It’s important that you do not have your kids home with you all day if you hate your life. But it’s also important to recognize that you might hate your life whether or not your kids were home with you all day. For example:

  • People in a bad marriage
  • People who never got a career and feel undervalued
  • People who are depressed
  • People who are obsessed with their own mysterious unlocked potential
  • People in a financial mess

These problems have nothing to do with your kids. They exist independently of how much time you spend with your kids. So you should go to talk therapy or go on medication or both.

I should know, because I do both. I do both because I’ve read about how bad it is for kids if their mothers to be unhappy. (Maternal depression has a hereditary nature, but not so true for depressed fathers.)

So I spend a lot of time each week managing my mood, and focusing on what is bothering me deep down so that I avoid making my kids feel like they are my problems. See the photo up top of me sitting next to my son? I look at that picture and I think to myself: Was I happy in that moment? Did I show it? Did I create emotional space for my son to enjoy that moment?

Not that I’m an ace at this process—I still scream at the kids. But I scream at them a lot less now that I am not doing a huge job outside the house as well as the huge job of parenting. That arrangement was untenable and created a huge amount of screaming.

I am focusing on this issue in my own life all the time, so I am acutely aware of who seems unhappy interacting with kids.

Bus drivers

Did you know that bus drivers have the highest rate of depression of any profession? That surprised me, because for a while it was lawyers. But notice that depression and profession do not correlate to pay. Janitors have a really high rate of satisfaction with their work. Happiness at work is driven by how strong our ability is to meet the needs of the people we work with. Which makes it particularly disturbing that school bus drivers are in that most depressive category.


Teachers hate teaching so much that half of them leave. In fact, 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just three years, and more than 45 percent leave after five. Teachers last a long time in rural schools, because there are so few job opportunities. And teachers last a long time in top-performing schools, because teaching there is more rewarding. 

Kinesthetic learners

More than 30% of kids in school are kinesthetic learners. What this means is that they learn best by doing, not listening or reading, and they do best figuring things out for themselves. On a personality type test these people come out with an S and a P in their score. Most of them get through school by focusing on sports. Most of them think of school work as a game of efficiency. And most of them do not work for someone else when they grow up.

So the idea that they need to learn how to follow a school’s rules is just plain wrong. And the idea that they can enjoy school is wrong. It’s like taking someone who likes to read and telling them they have to do seven hours of gym class a day. But 30% of school kids are living that life right now. And they are the ones making up the majority of the negative, disruptive behavior at school that the kids who are not kinesthetic learners have to put up with.

The problem with school is that you can’t protect your kids from a constant barrage of depressive behavior. In the non-school world we can often choose who we want to spend time with. We can put ourselves into situations that are good for our mental health. One of the best things I’m teaching my kids is how to identify sad or angry or depressed behavior in other people and make healthy decisions in response.

I take anxiety medication every day so that I can be my best self with the kids. I’m honestly not sure if I would even need the anxiety medicine if I didn’t have kids. But I think I probably would. I mean, I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t anxious. It’s just that with my kids I feel a huge responsibility to surround them with people who are working hard to live their best lives, and that includes me.



15 replies
  1. karelys
    karelys says:

    It’s a ridiculous standard that being a good parent should be done au naturale while we live in a culture that pulls us in so many different directions.

    At least you have household help.

    It’s like wanting to be a football player with nothing but a healthy diet and lots of exercise.

    I am thankful to have recognized that right now I have weaknesses I have to work through and, thankfully, I can without having to put my child through it. My husband doesn’t deal with that problem. He doesn’t have the anxiety, and feeling loss, and all those issues that plague me. So he stays home with the kid. He’s great at it. I am amazed at how much he can handle at once. It was just a matter of removing himself from the crazy toxic environment he was in before.

    I can still work hard towards better myself without sacrificing my child in the process. But like I said, I am thankful because our lives have flourished and given fruit according to our efforts. So many people, no matter the effort can’t seem to enjoy the fruit of it.

    I try really hard to not be preachy (like your career post said) because I am fully aware of how painful it is to barely have options.

    So if Xanas is an option to get you through the day and help you make yourself better, whatever, who cares. I am so happy to hear that it’s normal that people are constantly taking note of how they feel so they won’t impose that on their children. I know how horrible it is to be a child and live with that burden. I don’t want my kids to deal with it either.

    You’re a good mom. You try so hard. Go buy a board and gold star stickers and give yourself gold star stickers for everything you like and admire about you’re parenthood because no one is going to do it for you.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I have been living with anxieties for as long as I can remember too. It’s too difficult now to remember what my anxieties were like when the kid was in school for that half a year before we did homeschool. I remember not sleeping very much, I remember yelling about homework and yelling about being on time so we could get an award for zero tardiness… I sleep now. Sleep is good. Yelling is way less now too. Anxieties are different but still there.

  3. mh
    mh says:

    Why don’t teachers see what everybody else sees?

    School is bad for most kids. School is bad for most teachers.

    The type of kids who *need* school need school because their home lives do not support them learning at home. Often these kids have profound unmet needs that wreak emotional havoc on the people around them.

    The type of teachers who *need* school as a place of employment are generally not people you would choose to be around, or choose to have your child be around. These are people who are unemployable outside the school hierarchy.

    Deciding to edit the people in your life to spend less time in angry or stressful relationships is as good for kids as it is for adults.

    This post is right on.

  4. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    “It’s just that with my kids I feel a huge responsibility to surround them with people who are working hard to live their best lives, and that includes me.”

    Do you have any career posts on this? How to surround yourself with people at their best? That would be a good read.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I bought Penelope’s little book on mentors after reading all the posts I could on mentorship. Then I decided that I would go out and get a job shooting to be around people that were better than me and that I liked/aspired to be like.

      I got pretty lucky that it wasn’t a long search.

      I am very careful with the friends I pick. To me time and emotional energy is like money and I carefully budget it because at least I can get more money. But time, I can’t never get back time. And bad things happen when I am running on empty or I am full of anxiety/negative emotional energy.

      Thanks to Facebook I find out about interesting people doing interesting things in my town and then I seek them out. Then it’s a matter of following through. Also, I tend to make serious connections with people who keep good blogs (it’s SO MUCH WORK!).

      I don’t know if that helps much.

      I just had coffee this morning with a lady who is so good at respecting who she really is. She’s full of wonder. She reminds me of all good and exciting new starts (like the first day of spring after a long drabby winter). I am not sure where our friendship will go but I know I need a shot of that every day because I can so easily spiral into worries and too much seriousness in my life.

      I make friends with older people who are more established in their careers and have more experience in parenthood. If you get a chance to read up on what P has to say about mentorship it will really change the way you approach people that you find interesting and aspiring. Highly recommend it.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        And then be ready Karelys because 20 years from now you will have people wanting YOU as a mentor. :)

      • Tracey
        Tracey says:

        Thanks for sharing! I am great at networking, I just never seem to find anyone who will mentor me. It’s hard to find someone who will invest in you. I think it really requires a solid connection/personality click.

        • Karelys
          Karelys says:

          I think it’s hard to find that. But maybe it’s an outdated notion of mentorship (someone taking you under their wing). Perhaps proving yourself worth someone’s time and being interesting enough for them to have you around for a minute is a great start. Then you can learn whatever from that person.
          Time is too precious for people who got their stuff together. They won’t want to sit down for coffee for an hour just to chat about what you need. They have to have something valuable in return.
          And seek different mentors for different things. Maybe one day you can find someone that is interested in being a mentor in the movie type of mentor. But unless you have direct questions the learning is going to be very….unclear and without direction.
          Have you clicked the “mentors” tag in the career blog? It’s full of little gems. Check it out.

          My biggest issue is to come up with good questions. But for the most part if a good question is in place most people are willing to answer. They don’t know it but you know they’re your mentor. So who cares? ;) it’s not like “he’s my boyfriend he just doesn’t know it.”

          Or is it?

          I think it is…but still, it’s not creepy because you can learn from a rock if you wanted to.

  5. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I thought this post might not get very many comments. People really want to celebrate you without hesitation, and I think you usually really want to be celebrated. We don’t know what to do with ambiguous feelings towards you.

    I feel challenged by this post, rather than my usual chest-bumped feeling after reading your posts. I imagine it might have been harder for you to write.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I actually really liked this post, sometimes when she writes it’s so good that I feel like I can’t add or contribute anything to make it better!

  6. Isabelle
    Isabelle says:

    I have gotten so much insight into education from your blog, Penelope, and that is after many education classes and many years of teaching. I plan to homeschool my son, in large part because of the way this blog has opened my mind. But PLEASE, don’t be yet another misinformed person throwing around the term “kinesthetic learner” or “learning styles” as if this is actually something backed up by data- it is NOT. The author of the original book on multiple intelligences, Gardner, explains in this great article how so, so many people have misinterpreted his findings (and this misinterpretation is seriously harming education, in my opinion and that of many in the education field (I’m talking specialized PhD’s, not K-12 teachers.))

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I read about his annoyance with people confusing the two.

      Maybe it’s not backed up by data that learning styles equals a certain type if intelligence. But if a person learns best by doing rather than listening it’s still true.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that kinesthetic learning is still a thing. And it’s true. Even if it’s unrelated to the multiple intelligences. And a kinesthetic learner withers when they are forced to sit and listen for hours on end.

      I used to be worried that my husband didn’t like to read because I equated reading with being educated and someone that appreciates education. I was a snob really. And annoying about it.
      Recently we found out that he’ll listen to audio books and really get into it if he’s working outside. I can’t pay attention. But he can.

      This is unrelated to multiple intelligences though.

      • Isabelle
        Isabelle says:

        This is exactly where the misinterpretation of data on how people ACTUALLY learn (and we have a LOT of good data!) ultimately harms education. On the whole, *everyone* learns better by “doing,” rather than listening- this is easy to see in what we know about teaching and learning physics, for example. It isn’t good for *anyone* to sit in lecture for hours on end, no matter how much they may like or dislike it. (I actually liked it! But I still learn better with inquiry-based education, figuring out problems for myself with guidance, as does everyone.)
        Conflating preference for sitting vs. running around, reading vs. listening, drawing vs. playing volleyball; these things aren’t about how we learn, they are just what we prefer to do (which probably has more to do with personality type than anything else.) The frustrating thing for me in this argument, on this blog, is that Penelope actually understands the best way people learn– by approaching a problem they care about, and working themselves (with expert guidance when possible) to solve it. This has nothing to do with “kinesthetic” or “auditory” or any other kind of “learning style” – it is a type of instruction methodology, and it works for EVERYONE. Getting this mistaken idea of “learning styles” mixed up with it is helping no one, and, on the whole, it is hurting our larger dialogue about education.

  7. Kara
    Kara says:

    I’m close to pulling my 4 kids out of a charter this fall, but since we have been there for 4 years, I’m feeling scared and unsure if I’m doing the right thing. My daughter has been sucked into the importance of her friends and the attention perhaps. So she is not wanting to leave… Ugh. Am I too late? My heart says do it, but I know it is a risk. I really relate to the anxiety with getting kids off to school and making sure their homework is done at night!!
    Without that alone will calm our house I’m sure.


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