Misogynist conversations women have all the time

Maybe you have not said all of these phrases, but you have said one of these, and you need to own up to it. Because all the #metoos of the world are not going to change things without you taking personal responsibility for the ways you put down other women.

“I could never stay at home with kids. It’s too boring.”

The implication here is that people who stay home with kids require less stimulation than you do. Maybe they are dumber than you are, or more simple than you are. Maybe they don’t have the incredible potential to change the world that you do. You were born for better things.

Most people who stay home with kids have a choice: they could work full-time at an interesting job, or they could focus on raising their kids and taking care of their family. The people who are home with their kids did a cost-benefit analysis for the family as a whole and decided the extra money they’d make working was not as beneficial as the extra time they could give to making their family run well.

This does not mean the person is boring or stupid. But it might mean you are boring and stupid to assume that people who stay home with kids are not as interesting as people who work all day. And if IQ is what you’re concerned about, consider that an Ivy League education makes moms more likely to stay home.

College-educated women who are home with kids are brave enough to do what most makes sense to them instead of doing what society values. So when you say you have nothing in common with women who are home with kids, what you really mean is you have no respect for the job of taking care of kids, and you’d hate to have to identify as someone who does that.

The reason this is misogynist is that you are grouping a huge swath of the female population and declaring that they are shallow, boring and have nothing to talk about.

“You’re so smart, you can do anything!”

We say this to girls. All the time. The smart girls who follow all the rules at school outperform the boys on everything school-related except football. We tell these girls they will go to a great college and doors will open up and they will “do great things” the world.

And some do great things in the world. Until age 30. Then most women choose to give more time to family than their career. Women don’t want to be the breadwinner. And women don’t want to work the ten-hour days that are required of people who have outstanding careers. Because they won’t see their kids.

So when you congratulate your daughter for getting good grades so she can go to a good college to get a good job, you devalue the job she is most likely to gravitate to: taking care of a family. You degrade that job as not a valid choice, the same way people in the 1950s degraded math and science as not a valid choice for girls.

When you tell girls what they should do with their future, you undermine the achievements of women’s rights in the 20th century. When we constantly devalue the choice most women are making — to scale back their career and focus on family — we take away the pride girls have in who they are: smart, educated, hard-working. You can be all those things and still decide taking care of family is most important.

Parents should validate that option as much as they validate the option of being president or running a science lab. Because your smart, educated daughter is much more likely to stay home with kids than do any of those jobs that require never seeing their kids.

“I’ve never fit in with other women.”

I hear this all the time from high-performing women. As if they are fitting in with the men.

But they are not. Men and women are very separate once there are kids. There are relatively few married women in full-time office jobs who are over 35 and have school-aged kids. By choice. In most cases, the women who fit this description are the primary breadwinners (and it’s usually not what they wanted to be doing.)

What women mean when they say, “I don’t fit in with other women,” is really, “I win the competition with other women. I am competing with men.”  For the most part, men don’t compete with women; they compete with other men.

Women generally choose to scale back their career to take care of kids, and men usually do not scale back. So if you are a woman, it’s pretty likely that you do, indeed, fit in with the other women. You just wish you didn’t. And that’s misogynist.

How you can be part of the solution

The reality is that adults fall into very few categories. Here they are:

1) People who are the primary caretakers of kids.

2) People who have full-time jobs that matter to them.

3) People who do not fully commit to family or work. They don’t do either working or parenting as well as the other two categories because they refuse to choose one. (Or they are devoted to something that does not involve money or family, like painting.)

If you think you do not fit into any of these categories, you’re wrong. The most accomplished people commit to something and go at it with huge energy and devotion. Those are the first two types of people. Ironically it’s the third group that is most frequently involved in conversations about how they are too good to identify with other women.

Between the ages of 30 and 40, women face lots of difficult choices. Regardless of the choices they make, women who come out of this difficult time with their self-esteem intact are those who respect and admire women who stay home with kids.

This is true for you, too. Yes, you, the one who “could never stay home with kids,” the one who “never fit in with women,” the one who pushes your daughter to overlook caretaking as a valid choice. Women have fought so hard to have choices. Now the fight is for self-respect. And it starts with you.

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  1. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I was waiting for a #metoo post.

    It seems odd to me that so many women assume that those who take care of families are stupid or incompetent or sell-outs. Men don’t seem to look down on women who are at home nearly as much as other women do. Why do you think that is?

    • Caterina
      Caterina says:

      I don’t think that women or men who stay at home are stupid or incompetent and certainly I don’t think they are boring, as the article suggests. There are many different reasons why people might make those choices. I do think though that it would be easier for women in the workforce overall if more of us stayed and pushed for changes that would make our lives easier (a more human work environment for parents).

      • CareerGirl
        CareerGirl says:

        Work is a place for working. If you want a more “human environment” look elsewhere. We actually have work that needs to be done.

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        What changes?
        You already get maternity leave, carers leave, parents rooms, onsite daycare, etc, etc, etc.
        If men demanded half of this crap, we would be unemployed in a heartbeat. So much for “equality”.

        • Dan
          Dan says:

          Where? Where do you get all these things? Are you talking about a narrow fortunate part of the world? Because most women have very little maternity leave. Usually they lose their job if they take the hole legal leave. Poor daycare options or very expensive. And working elders in the family. It’s not about equality it’s about humanity. Stop thinking about the women think about the kids. Maternity leave is gold for the kids, boys or girls alike.

        • Laura Riley
          Laura Riley says:

          What do you mean if men demanded? In case you haven’t noticed it takes a woman AND a man to make a child. Men ARE equally responsible for bringing up the children, it’s just they think they are not which is why women get pushed out of the workplace. Make the workplace work for child carers. It’s artificially designed by men to discriminate against women. Men HAVE to change. I never stopped working but I have my own business which was the only way I could juggle work and family. My husband was zero help, he thought child rearing had nothing to do with him. Therein lies the problem.

          • Jay
            Jay says:

            I understand your point and can relate to the anger you harbor for your husbands outlook on child-rearing, but you have as much right to say that men HAVE to change, as men do to say a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Please do try to be intellectually consistent in your rantings. We do need equality between the sexes, which means each individual of both sexes needs to be equally free to make their own choices and value what they choose to value. If you wanted a husband that valued his role in the parenting process, perhaps you should have set that as a criteria for a man you would be willing to marry. You really should take responsibility for your part in the situation as well.

          • Laura Riley
            Laura Riley says:

            No I’m sorry Jay but you are missing the point. Men DO NOT have the right to expect women to bring up their children. It is a shared responsibility and something men need to get their heads around. There are a whole heap of largely cultural reasons as to why men think it’s got nothing to do with them but I can tell you that until the minute I gave birth I had not an inkling that my husband thought it had nothing to do with him. Society has to change because women are not returning to the kitchen and children need to be brought up. I might add that the number of stay at home mothers I have known once the children are at school is also one. Most mothers struggle working from home in the early years or work part time but I suspect many more would have made different choices if they had had a willing partner. Men need to understand that they are jointly responsible for their offspring. It shouldn’t be rocket science should it?

          • Marcia Sparks
            Marcia Sparks says:

            This behavior is not a deal breaker in your marriage. That is totally fine! You’ve weighed it out and know what is best, on balance, for you. “Society”, however, does not enforce parenting norms. We set the standards for division of labor in our individual marriages and lives.

      • Sheri
        Sheri says:

        I agree Catarina. I worked all through raising kids more than I wanted to because of the nature of my job (which made part time awkward) and due in no small part to my husband’s insistence that he not be the only breadwinner. Also, economic reality–it’s just way tougher to raise kids on one salary even when you factor in saving on child care.

      • Souris
        Souris says:

        Exactly. They are much more likely to look down on the women who *are* working. Women who stay home and raise families are confirming that they know their proper place. Why would men look down on that?

        • Tim
          Tim says:

          My post seems to have been misunderstood, which is understandable, because it was pretty vague.

          Every progressive movement, including feminism, has self-serving members who promote extremism and hate for what they perceive as their own personal gain, be that grabbing attention, power, or money, or just venting their anger at the world.

          These individual do great damage to good causes and society as a whole. But the tribal nature of many of these movements make it taboo to call these people out as wrong.

          I am jsut saying that women who assume that those who take care of families are stupid or incompetent or sell-outs are self-serving and wrong, and I don’t mind calling them out.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I don’t know any women that actively do this to each other. But a lot of these posts are incredibly divisive and it’s so unnecessary. One can’t bring people together by being inflammatory.

          • Emily
            Emily says:

            I know women like this. At dinner recently, a woman remarked to my friend who is a teacher turned stay-at-home parent that one day perhaps my friend could go back to school and then back to work. My friend has two graduate degrees and chose to take a break from work for a few years, but this other woman clearly implied these were poor choices.

            In my experience, reactions like this to stay at home moms have come mostly from younger women who don’t have children, but they still happen and even happen with older women who disagree with someone else’s decision.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


            Perhaps it is inexperience with having a family, perhaps it’s just ignorance. I can’t speak for your circle of friends. Most women in my circle are making mid-six figures not including spouse’s income, they have kids that are tweens and teen, they own businesses, they are executives, doctors, lawyers etc and when they find out I stay at home (and have homeschooled, now temporarily homeschooing my oldest again) no one bats an eye… no one cares. We all just support each other. Enough with the divisive bs. I for one question anyone who seems to align their position regarding women with that of christian fundamentalists.

        • Emily
          Emily says:

          Souris lol a woman’s “proper place” is at home? Where a woman’s “place” is is not decided by you!

          It is decided by her, be it at home with kids, in a career, or both.

          • Marduk
            Marduk says:

            YesMyKidsAreSocialized – How ironic that you call on everyone to stop being so devisive and then immediatly throw jabs at Christian fundimentalists.

            “Everyone stop being so devisive and just agree with my idiology already!”

    • Michael Kohn
      Michael Kohn says:

      Because feminist lie to woman and say staying home with kids is something woman did in the 50’s and woman are better then that now and dont need to be forced by men to do it. All tho they are really saying if you dont have a job you’re not doing everything to prove you can do everything men can do. They know their not stupid they are just not on their side. All nut job feminist well at least 98% of them are also on the left which really doesnt help. And if a man looks down on woman for staying home that is called a please love me feminist wimp. Oh yeah and the reason us men dont look down on woman is because we sont care to compete with them which is why guys let things go that woman make huge deals out of.

      • Jane
        Jane says:

        You clearly know very little about feminist or feminism.
        To begin with men can’t ‘force’ women to do anything. They can try, but it won’t end well.
        What feminist are saying is that if a woman isn’t working, her odds of resuming her career go down the more time that passes, which is simply fact. Women that don’t work rarely have control of the money which makes their ability to leave should things turn violent, problematic at best.
        Thank GOD for the left as they keep right wing nutjobs in check.
        The reason men don’t look down on women is that the misogynistic fools don’t consider women as fellow human beings practically. Just objects of desire, then baby making machines, then caregivers. Of course this makes me wonder why women fuck misogynist in the first place. If they can’t reproduce, they can’t pass on their particular mental illness.
        Since you don’t care however, you won’t make a big deal out of this comment.

    • Joe
      Joe says:

      Personal validation is more easily achieved by degrading the one who took the other path. Most men don’t do this because they are part of a parenting team that made the decision for the wife to stay home together.

    • Geraldine Byrne
      Geraldine Byrne says:

      I think women who really don’t want to look after their own kids see it as a loss of status, and are unable to understand the need for children to be look after by their own mother or father. Status and money take precedence. I am not referring to women who need to work because of financial necessity. I’m referring to women who opt to work to enable them to continue a lifestyle which they feel is their ‘identity’ rather than become what is their new reality, Motherhood. They don’t want to grow up.

  2. Alvina
    Alvina says:

    Hi ladies,
    I am a 20 year old undergraduate business student who’s in her freshman year. I’ve been following Penelope’s blog lately because it seems like she’s one of those few people who’s willing to take about work-life balance without all the BS.
    My goal is to have a good career and a happy family someday. But I’m not too sure if I can have it all at the same time. If any of you are willing, what kind of advice you might give to someone like me or would you want to share your regrets and things you wish you would’ve done that makes work-life balance easier.

    • Missy
      Missy says:

      It is possible to have both. Of course you’ll work hard to keep it all together, but who in their late 20s/30s/40s can say that it’s a piece of cake to manage their life?

      You’re very young. Over the next ten years or so, your two areas of focus should be 1) pursuing a rewarding and well-compensated career path and 2) having fun, making friends, enjoying your life and having adventures. That will give you freedom to make whatever choices around family you’ll want to make down the line. If you want to have children a little earlier, you can buckle down on the career route now.

      Having an area of professional expertise and a good financial foundation gives you a great, stable base to launch whatever you want a few years down the line, whether that’s a company or a family (or both – though that is truly challenging simultaneously!).

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      This isn’t nearly as hard as you’re making it. Do what Penelope says: work until you get married, then commit to staying home with the kids, because no, you can’t have it all at the same time. Your work will suffer because the children take priority and your children will suffer because work calls you away when they need you. The biggest thing is “it’s okay to be home with your children!” Just start sending that message to your brain right now: I’m going to work and learn and enjoy the experiences of my 20’s and when it’s time to start a family, I’m going to be with my kids.” You will never regret it.

      • mk
        mk says:

        It’s seriously bizarre to me that no one is even mentioning the fact that yes, men could be the ones to stay home to. I know there’s plenty of social and cultural pressure that makes it more difficult for them to do so, and I’ve read about women preferring not to be breadwinners. But the reality is these are social constructs that can be changed. If a woman is more career-oriented and just frankly better at her job, than it makes sense that her partner should stay home.

        I know everyone’s going to tell me this doesn’t work, these marriages break up, it’s biological–but I know the spectrum of women who would do better working and men who’d be better at home is broader than we want to think it is.

        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          Sometimes people mention here that men could be the ones to stay home. But we’re told that we’re as rare as unicorns, and thus irrelevant.

          For it to work, you need both a woman who is happy with an ambitious career at the expense of kid time, and a man who is finds fulfillment in taking care of his children and finds external reinforcement irrelevant. I recommend it to other men, but most men I meet who are staying at home don’t seem happy about it and don’t look at it as desirable on a long-term basis.

          I think it was the best choice for our family.

    • Kate Kressmann-Kehoe
      Kate Kressmann-Kehoe says:

      It is EXTREMELY hard to have it all at the same time. And the people I have know who have tried are not happy. Andor their marriages blow up. My observation is that part timers are pretty happy, esp. if they have a job they can leave at the office e.g. nurse vs. writer. Jobs you can do from home, e.g. writer can give flexibility though. If you do stay home full time (I did), then use and grow your skills with volunteer work — you can get all sorts of real responsibility that way. Being a citizen who makes a difference in the world can make a nice balance to some of the more boring dimensions of child care. And makes you more interesting to talk to (and less self-doubting) at parties.

      • Lauren INFJ Bishop
        Lauren INFJ Bishop says:

        Totally agree. My mother created a lot of meaning for herself through volunteering in the community while being a stay at home mom. I plan to do the same!

    • Elaine
      Elaine says:

      Alvina – as wages have not kept up with the cost of living, most families require both spouses to be working. I have no reason to think our Congress or corporate America is willing to start paying a living wage. They like their big paychecks.

      I hope you have the luxury to someday be able to choose whether or not you want to stay home with your future children. You need a good support system around you if you decided to have children and continue to work. I was a single parent of 3 children for 8 years. It is hard work. It got a wee bit easier when I remarried.

      • Janet
        Janet says:

        I’m so glad you brought this up.
        This article totally excludes poor, working class and unmarried women (it takes two to tango!) and oh yeah…remember all those unemployed millenial college graduates? Some of us are women!
        We’re still waiting tables and we’re not getting married because we watch so much porn so women are just considered sex toys in our age group.
        Some of us do not have these choices.
        And having kids? We’re overpopulated and the planet is being destroyed by industry and tech…
        What world do these luxurious people live in?

    • Gina
      Gina says:

      I am 38, I have 3 kids, and a full time job. Yes, it helps that my husband works from home (when he’s not travelling) and is an active father. And that my mother lives close by. And that my sister’s kids go to the same school. Without all these things my life would be a lot more difficult. But I do have it all. Because I have a village and it takes a village.

      The best advice I could ever give you, is find your village. Whether it’s family or close friends. And find a hands on man that really values his role as a father. If you’re not sure how to determine that, just look at his own father and there’s your answer. (If you’re into women you should be good lol).

      There are years where you won’t have it all. When your kids are small. So work as hard as you can leading up to that, and try to always have one foot in the door. Cause when they grow up you might want to focus on your career again.

      And I don’t understand the whole “never see your kids” thing. If they go to school what will you do all day? Penelope values home schooling which is why she says this (and I really understand why, schools can really suck) but still, if you put them in school you WILL see them. After work.

      But you need a village. And people don’t focus on this enough. Move close to your siblings. Or best friend. Aunt. Uncle. Drive your friends kids to practice when you can and they will drive yours. Etc.

      Sometimes you will pull your hair out and drink an entire bottle of wine. But you can do it.

      Good luck :)

      • KP
        KP says:

        What fabulous advise re: building your village and spending the next 5-10+ years focusing on yourself– your career, your adventures, your relationships, etc.. You are in the discovery phase, but it might feel like the commitment phase b/c there is so much pressure in your 20’s to settle yourself. Explore, figure out what you’re really good at, what motivates you, and learn how to manage your most important relationships. Make some money if you can. Worry about the family-life balance later. Decisions for that will be based a lot on immediate circumstances and future desires, not on what you did in your 20s.

      • Pdxmom
        Pdxmom says:

        What to do all day? When they were in school I would be on edge every moment for a phone call from the school to talk about their behavior. Or pick them up. Or they got suspended so someone had to be with them.
        Or spend all day researching what to do with them.
        And I cook up a storm. Wonderful healthy things. And finding out they had food intolerances made that even more important.
        And then we started homeschooling. So I spend all day with one kid (one has returned to school) while taking care of the finances and the house and cooking and researching more homeschooling and also schools in case we do that again though unlikely.

        Your post is exactly what the blog is about.

    • robyn
      robyn says:

      Hi, I’m a 42 year old lawyer and mother of an 8 year old and 6 year old. I don’t know any female friends from college who have a “career” and a family. Some of them have jobs, but they are out of necessity and definitely not careers.

      OK, I do know one friend who has a career but she also has a husband who stayed home for many years, although I think she loved him a lot more once he started his own company and ended up making more money than her.

      I don’t have a career either. I’ve had a series of corporate jobs, the last one I quit (6 figures) so that I could be present for my kids when they got out of school at 3:30 PM because the office wanted me until 10 PM each night.

      It would be rare to find a 6-figure job that doesn’t ask a whole lot more than 40 hours a week. The ideal would be a 3/4 job from 9 AM to 3 PM so you could be with your kids when they get out of school. But those jobs don’t really exist right now, and flexible employers aren’t going to pay you 3/4 of your salary for that kind of flexibility because flexibility comes with a financial penalty.

      Personally, my husband and I are raising our daughter to know that 90% of women in America are going to end up wanting children, so you might as well plan for that being the most important event of your life. Because I feel like my kids were just born yesterday, but in a few months my son is going to be halfway to going to college. It goes by in the blink of an eye. If I ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up right now, her answer is “a mommy.”

      So my advice to you would be to work from 22 to 30 or 25 to 30 if you go to grad school. Get married at 28, when you are still young enough to attract the most attractive men, have a baby at 30 and another at 32. Raise them. Maybe get a part-time job once they’re in elementary school to keep up your contacts and stay relevant.

      And re-enter the workforce full time when you’re 50. It’ll be there, and taking time out to raise children is a noble cause; nothing you need to lie about. As long as you kept up with technology and the progression of your field, you’ll catch on.

      There is no comparison between having a “career” and raising children. Raising children wins hands down in terms of being more fulfilling and meaningful and important to the world.

      You’re not going to make the money you would have made had you stayed full time the whole time, but what does it matter? Hopefully you made a smart decision in choosing a mate by waiting until you were 28 to get married.

      • Golfgrrl
        Golfgrrl says:

        I think trying to re-enter the work force at 50 is not possible for most corporate jobs – including men and especially for women. I don’t know if this advice should only apply ro free lance work.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Most people at 50 have a tough time staying employable. This is because unless you can do a job a 27 year old can’t do, people would always rather have the 27 year old. The perception is that a younger person had potential, at 50 you are what you are.

          Regadless of the veracity of this view, its what people think. Most people over 50 have to work for themselves in some way or take a job they don’t like.

          I say this because its not like if you take care of kids its a lot worse at 50 or 60 than if you don’t take care of kids.


          • Daniel
            Daniel says:

            I happen to be exactly 50, male, married with 2 young children, and a fan of this blog.

            I think that what you say is true of most jobs, but it turns out there are some careers where people routinely display skills that most 27 year-olds don’t have. I’m a software developer, and I’m constantly getting offers from companies with names that you’ve heard of. Some of these companies tell me they cannot find younger employees anyway because they don’t have sufficient engineering and programming chops, and sometimes when they do have the skill they don’t have the work ethic to get the job done.

            I may be a rare bird (I’m not sure about that, though), but I’m fortunate that I’ve never had to worry about ageism yet.

      • Mel
        Mel says:

        Yeah, being a 50 year old woman re-entering the professional workplace looks next to IMPOSSIBLE…UNLESS you start your own business and/or have a very strong network where you can just get handed a role. Both are possible, just start preparing for it asap.

      • Pdxmom
        Pdxmom says:

        I went back to work for a period of time after number two was born. Then wanted to go part time. The company had a whole manual labor all the part time rules and regulations and how it was handled.
        Not a tiny company …and exactly zero part time employees.

        I did get push back when I made the announcement from an older woman who seemed angry with me. Because I guess feminism isn’t really about choices.

    • Amanda
      Amanda says:

      I admit to having said or at least thought some of these statements, but my perspective changed dramatically when my child was diagnosed with ADHD. This is not a tragic diagnosis and we are managing quite fine, but it put things in perspective for me.

      The fact is I looked like I had it all, but I was outsourcing the most important job—raising my kids—and it wasn’t being done well enough to cope with anything less than “easy” kids. (By “easy” I’m referring to well-adjusted, healthy, smart and relatively self-reliant … very few children fall into all of these categories.) Trying to keep up this facade in the face of my son’s challenge taxed my ability to mother effectively and calmly as well as my relationship with my husband and my own mental and physical health. I ended up folding my consultancy and taking a year off to get our family back on course. It was the best decision I’ve made since having children.

      I’m now easing my way back into some client work, but taking it slow so that my family doesn’t suffer. I admire women (and men) who have arranged their lives so that they can prioritize their kids—whether they choose not to work, work part time or work in a field that allows them the flexibility to be there for when their son or daughter needs them. Parenting is our most important job.

      As you grow your career, my advice is to look for ways to take control of it by growing your reputation and your network so that you can create your own opportunities. I’m so fortunate that I have my own business that I run from home and have been able to dial it down (to zero) when needed and can dial it back up when my kids take off for college. I wish you luck!

    • Mrs. Pirate Owl
      Mrs. Pirate Owl says:

      The choice I made for myself was first focusing on finding the best career path for me – to insure that I’m going in the right direction – while at the same time finding the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with. (Meaning: I was actively looking for this person and discarding quickly of any relationship that was not suitable. The book “Act like a lady, Think like a man” helped me a lot with that.)

      Right now, we are working as a unit and support each other in our careers, with the goal to build a good financial nest and finding a good place to invest our money (index funds, real estate or smth else – we haven’t decided yet). That way, when the time comes, we’ll have the choice to have one or both focused on the family. I think I’ll also attempt to start a lifestyle business to be more flexible then, because I’m a high-energy person and might need the intellectual stimulation. We’ll see. As Penelope also says and I’ve seen happening all around me, your life priorities change entirely and in unexpected ways after having kids.

      I’ve been inspired by this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEBe7ZEfORc

      Hope that helps!

    • Rhonda Bulmer
      Rhonda Bulmer says:

      Lots of people have responded, Alvina. I’ll say that I had my first child at 26 and two more by age 35. I left full-time work–because I felt juggling work and home too stressful–when my first child was one, and I freelanced haphazardly in writing and communications up until now. I never worked in an office again. I recently took a job in a retail bakery (I’m 50, and I hate it) to supplement my income because I can’t get a full-time job in my field, after so many years at home. Am I too old, too out of date? I don’t know. People often talk about the benefits of staying home–which are many–but they don’t mention what comes after. Your kids grow up and you’ll have no income of your own. You have to reinvent yourself. Every choice you make has a benefit and a consequence. You have to be prepared for both. I wrote a whole article about it (anonymously) for a financial website. You can read it here. https://www.howtosavemoney.ca/the-war-on-debt-surviving-as-a-single-income-family

    • Sean
      Sean says:

      I am a commercial pilot, who also has a degree. At some point in my journey I, trying to ‘have it all” had to make a decision. I decided that I could not ‘have it all’ be a ‘supermom’ as we used to say, and I had to choose. I had two children and they needed me, one parent at least to be “there” for them. Then I had to make the hardest decision of my life. Flying was imbedded in my genes it seemed. I had been sky watching since a child. I chose to stay home. I pined for the sky. Sky watching became more intense. Such a loss of personal power and good income at times overwhelmed me with a grief. I loved my kids and gave them everything of me. I had three more children and even homeschooled for a couple of years. Now my children are grown and flown. I do not regret my decision for even one second, to choose to be a full time Mom. In fact, it was the best decision I ever made in my life, right next to having children and for me five. I rarely felt respected unless by others who stayed home. The mainstream media made me feel I was less than a deserving person. I stood my ground and clawed out my sense of personal respect and over the years grew strong. Now I hold my ground and advise any who will listen and I ask the questions. Why are so many families broken? Why is mental health being destroyed ever increasingly. Why is there rampant drug and alcohol abuse? Why does suicide increase? Why are people ever more lonely? Who is raising the children? I am a senior now and know for certain that if we don’t reverse the trends of today, healthy families will be a relic of the past. Sounds impossible? Easier for me to see now into the future. I hope and pray that people come to their senses, commonsense.

    • Christine Silk
      Christine Silk says:

      Alvina, you will not be able to have it all at the same time. But you can have it all at different times. The younger your children are, the more they need full-time care coming from one stable adult. As kids get older, you’ll have more time to devote to other things. But even teenagers and college-age kids need to know that at least one parent is present on demand–and I mean mentally and emotionally available at the spur-of-the moment when the teenager is ready to talk and get advice — especially if the teen is having a hard time with something. It is unwise to postpone talking to a teenager if they need you right away, because the window of opportunity will close.
      If you can help it, don’t wait until after 30 for marriage and kids. Your fertility will decline rapidly then, and so will your pick of quality men. If you find the right man (and college is a good place to start looking) then get married, even if you are in your 20s. Start building the marriage. A marriage is its own entity, and it is more than the sum of its parts. The more time you put into nurturing it, the better (assuming you picked a good husband). The most important and irrevocable decision you will ever make is who the father of your children is. Make your decision wisely, with your eyes open.
      It is possible to be a stay-at-home parent with an average income. But like all major decisions, you and your spouse have to plan for it and be willing to make trade-offs. People who tell you that stay-at-home parenthood is “only for the rich” are either misinformed, or are spreading to disinformation to discourage you from taking that path.
      No matter how high-powered your career, you are expendable and replaceable in the eyes of your employer. But in the eyes of your children, you are irreplaceable. So you might as well make them your priority.

  3. Beatrice
    Beatrice says:

    Life is all about making difficult choices, after all. I think we should stop judging each other for our own choices.

  4. Amity
    Amity says:

    Thanks for writing this. I stayed home because I was laid off. Then we got pregnant, and there were no jobs. I ended up making up my own job, not because motherhood was not enough for me, but more because I had this fierce need to keep creating after my kid was created. Having a baby after years of trying made me feel I conquered the world and now it was time to take the mojo and run with it and stop denying that power within me, the divine feminine. So yeah, now I have a part-time job with insurance, my own business, and a toddler, and I needed this post. I mother best, make second best, and work in a system third best. It’s a good life and not cookie-cutter.
    No one looks down on me because I stayed home her first 14 months or now that I am in two commitment categories. Everyone thinks my kid is lucky she had me full time and lucky now to split the time with a family daycare.
    My goal is to get to a place of my own business to fully financially support my family and her dad wants to be primary when that happens. He is a teacher.
    We have learned to live on not a lot, and just focus on our goals. Maybe it is a rural Maine thing but it is working. People respect the hustle and the nurturing too around here.
    Maybe I am just not tuned in to the competitive snarky women.
    Maybe the creative community I am in is awesome?

  5. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Finding this article is hilarious after reading your “is it okay if I don’t want kids” article. You are a misogynist if you think that women’s sole purpose on earth is to either have children OR have a career and nothing more than those too. Pretty hypocritical if you ask me. And after reading this article I can see how you love to pull facts out of your ass. Women who have a higher IQ are more likely to not have children in their lifetime. Not everyone does a cost benefit analysis whether or not to have kids. Especially the women you see on teen mom’s who just get pregnant because it seems like it’s a normal thing for all women to do. Sad that you can’t think out of the box, but I suppose it’s not your fault you’re influenced by societal values. Sheep’s follow the crowd.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      Seems like you purposefully are not acknowledging other options Penelope mentioned, just to have a go at the article and her (not an uncommon thing in the comments here btw). Hope you got some enjoyment out of that.

      • Natalie
        Natalie says:

        I didn’t get any enjoyment out of posting my comment. If she has a right to blog then I have a right to post my opinion. I just don’t think it’s fair that a hypocrite such as herself can make such ignorants statements on how to live your life. I’ve read some of her other articles and the statements she makes are plain ridiculous. She makes assumptions that she knows what people want out of life and is narrow minded with her views. And I think she rips people off charging them money telling them which career to follow when you can find those things out on your own with some research and soul searching. The only person who can tell you what to do in life is you. She can’t know someone based on a personality type and assume what they want to do. That’s like a psychic saying don’t become a professor because you won’t have any success there. She is a fraud.

        • MMJ
          MMJ says:

          Penelope continually returns to this subject of children v work, and I think that’s because she’s continually addressing her own choices and her own life. Any reader should not assume this is gospel – this is one person’s deep attachment to this issue. Don’t feel want to have children/family? That’s perfectly OK. But it won’t get air here because that’s not her strongest interest and subject for analysis.

        • Maria
          Maria says:

          BTW if you want to buy bananas, why pay at a shop. You can grow them on your own with some research and maybe travel. Maybe soul searching too.

        • Jen
          Jen says:

          Agree 100% Natalie. I wasted $350 on a “coaching call” with Penelope where she asked me nothing about myself or my background and made a ton of assumptions all based on my personality type. Then as soon as she found out I had a child she told me I should just be a stay at home mom. Thanks for the FANTASTIC advice….what great help. She didn’t even bother to find out if I could financially afford to be a stay at home mom. But if you want/need another path, she’ll just call you a misogynist and assumes you are putting stay at home moms down. What a waste. I’ve never heard of a coaching session where a coach doesn’t bother asking you a single question about yourself. Her approach and her writing is pure laziness and just pathetic attempts at generating click bait- not advice to be taken seriously. I didn’t want to post here and encourage her pathetic click bait, but I couldn’t help myself :)
          Penelope if you are reading- can I have a refund please? I could use that money on spending some quality, fun time with my daughter.

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            The reson I told you you’re best off staying home is because you don’t have a career you like.

            You don’t have enough seniority to get a part-time job that you’d like. And you don’t have enough seniority to earn enough money to cover child care while you continue your career.

            You also don’t have a new career idea that you are so excited about that you’re willing to take an entry level salary and work long hours to establish yourself.

            So at this point in your life a career doesn’t make economic or emotional sense because you wouldn’t make enough money doing what you want to do. And you don’t have enough economic incentive to do a job you don’t really want to do.

            The issue here is looking honestly at the economics of career paths in a two-parent family where one pareon does not like their current career.


        • Happy Homemaker for my kids
          Happy Homemaker for my kids says:

          Yes, I am thinking the same thing. She goes off one way then another. Like Trump?

          I’ve stayed home with my kids from birth until they left home. I am grateful my husband could provide for our family (with lots of budgeting) & was an excellent father. Took the kids away one Saturday a month to do unique things with them & give me a break.

          I also homeschooled them for elementary years.

        • Betsy
          Betsy says:

          Okay, so you think she’s a phony. You seem really angry about it, though. Also, totally okay. I’m curious why you read here as I stop reading things that don’t interest me or seem to be malarkey.

          • Chris
            Chris says:

            Your example is amazing because Sheryl Sandberg has retracted her position in Lean In saying that “leaning in” was made possible by her husband.

            Penelope was basically correct on all that.

    • Rachel G
      Rachel G says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Did you say Penelope can’t think outside the box?!?!? I’ve been reading this blog for 12 years. She is so far outside the box she sometimes seems completely bonkers, but she’s usually right and she’s definitely calling bs on the status quo on a regular basis. I can’t stop laughing! She’s so out there, and you think she can’t think outside the box!!!! What box is that?!

  6. DP
    DP says:

    Per your comment, I did the research and soul searching. It led me to Penelope. Glad it did.

    Also took her career guidance course. Invaluable. The $$ spent were minor compared to the results achieved.

    Keep talking, Penelope!

    “And I think she rips people off charging them money telling them which career to follow when you can find those things out on your own with some research and soul searching.”

  7. Foudeb
    Foudeb says:

    I find this article a little misogynistic.
    Men also adopt the behaviours you describe above- why not berate them?

    And boys too should be told that caring for others is a valid path of life, not just the girls.

    As a matter of fact, if I were to believe like you do that women have a biological urge to care for children that men lack, I would be even more likely to push daughters to excel academically and in their careers – they will need every bit of overachieving to first get to the point where they can afford a career break to raise children if they wish to do so and second so they have the option to jump back into a career post kids.

    Surely that kind of excellence, career-long flexibility and self-actualisation ought to be your ideal, rather than pushing women, and not men, who for some reason are exempt of your disapproval, into “failed her career”, “failed her family” or “failed at both” boxes.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Here’s how to get more men to want to stay home with kids: Take boys out of school. They want to run around or play video games. We justify forced schooling by telling the boys they need to get good grades to get good jobs. When you tell boys that good grades and good jobs don’t matter that much, then they’ll be open to valuing each other for taking care of families.



      • Foudeb
        Foudeb says:

        I’m not convinced that raising children in an environment where the female role model does all the caring and the male role model does all the careering for money will encourage anyone to reconsider gendered roles. (With respect)

    • j
      j says:

      yes thank you! I too found this article is quite misogynistic but also very short sighted.

      Telling women not to work and just breed is based on the assumption that a marriage will last forever and your partner will pay you to stay home forever. (it’s also a very heteronormative assumption)

      This is not the reality for a huge percentage of people. Telling women this is a step back to dependance and low financial security. No one works because we all love it every second, but because it’s the only way to be independent. And independence matters not when things are dandy but when a marriage fails or there is illness or whatever. Why should women be taught to be dependants? To be desperate or to be homeless when the marriage fall apart. And then when things have failed not even to have a foot in the door career or job security wise.

      However I find it fascinating how the blog has been getting more and more conservative and retrograde while Penelope’s life seems to go further and further away from this conservative dream (female stays at home, male is rich and pays, is also a great dad, marriage is strong, jesus loves us all etc etc ).

      • Foudeb
        Foudeb says:

        Thank you! Independence was the concept I was looking for. The stay at home parent can’t walk away, while the career parent can. Regardless of who’s doing what, that can’t be healthy for a marriage.

        Penelope showed independence and strength in her own life too. I’d much rather read about that- the resilience, what it’s like to be the main breadwinner and the main parent, how to remain a high earner in the midst of major life changes – than how I really should be curtailing my own options in order to commit 100% to just one facet of my life.

        • Rachel G
          Rachel G says:

          Penelope doesn’t think you should walk away. But do you really think having enough money so that each of you can bail out is the foundation of a healthy marriage?

          You can read a lot of other blog posts about those topics you mentioned. Like literally that’s most of the blog for the past ten years.

  8. sarah
    sarah says:

    Interesting. As a stay at home mom, when women say to me they couldn’t stay at home like I do, I always feel superior. I chose the hard path for most women, I chose the non profitable path. I stood up for what I felt was important, but they followed along like sheep.I never saw it as them putting me down. My Dad pushes education first. I’m pretty sure I’m a let down, having a high IQ means nothing without a college degree, and a high powered career. I have always viewed that thinking as ignorant, because life has so much more to offer than money.

    Sometimes I do feel bummed to not be in a high powered career, mostly because I think I was built for it more than being a stay at home mom. This probably lends itself to my thinking that I choose the harder road, because as an entp – I did.

    • Natalie
      Natalie says:

      I’m not saying mothers nor career women are sheep. Mothers have the hardest jobs in the world, and it is truly rewarding. children are wonderful. The relationship I have with my mother is amazing and she has done so much for her family, she has so much honor and integrity. What I’m saying is that Penelope is a sheep with her views and lack of facts. She makes stuff up as she goes along and gives advice that is not reliable. I have other comments posting, proving articles where she makes contradictions and acts like a hypocrite but they have not been approved to be posted for obvious reasons. For example she stated in the article Blueprint for a woman’s life that it is really hard being a parent AND having an interesting life. its in contradiction to what she claims here. so then she must be a misogynist herself. And she advocates having plastic suergey and botox is they key to keeping door open in life because everyone values the young and the beautiful. She is giving harmful advice and putting her own insecurities out to the people who read this.

      • sarah
        sarah says:

        I find your replies and comments fascinating. At the age of 34 I learned my Mother had an undiagnosed mental illness, and I realized it had drastically affected me. I was forced with two choices, get help or stay as I was. I chose to get help. I can see some possible signs that you currently have, or in the past had, trauam.

        1. The need to worry about others inability to choose to believe Penelope or not. This is classic co-dependency. To worry about others that are clearly not in your circle of control.

        2. The black and white thinking, that Penelope cannot be human and change her mind, or toil over different ideas. The interesting thing about my comment is I was doing the very thing Penelope is doing. I happen to complain to her frequently I shouldn’t be a stay at home mom, and I should work. Yet, here I am in all hypocrisy coming across that I am content. Does this make me a fake? A lier? or does it simply make me human?

        3. The need to assume my comment was related to your previous ones. It was not. But, the assumption it must be, speaks to me, a victim mentality, which makes me think you must enjoy the krapman Triangle. Again points to unresolved trauma.

        So, I will say this, change is hard. Getting help is only for the strong.

        • Katy
          Katy says:


          After your follow-up post to Natalie I can see that what you said about yourself in the original comment, ” I always feel superior,” is 100% true, and was what probably led you to believe you were within your right to give someone a condescending, armchair diagnosis of mental illness based on a nothing but a comment(s?) that you disagree with. That is really something.

        • Danielle
          Danielle says:

          Sarah, your reply to Natalie is a thinly veiled letter to yourself.

          You should re-read the DBT Skills Workbook, because your diagnosis is showing. ;)

      • Rachel G
        Rachel G says:

        Do you know what she means by ‘interesting life’? Search the blog. She means travel and restaurants and job promotions and coffee with friends and taking a painting class and all the other things most moms mostly give up. It’s not misogynist. It’s a reality check. Having children is interesting of course. But it’s not a glamorous life.

  9. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    My mum stayed home with me and I think I have said this on this blog like 3 years ago, it was /such/ a disaster. She’s a smart, driven, but a bit nuts woman and she poured all this energy into two people, me and my sister. And if (when) we didn’t measure up it was a disaster and took many years of therapy to get over (spoiler: my sister is hugely successful materially, and I am very very happy with my middle-class life.) We were simultaneously pushed to excel and also not given the right responsibility/room to fail. She cried if we didn’t say the right thing. She was very controlling, because she was so bored. In your case you may have the one kid where the space to do cello leads to a much better life but for me…I was really, really bright but the expectation that I was going to Be Worth The Effort really did me in. Like, wrecked my early career. 1% achiever or bust resulted in bust, and my mother cried at every family dinner for years that I didn’t have a PhD. (True story.)

    I firmly believe that kids need love, attention, family, and community. They do need their parents to be tuned into them, and as they get older, that is really hard to balance because they don’t tell you, you kind of have to be around for it. So I get that.

    But I really don’t believe that kids need one adult focused on them 24/7. I do know stay at home mums that I love and adore, and we’re all just doing our best, but I’m not actually sure that they are always doing their kids a ton of favors if they really feel like they are _sacrificing_ for them or doing _the most important job_. The best one I know is like hey, this is what I like to do, it’s not some massive sacrifice and I don’t need my kids to demonstrate I’m meeting my KPIs.

    What I do think SAHMs offer is a more peaceful, less frenetic household for everyone because they don’t have to be trying to take a meeting in the middle of a child’s having just shattered his fishbowl on the floor and Mr. Guppy is flopping around dying. And that’s something. Like really, really, something. But it doesn’t require a mum, just a parent. If it were socially okay for both parents to work good, progressive-but-not-stellar 30-hr-a-week jobs, I think we might find it’s not really biological for women to want to do that either.

    It’s true that my son got a bad grade on a science project because I was in the middle of a work thing and his dad wasn’t on top of it either and neither of us pushed him through all the steps in time. (GASP) However, that failure meant his next project, he didn’t leave it to the deadline. If his grade 7 marks pooch his Ivy League career, then oh well, he’ll have to sort it out. If I were a SAHM, that wouldn’t have happened…but I kind of think he actually got more out of it this way.

    That said, I agree it’s a balance. I stepped firmly into camp #3 this year – I dialed down my career from “insane” to “full time” and upped my parenting some. I’m happy with that place. It’s okay to do a good job, and be a decent parent. It does annoy me that as the woman, I had the more ghettoed career where it made more sense. We’re working on getting to that 30hr/30hr place.

    • Missy
      Missy says:

      This is one of the best comments I have seen on Penelope’s articles about women and childcare. It seems Penelope uses her posts on expectations for women in their 30s to work through some of her own decisions. Totally fine – but in my experience women have many more options and paths available to them. No need to be so black and white about it.

      And Jenn, my childhood experience was similar to yours. When motherhood/parenthood is viewed as a calling it puts so much unnecessary pressure on the parent AND the child. Your comment about KPIs cracked me up.

      I’m in my early 30s and about to start a family, and I really hope the trend I see among my millennial friends to be more community-oriented and, frankly, laissez-faire about child-rearing is a wider rejection of the Gen X focus on parenthood as a calling rather than one (very involved) aspect of a full and happy life.

    • MMJ
      MMJ says:

      I had “that mom” too – bored, ambitious, insecure, jealous and nuts – and I was her ticket to purpose, identity, glory, meaning and fame and she could not bear the idea that I might not be a gigantic success and she’d have to tolerate a “dud and loser.” Now, I’m almost 50, have multiple degrees, am successful in my field, and I’m still not good enough because (1) she’s nuts and (2) I failed to live her fantasies of being a surgeon and marrying a surgeon who would “drape me in diamonds and furs.” I think she’s pathetic. So….how do you think I feel about family, staying at home and SAHMs? I’d probably have much higher opinions of all of the foregoing if I hadn’t lived through the complete destruction a crazy narcissist can wreak in that position of control. NOT all women should have extensive access to children.

      • Aaron
        Aaron says:

        A lot of people look at the fact that life is flawed and tragic and people are often messed up to say that this or that institution or norm shouldn’t be valued or supported. The perfect being the enemy of the good. Are you grateful that you exist? You would have preferred being born and then have your mother diverted to a career. If she is as much a basket case as you believe why do you assume that her pathology would have played out better for all involved if she had a job? Would she have kept sucha job if she is so terrible to those around it? The fact that some people are awful can be used to justify the denigrate any set up. If people’s flaws are going to define what ideals we can look towards we won’t have any at all. Sorry your Mom was so terrible. Perhaps there was a situation that would have made her less terrible but I fear that she would need to change more than the set up your family constructed.

  10. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    “Regardless of the choices they make, women who come out of this difficult time with their self-esteem in tact are those who respect and admire women who stay home with kids.”

    I think you could open up this sentence a bit for a general way to win at life: People with self-esteem are those who respect and admire other people.

  11. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Natalie: You have a lot to say — way more than is appropriate for here. You should get your own blog.

    In the meantime you are limited to four comments per blog post going forward. I will start deleting after that. And don’t bother responding to this comment because you’ve already exceeded your limit.


  12. Gwenn
    Gwenn says:

    I do not look down on stay at home mothers. It’s a very important job. However you really can have it all at least when the kids are school age by getting a smallish house and spending your money on a house manager. Get someone to come over cook, clean, do laundry etc. If you hate that stuff like me it equals happiness and then you don’t have to scale back. It’s awesome!

  13. Kate K
    Kate K says:

    I appreciate what you are doing, Penelope. I am glad you are telling the truth with the 3 categories and the deep denial of the people in the third category.

    What you say is important.

  14. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    This is such a great post. Mostly because of this one thought that I can’t stop thinking about: feminism isn’t the “fight” to make women equal to men, it’s about creating a world where a woman is free and supported to do whatever she decides is a good fit for her life, even if she chooses to be a stay at home mom. It’s high time to stop looking down on women who embrace motherhood. Thank God my mom did because I am here today to be who I want to be!! Bless you, P

  15. Alan
    Alan says:

    I agree with all of this except I think the categorisation is based on a dangerous false dichotomy: work or parenting. To me, both are work (job). One is undervalued, but three many careers are undervalued (often those chosen by women). The categories really should be, IMHO, a) those who commit to a job and b) those that don’t. (To make sure my point is clear, I see stay at home parenting as a job). In most instances, those that commit to a job are more successful than those who don’t.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes. Agree. An interesting way to divide things is into commitment and not commitment.

      So many people say they want to “change the world” but everyone they point to as a world-changer is someone who was extremely committed to their cause.

      Commitment is a lot of pain (see Seth Godin’s book, The Dip) and it means giving up a lot as well.

      I am interested in putting people who stay in a long-term marriage in the same category as people who revolutionize their industry because both types of people exhibit big commitment.

      Then we are simply talking about commitment vs not being so hard-core. So training for the Olympic swimming, fulltime parenting: same type of commitment because you give up everything else.

      Part-time parenting, weekend swim class, constandncareer changes, these are forms of non-commitment. I’m not saying its bad. Just these are two different ways to choose to live, and we should be honest about what we are doing.


      • Lauren INFJ Bishop
        Lauren INFJ Bishop says:

        I love this! Commitment vs. non-commitment. In my 20s I am committed to my job and earning enough money so I can step out and do the SAHM thing when I have kids.

      • Jenn
        Jenn says:

        I had to sit with this comment a bit, because I do believe in excelling at things and that commitment is important. My stepped-down job is supporting an organization built around the premise of excelling. (And, incidentally, changing the world one person at a time. It’s not like inventing Google, but the work I do allows the rock stars in my organization to go out and literally turn kids’ lives around.)

        But after a couple of days I realized I am committed deeply…to finding a balance. Not the kind of balance where each day has the right number of hours devoted to each thing, but a balance where I experience the joy of laughing with my kids so hard our bellies ache, and where I have a job where yes, some Thursdays I work until midnight to get something done, but the following Tuesday I can leave two hours early to surprise my pre-teen with a shoe shopping and smoothie-getting expedition.

        There’s this word that haunts me which is mediocrity (see Amadeus, one of my fav films). And then there’s excellence. But in between there are words like good, reliable, conscientious. I know that’s not you, and it’s not your original target audience. That’s great.

        But I think it’s also good to wonder how we got, as a society, from “a decent job, well done” to “if you’re not an extraordinary entrepreneur, you aren’t changing the world.” When the choices are being on top or raising kids, sure, that’s the choice. But why so limited? I fully support women who are On Fire, and I used to be one of them and had a very heady job. But honestly I think I get more out of living having committed to “a bit better than just good enough.”

        I agree that as I approach the dread 50, it does raise the question of employability. Luckily I’ve built up some assets and wealth, and I also have developed skills that I’m pretty sure would allow me to run a “lifestyle business.” Which is a dirty phrase at Y-combinator or whatever but – it would support my lifestyle.

        Thanks so much for the discussion, you really gave me a week of clarity.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          I love the way you phrase this: committed deeply to finding balance. I just realized that each of us is committed to something in a deep way. Because each of us has the same amount of time in our life. It’s all about how you package what you do. If you do ballet ten minutes a day, you are not committed to ballet, really. But if you dance 9 hours a day, a little of each dance in existence, then you are really committed to dance.


  16. Beth
    Beth says:

    Penelope, there is another option/another world that you do not consider: that’s the world of universal day-care and living the truth that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Kids benefit by knowing and trusting someone other than their parents. Day care workers are under paid and undervalued (& 99% are female – another female ghetto in a field that should command high, if not the highest respect). Also, daycare is prohibitively expensive when it can be found – at least that’s the case where I live in Ontario, Canada, and we have much better maternity leaves here than in the US, so at least parents in Canada can focus on the baby for a year or more before committing to working or staying at home. Let’s get rid of the stigma of having kids in daycare, by making daycare high quality, convenient & affordable. It works in Quebec in Canada and in other countries too. There’s too much lip service about “our precious legacy, our children”, and not enough action and consideration, and of course money, put towards early education. The freedom to work and earn money should be available to everyone, not an either/or situation when it comes to having kids. I know this concept sounds Utopian, & a little socialistic but the status quo needs shaking up. I’ve been a stay at home mom and a working mom and my observation is that people either have self respect or they don’t – it’s not that easily shaken by another person’s assumption that they’re boring or whatever.- ie I witnessed just as many insecure people in my workplace as in the mom ‘n tot play
    groups. Also, while encouraging your daughter to be a caregiver, keep in mind the incidence of divorce, disease, change in sexual orientation etc that can deprive that happy caregiver of her wage earning partner, leaving her without skills,possibley homeless, jobless & responsible for a passel of kids. That 1950’s Leave it to Beaver model didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. Children need to be safe, loved & stimulated but it doesn’t all have to come from one parent all the time. Great daycare means great kids, so let’s work on getting great day (& night!) care.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think you misunderstand. I’m addressing an audience that has access to jobs that can pay for full daycare. That’s not the issue. The issue is that most women don’t want to have someone else take care of their kids for an entire workday.

      Remember I said there are three choices? Having someone take care of your kids all day so you can work is number 2.


      • Beth
        Beth says:

        Funny, you make choice #2 sound condemnatory. My point is you can work all day, have your kids well taken care PLUS have a nice relationship with them, especially, as you say, the money is there for good daycare. Interesting, do you also imply good daycare is impossible? given that it’s provided by women, isn’t that a misogynist assumption on your part? ie daycare workers are frauds, incompetent etc. I had a great relationship with my kids while I worked full time, because I had a great nanny and I found interacting with my kids when I was home took my mind off work for a few hours which was therapeutic – as I believe it would be for anyone. Helps creativity to disengage for a bit. All work and no play….I reiterate: I vote for good quality, regulated daycare that results in everyone having a choice.

        • MJ
          MJ says:

          That does sound a bit like the parenting part is there to benefit you (you find spening time with the kids therapeutic), rather than benefitting the kids ebing the focus.

          • Foudeb
            Foudeb says:

            does it matter? Really? The kids are loved, get interaction with a parent, and get to feel that the parent actually enjoys spending time with them. Is it essential for child development to feel like the planet orbits around them only?

        • Psyc
          Psyc says:

          Except that it is not misogynistic to believe that another person (no matter how great of quality) will not take care of your child the way you will.

        • Rachel G
          Rachel G says:

          Having your child’s needs met by someone who is lower paid than you in an institution where there is an economy of scale due to a high ratio of children to caregivers makes great sense for the economy. But most developmental psychologists do not think it makes good sense for children.
          It’s not misogynistic to say that a woman caring for ten or twenty children that are not her own, for a low wage, is not able to provide the same quality of care as a woman caring for just a few children, her own, for nothing, in their home. It’s not that the caregiver is doing a bad job because she is bad. A nanny is not the same as putting your kids in daycare. I call it day-orphanage.

  17. MBL
    MBL says:

    I’m going to cut and paste part of my response to the “wage gap” post since it is applicable to this post as well.

    “For that to be entirely true there would need to be parity in what men and women are giving up to stay at home with their kids. If men are treated with respect at work, then being with children all day may not be all that enticing. If women are dealing with subtle and overt harassment day in and day out and seeing their contributions minimized, then it is MUCH harder to believe that spending their days in that environment is worth the trade-off of missing their children. Until the atmosphere changes, the choices that men and women make are not at all surprising and should not be viewed as “proof” that “their level of interest” is entirely innate.”

    Thus, to ascribe the choices women make to biology or character discounts the role that gender treatment plays. Without parity one simply cannot compare men’s decisions with women’s. This may also account for the “Ivy League” stat and others. Women who go that route are probably more aware of misogynistic crap and refuse (because they are in a position that enables it) to put up with it.

    I’m not articulating this as well as I would like, but there is so much more that goes into the choice to “scale back vs forge ahead” than is generally acknowledged. There are so many articles and essays that have come out lately regarding women who leave lucrative industries due to harassment. It is a disservice to attribute their choices to biology.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      Yes! Thank you for reposting the comment from another post.
      At work, I find the most trouble arising from the sole bread winner women who have a partner who doesn’t work. Single moms are fine to work with but women with a dud husband: the worst. Those women take their anger out on the women who can afford to quit to stay home. The resentment of the women, who wish they could stay home and can’t, create the most toxic environments at work. Thank goodness few of them are ever promoted too high.

  18. pat sommer
    pat sommer says:

    Nope, never said those lines and never took offense from them.

    Happily smile and explain the possibilities of HSing in this day and age. Tell my daughter she can figure out how to have what she wants And share with the world her talents.
    I also agree when I hear a version of not fitting in with women at work -I’ll take my asshole male coworkers over catty women any day-

    Kinda puts me at #3. 85% goes to family 15% goes to dreams.
    Soon will be shifting more my direction as teen matures.

  19. Lucy Chen
    Lucy Chen says:

    So true, Penelope, very insightful.

    I find it hard to “fit in” with other moms when it comes to school parent meet-up and that sort of things, not because I think they’re dumber than me, but rather, it’s me feeling uncomfortable in a group. So I just don’t go after suffering through two of those LOL!

    I am the primary caretaker, as a single mom of two toddlers. But I’m also building my own business at the moment :)

    Love reading your articles, makes me reflect on my own thinking. Thanks.

  20. Laura
    Laura says:

    I’m a woman who is making money for the family because my husband gave up on it.

    I worry that he is not really committed to taking care of the family either, but if I’m at work, someone has to take care of the kids, and I can’t afford to pay someone.

    I’m not precisely happy about it. But at least I have a job that makes me feel good about my place in the world. I don’t know if I will ever make ‘high performer’ money

    I feel like I’m on the edge of burnout trying to do as much with the kids as I can in the time I have. But I don’t see a choice. When I met my husband, his career was great, but he had a career betrayal that led to a failed business that led to a mental health crisis, and here we are.

    • JJ
      JJ says:

      You’re a good woman. Give your husband a loving kiss on top of all the work you do and help him get back on his feet again.

  21. Leith Banney
    Leith Banney says:

    It’s all true but what you have said is too simplistic and a little negative. I think being able to balance work and family life is enormously challenging and rewarding and I’m excited that I can “do so much,” and most of the time do it really well. My kids respect that I work and my workmates respect my need to be there for the kids – and I end up respecting myself! Our daughters need to grow up to be able to support themselves – end of story. Black and white thinking is dangerous…
    I don’t think I am “fitting in with men” because most men are isolated in their working lives and when they retire it’s like a death as they have no life outside of work. This is a real problem for working women who haven’t got a social network when they retire – which is why it’s important to maintain friendships and something outside of work!
    Part of not getting

  22. Susannah
    Susannah says:

    I vigorously disagree with the idea that the only kind of committed parent is one who doesn’t work. It is plain wrong. Committed parents come in all shapes and sizes and so do committed employees. These kind of ideas will push women back into the 1950s. That is not what I want for my daughters. Let’s move on, be optimistic. Try to change the world for the better and bring up our children to see that they can have it all if they work hard at it. I am absolutely committed to my children, my marriage and my job. It’s a balancing act and there are some sacrifices (“me” time) but it is worth it.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Commitment is relative. Someone who is home eight hours a day is giving the same amount of attention and focus to home life as someone who spends all hours of the day at home.

      Just as someone who trains for the Olympics eight hours a day is more committed than someone who can only devote three hours a day.

      My son is always doing cello auditions to get into stuff. The first question he gets is how many hours a day do you practice? You could argue that it inly matters how well he ays. But that’s not how the world works: because people who practice their instrument four hours a day want to be around people who have made a similar level of commitment. Time commitment matters. In everything.

      Committed employees are all the same: they work full time. Thats why people who work full time don’t want to work with people who are part time. And Silicon Valley companies don’t allow working from home because — big surprise — commitment is relative and people who come to work every day don’t want to work with people who don’t come to the office every day.

      Commitment is relative. You are not as committed as some people and you are more committed than some people. If you don’t do something fulltime — anything — then you won’t be in the high commitment realm.


      • Susannah
        Susannah says:

        I don’t agree. Commitment is not only an hours thing. There are plenty of uncommitted parents who don’t work and who don’t parent well. Similarly there are plenty of full time employees who work long hours but who are not committed.

        Commitment is about going above and beyond. It’s about energy and passion, wanting to be the best at what you do. Human beings are capable of doing more than one thing at once.

        Your thesis is a massive oversimplification and in my view it is just wrong. Not only that, I actually think it is damaging because you are implying that people who work cannot be committed parents.

        • Ak
          Ak says:

          Yes. And Silcon Valley is not a representative industry. Working for global companies, where people from China, France and the US have to set up calls that work, everyone is remote. It would be weird to suggest that means we are not committed. I guess her perspective is skewed.

      • Beth
        Beth says:

        Asking how long he practices is an easy question that they ask first because what comes after matters more than if he answers “9 hours”. Pros know about burnout and obsession and they want well balanced individuals (with talent) who can handle the pressure. You should ask whether someone who answers “4 hours” ever gets in – (research!) -there’s a lot of talent out there that plays outside the box. I’m sure your son is the total package. You’re a good mom. He sees you working.

  23. Ak
    Ak says:

    Wow, you really live in the Midwest. Statistics are my career, but you often fall into the journalists’ fallacy of cherry-picking and sensationalizing. Nothing you are saying resonates with me, having worked throughout the North and Central Jersey suburbs. I love the women I work with, who are currently, all but two (the one training just out of college, and me) over 35, and the vast majority are raising kids. I am the breadwinner in my family, but that is unusual because almost everyone here is dual-income to afford their McMansions. I couldn’t stay at home with my son only because he is way more exhausting than my career. I see him a good amount, even though I’ll always wish it could be more (or at least, better quality – he’s a terrible 2). And I respect and value my friends who stay at home to raise their kids. We all seem to recognize there are trade offs no matter what you decided and make peace with or decisions. Women are predominant in my chosen field, and have consistently been a source of inspiration, support and friendship through the 12 years of my career, and I’ve never heard any of them express the kind of animosity you describe. Next to income, this is the reason I want to work. And all the more reason I love it here (the secret is not to buy a McMansion).

  24. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Is Farming one of the few exceptions to a work/life balance? Generations of families worked together with their (young)children to make a living.

    So,is the answer to ‘can women work and raise a family’ is yes but only if you include your family in your work?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Luckily I’m an expert on this topic. I have never seen a farm family working together. That’s farm fantasy. People who farm like to be alone and like physical work. That’s what farming is. And that’s not what taking care of children is.

      Families that have two parents splitting wokr and children typically have two parents with similar skillsets, so there’s no obvious division of labor.


      • Amity
        Amity says:

        Re farm families.
        Maine has lots of farm families. I grew up in one and am establishing my own. We worked together a LOT. Both my parents stayed home during this stage of their careers and they homeschooled us. Farming meant they could be home with us, and provide. My brother and wife now live on the same farm with my parents after 20 years off and lots of skills that need internet only. When you say you have never seen farm families work together it tells me your scope of agricultural practices over the ages might be limited. I was a kid doing ag work alongside my family at age ten. I learned everything I know about working by working alongside competent adults in agriculture. I am not the only one. Midwest ag has a totally different tone than the small family farm perhaps.
        I still like this blog post.

        • TLH
          TLH says:

          I also grew up on a farm where our family worked together a lot, and I would say the same is true for many of the farm families I know. When we were young, my parents had to take us along or they wouldn’t have been able to get their work done. As we grew older, we were able to be more involved and help with the work. Honestly, some of my best childhood memories are from working with my family on the farm.

  25. Mindful+Mama
    Mindful+Mama says:

    Oh my gawd I missed you. My female buddy leaves a comment on her social media about how grateful she is for the hard work that her husband does for the family, and then in parenthesis next to husband includes (and I), because she also works and contributes to the breadwinning. Would it be correct of a stay-at-home mom to do the same thing in the same sentence?

  26. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    This goes WAY beyond commitment to kids vs. career or visa versa. I raised two kids in NYC and worked a corporate career from the time my son & daughter were babies until they were in high school. My spouse and I worked hard and in spite of our career demands, my kids were well cared for and we had lots of time and fun adventures together. My daughter saw me get dressed in a suit every morning and go to work. She saw me manage people, make money, and provide for an exciting life for our family. She tells me today, at 23 that she is so proud of all I have accomplished in my career; but that’s not even the point. The point is, girls in particular, need to maintain the potential and capability to make money and be independent throughout their adult life. Why? Because I’ve observed far too many women finding themselves in mid-life, having stayed home with their kids, only to face near impoverishment because their marriage ends, their husbands weren’t all that successful, they now have no real marketable skills to make money, and alas: wind up with 50% of next to nothing. Not a good situation. I think it’s fine to stay home and raise kids, so long as women find a way to maintain the capability to create a livelihood; however, that’s a challenge to pull off if she’s stayed home for 20 years. I tell my daughter often, to be sure she maintains marketable skills and the capability to make money and be independent. We all get married with the best of intentions; but unfortunately things don’t always pan out as we’d hoped. Girls in particular, need to be smart about protecting their ability to create a livelihood for themselves and for the benefit of their kids; we don’t have a crystal ball… It’s not about making a definitive “choice” between kids or career…it’s about creating a life where we as women can make our own choices and protect ourselves and our kids if need be, because as wonderful as life can be — uncertainty is guaranteed.

    • Hejira66
      Hejira66 says:

      This is so absolutely, categorically true. No-one has a crystal ball and the reality is that around 50% of marriages fail. Women should be taught more independence and financial skills from a younger age.

  27. Kitty Kilian
    Kitty Kilian says:

    Part time jobs are a possible answer. I am Dutch and over here young moms overwhelmingly work part time, like 3 days a week. It keeps them happy both ways – they see their kids a lot and they get to do some adult stuff as well. The choice between working 100% or not working 100% is unneccessarily hard.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Among the Dutch, men work 4 days a week and women work 3, right? So obviously the men get the more important jobs. Women have second-class jobs. Additionally, there is only one day a week when men are home without the women home. And we know from reams of data from Stephanie Coontz that if men and women both work, women will do way way more household labor than men do. And the Dutch are no exception.


    • MJ
      MJ says:

      Kitty, I am Dutch too, and most women with young kids I know that also work part-time feel constantly conflicted about their carreer and the time they spend on household chores and their kids. They are frustrated in their carreers as they can’t do the more interesting tasks or projects, and frustrated because they are basically in charge of all the managing of the household (their male partners do chores, but the wives have to do most of the mental and emotional work – planning for birthdays, keeping check if there is enough cat litter in the house, knowing when the recycling bins are collected,, arranging the hobbies of the kids), without the acknowledgement of all the energy that takes (though the dads get all the cheer for doing a simple thing as ironing his own shirts). Plus the Dutch school system is completely behind on times with school being out around 3 pm, making parents having to plan for after school care etc. It’s not as ideal as you make it out to be over here.

    • BH
      BH says:

      Most kids became more interesting after they finish potty training.

      Penelope seems to be getting excessive flack for this post. She writes provocative sophistry and hopes it resonates, somehow into income. That’s her thing, and it always has been. I imagine it’s less effective these days, when even the President acts like a wacko.

      As far as people asking for refunds for her coaching – really? Sorry, but that’s on you. If you had ever read any of her personal life chronicles (granted there have been none lately) you would have realized that Penelope is for entertainment purposes only.

  28. Jenova
    Jenova says:

    A few things:

    1) the point about Ivy league education – I’m not American but my understanding of the education system there is that you’re much more likely to go to an Ivy league school if you’re/your family is wealthy. So I think it’s likely that staying at home with children is more about the financial ability to do so – not an option for many women.

    2) I understand that you can’t get into all of the details in one article, but this article is very one sided about women who a) want to and b) are able to stay at home with kids. It is difficult to ‘have it all’, especially if you’re a primary caretaker and a woman. We need to be discussing why this is and how we can change it. Women shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their children, especially since in general men don’t have to.

    3) “So when you congratulate your daughter for getting good grades so she can go to a good college to get a good job, you devalue the job she is most likely to gravitate to: taking care of a family. You degrade that job as not a valid choice, the same way people in the 1950s degraded math and science as not a valid choice for girls.” WHAT?! This is an outrageous thing to say and probably the most misogynistic thing in this post! If we want true equality for women we need to stop thinking about them as ‘likely to assume’ any role – they should have the choice about what they do with their future without their parents assuming their likely role in society. Girls should be congratulated on doing well in school in exactly the same way boys are, without any presumptions about their future. Terrible thing to say in my opinion.

    • Rachel G
      Rachel G says:

      Did you read the comments and replies? She says boys shouldn’t be congratulated in that way either.

      So, when you say men don’t have to choose between kids and career, and women shouldn’t either…. Who do you think will be looking after the kids? Someone has to put the kids first. That person cannot have a high-powered career in today’s world. That’s the point. Not a fantasy world where men and women all work 15 hours a week and raise children together. If your kids come first, your career doesn’t. Let’s tell people this is a viable option for life.

  29. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    Although generalizations are unlikely to cover all cases, I find a lot of truth in PT’s characterization of childcare and professional career-seeking as exclusive. Before we had children, my spouse and I both worked demanding professional careers with long hours and a lot of international travel. That’s both of us in Category 2. That was doable, though sometimes we saw each other more on Skype than in person.

    After our son was born, we both kept working for five years while our son went to eleven hours a day of daycare, but only at cost to our happiness and our careers. I turned down a significant promotion because I could not work the hours. I tried to limit my hours at work so I could take care of our son. I had to turn down travel assignments. I watched someone far less competent than I take the job I turned down. We fought about travel and sick days. That’s both of us in Category 3.

    Meanwhile, I missed my son terribly and was unhappy at work. When my son went to Kindergarten, and his care hours were reduced from eleven to six per day, I quit my full-time job and began consulting. I continued doing that until we had a second child and, around the same time, had to remove our first child from school to homeschool him.

    It was clear to me early on that the choice we faced once we had kids would be between two impaired careers and one unrestrained career. Conversely, from the kids’ perspective, the choice was between two less than part-time parents and one full-time parent. We chose the latter, with me in Category 1 and my spouse in Category 2. When we stopped fighting about the calendar, sick days, and business travel bookings, things got better both personally and professionally. It only took a few years to replace my low six-figure salary in raises and bonuses, as my spouse’s career took off.

    My spouse’s career as it is simply would not be possible if I were still working, even if I did so in an impaired, Category 3 capacity. She was in Singapore all last week, and will be in Tokyo all this week, so her contribution to daily life and tasks here is nil right now. Meanwhile, even with both kids in school, someone has to cook breakfasts, do all the shopping and laundry, make my son’s lunch (my daughter gets hers at school), cook dinner every night, encourage my son to finish all his homework and practice every day, send my son off to school each morning on the T, drive my daughter back and forth to school, take my son to Conservatory and evening science class and my daughter to swimming and jiu-jitsu, play games with my kids, schedule playdates, pay the bills, take out the trash, mind the cats, take care of my sick mother, coordinate vacation travel, have meaningful conversations with my children, and on and on. I could do some but not all of these things if I were working. Some of them would happen with strangers, and some of them would just not happen.

    Maybe not everybody faces a clear choice among Categories 1, 2, and 3, but we did. And we are certain we made the right choice. One of us gets a fully committed career, and all that entails, and our children get a fully committed parent. This is best for everybody in our family.

    As for whether staying home with the kids is boring or stupid, or whether I am, I do miss intelligent adult companionship sometimes, but I think I missed it a lot more when I was spending all day among the dullards I used to work with. I expect work would have been more fun for me if I were _less_ intelligent. I enjoy my children’s company very much, and I don’t find it boring at all to watch and help a young person’s intellect develop. I would recommend staying at home with kids as a very enjoyable pastime for intelligent people.

    I’ll admit I miss the travel, though. Next year, we’ll have our vacations lined up better so we can all go on a business trip together.

  30. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    A lot of P’s posts about women make me feel like a freak because I don’t seem to fit into any of the groups she’s talking to. I don’t want a high powered career, “just” a job where I work my hours and go home. My problem is a lot of those jobs are menial and “stupid” (P’s word) and don’t quite pay enough to live on. Would I like more money? Sure…buuuttt not really wanting/willing to put in what it takes to make tons of money. Life is for more than just working. As far as kids, nope not for me. Kind of like with work, not wanting/willing to put in the amount of effort. Other people love kids, and good for them. I’d never judge anyone for their choices. P thinks so many women are judging each other, but I don’t judge other women because I honestly don’t care that much about their life choices. That’s them, not me. You do you and all that jazz. Maybe that just puts me in the category of lazy :-)

    • KP
      KP says:

      Our very human efforts to categorize everything in order to better understand it always leaves us wanting–it’s not perfect. I fit nicely into #3, except I largely like my life, am well-suited to doing a little bit of everything, and expect I won’t get great at any of it. So, I am a weirdo too. I do expect to be good-ish or okay. :-)
      My more relevant comment is that when someone tells a girl, “…you can do anything you want.” that “anything” includes care taking roles. Why would the word “anything” exclude anything? What I don’t like about that statement is the “You’re smart.” part. Don’t tell kids that if you can help it– being told you are smart has never helped anyone.

  31. harris497
    harris497 says:

    I agree with everything that you said except, “So when you congratulate your daughter for getting good grades so she can go to a good college to get a good job, you devalue the job she is most likely to gravitate to: taking care of a family. ” This is not the case. Congratulating a child for doing well in any endeavor is inculcating a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic is absolutely needed for child rearing and nurturing. What is often missing is the recognition that caring, and family focus are also options for both men and women. My stay at home dad friend works his tail off just as my stay at home wife (who has a medical degree) does.


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The most common thing I hear from people who stay home with kids is they always expected to donsomething that generated more external recognition. School trains us to perform for external recognition and non-childcare work satiates that pent-up need.

      I’m sure your eife and your friend have done a lot if wrestling with the fact that caretakers have no access to points of external validation. (There is no gold-star parenting. There is just loving your kids.)

      If you train kids in school to seek external validation, you train them to feel that taking care of kids is unacceptable. And if teachers don’t train kids to seek external validation it would be untenable to have just one teacher and 30 kids.


      • harris497
        harris497 says:

        You are correct about the wrestling match, but it has been with those who disagree with our decision to put the kids first over careers.
        You are also correct about the need for external validation, but this is/has been true of all human beings, even before it became the norm that women went out to work – at least middle income women, since poor women have always worked outside the home. I however disagree that cheering on my kids for a job well done is leading them down the path to seeking external validation at the expense of taking care of kids. It is positive reinforcement of a acceptable behavior.
        Kids seldom do as we say, but they invariably do as we do. So our demonstrated actions in homeschooling reinforce the notion of Family First at the expense of external validation in one sphere of life (work). At least I hope it does or our life strategy has failed.

      • Mew
        Mew says:

        Parents who are not exposed enough to external validation are risky to their children. This is because there are no bosses in the parenting world. Within the household, the care-taking parent is the boss, who will not receive feedback, and by default cannot be punished (get fired) for their parenting mistakes. When they do see the mistakes in their children, it’s usually too late. You have a history with abusive parents; you should understand.

        So you might as well have parents train themselves to seek external validation. Through school or wherever. It’s for the sake of the kids. Parent’s shouldn’t have kids to feel good for themselves therefore they should accept the wrestle.

  32. Terry
    Terry says:

    This needs to be said. I remember a while back when I and some travellers were chatting about the future, and we were talking careers.

    “So yeah, I’ll just like work all the time, 60-80 hours a week.”
    “Who’ll look after the kids?”
    “Erm well obviously the wif…..”

    And I trailed off as I realised what was coming out of my mouth, to glowering stares from Swedish guys and girls, and acceptance from the American guys in the group.

    This is inbedded, and needs to be uprooted.

  33. TLH
    TLH says:

    I have a hard time relating to this post for many reasons. For one, I’ve stayed at home, worked from home, and worked away from home. I’ve never heard anyone say that staying home with kids is too boring, but I have heard numerous men and women show genuine admiration for those who do care for kids full time — including teachers and childcare workers. Second, I don’t see how telling your child they’re smart enough to do anything would exclude them from caring for kids. But maybe that’s because I see caring for kids as a pretty big something??? Finally, I work in an office with many, many married women over the age of 35 with school aged kids who are here by choice. I find it hard to believe that my workplace is the exception. Also, my impression is that Penelope has spent a large part of her career and this blog positioning herself as someone who fits in with men better than women. Maybe I’m totally wrong on this, but I feel like that third point is more personal to her than a widespread problem among women.

  34. Yas
    Yas says:

    I’m a SAHM and it’s mostly men who allude to me being boring/bored/needing more. All the women I know who work are so wiped from doing everything that they know I’m not bored. Men are like – “you don’t seem like the minivan type” – really!?!? that’s my exact type! I love carting kids around which is why I chose to be a SAHM! You wouldn’t believe how many husbands of my working mum friends offer me admin assistant jobs as a ‘favour’. Sheesh.

  35. Ana T
    Ana T says:

    Isn’t it also judgmental and mean to call women who don’t have kids or a high-powered job basically wishy-washy, head-in-the-clouds nothings who don’t do anything well? Maybe that’s not exactly what you’re saying, but I think that’s how these type of posts can come across to your “Category 3” women. I’m glad you’re fighting for the cause of the stay-at-home mom, but does that mean you then have to put someone else underneath them so that they can stand a little taller?

  36. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I love parenting AND I have a career I am passionate about. You can have it all and it isn’t easy. I run my own business, and am a professional and the main breadwinner and make more money than my kind and compassionate husband. Our son is amazing, talented and kind. I worked part time during his early years and still made more money than my husband. I enjoyed time at home and time at work. I find articles like this one revolting. Every family makes their own choices based upon their unique circumstances. To say you have to utterly choose is BS. I say YES AND to career and to home. It is a challenge and yet I t can be done. I have stay at home mommy friends, career mommy friends. All of it. Stop creating this false divide.

  37. Shann
    Shann says:

    I’m 32 yrs old, Ivy League grad, two kids, married with a 6 figure paying job. Been a reader of this blog for nearly a decade and am so glad that during that time I never took a coaching call because I would have surely been thrown off course. The problem with Penelope is that she creates these rules about life, work, education that are interesting only because they are counter intuitive—it trends because of shock value and seem to come from a brutally honest place. The problem is that these rules, categories, generalizations are just not true. They can be damaging because women who need direction, come here looking for some kind of certain path, when the answer is that there just isn’t one. You have to decide what’s important individually and make choices that will fulfill you. Period. While she claims to support women’s choices, she also trashes women who do decide work is important to them says that you cannot also be a good parent. The idea that the number of hours you spend with your kids determines your level of commitment to parenting is so overly simplistic it’s crazy. The idea that school is always a horrible option is also just not true.

    In my case, it is absolutely not easy balancing a career and a family. You have to be clear at what you value and deal with the ups and downs and uncertainties with a level head. Block out voices that try to dictate what you should care about. I take what I can use from this blog and leave the rest.

    • Rachel G
      Rachel G says:

      Totally disagree. Penelope’s insights were revolutionary to me and I still cling to many of them. She’s the reason I’m married with kids now, which is what I always wanted. I’m so glad I followed her advice. Thank you Penelope.

  38. harris497
    harris497 says:


    Let’s face it. If you are going to raise kids, and to avoid alot of the pitfalls that arise, one of the parents needs to be prepared to take a hit in the career department. I’ve seen this in all my friends, some of whom are very successful.
    The attention required, the avoidance of burnout, and the need kids have for parental time demands it – or there will be consequences. Unless you are one of the lucky few who have it all figured out and happen to be right all the time. That is not the majority of us.

    Throw stones as you see fit…

  39. Amy Kovach
    Amy Kovach says:

    I keep thinking about this post and these comments, and even though I very rarely comment, I will weigh in here.
    As a 60 year old woman, who is planning to work another decade (and you probably will also), I see things through a longer lens of time, I think.
    If a woman starts to work at approx 25 years old, and works until approx 70, that is FORTY-FIVE years of working. That is a LONG LONG LONG time!
    I think that women sometimes forget about that (or can’t envision it) in the self-induced career pressure they put on themselves.
    If it takes 15 years (again, approx) to birth/raise/launch a few kids, that is only a third of the total career range. There is plenty of time to do it all, just not simultaneously.
    The post-child-raising years seem to me to be very under-considered. Maybe that is b/c this blog has a younger audience, I don’t know. Those years are significant and there is a quiet to the post-child world that you can’t quite imagine when they are younger. You can focus on work and accomplish quite a lot.
    I have been in f/t sales for the past few decades and have made a great living WITH tons of flexibility.
    But in all the things I have done, the years I spent investing in my children (f/t stay at home mom, early grades home schooling) are by far my most satisfying achievement.

    Taking the years to fully invest in the children you bring into this world is the most wonderful thing you can do. Your career will be waiting for you on the other end, I promise.

    • harris497
      harris497 says:

      Cheers Amy.
      If my wife hadn’t taken the time, given what I know now, I would have.
      Oh Oh, that’s number 4 for me:)

  40. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    Agree with what she is pointing to but would change a bit around:

    1. ADD raising children as a valued career choice with the others listed, and still praise the girls and tell them they are smart and can do whatever they want.

    2. Don’t make it sound like those who must manage both functions for internal or external reasons are less “excellent” for that dual focus.

    I know many women who have raised great kids and worked, some out of necessity and some because their hearts longed for both and went fully into BOTH (me, for instance).

  41. ASK
    ASK says:

    PTrunk will always have a special place in my heart because I began reading her at age 27 in 2009. I read all her back posts then and every post since.

    And she’s the reason I treated husband and family with intention, not just assuming they would happen.

    I’m now 36 with two kids, high income, am a breadwinner, and have a good marriage. None of it was easy. I’m not lying to myself about anything.

    I tried staying home and it made me depressed. I was bored and realized I’d traded paid validated work for unpaid invalidated work, because we had to lay off the yard staff and housekeeper when I quit my job. I was so happy to hire them back upon working full time again!

    You could say I’m only half committed to work and half to family — I say, “Define committed.”

    I’m fully committed to making the most of my life and this is how it looks for me. It’s good enough. And really good at that.

  42. Laura
    Laura says:

    I think that Penelope needs 2 mini bloggers to explicate the shades of grey that her posts expose by their omission.

    In the comments people say.. it’s not like that, there are other ways.

    I want to hear what they think those ways are. I couldn’t afford a coaching call, and on the one hand, the only reason I’d want one is to tell me things I couldn’t come up with on my own, which is what everyone seems mad about: that she went off the menu of options they understand to be laid out for themselves, but on the other, it seems like my options and the steps to take to get to them are so obvious, that I’m more curious what these people would tell me who apparently know the secrets of balance and can navigate these grey areas without sacrificing their efforts to the inefficiency of refusing to choose 100%.

    I also wonder how many people want coaching because they know what they want to do and they are bored of feeling like they don’t have options because they already made their choices.

    Isn’t getting older essentially a process of gradually ruling out options? It’s a bit sad. I guess I’m a bit sad about my options and the choices I’ve made.

  43. Angie
    Angie says:

    I’ve discovered after reading this that I’m a misogynist and I”m not committed to my family or my workplace and also I”m probably not a very good parent. I sound like a terrible person!

    However, sarcasm aside, when you know that your choices work for yourself, your family and your career, you don’t actually feel offended by reading generalizations like this.

    What I feel is the bigger issue with the post is that even though it appears to be trying to point out ways that women can help support each other, it feels like its written in a really antagonistic way which seems to have succeeded in create more divisions and fan the flames of this apparent war between women.

  44. MamaBuzz
    MamaBuzz says:

    Ladies and “Progressive Women”: Ask yourselves this – how much money does the full time caregiver make who takes care of my child? Is it minimum wage? Is it just a bit more? And is that full time caregiver usually or generally a woman or female?

    How can you justify handing off the care and education of your child to a surrogate who holds a “low pay” job as a daycare worker or caregiver. They make minimum wage. How do you justify paying a person a low wage to do the most important job in the world? Which would be, babysit or provide daycare for your child while you pursue the (“more important career”) of making money?

    This seems to me to be the antithesis of being a “Feminist”, or one who truly cares about the welfare or issues of women.

    A child care seeker expects another woman (or human who is somehow deserving of lower pay) to take up their slack, another human to do their work at a low wage while they pursue making a higher wage.

    The goal they have is a wage or compensation that provides enough for them to pay for child care and make a profit or realize a monetary benefit after out of pocket child care costs.

    It is the height of hypocrisy to me. It disgusted me as a young woman and seemed the anti-thesis of true feminist values or caring about other women as people.

    Just something to think about. I think it’s still a valid premise in today’s world.

    • Angie
      Angie says:

      I think your whole argument is the height of hypocrisy and the anti-thesis of true feminist values or caring about other women as people. Give me a break. Feminism is about supporting women and their choices. Sure its not a perfect world and there is lots of room to improve. However, telling women who seek childcare that they are awful people who don’t care about other women is an absolute joke and truly quite shameful. It is arguments like these that really give feminism a bad name and why many women seek to distance themselves form the feminist movement.

    • MMJ
      MMJ says:

      I have no kids so no real stake in this argument, but it is shocking how little child care and early childhood education workers are paid. A tangible sign of their non-importance to someone (the economy? the system?). A hedge fund manager makes $$$ because he or she is multiplying money, and we love money, but eh, kids are just small humans who can’t make money yet so who cares about them (like the elderly, the sick, and anyone else who isn’t dedicated to multiplying the money). I’m a capitalist but this is a shitty micro-version of capitalism.

    • Jennifer Gruden
      Jennifer Gruden says:

      Hey, I paid a good chunk of money for a great Montessori/daycare where the teachers were well-compensated — as well as experts in child development and education. Most of the staff had been there a long time. Of course I am my children’s only mum and an expert in my children – but I honestly did not have the training or dedication to do all the amazing, cool things they got to do.

      One story I like to tell is that at 3.5 yrs, the Montessori we were at did a big unit on anatomy – full-body tracings with glued on organs, lots of play with models of the human body, stories, and hard-core information. To be honest though I thought it was a little bit pretentious and silly. A year later my son had emergency surgery and, as it turned out /totally understood/ his gastrointestinal tract. It was pretty awesome.

      It’s pretty arrogant to think that as parents we have all the answers. I can’t tell you how much having the amazing partnership of our school director and teachers helped us to grow as a family.

  45. Nach
    Nach says:

    As an INTJ woman, I am going to call on one core principle of my life: “LIVE AND LET LIVE”.

    If someone wants to stay at home, let her. However, if they are going to do this AND complain constantly about not having a social/work life, then I say “Get over yourself.”
    Same, if a woman is happy to go the Carly Fiorina way, then good on her. But is she persistently whinges about not having down time to have/be with kids, then she needs a reality check.

    So the issue is not people having different views on life, it’s about people feeling that their views are criticised by others or that their views are better than others. Who cares? Everyone dies at the end of the day.

    Bottom line is: if you are SERIOUSLY unhappy about something in your life, do something about it. Otherwise, you are doing just as fine as everyone else: no drama or pity-party required.

    As we say in Africa, “Jealous people will grown thin.” As for me, I like to keep some healthy fat on my self for the drought days.

  46. Throwing_bricks
    Throwing_bricks says:

    Every time I read an article that talks about the nuances of gender relationships I start to look around me to try to find them to be true. But they aren’t. Not on my surroundings and country. This seems to me more like a big “American” cultural issue than a gender one.

  47. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    I feel both sad and angry reading how difficult it is for women in the U.S to have a career AND a family.
    Living in Norway, most women of my generation (i just turned 40) have both. Id say 90 percent.
    Our welfare model makes it possible; cheap public daycare, maternity leave for 9 Months (women) and 4 months (men) gives us the opportunity to have both.
    I cant imagine my life without my work- it means so much to me.
    U.S women: fight and vote for the political candidates who promote gender equality and equal opportunities (like subsidised daycare etc). You are valuable to the workforce!

    • Throwing_bricks
      Throwing_bricks says:

      Yeah, I think that too. It’s more a American cultural issue than a larger ‘gender’ one. But since the Internet is pretty “American”, we, overall, tend to get biased. Another example is the lack of parental leave for men. It exists, but no one cares, and it would help so much everyone, from the family to careers.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      As an American in the UK, I have to say I haven’t seen up close the welfare system benefitting families I know. They seem to have less money, and are over leveraged to try to make ends meet. The government might give handouts in the form of regulations and care, but at the end of the day remaining a sovereign individual able to support one’s family still seems to be a good concept to me, although it is a concept I have previously questioned. It’s also a class factor- I don’t know anyone with better means here that has or wants a working spouse. And it’s almost completely Male breadwinners. Most families do still seem to want a parent at home, they just want more money to make it happen. Unfortunately, this is harder to achieve when wages are depressed due government interference and the expectation that both parents work full time, yet get dictated benefits. I’m raising boys, and I’m very conscious of not raising them expecting a hand out. That becomes a dangerous expectation in life. The French revere those who beat their welfare system, I’m wondering if there is a similar sentiment in Norway? One of my friends in NY is from Finland- she stayed home with her 3 kids and gave up her guaranteed government job. I was shocked to learn the gov held her job for 5 years, all the while she had her kids and was living in NY.
      Some of the regulation in the name of rights seems excessive. The US will probably still end up like Europe, with a large balanced government welfare system, more middle class than lower class, greater redistributed wealth, the upper class that remains siloed and in control of the whole thing while everyone beneath fights it out for benefits and time off and times up.

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