I have spent most of my life surrounded by men. I was a high school debater, which is mostly men. I was a professional beach volleyball player, which you’d think would be mostly women, but when there’s a group of athletic women in bikinis it turns out that the world feels like it’s mostly men.

Then I went into the tech industry. All men. I got my first job writing because Time Warner paid me to write about what it’s like being a woman in the field of tech startups.

Then I had kids and kept working. That’s when the world really divides. Women who work after they have kids are pretty much isolated from other women. Anecdotally it doesn’t make sense: of course there are other women at the office. But statistically this makes sense: Pew Research reports that 80% of women who have kids say they would not want to work full-time outside the home if they had the choice. (Interesting offshoot of this trend: Applications for moms wanting jobs as part-time phone sex operators have increased 400%.)

I downloaded a bunch of episodes of Mad Men to watch because I miss men. I miss their power-mongering energy. It is so different from women. Men don’t talk about feelings or kids. They talk about sports and business. I don’t know anything about football or basketball, so men talk to me about business.

I can’t tell if I miss the men or the talk about business. But I feel confused. Because when I was working all the time, and leaving my kids at home with round-the-clock nannies, I got so angry at men for being oblivious to what their wife and kids were doing at home. And now I think I miss having my small part of that oblivion.

56 replies
  1. redrock
    redrock says:

    I can attest that working with 90% of men in my profession, women who are married are not the odd person out. Women who are not married are much more frequently excluded socially, casual-social like having a beer with your colleague in the evening with any intentions beyond talking shop simply does not happen. Single women are the minority, married women are much more accepted in the workplace, mostly because marriage and having kids is considered normal.

  2. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    So if so many women want to work part time, then why don’t more companies offer it???????? It’s cruel how so many women have to choose between work and raising their children properly. Let’s face it, we CANNOT raise our children properly if we leave them with nannies 10 hours per day. Sure, men are power hungry, matter-of-fact individualists, but women provide that much-needed concensus building working-together culture. Too much of either of these things would be nauseating, so why not balance it out and allow more women to work by providing part-time solutions? I am so fed up with this! The feminist movement did not go far enough — we need to refine things a bit by having a part-time movement.

    • Squatch
      Squatch says:

      Please tell me your vision doesn’t include, “part-time work, full-time pay!” as part of it.

      As for “much-needed concensus building working-together culture”, sure haven’t seen any of that in my career.

      Your post is full of bunkum, in my opinion.

    • f1b0nacc1
      f1b0nacc1 says:

      “Women provide that much-needed consensus building working-together culture”

      What absolute drivel! The best working together cultures I have been in have no women in them, and I have yet to see a single woman contribute anything particularly positive to a work environment. This is not to say that there are not many women in the workplace who I respect as colleagues and value in this sense, but this is because they don’t try to be women, they try to be co-workers. Most work environments are seriously degraded by the presence of women who insist on importing the double-standard/feelings-centric/hyper-sensitive ouvre that seems to infest every female-dominated workplace. Just think of HR departments, and you get the idea.

      I agree with the previous respondent here too…women want their ‘part time work’ but they then complain that they aren’t paid full time for it. If women want to participate in the workplace as equals, they should learn to behave as EQUALS, not some specially privileged china-dolls whose terribly sensitive feelings might be shattered by a harsh word or an indelicate comment.

      The workplace isn’t all that much fun, but you survive it and move on. Guys have known this for generations, but women seem to feel that they have some sort of special privileges due them. Don’t like not being with your kids? Welcome to the world men live in…were not all that crazy about it either, but that is how workplaces functions.

      Sorry about the bile, but the sort of nonsense on display in that comment sets me off. Everything wrong about the modern feminist movement in one place…

    • schizuki
      schizuki says:

      “but women provide that much-needed concensus [sic] building working-together culture.”

      Yeah. Right. Women as consensus-builders.

      Sorry, but women are passive-aggressively competitive. Unremittingly so. Men are competitive only to the point of establishing leadership, then we fall behind the leader to achieve the group goals. Teamwork is in our DNA. From the group hunt to team sports, it’s been bred in us over hundreds of thousands of years.

      What women call “consensus-building” is a nice way of saying “hammer down the nail that sticks out.” It’s soft fascism with an insincere smile.

      • jeffcook
        jeffcook says:

        “Sorry, but women are passive-aggressively competitive. Unremittingly so. Men are competitive only to the point of establishing leadership, then we fall behind the leader to achieve the group goals. Teamwork is in our DNA.”

        Exactly. Thank you. Left alone with a project and rudimentary leadership, men will form a team.

    • gps
      gps says:

      The reason there aren’t more part time opportunities is taxes and benefits. Because companies can offer benefits pretax, it makes sense for both parties. But part time work is not worth the same level of benefits, and isn’t subject to the same regulations.

    • John Davies
      John Davies says:

      > So if so many women want to work part time, then why don’t more companies offer it?

      I’d guess it is because the companies decided that they don’t want part-time employees. And since the companies are doing the hiring they get the final word.

    • Deeg
      Deeg says:

      Because employers have costs beyond your pay that makes two part-time employees more expensive vs one full time. Two computers, two phone lines, two desks, two fees for generating your payroll check, etc. And if you are under 50 people, you want a full-timer because federal regs/statutes kick in whether you have 50 full time employees vs 50 part time employees. And as a female employer, yes, it is the women who are always more of a pain in the arse with complaints, and the ones with the itchy lawsuit trigger finger.

  3. Isa
    Isa says:

    I hear ya. I’ve been there. I raised one girl, single parent. I, Like you, tried the homeschool…”unschool” (whatever we are calling it now) after I thought even the expensive private schools were horrific which I worked two jobs to pay for. Homeschooling? I lasted one week…and I think we took 3 of those days off and sat by a pool at a motel. I love my darling girl. She has always been brilliant, funny, engaged and sardonic like her mother, but one of us would have run away from home had I continued to homeschool her. Turns out she wanted to try public school. It was crap, just like the private schools. The stories she tells about teachers and their methods or lack there of should have sent me off a cliff. But in the end, I started to realize that sending her out into the world and teaching her through those stories was the most valuable lesson I could have taught her. She would come home and discuss everything that happened, and I would tell her my thoughts and my opinions. I never told her who was right or who was wrong (I might have thrown in a few “your teacher sounds like a lunatic Nazi!” here or there, but for the most part she learned to make choices and develop opinions. She understands there are many versions of life’s stories and she has to make up her mind about them. Thankfully she thinks i am right 99%, which I see as a small added benefit :) Anyway, the point is…do the best you can to stay sane, talk to your kids not at them and try not to fuck them up too bad….the rest will work out. Mine is studying abroad in europe and having the time of her life, and I am still trying to find a place to work that doesn’t involve women who cry in their office and ask me how my day is going 300 times. Bring back the Men!

  4. TR
    TR says:

    I miss the Ladies. Well….one in particular. I work in an all male IT office and about 6 months ago the owners hired a lady to handle our software testing, documentation, and any hand-holding that the clients needed. All the stuff we all hated to do but still needed to be done. She did a great job (I thought) but the owners disagreed and let her go. Now I am back to having to that stuff (again) and not happy about it.

  5. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I love that show but what I really love love love about that show is the fashion (for ladies). Something tells me this has something to do with men as well.

    Oh, and Don Draper is pretty hot too…

  6. MBL
    MBL says:

    I have only seen the seasons that are out on neflix, so I can’t be sure it is still as un”pc” as it used to be. But Joselle’s comment makes me think it certainly is.

    What I love to marvel at, other than the sets, clothing, and Don, is the dialogue. I can’t help imagining what it must be like for the screenwriters.

    A: We can’t say that. Can we?
    B: I don’t think so. Maybe?
    A: Do you think so?
    C: Yep. We sure can.
    A: Really?!?!? Cool! Hmmm, then do you think we can say THIS?

    And can you just imagine the stuff that really doesn’t make it through? Wowza!

  7. Dana
    Dana says:

    I agree with most of this article. I’ve been back at work for about three months after having my second child (a mere 14 months after having my first child).

    I work at an engineering company and I’m in my late 20’s. I can’t related to any of my late 20’s peer because hardly any of them are married (with kids) let alone dating and the the middle age and older men don’t have the faintest idea of how hard it is to still perform at full capacity at work while taking care of two little ones at home. My husband and I are on opposite schedules so it’s like being a single mom 90% of the time.

    It’s terribly isolating…and hard.

  8. toadold
    toadold says:

    While it depends on the nature of the job you usually can’t replace fully one full time worker with two part time workers. The acquisition cost of the hire is the same for a part timer as it is a full timer. You have to over lap their shifts for a hand off consult. If they are dealing with an outside customer the ball can still be dropped. Do to meetings, breaks, and etc. you are often lucky to get 5 hours of work from a full timer, with two part timers you’d be looking at 3 to 4. Part timers tend to be restricted to the bottom of the food chain. One old buzzard small business owner that I knew of made it a point to hire middle aged women whose kids were grown. He said they were grateful to be able to get a job and with the kids out of the house could concentrate on the job better.

  9. Faith+1
    Faith+1 says:

    To the first poster who said single women are ostracized… no doubt they are. In today’s office, as a man, work often feels like a perpetual minefield of what can or cannot be said that someone in the office may take offense to. Sexual harassment being one of the lead things.

    I can honestly say I completely avoid any social contact with single women in the office and only limited social engagements with married women that are official office engagements and if their spouse is there.

    All it takes is one false accusation and my career is in the toilet because there is an atmosphere of guilty-until-proven innocent.

    Completely sucks and isn’t fair to the single women, but I can’t afford to take the chance. In talking to fellow males at work it is a very common sentiment.

  10. Tom
    Tom says:

    Absolutely agree with Faith+1 above. Mixed offices are dangerous for men. I am now in an office with lots of women and very few men. I very carefully do NOT join the banter and conversations, except at the most superficial level, and I also avoid the lunchroom and all the activities on offer. Why risk it? I can only imagine how men in a mainly male office would react to the few women present. in the modern American world, distance is the only safety for men.

  11. Claude Hopper
    Claude Hopper says:

    You seemed to have missed the transition paragraph describing the move from the workplace to home. Otherwise, why do you miss the men? I got here from Instapundit, so the regulars may have the paragraph my rote.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, I love when Instapundit links to my blog! Hooray.

      This part of my site is about homeschooling. I’m only three months into it. So I write a lot about the transition, and I am finding that the most difficult part of homeschooling is not making sure the kids are doing the right thing. It’s dealing with my own transition from having time to work when they are in school.

      Penelope

  12. Heliogabalus
    Heliogabalus says:

    What the others said. Single women are too dangerous to interact with in a workplace environment. Avoid if you can; otherwise, stay blandly polite and professional and never be alone with one.

    That idea of wherever possible hiring middle-aged women with grown children was a good one.

      • Stephanie
        Stephanie says:

        He has a right to be paranoid. If I was a man, I’d do the same thing. Every single place I’ve worked men have been fired because they upset a girl. One of them was me and I wasn’t even the one “upset”. Other’s were upset FOR me, because I didn’t care all that much about the conversation we were having.

        But it certainly did make it where I wasn’t comfortable talking with men or having friendships with men any more, because I didn’t want to get them into trouble.

  13. Render
    Render says:

    I’m curious … do you think it would be appropriate and justified for men to get so angry at women for being oblivious to what their husbands were doing at work?

  14. Wacky Hermit
    Wacky Hermit says:

    When I was a child my best friend was male, but when I turned 12 I was expected to only associate with females like myself. It just about killed me. After getting burned many times, I couldn’t make friends with any woman without vetting her for months or years, testing to see if she was the gossipy or backstabbing type before actually confiding anything in her. I finally have friends again, and my best friend is a man. I really missed being able to have male friends in my life. Men are so much easier to get along with. If they don’t like you, they’ll tell you, and not by sabotaging all your other friendships until you notice them.

    • the permanent newbie
      the permanent newbie says:

      Ah yes, the infamous “frenemy.” Had a couple of those when I was fresh in, then fresh out of college – both times, they succeeded in stripping me of all my friends. Once I was All Growed Up, a stay-at-home mom with a little standing in my community, I was sure I was done with all that, because we were all Mature, Sensible, Responsible Women … right? Wrong. A new family came to town with kids my kids’ age and put them in the same school. So I easily made friends with the wife, then introduced her to my little circle, everyone hit it off great … and about six months later no one was talking to me anymore. Now I’m back in the workplace, I do a volunteer job that renders me indispensable to the community – and I sure as hell don’t trust anyone outside my family past the most superficial point. So much for all my youthful 1970s “sisterhood” illusions. Henry Kissinger was right: The lower the stakes, the uglier the politics.

  15. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    “I got so angry at men for being oblivious to what their wife and kids were doing at home.”

    You may have worked around men, but you learned NOTHING about men. NOTHING.

    You want them to act like women and obsess about their families publicly – and to you. Ain’t gonna happen, hunny. Men don’t do that.

    You still have no clue how men speak and communicate. You do not comprehend the distinction between “personal’ and ‘professional’. I suggest a dictionary.

    Men are not ‘oblivious to their wives and children’ in the least. You are a fool who still has a LOT to learn.

  16. Southern Man
    Southern Man says:

    Most women have no idea of the crap that most men take every day at work. Staying at home with the kids is (cough) child’s play compared to what the men go through to provide that home.

    • Julie
      Julie says:

      Most of the women who are staying at home with kids used to have jobs outside the home. We know what work is like. Taking care of the kids and house and homeschool is much harder than my “career” used to be. FWIW, my husband works 12-14 days for 2 weeks straight (sometimes 3 weeks) in the natural gas fields in Wyoming, and he still thinks I have the harder job. I appreciate what he does for us, and he appreciates what I do for us, and so our marriage is very happy and so our are children.

  17. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    “Staying at home with the kids is (cough) child’s play compared to what the men go through to provide that home.”

    I do know how hard the working world is–I’ve been there. I am so grateful to my husband for hanging in there for us even when he’d rather not. But nothing makes him more ready to go back to work than doing *my* job for a day or two. I would never argue that one is harder than the other–they are different. I support him and he supports me and together we raise our family. Hard as my job is, I would sacrifice a great deal more than we already do in order to be able to stay at home and raise our kids rather than contracting that job out to others.

    • Randy Terry
      Randy Terry says:

      Then your husband is a wimp. Dealing with family is hard only because you deal with others emotions and feelings. Family issues are REAL and dealing with them is required, if you are an adult. I will not say I prefer to deal with these issues, merely that I acknowledge them. This whole conversation sounds like something from the 70’s.

  18. Kim du Toit
    Kim du Toit says:

    “Women who are not married are much more frequently excluded socially, casual-social like having a beer with your colleague in the evening with any intentions beyond talking shop simply does not happen.”

    Blame the feminazis for turning innocent flirting into an offense punishable by death (okay, career termination). Now men ignore women at the office for obvious reasons, and women wonder why they’re excluded.

    We didn’t create the “hostile atmosphere” bullshit: but we can adapt to the one foisted on us by Feminism, Inc. Enjoy it, ladies.

  19. MikeMangum
    MikeMangum says:

    “You want them to act like women and obsess about their families publicly – and to you. Ain’t gonna happen, hunny. Men don’t do that.

    You still have no clue how men speak and communicate. You do not comprehend the distinction between “personal’ and ‘professional’.”


    This.

    I’ve worked with the same people for over a decade and we still don’t talk about our families beyond the superficial, and we certainly aren’t going to whine and moan to each about our personal problems.

    Some people (women more often than men, in my anecdotal experience) enter a nice, professional environment and screw it all up by focusing on the personal – and to those people *everything* is personal. If someone gives you a hard time because you screwed something up, it’s not because they don’t like you, or because you are friends with the wrong people, it’s because you *screwed up*.

    Do your job; do it well; don’t be an ass. Everything else is dross.

  20. Warren Bonesteel
    Warren Bonesteel says:

    The problem with life…and living it…is that you have to make choices.

    Well, that’s not really the problem. That’s normal.

    The problem…is learning to live with your own choices…and learning to live with the consequencs of those choices.

    Contrary to little princesses and little Peter Pans…and for nanny statists everywhere – no matter their party affiliation- is that you can’t have it all.

    When you make a choice an adult decision – certain options are no longer available to you. That is merely life in the real world.

    Its time to grow up =, folks, and give up the immature angst with which you assail one another.

  21. Bob L. Hedd
    Bob L. Hedd says:

    As an older male who started working in the 60’s….I’ve seen both sides of this coin. Before feminism the workplace was survival of the fittest. Men were open in their competition for promotions and favors. You knew where you stood with the boss and the workplace. Once women entered the workforce in ever increasing numbers, the dynamic changed from performance to something else….the old it’s not what you know it’s who you know. Men were relegated to oddities if they weren’t “aware” of what they said and how it affected women and minorities “feelings.” work became more of a minefield with hidden, and unknown mines everywhere you turned. If you upset a woman you were not a good leader….if you upset a minority, well then you were out of a job. So now the way ahead is to have aspirations like the old New Yorker cartoon with two young guys on a plane chatting. One says to the other, “my plan is to go to law school, join a big firm, sue them for some perceived slight and then retire at 30.” hard work, sacrifice and success are not the answer anymore….with those we are perceived a suckers, because of all the women and minorities who have successfully left the workforce with large sums of money based on their feelings being hurt. Men my age see this and either strike out on our own as I did, or leave the workplace altogether and take that part-time gig to ease into retirement. Ladies, you won. You have made the American workplace into you junior high cliques, and now the game is yours. Let’s see how you do compared to what my generation and generations before me did when men ran things.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      I have no idea where you worked and what your profession is… but what you are saying is essentially that women should stay out of the workplace or just occupy a few niches reserved for women. I work equally hard 80 hour weeks as any man, and I do have a comparison being one of the 10% female engineering professors. And no, I don’t know any woman or minority who has sued and gotten a compensation to retire on. I am sorry that you lost your only-males allowed workplace and can not adapt.

  22. JimG
    JimG says:

    Recently at work a “friend” and co-worker & I had a disagreement about how something was handled(we were both in the same department). She became defensive & I pressed her for an answer. Nothing was really resolved and we both ended the conversation a little ticked off. I thought that was the end of it. She didn’t. She filed a complaint with HR saying that she was now frightened of me and scared to say anything to me.
    Two days later I was called into a meeting by HR who would not tell me what this was about beforehand. Entering the room was my co-worker “friend”, the female head of HR and my female boss who I had not gotten along with for 3 years. It was then that I found out what it was all about. When I objected to being blindsided and became visibly upset about feeling that I was guilty before even entering the room, it was pointed out that this “reaction” on my part was the very thing that my coworker was talking about.
    Well, I minded by Ps & Qs for the last week of the fiscal year, so that I would qualify for year end production bonus and ESOP benefits, then walked in Monday morning after 9 years and turned in my resignation.
    The irony was that it was I who was then tiptoeing around, I who made sure I said the right thing and didn’t tick anybody off. I was afraid that if I bumped into my coworker I’d be charged with assault. This had definitely turned into a hostile work environment for me!
    Thanks for all these comments above. It makes me feel less isolated.

  23. redrock
    redrock says:

    so, after reading all the comments above the summary is: men are 100% professional, women are b**** (always, no exceptions). Women are only waiting to backstab you, so you do not have any contact with them in the office. Women turned the workplace into a minefield (lets not talk about women who had to hear comments on the quality of their female-parts every single freaking day in the office 20 years ago, which is one of the reasons for the PC movement). So, you are being super-professional and while you all insist that ONLY and SOLELY performance is important, you do not interact with the women in your office unless it cannot be avoided? Just out of curiosity: how exactly do you then expect the women in your workplace to actually do their job well?

    P.S. in my personal experience it is a myth that men do not talk about their families, or wives or private lifes.

    • CuriousKM
      CuriousKM says:

      This is clearly an unserious overreaction. Sure some of the posts above are over the line but not the absolutes you suggest. I’ve worked in both large and small offices for 30 years now and obviously there is unprofessional behavior across the spectrum. I have worked with many women that I’ve admired and respected. On balance though, I do believe its a fair comment that women are more likely to make things personal and run to HR at the slightest disagreement. And its an absolute FACT that we have to be more than careful with what we say or do. Do men deserve this given the long history of real harassment….maybe, but it doesn’t change the fact that its real and the mixed office is a minefield for men.

      I love the irony though… I’ve learned of a woman at work that has an interest in me but there is no way I can act on it because of the risks involved. Too bad…seems like a nice lady.

      The thing I find most interesting….the women are brutal to each other, I’m always shocked at how much they complain about each other. Argue with a dude…call each other “Asshole!” and then its over. Argue with a woman and that relationship is over.

  24. redrock
    redrock says:

    it was indeed not an overreaction but a summary of the majority of comments, not all of them but many. And your observation is certainly correct: an all male group uses on average considerably, how should I phrase it?, less “refined” language including more frequent use of body part references (both male and female) and common cursing. Is this the environment many of the commenters miss so dearly? I am not sure whether it is such a great sacrifice to loose this kind of language, is this what is considered a minefield? I personally have never even with very obvious disrespectful and demeaning comments and actions contacted HR, nor have any of my female friends. But different groups, situations and companies differ in their office climate. Going to HR to complain is usually not an easy thing to do, it exposes the person complaining whether the complaint is vaild or not. And many commenters make the all-male office look like a wonderful place where nobody takes things personally, all is professional and good and everybody just sees the common good. This is wishful thinking.

    • CuriousKM
      CuriousKM says:

      hah…you’re funny, you might want to re-read, you’re either having trouble with reading comprehension or only comprehending selective bits. I’m glad I don’t work with you, I’d get tired of explaining things over and over.

  25. redrock
    redrock says:

    I am glad you can judge someone from 20 comment lines. Have you considered that my comment might not be exclusively a response to previous postings?

  26. scott
    scott says:

    I find this discourse very depressing.It would appear based on the comments gender stereotyping is alive and well in America.I have found if you look beyond quick easy labels people act like individuals not robots enslaved to their particular gender.Ms.Trunk says she is loved by her readers because of her standing up for personal responsibility and accountability.I would suggest these readers are engaging in the opposite and think in gender blame instead of analyzing behavior by the particular individual.

  27. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    I don’t know if i’m “into” men so much. is really hard for my to understand them. For example, at work they dont like to get orders from women, thay are constantly unauthorize them (in my personal expirience); and in the family rol, they are capable to tell, that they will pick vacations to go with there friends (hunting team) to some place…. and completely forget there obligations toward there own kids. The fact is that they have the “ability” to exclud them self, from every place they can (specialy if they dont want to be there) and unfortunatly womens end doing all the job; thats what irritates women so much and they end acting crazy.

  28. Katie
    Katie says:

    Meeeee tooooo.

    I played beach volleyball, I went into eCommerce…and now here we are with 3 boys and a distinct absence of grown-up men. I miss them too. =]

  29. Carmen
    Carmen says:

    I have just discovered your website and I am in love…no literally. I made the decision to homeschool my kids -both at different ends of the spectrum, neither served by the public sector and friends, family and strangers cannot believe that I am “wasting” my talents and my children’s lives. It is actually rather awesome. I am a professional with over a decade in industry–also mainly men (commercial real estate and tech) and too much education for my own good. I still work and earn half our family income, I just do it around homeschooling. I have been reading your posts for over an hour and love everything I read. Thanks.

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