I’m a bad stay-at-home mom
Last week I posted about what a day in my life is like. It’s crazy. It’s not like any day anyone would want to have, if they had a choice. And I’m working on changing it. For example I took a trip to LA with the kids, so I could get some time to think.
But I was stunned by how many people told me that I wasn’t suited to be home with kids. Or how many people say that homeschooling isn’t right for everyone—as if some people just don’t have it in them to do what’s best for their kids.
Would you say that about work? Like, “Oh, you are just not a person who should be supporting herself financially.”
Have you ever taken a personality test? I love this type of test. Here’s a fast, free one:
I’m an ENTJ. Only 3% of all people are this type, but nearly 100% of Fortune 500 CEOs are this type. This means I’m great at work, but it also means I don’t have a lot of patience for peoples’ emotions, and I’m sometimes deaf to them. (On top of this I have Asperger’s, so you can just imagine how extreme this is for me.) When I first started working in corporate jobs, I was stunned by how completely stupid people were about managing their careers and climbing ladders.
Now I see that some people do not actually need to get more and more power at work, so it doesn’t matter that much that they suck at it. But at the beginning of adult life, in one’s twenties, everyone is working. Very few college graduates have kids. So they have no outlet for the emotional, care taking aspects of their personality.
Are you an ESFJ? An ENFJ? You will be totally screwed at the office. It just won’t work for you.
But you’ll be great at home with kids. To the same extreme that I will be terrible at home with kids. It’s not what we choose, it’s how we are born.
However we can choose to do our best with what we have. That’s what a 22-year-old ISFP does at an office. And it’s what a 40 year old INTP does at home. Often, because of where we are in life, we have to do something that is not easy for us to do. We try anyway.
And would you have it any other way?
Let’s say that half the people in the world are happier taking care of kids, and half the people in the world are happier working in an office. Because if you look at Myers Briggs research, that is pretty much true.
Does this mean that we tell half the kids who are 22 that they should not work and just have kids? And we tell half the people who are 35 with kids that they should not take care of their kids all day but instead go to work?
My guess is you’d say no. So then don’t tell people who hate staying home with kids that they shouldn’t stay home. Because I don’t tell you that even though your kids need to eat you should not go to work because you don’t have the temperment. I think we just have to figure out how to work with what we have. No one has a perfect personality for every stage of their life.
And for those of you who adore staying home with your kids, don’t be so smug: You will wish you had my flair for work when all your kids are grown up.
I’m AN bad stay at home mom?!?!
Not only a bad stay at home mom, but teacher. Learn proper grammar. Your poor kids. They will have no chance in the word with you as their only teacher.
What a stupid comment. I see Penelope has already fixed her TYPO in the title. But she can’t fix stupid. Or hateful. Which is what your comment amounts to. It’s a TYPO, not a grammar error. And if it was a grammar error, it would not warrant such a mean-spiritied comment.
If you took the Myers Briggs, I bet your type would be ENTJ: Extremely Non-Thinking Judgmental (Asshole).
Yay! you hit the nail right on the head. Thank you for that attitude adjustment on that petty person.
Ha! I just think it’s hilarious that whoever “kb” is was lucky enough to be the first comment on a well-trafficked blog and chose to waste it on a completely uninteresting comment.
kb – You may have meant to write that they will have “no chance in the WORLD” rather than “WORD”? I just thought since you brought up grammar I would try to assist. I’m glad grammar was the only thing you found wrong with the blogger’s article, but I’m surprised it led to such a stellar assessment of the blogger’s abilities as a mother and teacher. Your keen insight could be put to use in a number of ways. Have you thought about a career in proof-reading? Well…no that won’t work as you’ve shown your lack of good grammar yourself as previously shown. How about psychology? No, for that you are required to be somewhat accurate in your assessments. Well, I’m sure you’ll figure something out. In the meantime please do continue to share similar biting, and thought-provoking analyses. We will put good grammar aside for your sake. The world is yours and does indeed revolve around you (I’m sure you know this already). Thank you.
I love how you have typos in your trolling about typos.
only grammarians should be allowed to have children.
Oh, Lori! That is the most quotable sentence ever!
You get it Penelope. The truly admirable people don’t just do what is easy for them….they are willing to do the hard stuff.
And sacrifice for a time for other people (our kids). I’m an INFJ trying to figure out what to do now that my kids are no longer kids. I’d love for you to talk more about re-entering the work place after being at home for 20 years.
ah, you got this one wrong. If people (like me for example) say that homeschooling is not the best for everyone it does not mean someone is a bad parent if they do not homeschool. It is the whole package, parent and kids, for which homeschooling might be best, or school might be best. However, if you insist on the premise that homeschooling is alwaysalwaysalways best in all circumstance then you set yourself (and others) up for failure.
.. and statistics is an interesting thing: take the sentence “.. . ENTJ. Only 3% of all people are this type, but nearly 100% of Fortune 500 CEOs are this type.”. The vast majority of fortune 500 CEOs are also tall white males (on average significantly taller than the population average). That however does not mean that only tall white males make good CEOs and it does not mean that all tall white males should be CEOs. The same way that not all ENTJs should be CEOs or even would be good at it.
I did not stay home with my children very much. I knew I would suck at it. Until I found my career path in graphic design in my 30’s I sucked at work too.
I admire the love and energy you put into giving your children what you are convinced they need. I admire how hard you are trying and how honest you are about it.
I am concerned for most families I know who have not the time and resources and energy to make their lives what they feel it should be. Times are hard, there are so many balls parents are juggling and it gets ever more complex instead of simpler. No answers. Plenty of empathy from this INFP.
I am an INFP who worked as an ad agency media buyer for 15 years as a single parent. I hated almost every minute of it.
While I miss my time alone, staying at home and home educating my 3 youngest children has given me the opportunity to learn so much about myself, discover my spiritual and artistic side, and become an independent scholar. Everything that’s important to an INFP!
I consider myself privileged to be able to stay at home while my husband works at a flexible job as a computer programmer.
Before, people would talk about the tapestry of fate, into which all our lives were woven long ago. Today, it looks like it’s personality types. Our nature drives us to behave in whatever comes easiest to us (by definition). But I like to believe that we’ve gotten this far as a species because of our ability to make rational choices in spite of whatever comes naturally. Because look at how easy our nature is to exploit for profit – “life is hard work, so have a beer, enjoy the game, don’t worry about it.” The quintessential marketing campaign. How many hundreds of millions of people fall for that one on a daily basis? The unspoken message is that educating yourself to exercise critical thought is not worth your while.
People who choose to take that path in life aren’t much different than cats, or rabbits. They can be fun to hang out with, cute in their own way, maybe even make great companions if that’s what floats your boat, but ultimately they’re of no consequence to history. It’s easy for first world people to be happy in today’s world ($40k/year, right?), so easy that people forget it’s possible to ALSO do meaningful things with your life. Unfortunately, doing anything meaningful requires stepping out of your comfort zone, putting on your worker hat, and making decisions that don’t necessarily come naturally.
I like your response. It takes effort to not be lazy and to do what is not fun, but necessary to reach one’s goals.
As an INTJ (only 1-2% of the population) I recognize you as my slightly more social sister, LOL! In fact, I think my own sister is an ENTJ – something I’ve always wished to be. At 50 years old, having taken this numerous times since my 20’s, though, it’s not likely to change. My hubby and kiddos don’t always like my isolationist ways, and I’ve forced myself to play the extrovert from time to time (I can do it – most people who know me don’t think of me as an introvert) but it is why I struggled with many of the same issues over the eight years I homeschooled my daughters that you are struggling with as you homeschool your sons. Now working from home in a new to me and challenging new career, I’m happier than I have been in a long time!
I still don’t understand why this is framed in extremes. You seem to start from the premise that all children will be better off if they have a stay-at-home, homeschooling parent until the age of majority. Of course some kids and families will fare better with this setup. But not all. And the idea that parents who don’t homeschool are not challenging themselves misses the point of the analysis.
I am convinced that thinking in terms of black and white helps the homeschooling debate move forward. There are some things that ARE indeed black and white and people are afraid of the ramifications of admitting it, so they don’t.
What I’d like people to think about is that some people are suited for the workplace and some are suited for taking care of kids. We do not say to people, “You’re not suited for work, so you don’t need to support yourself financially.” Instead, we tell all 24 year olds to go get a job. Similarly, we should not tell people who are 35 with kids, “You’re not suited for taking care of kids, so you should work.”
There are different stages in our lives that demand different skill sets. Sometimes we will be great at what we need to do and sometimes we won’t. But we all need to do the right thing for that time in our life.
I get your position that all kids should be homeschooled. But if I remember correctly, I don’t think you believe that all kids should be homeschooled exclusively by their parents. Would you support those who are great at making money (and enjoy doing that) hiring people who are natural “kid people” to be educators in their home? Or, are you advocating that all people with kids have one parent home to educate the kids?
Yes. I do support that. With some caveats:
I have tried it myself — working at a job where I make mid six figures and having full-time childcare. This actually requires two people full-time in order to cover for me at all the times I might need help (for example, business travel). And high quality childcare, even in Wisconsin, where I live, is $60K/year.
So it costs $120K to hire someone to do what I could do staying at home. And this, by the way, is consistent with Salary.com’s annual survey on how much money a stay-at-home mom saves a family.
In cities like NYC or SF you can send your kid to a private school that does project-based, child-centered learning. The cost is about $40K per year (plus the added $10K one-time-fee to hire someone to get your kid’s application accepted.) This is much less expensive than hiring people.
So, if you are thinking that you want to be great at work and use the money you earn to get your kid great schooling, the best solution is to earn mid-six-figures and live in NYC or SF.
If you are not that great at earning money, you should probably do the schooling yourself. I think most people would say I’m pretty darn good at earning money, and it’s more cost-effective for me to cut back on work and manage the kids’ days than hire someone to do it.
well, according to your blueprint for a women’s life, you are telling all women to stay home, take care of the kids because they are apparently better suited to do it.
“Thinking in terms of black and white helps the homeschooling debate move forward”.
I agree. If for no reason other than that the alternative argument–everyone needs to find what works for themselves–is boring. A blog about a person trying to homeschool because it is the right thing to do even though they would prefer to be doing something else is much more interesting than a homeschooling blog about someone who loves to homeschool.
It is about the drama. People are persuaded by drama, not logical arguments.
And I disagree. I think “all or nothing” thinking is boring and divisive, rather than conducive to much of anything–particularly deeper discussion.
I think weighing priorities and needs and determining variables is much more interesting. “Everyone needs to find what works best for them” is more interesting to me because that process is actually hard, not just unpleasant (as doing something you don’t like is).
Clearly you disagree. So I guess we’ll each have to deal with that difference in the way that works best for each of us.
Sorry, Penelope, really don’t agree with this one.
“We do not say to people, “You’re not suited for work, so you don’t need to support yourself financially.” Instead, we tell all 24 year olds to go get a job.”
Actually, no, we don’t. Perhaps white, middle class, professional education 24yo’s all feel they should get a job. Exclusing the ones with trust funds.
But plenty of people at 24 decide they don’t want to work at a ‘paid’ job, and instead they’ll stay home and work at raising a family.
Sometimes this is a woman, sometimes a man. Sometimes it is a couple, sometimes a single, sometimes a child, parent and grandparents…you get the point.
In addition, the principle of equally shared parenting suggests that parents should try to set up an environment where all tasks are shared – including ‘at home’ tasks, and ‘at paid work’ tasks. That means noone has the full responsibility for being ‘the person with the job’.
And there’s a big difference between working full time in a ‘career’, own business or professional job, and working the least amount necessary to pay the bills in a disliked minimum wage job to pay the bills.
Therefore, I believe your premise – that people have must tough it out 40 hours a week doing things they dislike – is flawed.
And following on, your suggestion that people who don’t want to, or aren’t suited to, homeschooling, should buckle down and get on with it, is also flawed.
Some people are suited for working from home AND homeschooling AND hanging with a basketball team of kids (yep, that’s me). Some can just juggle and rock it. I never say homeschooling is for everyone and I never say staying home is for everybody. Some kids are happier at school b/c they get away from their crazy ass alcoholic parents for a few hours!
I often wish that either my husband or I had more “kid friendly” personality types. He is an ENTJ and I am an INTP–we are both great at our jobs and not natural parents of young children. One thing I discovered early on is that I cannot bring work home because, no matter how much I try to “balance” the two, I will do the work (or think about the work) instead of focusing on my kids…and then regret it later. I am at my best when I designate specific time for work and specific time for my kids, and force myself to focus on the task at hand. When I do this, I love the time with my kids, they get the best of me, and I am a terrific parent, which is what we both deserve. You are right, we have to understand our strengths and limitations and make the most of what we have.
I get that Myers Briggs was a vehicle to make your point about everyone needing to adapt to their post in life rather than people avoiding posts altogether.
But with that noted, if you’re on Myers Briggs forums you’ll find that every type has people excelling in the work force.
ENFJs tend to manage people so those people can all do their work most effectively. Most ENFJs have the trouble of fancying themselves as god-like and able to conquer everything, I’ve never met an ENFJ that isn’t at the top of their game at work.
xSxPs tend to be fitness trainers/in fast-paced business/fixing and macgyvering machines.
xNxPs tend to work with computer coding, law, graphic design or something that requires intricate knowledge combined with considerable intuition about how to wield that knowledge in novel situations.
INxJs want to be left alone to gather information and make plans for everyone else to execute and are very overrepresented in academia.
there’s another part of this.
the people who are more naturally suited to teaching and/or childcare still might not be the best suited for teaching and/or caring for YOUR child.
teachers – even “good” teachers, even “very good” teachers – have kids they can’t stand. they have certain *types* of kids they don’t handle well. and they’re dealing with 20-30 kids at a time.
public school is an annual crap shoot – are you going to get the good teacher? the terrible teacher? the otherwise-good-but-hates-your-kid teacher? the lazy teacher? the nice teacher with the methods that just don’t work for your kid?
at home, you may be flawed, but you are 100% committed to doing what’s best for your children. even GREAT teachers don’t care that much about every child in their class. a totally committed parent may not be the best teacher all the time, but you’re really comparing to the “best teacher time” a schooled kid is getting over 13 years – and how much time is that?
I have only been following your blog for a few months, but it has been interesting to see your focus turn to homeschooling in that time. It is so obviously more interesting to you at this moment than your work blog – 1 (sponsored) post there in the last week versus 5 on your homeschooling blog.
Penelope, you’re suggesting that a lot of wonderful parents “just don’t have it in them to do what’s best for their kids” because they have chosen a life that works well for them that doesn’t reflect your own personal opinion of what a parent should do.
And, needless to say, this is nonsense, pure and simple. Some parents are able, based on their individual personality and abilities, to make a better home for their kids by staying home. Some parents do the same by going to work. This is a simple truth. You shouldn’t project your own subjective feelings of dissatisfaction into a judgment of who you are as a mother, or of who other people are who make reasonable, though different, decisions about their parenting.
Things, and especially human relationships aren’t “black and white” as much as that makes it easier for you to think you understand them. You have Asperger’s and you admit that you don’t have patience for other people’s emotions. I think this inclines you towards unnecessary, critical, and enormously speculative judgments of strangers. And maybe yourself, as well.
And just as people who don’t understand simple career concepts aren’t “idiots,” neither are parents who make choices you wouldn’t make. And just as some people naturally excel at business and practical matters, while struggling with emotional matters and human relationships, some people are the exact opposite. And lots of people do well with both. But no one should feel like they’re not doing the right thing by arranging their life around their strengths.
Some kids are happy to have their parents at home and some are happy that their parents work. What percentage? Who cares? Ask your kids what they think. Work out something that makes you all happy. That’s your only responsibility. That’s everybody’s only responsibility, and there’s no such thing as a formula that works right for everyone.
I started following your career blog several months ago. Not sure what the initial appeal was for me as a stay-at-home mom for the last 14 years, but I understand now. I’m also a female ENTJ.
I’ve homeschooled all S-I-X of my children since birth. This year I put them in school for a sanity break. I’m also a homeschool graduate, so you could say that I’ve been around the culture for quite a while. I’m 35.
I can appreciate the black-and-white thinking as an ENTJ, but time and a few knockdowns has taught me to temper that. (i.e. “Your school sucks!”) It does make for more provocative writing. :)
On the other hand, you’re making money and my last two ventures failed. So what do I know?
All that to say, I do think it’s hard for women who are naturally inclined to nurture to understand women who are intrinsically driven.
I am an ENFP but it rarely gets notice. Do you Penelope or any of your awesome commenters have any thoughts on ENFPs?
I am an attorney working a part-time job near family after leaving a long-term cog-in-the-wheel job that was not a good place for me. I am wondering if there are any ENFPs out there with the same struggles?
Whoops, I forgot to mention that I found this spreadsheet of i-apps good for autistic children on PinInterest. Unfortunately there are no Android apps.
I do not have experience with autism so I am learning so much from you and your commenters and I appreciate the sharing.
I feel your pain Penelope. This post really hits home with me. I am a female ENTJ (definitely no Asperger’s) who is just built for being successful at work and being a leader in the corporate world. I am in my mid-30’s and have 3 kids, ages 8 and under. I constantly worry if I am doing the right thing with their school and activities but at the same time I can’t imagine doing what you are doing and combining everything with work and home. To me it just seems like a really crazy way to live and run your day. Kudos to you for trying to pull it off.
When I read a description online of ENTJ’s the sentence that hit me the most said that ENTJ’s have an issue being constantly absent from home, either phsycially or mentally. That is the hardest part I think, even when you are there at home with your kids, your mind is off racing to do other things.
I learned the MBriggs at one of the best leadership development institutions in the US where I did some adjunct work. We always told people it’s an indicator, the descriptors aren’t fixed in concrete for individuals.
Your wanting to cast issues in black and white reminds me of the conservative right radio show I stumble upon on occasion when I’m driving. It’s a tactic to get people to call in for them as it gets the listener stirred up, it works.
I have searched and searched trying to find another ENTJ. Found one of the other 3%!! Yeah!
Everyone will definitely have their own opinions and views on this subject. I think everyone should do what’s best for them and their families.
Do you know why I’m glad I read this particular post? Because, then, I read the comments.
Penelope, you handle the naysayers and negative commenters SO much better than I do.
ALSO, I made a fairly sucky stay-at-home mom too…and I’m an ENFP!
I am an INFP and the only other INFP I knew was my mother who recently passed. I am 27, not married, no children and I would definitely consider myself a non-conformist/idealist…
Since I can remember I have felt destined to become a mom and take a very active role in raising them when the time comes but have not had anyone give me any logical or inspirational guidance. I was pleased to read you mentioning the personality types because I am exactly like mine and I think society/school systems could really gain from being more educated on personalities.
It seems you must choose one path or the other and what do you do if your a natural born parent with no kids but no desire to put intense effort into a career yet that you would surely sacrifice for a family?
I love this blog and it has given me a lot to consider because as a planner, I like to set my values and constantly grow as a person. I do not have a career yet but rather a way to provide for myself while I attend college because I need to be learning at all times.Ideally I would pursue a career later in life. I feel the pressure to graduate and begin a career but I really just want to find a way to work from home so I can homeschool like you.
Perhaps some advice for a woman like me?
I agree with you that the most important solution is the one that is best for the children. Keep blogging! Your homeschooling me about homeschooling and I think your posts are fantastic!
“Are you an ESFJ? An ENFJ? You will be totally screwed at the office. It just won’t work for you.”
I’m curious on the above statement. Why are we totally screwed at the office?
I’m an ESFP, so what are we supposed to be good at? I am a homeschooling mom who really struggles with getting everyone taught at the same time. I would really much rather go on field trips on most days. I am really feeling like I am more of an un-schooler since I have always struggled even with the eclectic style I have been doing for the past 4 years. I am enjoying your blog and glad I ran into it!
Not everyone is well-suited to staying at home with their kids. I don’t see how that’s bad, it’s just simply a fact.
Are you a goal-oriented person, who think more about the future than the present? Then staying at home may not work well for you. Those who thrive in the present tend to be more “enjoy what comes” rather than “be thwarted by what does not” people, and I think they enjoy being home more and may also experience less frustration doing it. I’m in the goal-oriented camp, and I know this about myself.
The other equation in homeschooling that you’re missing here is the personality of the child. We have a child who will haunt you from room to room, and he’s always been that way (he’s 13). Homeschooling him would be exhausting. Other parents have children who are oppositional, and they become moreso when their parents try to teach them anything. Those kids do far better with a regular teacher, because it takes that whole dynamic out of the equation. It’s okay if some OTHER adult teaches them things, just not their own mother or father.
I think you are who you are, and while you can try to be more accomodating than comes naturally, you still can’t change your underlying essence. So, the trick is to learn who you are, and be that. If it doesn’t match up to some current goal, figure out what does. It’s really okay.
I am just the opposite, I am great staying home with the kids, and I totally suck at business.
My husband it awesome and has an organized mind for running our business. Yet getting kids schoolwork done and chores/housework he tries to run like a business. Which does not work and usually ends in tears.
So there are days when I am forced to have a larger hand in the business. I can organize a room full with an explosion of toys, clothes, and junk….yet filling out or filing business documents, eludes me. I can talk to any mommy on the playground with ease, but talks with long standing clients are very uncomfortable for me.
I remind myself that this is an area I need improvement on, and trudge through. Like you’ve already stated, the kids won’t be little forever, one day I will need something else to fill my time. And I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady. :D
I have a rare type of Myers Briggs, Apergers, ADD (been on Adderall 12 years), four kids, married and cannot work because of this. I have 4 years of college under my belt as well. Unless you are in this circumstance (all you haters) you don’t know how hard it is to get through one day let alone one hour! Today, I have an appointment with Vocational Rehab. Now I wouldn’t reccomend this for everyone but in my particular circumstance; I don’t know my left and right in real time. I can’t add in real time (I pretty much have to count it out on my fingers). Oh and if there is enough people in any room, I will say “what?” like a thousand times because my brain can’t filter out all of the voices. Someone could be talking plain english, and I can hear the words they are saying, but the words make no sense. How am I ever going to work? Well, I hope to find out today. I’m going to my appointment with confidence and and open mind. I’ve already been fired from two volunteer positions. I’m back on that horse and ready to try it again. Good luck to you hun. I applaud your efforts as I truly know how hard it is to achieve what your looking for.
I was searching Myers-Brigg and stumbled on your blog, I like the way you think. Such a small world too, I am in Monroe.
I am an INTJ mom with two daughters, 4 & 7. I want to homeschool but haven’t taken that jump yet because I really don’t know if I can do it well. That is really the only concern. I can give the girls access to excellent information. I can prepare them for academic success. I don’t know if I can provide the kind of social interaction and exposure to playground politics that will help them deal with their peers as they get older.
I like how your posts are never too long. Many blogs I read are far too long and I get bored by the 6th or 7th paragraph.
People are so freaking mean to you but I dig you entirely and I don’t read blogs, but I am all into yours. I dig my kids and I’m a big kid and let them eat sugar and discipline badly, but I also am an only child who loves to EARN MONEY and feel productive. So I write and proofread and do other stuff from home. I don’t want to be working around other people. I’m taking that test now! Everyone can just bite you, by the way! Forget them!
ESFJ. Yep, that explains a lot and I wish I knew this back in my 20s when I could not get along with people at work and was bored and never challenged and always felt talked down to. You kinda rock as a career coach! Leaving you alone now.
ESFJ–but the E is distinctive, the SF & J are only just. I have always felt that my personality is a disadvantage in homeschooling. I’m just not organized, and the word “consistent” is usually preceded by “not.” And staying home with small children can feel like a death sentence to an extravert. This was a great post though, because we can all benefit from self-awareness. If I want to stay home, or work in an office, or homeschool, it’s important to know which things about my personality will make that hard, so I can either overcome them, compensate for them, or work with them, or know when I’ll just have to “suck it up.” Because adulthood & parenthood are like that.
Thankfully I haven’t had too many horribly rude comments toward the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mom and that we homeschool, but, we are only making our way through kindergarten though.