Last week I published a post on LinkedIn about how people decide how many hours to work. The arc of the post will not surprise you: I worked long hours, I regretted the time I missed with my kids, I cut back on work, then I started homeschooling. It’s the story of connecting with my kids, more than anything. To me, it’s a nice story.

People on LinkedIn went nuts. They castigated me for thinking I would like working more than being home with kids. They told me I should have my kids taken away because I worked such long hours. They told me that if I want to know how my kids will turn out, I should listen to Cat’s In the Cradle.

At first I responded to them, picking them off one by one. Like, it’s a video game where I have to destroy the comments fast enough to win.

I finally stopped that with the thought, “Fuck all those people.” Fuck all those people because maybe they didn’t get all the way down to my byline, which says that I now homeschool my kids. Or maybe they didn’t realize that I had a husband who was a stay-at-home dad. Or maybe they just couldn’t follow the story. So I will give them the benefit of doubt that they think I’m working 100 hour weeks still, with nannies raising my kids. And always will.

But what’s more is that I’m writing for LinkedIn as part of their group of influencers. Other people in this group are Richard Branson,  Jack Welch, and Evan Williams. None of those people ever saw their kids. Do you think Richard Branson was building an airline and coming home for dinner? Why are people on LinkedIn telling me I’m terrible? I’m the one who is writing because I now understand that 100-hour work weeks mean you are not being a parent.

I’m sure that no one on LinkedIn would ever post these comments to a male CEO’s article. It’s so much easier to pick on women about parenting because clearly if I’m writing about it, then I care about it a lot, so I’m vulnerable to their shitty comments.

What I really want to tell you is how the next generation of asshole commenters on LinkedIn will find joy in shaming people who send their kids to school. I know because already they are willing to shame me for working instead of being there for my kids, so it’s only a small step to shame someone for working because they think they wouldn’t be able to handle homeschooling.

I can’t wait until the day I see this comment on LinkedIn: “Stop pretending that you need to work to put your kid in an expensive school district. You really just don’t want to be home with your kids. You should never have had kids.”

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that nasty comments will be acceptable because they will align with my agenda. What I am saying is that you can tell when an idea has gone mainstream: the trolls on the Internet come out screaming, using their real identity. For trolls, there is no shame in shaming those who are not mainstream.

It’s good, I think, that people are up in arms that they don’t think I spend enough time with my kids. Maybe they will reconsider sending their kids to school next.




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20 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Good grief. You’ve always gone against the mainstream grain and you did that really well in that article, pushing a few extra buttons too (siding with amazon, really sad picture of your kids). So no surprises people got their pitchforks out. What is surprising is that you are taking it oh so personally, and worse responding to the trolls like some rookie blogger. What on earth is going on there – why so vulnerable?

    Besides plenty of the comments are onside, and you’ve always been the voice for the minority. It won’t even matter if your future prediction about homeschooling comes true because by then you’ll have moved onto something else.

  2. Liobov Triufanova
    Liobov Triufanova says:

    I love how you see a silver lining in everything :)

    By the way, there is a documentary on Netflix called “Race to nowhere” that summarizes nicely all the point that you have been making about why the school system is so broken.

  3. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    A side comment. Since LinkedIn has become a publishing platform, I’ve noticed that my links to new posts on my software-development blog are buried and get next to no likes and generate next to no visits to the blog. Clearly, LinkedIn wants our content on its site. I don’t really want to publish on LinkedIn itself, I want to publish on my blog because then it becomes a portfolio of my ideas. I used it in my job search this summer with some success. Kind of frustrating. (Click my name to see my software blog if you are curious.)

  4. jessica
    jessica says:

    You know, I think it’s because you didn’t include the line ‘my caring and loving husband stayed home with the kids during this time.’

  5. sarah
    sarah says:

    I always wonder if people stop to hear themselves speak. I once had another Mom tell me she couldn’t homeschool because she wanted to keep her house clean.

  6. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I was SO SHOCKED to see the response to your LinkedIn article. I hadn’t even considered that what you were saying could be remotely offensive. (I thought we were over the work/life balance thing?) Then I think of my Facebook feed, with all the depressing “back to school” nonsense and that one video with a zillion views of a girl in a bathroom having a panic attack because she had to go to school, and I just think, it makes no sense. How can these people be up in arms about spending time with your kids when they send them away for 8+ hours a day (and spend literally maybe 3 total hours/day with them), and I thought the same thing – I guess it’s just a matter of time before this outrage reaches its logical conclusion.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I think it’s a case of the wrong post on the wrong publishing platform. The readers on LinkedIn don’t know (or care) about your story nearly to the same extent as your readers on this blog. Also the attention span of readers on the Internet today aren’t very long and consequently, many comment responses aren’t very thoughtful. Maybe, for blog posts published outside your community, something resembling a brief CliffsNotes is necessary at the beginning of the post.
    “I worked long hours, I regretted the time I missed with my kids, I cut back on work, then I started homeschooling. It’s the story of connecting with my kids, more than anything. To me, it’s a nice story.” – I agree. It is a nice story. It’s a course correction rather than a doubling down on something that wasn’t working for you and your family.
    Also – “What I really want to tell you is how the next generation of asshole commenters on LinkedIn will find joy in shaming people who send their kids to school.” I don’t think these asshole commenters would be such assholes if they were delivering their message to you face to face. At least, they wouldn’t be coming off as such big assholes. They would most likely convey a more moderate tone. Even when they’re using their real identities on the Internet, I think it’s easier for them to fit into a group think mode and post commentary they wouldn’t say to you one on one or even live in a group. I think it’s easier to be more emboldened in a comment section of a published post.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Mark, you’re right, of course. Each publishing platform needs a different angle. A lot of times I get spoiled writing on my blog because even though there is disagreement here, we have a common language. Writing on other platforms is a good reminder about how the rest of the world sees things.


  8. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I love you and I think you make/communicate good choices. That’s why I keep coming back. It is so hard to maintain your value set amidst the difficulties of life.

  9. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Well, I don’t always agree with your opinions but I know for a fact that you love your kids and are doing right by them. Don’t let them get you down.

  10. Aquinas Heard
    Aquinas Heard says:

    First off, congratulations on being selected as an Influencer on LinkedIn.

    For years I have been searching for actual Unschooling advocates. People who are willing to put their educational views completely out there, possible social/career repercussions be damned. (This is not a slam against people who support and practice Unschooling but choose to keep their views on the subject mostly to themselves.) Also, you are one of the few I have found who seems to be actually getting parents to reconsider their educational options for their children. That’s impressive and to be commended.

    I disagree with you on work/life balance. I think it can be done with children in the picture But only if both parents honor a child’s rights. The practical implementation of this would obviously vary from family to family.

    I do have a question for you though. Did you know before you had children that you get the most satisfaction out of work only if you are going about it by going “all in”? If you knew this beforehand then I would think that you would have to factor this in the decision of whether and/or when to have children. Once you came to the conclusion of having children then I would think the next obvious question would be: how do I satisfy this need of a high degree of work productivity with my desire to raise a healthy and happy child within a healthy romantic relationship?

  11. Isabella
    Isabella says:

    ” I’m the one who is writing because I now understand that 100-hour work weeks mean you are not being a parent.”

    You mean not being a MOTHER. Apparently, you can still work 100-hour work week and be a father.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      Many kids are lucky enough to have two parents. One thing some families do is that one parent has a high flying career and the other stays home with the kids.

      Of course, this only succeeds if both parents respect each other’s work. If the salaried parent starts calling the caregiving parent a failure and a layabout, or the at-home patent gives the at-work parent too much guff about dishes or performances, the marriage will fail.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


        This is so totally off topic, but I thought of you and your son today when I was reading a pro-homeschooling article in Boston Magazine.

        It sounds like a great city to live and homeschool in, with Harvard and MIT both accepting homeschooled applicants. It must be nice having everything sort of clustered all around you. In LA everything is spread out all over the place and takes about an hour of driving to get to any destination.

        If you haven’t already read it, here is the link:

        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          An hour of driving from here and you’d be in another state.

          We can walk or ride our bikes to many of our regular activities (parks, libraries, museums, conservatory). Some we can’t. But we don’t do anything more than a half hour away.

          I read the article with interest; I have met some of the people quoted. It’s true that many local institutions are providing great services for homeschoolers as our market grows.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            There really is something to be said for being able to walk or bike to places. In most of the places I have lived in CA, that just hasn’t been possible, except for the nearby park that offers zero shade.

            I’m already dreading the one hour each way of driving I will have to do for JPL’s open house in Pasadena. I usually try to find things locally, but this city is really spread out. If one wants to go to the Natural History museum it takes an hour of driving to get there. JPL is an hour in the other direction. USC is another hour. Even though I have universities closer to me, with surface streets it still takes 30 minutes. Gah!

            I laughed out loud when I read that an hour of driving would put you in another state. I believe that. That is something I bet you appreciate about where you live.

      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        I’m sure it has to make it harder that after a professional woman deals with sexism from men at work all day then she has to go home and deal with her own sexism. Women who don’t mature that way don’t get to keep their stay at home husbands.

        I’m watching this happen to a couple I know right now, and it makes me sad. The saddest part is she doesn’t seem to realize she won’t be getting custody, as she is not the primary caregiver.

  12. Aquinas Heard
    Aquinas Heard says:

    Just to be clear, I would ask a man the same question as Penelope if he was in the same situation.

  13. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    “the next generation of asshole commenters on LinkedIn will find joy in shaming people who send their kids to school”

    well, I guess commenters here are at the forefront…

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