This is an anonymous guest post. A reader sent his mother the following quote from me:

So for 2016 Im going to accept who I am:  Someone who struggles every day to accept the realities of parenting in the context of a world that celebrates people who give up everything for work.

I am always trying to figure out how to get credit for being a stay-at-home parent and get credit for being a successful entrepreneur. Probably this means I have to redefine those terms.

His mother wrote back to him, and he forwarded her email to me. She gave me permission to print it here:

If I could go back and talk to my earlier self about this, I’m not sure I would. I’d like to have taken better care of myself, in the same way I took enthusiastic pleasure from taking care of my children. 

But I’m finally doing that now, and maybe that’s actually better. You never can do it all at the same time. I had trouble guessing whether it was better to engage serially over time with things that nourished my soul, or trying to cram it together and do it all at once even with children.  

Praise from strangers is good, but it will always feel hollow if what you need are sustained, intensifying connections. You can reengage with the world of accomplishments later, but what you miss with your children, you miss; there is no later. 

The zero-to-high-school period is pretty short and precious and I do think you reap what you sow during those years. I also think it’s better to be loved for who you are than what you do. I wish it had not taken me so long to start to live that.  

With work, you can always start again. But there really is no gift like being with someone who adores you, needs you, wants you, and likes you.  All of my children gave me that.  It’s good to be a home to children. 

It’s also good to strive to accomplish something else, to please yourself and others. There is time for both. There is energy for both. Though maybe not at the same time, all at once.

I can honestly say now I’m finally over wanting to nurture as a mother.  I want, and have, an adult life now and I like it more all the time. I’m one of the lucky ones who got to have it all. Not a perfect job by far, but I’m pretty happy right this minute.  

17 replies
  1. Lee
    Lee says:

    No one has it all. It’s a perception. You have it all if all you want us career, all you want is kids or you’re happy with diminished career. Kids need parents relentlessly even if to observe and not being there is not being there. Baloney it’s qualitative. It’s quantitative. Having it all is like happiness. People who are happy are happy. People who always feel they don’t have it all will never.

  2. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    I love this SO MUCH!

    And it’s true about satisfying and deep connections. You can try many ways but what you need for that to grow is time. In person. Whether it’s platonic or romantic relationships, or parenting a child.

    I cannot tell you about the “telepathic” communication I have with my children. It’s amazing to experience. It was broken when I went back to work after having my baby and it took focus and intention to get it back.

    It’s hard to balance the right now with the later. Being responsible AND present. All I know is, if I die tomorrow this weekend kicked ass and I got pictures to remember it :)

  3. JDVT
    JDVT says:

    This makes me think of Scrooge and Jacob Marley and being given a glimpse into my future after my children have started their adult journeys.

    Yes to this future. And this present. And the past choices that have led me here.

    Penelope, the posts this winter have been inspiring, provoking, and surprising. I am still digesting the secrecy/money/education article. Thank you.

  4. Teach By Type
    Teach By Type says:

    This makes me sad. I work for myself, not because I need the money. I need the escape from this high stress life that comes with being a blended family.

    Without my side business, I unravel. I regret my need for escape results in my youngest being in daycare 5 hours a day (because I read 30+ causes long term harm for white children)

    Me and the teens are missing out, because we almost never get toddler free time together.

    I try so hard, only to fail. Every day. Ugh.


    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Personally, I think that the first step to freedom is to start calling things as they are. Being genuine and transparent.

      “I work because without work I unravel.”

      Okay, so what if it’s not ideal?
      What if you can’t give the best gift?
      So what? you go on with the next best choice.

      Having a sane mother is definitely better than an insane one.

      You recalibrate and change things until you find what works until it doesn’t work and you change again.

      Clink your glass with mine. Big hug. Hindsight allows you to skip over the bad and rosy color everything until you feel good about your life. You just need time and distance.

      • Teach By Type
        Teach By Type says:

        Thanks so much for your perspective Karelys. I know you’re right. I just wish I could maintain the connection I had with the teens, prior to having our youngest. I’m sure it will work itself out. If only I could stop worrying about it!


    • MGar
      MGar says:

      “30+ causes long term harm for white children”

      Huh? Just white children?

      Would love to see this research study.

        • Karelys
          Karelys says:

          I read the research.

          Do you think this has more to do with cultural expectations of women?

          Why do you think this is due to:

          “Other reports from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care have shown that more hours of child care across infancy and toddlerhood are associated with less sensitive and engaged mother-child interactions throughout infancy and early childhood, after controlling for multiple factors related to child care choices,10 but only for Caucasian children; for non-Caucasian children, more hours of care were associated with more sensitive mother-child interactions. Higher quality child care experience was consistently associated with somewhat more sensitive and engaged mother-child interactions.”

          • Teach By Type
            Teach By Type says:

            I’ve been reflecting on this research for weeks, and I can’t make sense of it. I think every commenter on the post has rejected the knowledge. Suggesting the researchers are mistaken.

            My guess is most of the commenters, if not all, are caucasian. If true, it’s an inconvenient truth.


  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I love the artwork in the photo. Thanks for sharing it.
    I very much like this sentence – “I also think it’s better to be loved for who you are than what you do.” And as a corollary – I think it’s better to love others for who they are rather than what you expect or would like them to be.

  6. Purva Brown
    Purva Brown says:

    I need to read reminders like these on a regular basis. I also need to read things that remind me that the ability to be able to be with my children and work while homeschooling them is pretty much heaven on earth. I don’t always get it right, but this, by far, is really quite perfect.

  7. whiteiris
    whiteiris says:

    Penelope – I most often stop by when I’m trying to figure something out. Yes, my comments are long winded at times, and don’t receive acknowledgement. I own that, no excuses. Anywho, as a tenured competitive woman-leadership-member (age 30 something) in a fast paced industry your writing has been serving as a mentor for me. I feel aligned with your perspective on advancement. *Such as with the last read on your blog, I saw the need to drop 10 years as well. Done and done with weight loss (it works wonders as well). Ok, the point, may God help me get to it!!! Need your perspective on public school. I’m not a homeschooler, can you please put on your public-school mom hat for a moment? I am desperately trying to figure out if I should hold my daughter back in eighth grade. Can you please write an article on your perspective for the subject? The subject is trending very well right now. My daughter is at grade level but is starting to express that school somewhat difficult. Her writing skills seem to not be reaching her potential or matching her level of creativity, rather. I painfully watched her move through sixth and seventh grade as a well-liked kid but not particularly latching onto a certain group. Now I’m assuming her survival skills have pushed her to be friends with all the seventh graders. She’s petite and seems to fit in very well with the seventh graders. They’ve been coming over our house and I’m watching Devon enjoy super fun times with kids that have the same kind of sense of humor. I think the eighth graders grew up and moved on and view her as an immature kid. Know that she stereotypically beautiful, and an incredible dancer. She performs in front of the students and they are blown away. Still yet, she seems excluded from their social groups. I help people excel at what they do for a living. But when it comes to this I am so torn. I’ve really taken a liking to your perspective. Can you please cover the subject or answer this question? Is it appropriate to hold back my eighth-grader because she fits in more with the seventh graders?

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Hi whiteiris,

      I’m not Penelope, but I read this and was wondering why you would want to hold your daughter back a grade because of social reasons? Can she not continue friendships with those who she has created a bond with regardless of what grade they are in without having to hold her back? How is she struggling with writing? Can you get her some one on one help for her writing, if she is indeed struggling? Have you let her try dictation instead of writing? My daughter uses dictation on her Google doc app instead of writing.

      Would you ever consider homeschooling? She could move at her own pace without worrying about fitting in and gaining some confidence.

      Good luck to you both.

    • Teach By Type
      Teach By Type says:

      Hi Whiteiris, more than anything, I think it’s important your daughter sees herself reflected back at her by her peers. To validate who she is to herself.

      With that said, my concern with keeping her back a year is the now 7th graders may grow up and move on when they get to 8th grade.

      If you think staying with her current class will result in long term harm to her self esteem, I would let her decide if she wants to stay back. After ensuring she understands the risks.

      As far as academics, she could enroll in honors if the work was too easy after staying back.

      I struggled socially beginning in middle school. I cried every morning before school. Begging my Mom not to make me go.

      If I could spare my child that pain, I would do it in a heartbeat.

      Good luck to you both!

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