But no one changes.

So Melissa is in a holding pattern right now. She calls me and asks me when I’m going to do a podcast with her. She sends me articles like, Podcasts are the New Xanax. And I wonder, what is the new alcohol? Because I am already so sad that I can sleep any time I want. I am so shut down that I am almost just walking in my sleep.

I am a good drunk. I could be an alcoholic and then write about it. Which brings up the fundamental problem of blogging. This blog works best when I am telling you what I’m learning, while I’m learning it, because then it’s so raw that I don’t have the time or energy or wherewithal to cover it up.

But now I have to cover up everything. Or ignore it. Write around it. Like, maybe I’ll do a whole post on land mines. How to write your resume to get a job in a minefield. I bet I could rank pretty high for those search terms.

I shaved my legs today.

I remember when I was purposefully not shaving my legs, when I played professional beach volleyball and it was the off season. My vacation was a vacation from having to constantly be well groomed for photos. I told my aunt I was not shaving my legs and she said, “That is so stupid. You will look back on this time and remember how beautiful your legs were and regret that you didn’t shave them.”

Maybe she’s right. I’m not taking chances. I am already missing so much. I don’t want to miss any more.

123 replies
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  1. Erin
    Erin says:

    It’s really hard doing anything online while going through a divorce. It’s bad enough to have the heartbreak. It’s worse to be silenced. I keep telling strangers he left. Guy at the hardware store, “I need this paint because I’m changing the room where my husband slept. He left me.” Gal vending at the craft booth next to me, “I need these sales to feed my kids because my husband left me.” Mailman, “You won’t be seeing him anymore because he left me.” I literally tell so many people. It’s inappropriate.

    • Stephanie
      Stephanie says:

      That was what I did too when my uncle committed suicide two months ago. I wanted to tell everyone. I told a lot of my friends, close ones or otherwise. Then I realized people probably didn’t want to hear that because they felt awkward and didn’t know how to respond. So I kept quiet but it sucks to stay quiet when I want to cope by telling the same story over and over again and there’s no sounding board.

      I hope you’ll find strength and support. It’s tough.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Hey everyone needs space to vent the emotional baggage. Most people don’t mind and you know pretty quickly when they do. Haven’t personally gone through one, but I can tell divorce is a jarring experience and there are no rules. Be kind to yourself.

    • Sandra
      Sandra says:

      Erin,
      Your comment struck a familiar cord with me! Years ago when I discovered that my first husband was cheating on my, I found myself calling my administrative assistant to say that I would not be coming into the office today because I just learned that my husband was f-ing another woman. LOL! Talk about inappropriate! To this day 15 years later, I’m not sure why I did that. I guess it made me feel better to say the words out loud and shock another person the way that I felt shocked.

    • Elena
      Elena says:

      Hi Erin, I was married for 21 years with 5 kids and literally moved out of my home with all and no one in the neighborhood knew. I told 1 or 2 close friends, but then one day the flood gates of my mouth opened and I found myself saying… I’m a single mom with 5 kids and I was married for 21 years, only to prompt them to ask me why and I would say… there are deal breakers and leave it at that. BUT I got tired of telling everyone so I made a set of red lips, placed them on a Popsicle stick and wrote the words, I will not talk about FRED! every time I was tempted, I would pull them out and place it in front of my lips. Weird way to get me to stop but I did and just dealt with 2 close friends that helped me through. I laugh at it now, because I wanted so badly to curse be mad and tell my story! lol no need, I just seemed like crazy old Maurice from Beauty and the Beast! LOL

  2. Jessi Connolly
    Jessi Connolly says:

    I hate that you are right about the whole ” the only people on an upward trajectory after age 40 are people who are not primary caregivers” thing….and that the Fucked Up Van People are not missing ‘their life’.

    • Aurora
      Aurora says:

      In the narrow sample of intellectual elites that are my friends for college and graduate school, a lot of them have happy marriages, upwardly mobile careers (typically in public policy and research but also tech) and cute little babies who are totally well adjusted. Don’t let Penelope’s personal narrative woven with a few correlations studies let us think that daycare is bad or that it stops mom’s from being a “primary caregiver.” Why not reconceptualize what primary caregiver even means?

      • AMarie
        AMarie says:

        The crucial, CRUCIAL keyword there is “babies.” Babies are happy anywhere, doing whatever. Ok, babies in families where there is plenty of money (for good care and keeping parents generally in a good mood.)

        When they get to be eight or nine, they have serious opinions on being the last one picked up at aftercare, wanting to visit friends near home- not near grandma’s house, and if all the parents (whether one or four) have big careers, they start getting surly, depressed, or both. It’s a shock because it’s rarely mentioned that even though big kids need less direct supervision, they need AT LEAST as much attention. So plenty of moms who powered through the early years on a big budget and their own youthful energy, like myself, throw up their hands and scale back or drop out entirely by middle school.

        Now answer me this- do you know any parents of happy, well-adjusted TEENAGERS where both parents have stayed on the full-time, big career path? It’s certainly possible, but I can only say that in a theoretical way because I don’t know any.

        • Kate
          Kate says:

          I second your comments about the later (mid!?) years of childhood needing as much time and maybe more engagement than the early years. Also about the teenagers…. excellent point.

      • Stabat Mater
        Stabat Mater says:

        Those “babies” are human beings who were designed to be in the care of parents & a family. Without that, they will be malformed. Of course, with that, they may be malformed, but I would prefer a well-intentioned flawed parent raising a child over a system that’s designed to strip women of their dignity as wives and mothers.

  3. Jessica from Down Under
    Jessica from Down Under says:

    I’ve noticed your posts are becoming more and more like an INFJ would write lately, Pen. What does that mean?? Does it mean you are mellowing/ becoming a more mature ENTJ?

    Don’t worry – you may need a break for a while, but things will pick up again. Sometimes you go through learning phases and have lots to share, and sometimes you go through resting or pruning stages. I think if you go this stage mindfully, you’ll come back with so much more to share. (Please do – my oldest kids (twins) are twelve now, and I need to know what to expect over the next few years from someone whose opinion I don’t always agree with, but I respect a great deal).

  4. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    If Melissa wants the results of her relationships to change (i.e. if she wants to get married) she probably needs to change the process by which she goes through them…

    That said, I love hearing about both you and Melissa. You’re both so smart and interesting and there’s something very comforting about hearing how such smart, interesting people can screw up as awkwardly and profoundly as the rest of us – when most people who write for a wide audience are more invested in presenting a very polished persona (of both themselves and their loved ones) to the world.

    I hope you do a podcast. I’d sign up for a subscription for that before I’d sign up for Netflix.

    • May
      May says:

      I laughed and said that Penelope hasn’t made a podcast yet because she has not figured a way to properly monetize and scale it.
      Also I guess the editing portion would be a nightmare, but maybe Melissa would help spend good money to have it happen just to hear her good friend talk aloud and splay out her many thoughts and insights.

      I guess it’s the same for me. Half the time I just enjoy hearing Penelope yell about how people don’t listen to her even though she’s right, and then rationalizing around it in a “but people don’t care about what’s right; people care about what feels” type of soundbite. But then going back to yelling (at NFs who will constantly believe they are the exceptional case).

    • Kate
      Kate says:

      I herartily agree with the Podcast idea… (are podcasts the new blogs?!) I think a podcast for people who think and struggle with just the thoughts they have all the time about everything and life…? That’s got to be most people no? (I’m INFJ -maybe it’s not most people at all)
      And from Penelope’s corner… think of it like a therapy/venting session with the (often questionable I’m sure and occasionally RUDE therapist/audience)
      I’d love to hear Pen in conversation woth Erin, (who I also regard highly despite not knowing her at all) with Melissa or even in conversation with other random people/ readers about their lives/ situations/ happenings.
      Just stories from Pen and people…. Fab.

  5. Nur Costa
    Nur Costa says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I have not been writing on your comments section or even in my own blog because I am experiencing a transition in life again, where I have to take decisions. And I punish myself by not writing.
    Maybe the not shaving your legs thing when you were young can be read now as missing the opportunity to write around these things down. Write them for yourself although you think you need the audience to be good.
    Write your autobiographical book although you think that blog posts are the best format for you. Write each chapter like a post and with us in mind. Chapters in books are getting shorter now.
    I feel that sticking with things is good to thrive and have a reason to do something today, each day. But we can grow out of it.

    I finally got fired from my job (INFP). A consultancy I hated to work at. Remember the marketing student that had no ambition for her career but still tried hard? I was not accepting who I am.
    I have been taking acting classes for a year and a half now. I kept writing short stories–but still figuring out what kind of writer I am. And as I am taking pictures in studios for castings and pose weirdly arching my back, I think about your book ‘Making scenes’ and it helps me to cope with these situations and not be passive. I run through them with guts. Not out of them. And if a photographer inappropriately touches my inner thigh, I stand up and I can decide what’s appropriate or not instead of lowering my head and letting things happen to me.
    So I have been writing way less in my blog, but kept doing the three morning pages by Julia Cameron.
    When we don’t give advice is because we are living our lives. We are less frustrated. I don’t dare say more happy. Writing advice books–I recall reading somewhere in your blog–is for people who are unhappy. Why don’t you spin and write something else? You’re a great writer. The master. You helped me improve as a writer and fell in love with this sometimes painful process. If you are sick of your advice, be you.

    Sorry for being cheesy. Maybe you didn’t need this.

    Thanks & take care :)

    ps. I listen to Rookie’s podcast all the time.

  6. Geoffrey James
    Geoffrey James says:

    As I was reading the part about two parents not being able to have upward trajectory, I was thinking what about my wife and I? Two kids, my wife growing as a teacher and musician and me growing as a writer and filmmaker… and then I remembered that I was reading your blog post while lying in a hospital bed recovering from open heart surgery where my only risk factor was stress.

  7. J
    J says:

    Re-reading your old advice it seems like…. kind of…. terrible advice. Sorry.

    It’s brutal in a cold logical sort of way. That regular mortal humans usually will not be able to mould themselves into.

    And perhaps dare I say, self destructive advice in a way, unless the person being advised is happy to reduce their entire person to a basic service: breed child, maintain secondary care-giver, earn funds, do chores, die.

    Or at best, advice for when everything is going according to plan and not falling apart.

    Book, stats, science is all constantly being updated and revised. You are just being updated. Like a website upgrade. Painful while in progress but once it’s done you’ll be refreshed. Maybe think of it that way.

    What I’m saying is, it’s going to be ok. Just hang in there.

    • Nur Costa
      Nur Costa says:

      Her advice is always by telling the truth, that’s why it’s bold. But she is not the truth: she has layers and emotions, so we don’t have to reduce her for what she writes in her posts. Thank god she is always being honest. We all reduce things to deliver the message that is simply: suck it up, that’s your present. We all need slaps to wake up.

      What I got out from her post is: it’s difficult to write about the present. And her present is so alive now, because of change and empty spaces to make decisions, that she can’t escape from writing it but at the same time it fires back too quickly.

      • J
        J says:

        “But she is not the truth: she has layers and emotions, so we don’t have to reduce her for what she writes in her posts. Thank god she is always being honest.”

        Yes I agree that is put better than how I wrote it.

        And thats what I mean as well.

        referring to this also: “It’s true. Because I’m right. But I’m sick of being right. It’s time to move on.”

        This kind of ‘rightness’ is hard to apply to messy lives that don’t move along neat lines (marry and have a child before this age, stay with partner until this age etc.). Hard and perhaps also impossible. Hard to live a life by the statistical analysis of what is ‘right’ is what I mean.

        Time to move on. But it will be ok. Even if it hasn’t gone exactly according to statistical plot points.

  8. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Please write about menopause. I’m relying on you to do all the research and map it all for me out so I can have some hope of coping with it.

  9. Kate
    Kate says:

    I will reiterate what I commented on in the Mailbag post- I LOVE your marriage advice. Yes, you’re not going to reach the vast majority of women (even Melissa, apparently). It doesn’t mean you’re not completely right. You made a huge difference in my life and I appreciate what you’re doing.

    One thing I wish you’d do is write less about NYC and San Francisco. I think those places are FUBAR for the majority of women who want to get married- I know San Francisco has a favorable gender ratio for women but still you couldn’t pay me to date there.

    Look into less “hip” places- Texas, specifically Houston. In oil boom times (granted that is not now) loads of people 5 years after college make >$250k which goes A LOT farther than in higher COL areas) and I think the men are much more alpha than tech bros. I relocated to Houston, had a blast dating for a year (10% of the men in medical, 10% NASA, 80% O&G) and then met my husband.

  10. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    When I was first divorced I read a blog by a woman who said that upon her divorce she flew to Italy for a year to recover.

    Oh my god, who the hell has a life with so few responsibilities that they can unplug from everything to do that?

    Live the life you’re handed day by day, and do what you can in each day to make it better. Build it out over time into the life you want, as much as is possible for you.

    I would love to see your blogs shift toward advice for the phase of life you’re in. Because you have strong skills at living what you’re handed and moving it toward what you want.

    • AMarie
      AMarie says:

      I went to law school- which costs way more and takes three times as long, and I was a fully grown adult with a child.

      People are alive in Italy, or anywhere else, every single day. Can you buy one plane ticket? Done. Sell your stuff and go. (Ok, six months then you have to file immigration paperwork, but the principle is the same.). If you aren’t doing something it’s because you choose other things- stability, probably, which is a perfectly fine choice but not a very interesting story.

  11. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny,

    It’s times like these that you always seem to be at your best. I don’t think that you will agree with me but for you, this is familiar space, and it is where you thrive. It’s time for you to do another start-up! This one will probably be huge as you’ll be at your best while doing it.
    Also, keep things good between you and the Farmer. In his own way, he loves you, and you do love him. The Ex. spot is already filled and as they say, the grass is always greener… Sorry for the platitude, but it applies.

    Mytwocentsworth

  12. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    My top advice for people with kids in their teens? Use the activities you pay for to subtly shape their peer group. Don’t like your kid’s friends? Try to find an activity that will immerse them in a better environment.

    As always, feel free to call me if you want to talk.

    • AMarie
      AMarie says:

      Absolutely! Peers are WAY more influential over whether kids go the right way or wrong way.

      Extremely smart advice about activities- I’ve never thought of that. I’ve always tightly controlled neighborhood and schools, but that takes basically all my money and I’m lucky I make enough to get the job done. Scheduled activities are much more flexible… Genius!

  13. Mairzy
    Mairzy says:

    Wow, Penelope, filtering your words must be so difficult for you after years of open fields. I’m sorry that you’re in lockdown mode. You are a very strong and capable woman who’s made some tactical errors and consistently rebounded. You’ll do it again. I’m betting on it.

  14. Les K
    Les K says:

    Glad to read you are trying to safely navigate the minefield rather than just blowing it all up. You know that people say mean things when they are hurt. I’m sure you have it in you to love them ( as fellow Julliard parents anyways)

  15. inthetrunk
    inthetrunk says:

    Sorry you’re so low, Penelope. Your first son is launched, now time to enjoy your second son.

  16. KateK
    KateK says:

    First, I very much agree with the advice to keep writing privately to save the record of the experience, which you can share later when it is digested.

    This is a time of life when you can rediscover the adult self you had before kids, before a relationship. What gives YOU joy that has nothing to do with anyone else’s needs? (I know, it can be hard to remember that after some years of building a life around other people’s schedules). What would you like to get better at — faith, speaking German, cooking Thai food, playing the oboe, running a marathon? Speaking of which, welcome to the use it or lose it phase of life, where exercise becomes harder, more injury prone, and absolutely necessary. Regular exercise is a mental health treatment.

    Find friends, and, only if they give permission, write about them. (Still worth finding friends even if they won’t let you write about them).

    For me personally, when my head gets to be a dark and dreary place, it helps to meet new people and to think about how I can try to make the larger world better, either structurally or by helping individuals.

    p.s. New friends can take time, but my Aspbergers daughter age 14 also recommends “Afraintances”. Basically,people who tolerate you and you can tolerate, whom you can sit with in the cafeteria, so you have company even if they aren’t friends. And they require much less work than real friends, which in her mind is a great thing.

  17. mali
    mali says:

    When are you going to do a podcast with Melissa? The only thing with podcasts is you can’t show case your great legs.

    Yesterday I just so happen to be reading your post about hating Time Ferriss. And reminded me that life is how you perceive/frame it. What you had to give up to get your son into Julliard may not be that way to someone else in a similar situation. So those people need to chill. They probably had a bigger village of support than you did.

    • ruo
      ruo says:

      Hi mali, i think your comment is so true.

      “They probably had a bigger village of support than you did.”

      I’m having my first child this year and it hit me that there is no hand-me-downs from anybody. It’s not like i really want or can only afford to live in hand me downs from other people but i want someone to offer their good stuff to my baby so i can feel like someone’s thinking of my expanding family. no one is.

      The friends who have staggered generations living with them in the same city tooted how wonderful life with babies are. I can’t look at them without feeling like im going to be a shit parent by not putting in an place with a village of support.

      • AMarie
        AMarie says:

        So true…

        If you’re religious (or don’t mind faking it), it seems like that helps a lot of people cobble together something similar. I’ve never been able to do that myself, but if you have some religious background it might be worth a try.

  18. Rung
    Rung says:

    You are wrong. PLENTY of PEOPLE are successful with kids. MALE PEOPLE. Disengaged women who prefer to work rather than nurture more common to the MALE PEOPLE portion of the population. Nothing INHERENTLY wrong with being a great worker rather than a nurturer and Kudos to women who married NUTURERS willing and thrilled to fill those roles.

    Your target audience is not those women working those hours and deducted to their survival success etc. but yeah it’s not ALL PEOPLE but honestly it’s all families who want both parents connected to their family. Two workers is HAAARRRRDDDD

  19. Rung
    Rung says:

    You can shave your legs in five minutes when needed. Don’t shave so what tell your aunt to leave you alone and go SHAVE OFF

  20. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Penelope,

    You are NOT stupid. Your sacrifices were worth it. Who appreciates accomplishments more, people who sacrificed for them or people who didn’t?

    Life doesn’t have to be perfect/easy to be beautiful, in fact it is like you said, the more perfect it looks, the more empty it may actually be.

    I love how you jumped from being the one who gives advice to being the one who takes advice. That is wise and beautiful.

    I know is sounds trite, but the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He is close to you. You know what it is like to emerge from immense difficulty, you will do it again, and find yourself better than you were before.

    Much love…

  21. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Penelope,
    The important thing to remember is that there are other people who are not yet sick of your advice, myself included. Maybe it is time for you to write another book (or two). That could give you something to do and a way to generate some cash. You could take the content from the courses you are discontinuing at Quistic and convert it into book format. I would buy the book (or books) that you would write based on those courses because I prefer reading than sitting through online courses. As you well know, different personality types learn in different ways and you could and should capitalize on that, especially when you are already offering valuable content and plan to discontinue offering those online classes in the future. Therefore, your books would not be directly competing against Quistic’s future offerings.

    If you cannot do the above book idea for some reason (legal, contractual, non-compete, whatever), then I am sure your loyal blog readers would enjoy reading a book (or a compilation of your blog posts) telling the story of your life. It has been fascinating so far – not because your life is so out there (we all have our own family dramas, trust me), but mainly because you have bravely put yourself so out there in your willingness to share its ups and downs while engaging your audience.

    • Jenn
      Jenn says:

      I agree with Sandra, I love Freakonomics, have all of their books and they have a blog and podcast b/c of the success of those books.

  22. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    That really sucks that they won’t let you post photos or talk about Julliard.

    I had to sign a thing when my kids tried ad astra a few months ago. Lame.

    • Isabelle
      Isabelle says:

      Oh, I’m so curious about how it was! I’ve been following your story on the Homeschooling blog. I feel a bit connected to you since we also recently moved from the Bay Area (Berkeley) to a small town near Madison, WI and we are completely fish out of water (despite being in my husband’s hometown.) I can’t fathom actually sending my kids to the public schools here (they’re currently 2&4) but also feel like we’d be 100% ostracized in our community if I homeschooled, so I’m constantly weighing all these terrible options.

      Anyway, I hope you are feeling more settled in to your new place.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        It is still very experimental and small. I loved everything except for the commute to get there ;)

        We toured the public schools because they are so heavily touted and have ranked in the top 3 districts for at least a decade or more. The facilities are bigger and nicer than ad astra, with more teachers that have more prestigious degrees (if that matters to anyone), more specialists (with AA you have to do ALL extras on your own and one is still there for the 6-8 hours a day) and more opportunities in general. One family I met relocated to be closer to the school and they are living in a one bedroom apartment with two kids because that’s all they could afford. So any extras for them would be a struggle. Both AA and our new district do personal learning based on the kids abilities. And our district is quite diverse for being ‘white as snow’ suburban minnesota.

        I am a huge proponent of homeschooling until homeschooling isn’t needed anymore. In my case, one still needs it for her acting career, but the school is willing to work with her and let her miss months of school. My youngest needs the services and starts K with never having gone to pre-school. My oldest refuses to homeschool anymore and demands to go to the school. So she was homeschooled or rather unschooled until age 10. Could just be a short break from homeschooling or it could be permanent. Either way, it’s her decision that is guided by my judgments. And the schools where we moved to in Minneapolis versus where we lived in Tustin are eons better. It’s really sad.

        Hey-I love hearing that you made a similar move! I have been to Madison, that has a very rural feel to it yet it’s a college town. Interesting dichotomy! How are you liking it there? Is there anything for homeschoolers there?

      • Laurie
        Laurie says:

        There are a handful of large, supportive homeschooling groups in Madison. I joined our first one when our oldest was two.

        • Rayne of Terror
          Rayne of Terror says:

          I was going to say, knowing what I know about Champaign Urbana, I bet you will be pleasantly surprised at how big and supportive the homeschool community in Madison is.

  23. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    In all honesty people just get tiring. They ask for advice but don’t want to hear it, you want to tell people the truth suddenly there are guidelines in place to stop you from doing so, and when you are going through something that is your own journey and people try to compare, quite frankly, it just doesn’t. I just wonder when we are all going to realise that writing is an expression, it provides an opportunity to release in your own words and share it. Most writers (like me) don’t care what others think about what we write, as this is our experience and our own thoughts, we may not think like others but thats the beauty of it all. Penelope just keep on keeping on, you dont need any advice, you know who you are, where you come from and what you stand for, and I love that!

  24. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    I am a little worried that you wrote this blog post drunk and that you are becoming an alcoholic. Please don’t. As hard as life is now, it will be a lot harder if you develop a drinking problem. Sorry if I am reading into something that isn’t an issue but I am seeing red flags.

    I can’t believe people are contacting your music instructor but I suppose the internet is full of crazy people. Hang in there.

  25. Emelie
    Emelie says:

    Psht. I’m a single mom to a 1 year old and I’m tired of you being right too. It sucks. But you pick your priorities and do what you can with what ya got.

  26. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    What to do when you have a fifteen-year-old kid?

    Stop MOTHERING The Kid.

    I’d say that excessive mothering of post-pubescent kids is America’s Biggest Problem right now.

    Back in the old days pubescent kids were chucked out of the house into apprenticeships and “service.” Time for a reboot.

    • Stabat Mater
      Stabat Mater says:

      Agreed. But that’s largely impossible in most places now. Most businesses won’t hire anyone under 18. In our state, one must even have a letter from school (or homeschool registration) certifing that one is attending school in order to get a driver’s license. As if school attendance has ANYTHING to do with driving!

      Schools are delaying maturity and onset of adulthood, and that is creating a completely different social structure even for those refusing enslavement by the educational system. It works to separate kids from the family as the nucleus of society and to “protect” then from child labor. In return we are manufacturing worker bees who are self-centered and unable to give of themselves, and having been denied the humanities, are simply not fully embracing the purposes of being human.

  27. Brice DeNice
    Brice DeNice says:

    People don’t usually reach out for advice for the right answer. Generally, people reach out for validation from my experience. Being a personal trainer, most my clients needed validation that their lack of exercise was “okay” because of their circumstance. Besides that, we all need to sit down at one point in life and realize that things will never go exactly the way we want them to. We have to take a step back and observe, appreciate and carry on. You seem like you need to step back from some of your responsibilities and take care of yourself.

  28. Axxr
    Axxr says:

    As someone who has blogged for 18 years, and who has forever felt as though it was an exercise in (mentally necessary) futility, with virtually everything covered up and every name changed out of the desire for a minimal level of self-preservation, I’ve often wondered how bloggers like yourself managed to talk about so many people and so many personal things so openly without having your blogs cause your entire lives to crumble—because mine certainly would have.

    So at least reading this is helping me by making me realize that it’s not just that I somehow suck at something fundamental, but maybe in the end we’re all potentially subject to the same pressures but I just got unlucky and was subject to some universal pressures earlier than other people and/or to more of them at once.

    I don’t have a solution, but I imagine that probably you’ll keep blogging because it’s an addiction. What you do is exactly what you’ve done here: traffic in implications and metaphors a lot, and spend more time talking about your emotional responses to things and less time talking in concrete details and events.

    Your statement is spot on: no one who’s a primary parent for minors is on an upward trajectory. Because every bit of surplus anything beyond “bare minimum for personal viability” is funneled to the kids’ futures, rather than to your own.

    I have the theory that anyone who actually is on an upward trajectory as a primary parent is actually a shit parent. And I imagine that anyone who is on said upward trajectory as a primary parent would immediately bristle indignantly at this and tell me all of the ways in which I’m being judgmental and making assumptions and actually they’re a fabulous parent and their kids are doing superbly well and they’re on an upward trajectory and nothing has been sacrificed and their explanation would involve yoga and organic foods and entrepreneurship and anecdotes about their kids’ lives.

    And this would confirm my judgments.

  29. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The question is who do you take advice from and how much credibility/weight do you give that advice. Is it from people who know you best? Is it from an expert who is well known and charges you for their advice? Is it from a friend or an acquaintance who has first-hand knowledge through their experiences? I would say some or all of the above depending on the importance of the decision and how much time and resources you have available before a decision is to be made. Ultimately all the advice will be weighed and filtered and decisions will be made (or not) by you (or made for you). I think you’ll always be able to find something interesting to write about even if it’s not about things in your life you can’t write about now. Maybe think of this self-edit period as one of challenge and opportunity and set as a goal that you’ll be able to achieve.

  30. Don
    Don says:

    As from back in the days on Yahoo Finance I enjoy reading your blog, comments, thoughts, ideas, and opinions. At times as now, I find myself hoping that future sunrises may occur with improved circumstance, abundant sunshine, clarity of thought, peaceful loving kindness and plentiful splendor. Keep hope precious soul.

  31. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I’ve been reading your advice columns since you were on bankrate.com back in 2006. You helped me get a $5,000 raise and stock opts and helped me get the nerve to move to different positions in the company I worked for which provided me with a multi skill set that made the company see me as a more viable asset.

    I did pay attention to your advise about specialization and kept my career focus defined within that company. It was a delicate balance, expanding my skill set but keeping an eye on specialization, but it worked out very well for me. I thank you for that. So, to make a long reply short (too late) your advise really has helped me. I won’t ever be sick of it.

    I’m not the corporate world anymore. I’m a mom of 2 yo boy/girl twins. A crazy turn of events for an INTJ. My husband makes good money so I stay at home but I supplement by selling whatever in demand stuff I can get my hands on for a profit thru social media.

    Keep it up. You’re doing great.

  32. celeste
    celeste says:

    This is life, captured. I’m sorry about the Juilliard trolls. That is awful. If people used their energy to infuse their own lives instead of tearing people down…we’d be a better country.

    Also, sorry about your aunt – older relatives need to adhere to “If you can’t say something nice…” sometimes too.

  33. Nitin Ravale
    Nitin Ravale says:

    Can understand the feeling of that mom to some extend since I too have a wife which goes into this thought process.One thing we should not forget that we are designed by God to face this balance part of life. It’s better we accept and stay happy.

  34. Liora Sitelman
    Liora Sitelman says:

    You give a lot of great advice but some of your points are making me raise an eyebrow. The article about a blueprint for a woman’s life or the strong advice to marry by 30… not all of us meet Mrs. Right by a certain time. Should we all just panic and marry someone because OMG lights out the big 3-0 is here and the ovaries will shrivel up? I am getting married now at the age of (dun dun dun!!) 31 and the religious ceremony is at (dun dun dun!!!) 32. I guess my life is ruined forever and my fertility is shot. There is a sinister undertone to this… why bother with paying for college? Why bother attempting a career at all? Why read a career blog when you’re not going to use the degrees or work at all? And if you do work, well then you’re just a shitty mom who will inevitably have kids who will grow up to become delinquents, prison inmates, and drug dealers with mental health issues.

    • Emmjay
      Emmjay says:

      I’ve noticed that too. Remember, you are reading one person’s opinion (not truth, opinion) and certainty and controversy sell (= generate page clicks).

      This advice is not actually about us, the reading public…

    • Gretta
      Gretta says:

      Hey Liora,

      I’m getting married in a couple of months, also at the ripe age of 32, and I’m very happy. I wish I’d had my shit together earlier, but I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the relationship I’ve built, and I feel much more capable of raising decent human kids right now than in my twenties.

      The message I’ve always read between lines in Penelope’s rigid advice is: if you are a woman, at some point of your life you will probably value marriage and kids more than a career, so plan ahead, specially regarding marriage, because things change so quickly and your “market value” after thirty decreases drastically.

      I think it’s valuable advice that you don’t get to hear often and at least helps balance the bipolar message society sends you: before thirty you have time and you must focus on your career, and then all of a sudden you are an old lady and should have thought things better.

      That said, I’ve always thought that Penelope’s huge blind spot is her doom and gloom about female fertility. After I read this article → https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/?single_page=true I learned that the decline after 35 is not so terrible, and I felt empowered to give myself space to get it right with my then boyfriend, feel more secure in my career and even (gasp!) selfishly travel and live experiences that I didn’t want to miss before having kids.

      Penelope’s advice would be great if the 35 fertility apocalypse was true, but the inaccuracy of the original sources makes a big part of it too gratuitously anxiety inducing, and also very guilt and shame provoking.

      Also, there are ways to know if there is something fundamentally wrong with your fertility (monitoring your basal temperature to see if you are ovulating, for example) that can reduce the anxiety if you decide to wait a bit more. And diet, supplements and exercise can impact the quality of the eggs vastly (read “It starts with the egg” if you want to know more). But these are more nuanced approaches that require taking responsibility of your choices and balance risks as a mature, adult woman. It’s easier to just go with “have the kids ASAP, let the hubby pay for it all and if something doesn’t turn out well at least you did your best”.

      Bottom line: you’ll probably be fine. I’ll probably be fine. Let’s enjoy our weddings and lives because we will never be as young as we are today.

  35. Shayari
    Shayari says:

    The way you shave your legs…the same way being a girl.. I have been addicted to comb my hair continuously…in such state of life even though it may be null, but its important to know on your own – what life has plans ahead..everytime I look at the mirror..in this low state of life..I sometimes do discover my own. I am happy, I can relate my inner feelings with someone..feeling good.thanks.

  36. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    I’m sick of Gen Y, too. As the Gen X mom of two Gen Z girls (ages 16 and 13), Gen Y’s over-stylized life documented on social media seems really juvenile to me. I just want to tell them to grow up. I don’t care about your knit cap and your dream of being the perpetual college student on the road with the Grateful Dead.

    I agree with you re: raising kids. You can’t have it all. Both my husband probably didn’t “reach our professional potential,” but we have raised two really awesome people with unique interests who are concerned with other people.

    So, I encourage you to write for us. We are listening.

  37. Allison
    Allison says:

    I think we’ve all adviced ourselves to death. This I can say lifted my spirits: I had an unexpected trip to Little Rock this week for work. I got in a taxi and within 30 seconds the driver called me baby doll, sweetheart, and honey. And I am easily middle-aged with adult children. Even in Starbucks I got 2 sweethearts with my latte. I have been a midwesterner and Yankee. I think spending a few days in the south may be a good change of pace from Swarthmore, Julliard, and the farm. Hospitality is contagious.

    • Jess
      Jess says:

      I would conjecture that the vast majority of grown adults would actually NOT enjoy being called “sweetheart” or “baby doll” by a fellow grown adult. South or no.

  38. Julie
    Julie says:

    Hi Penelope!
    I got a really weird feeling reading this post. Maybe it’s clear to me for the first time that you’re all over the place and that it needs to stop? It reminded of that time you spoke about having borderline personnality disorder (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/02/22/how-to-improve-your-life-with-pharmaceuticals/). I though one of the link you mentionned was spot on (http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/01/penelope_trunk_abuser.html). Also, I think this video is very helpful: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNQQIRKLPHs). Anyway, I hope that helps.

  39. julie
    julie says:

    I guess what I wanted to say in my previous comment was that everyone changes. Melissa changes. Maybe for you it’s more difficult? I know I’ve changed because now I am no longer merely entertained by your blog posts. Best, Julie.

  40. Katrine
    Katrine says:

    Hi Pen,
    L O V E your posts – as always you take me through the whole scale of feelings, thoughts and worries – just the way we women mostly are – What a mirror, I did spot my own vulnerability, unshaven legs and hangovers – and you word it SO beautiful… Drink some champagne and listen to great music while glancing the stars … Forgive your self … (actually has a great impact on spouses .. even the ex) And this (your blues) will pass too
    The steps from 15 to 25 with the kids are out of your control – just hang on and laugh out loudly
    LOVE, LIGHT and LIPSTICK to all of you
    From South France
    Katrine

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