Secrets of a #Bossbitch: On Parenthood, Marriage, and Leaning In

It involves daycare, feminism, and (extreme) advance planning


In 2014, I received a series of very pleasant emails from a publisher suggesting that I might want to write a book. I was invited to come pitch.

I talked about how what I do at GetBullish is like Lean In, but for younger, quirkier women who don’t want to give themselves over to corporations. A lot of people like the idea of “leaning in,” but I strongly suspect they haven’t read the book.

In the very first chapter of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg tells us about working full-time (and what is full-time to Sheryl Sandberg? Sixty hours? Seventy?) during a horrific pregnancy. The tale involved throwing up into the Google toilets. That’s what you’re leaning into, I thought. It did not sound very sanitary.

The meeting went well. I took myself out to a fabulous lunch at a restaurant overlooking Columbus Circle.

And then I went home, retrieved my baby from the babysitter, took off my nice pants, and climbed into bed to breastfeed the tiniest, wrinkliest, snuggliest little eight-pound animal in the world. It was, as they say, a moment. I’ve spent a lot of my life doggedly pursuing physical freedom, not wanting to be told by a boss when to get up and where to sit; this seemed like an extreme version of winning that battle. (And why wear pants if you don’t have to?)

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a paean to letting go, or falling so in love with your baby you become a different person, or finding a “new normal.” Fuck that. Burn it in a fire.

I only enjoy fully wine, and babies, and travel, and breastfeeding in bed at 2pm on a weekday because I have already built businesses and run conferences, I occasionally make money in my sleep via my various websites, and I have constructed a social environment for myself in which absolutely no one says stupid shit to me like, “So, will you keep working?” or “Does your husband help out?” (Sometimes that means cutting certain people out entirely, and I’m fine with that. YMMV.)

If I had been raised in a kinder, more socialist democracy—in Sweden, say—I would be a different person. Someone who doesn’t say things like, “I only like relaxing on the beach when I feel I’ve earned it.” But I am this way because we live in a cutthroat capitalist system with little safety net. I would like to change that system. (And I’d like to mega-acknowledge that I’ve got various kinds of privilege allowing me to put my life together the way I have.) In the meantime, however, I can tell you a little bit about my version of having it all, and some tips for constructing your own well-designed “all.”

Note: The version of “having it all” portrayed in the media is generally a heterosexual woman with a husband, a career, and kids. I certainly disagree that that’s what everyone should want or does want! But this article is mostly about how to have an awesome life plus baby, since that’s more or less what I’m doing. I also feel super weird writing about myself in this way, but I also like to provide some counterbalance to the Internet lady-trend where we write a lot about our weaknesses. (Which is good too, but not personally where I’m planting my flag.) So here goes.


This is really basic: daycare. It’s great.

I had some unexamined prejudices against center-based daycare. I was nervous about dropping off my ten-month old at a rigorously childproofed center full of fun toys and baby friends where women with degrees in early childhood education would take care of my baby’s every need and provide me with written reports of all her eating, sleeping, and pooping.

The ten months prior to that, I’d spent patching together a work schedule that took place when a babysitter was in one part of my house and I was in another, or when my husband was home and I was in a coworking space. It was not good. I rarely saw my husband. I rarely went outside. I was not really a person. I had been de-personed. (This is precisely how I felt about pregnancy as well, but that’s a topic for another day.) If I had not spent the previous decade building up my business and professional credibility, everything would have fallen apart.

Daycare solved a lot of problems.

I really enjoy when the baby comes home having learned stuff I didn’t teach her. I mean, I don’t own her. I’m not planning to homeschool her from some religious book that no one’s allowed to contradict. She’s allowed to receive information from the world! One day I was reading a book with her and pointed to a picture of a cow. “MOO!” she shouted. I had no idea she knew that. Experimentally, I pointed to a sheep. “Baa,” she said thoughtfully. I pointed to the goat. She looked at me. “Yeah,” I said, “I don’t know either.”

I love my baby like crazy. She’s an individual—a quite distinct one—currently in the midst of a condition called “babyhood,” that requires special care of many kinds. Loving someone doesn’t require that you personally care for all their bodily needs. I mean, I also really love my mother. And if my mother needed full-time nursing care—as we may all some day—I’d absolutely want professional assistance. I certainly wouldn’t love her any less because I hired trained nurses who know how to turn someone over in bed and help them in the bathroom.

In a practical sense: We pay $1,550 a month (in Brooklyn). Which is quite a lot of money, which is one reason I’m suggesting one make plans for this as many years in advance as possible. Surprisingly, we had no trouble getting a spot; your mileage may vary.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the cost of daycare comes out of your paycheck exclusively, so you’re “working for practically nothing” or some shit like that. If you have a partner, then daycare is a shared expense. Half of it comes out of your paycheck and half out of his. You’re not the only one who needs child care in order to work. So does he.

If he can’t see that, well…

Pick the Right Partner: Don’t Fuck the Patriarchy

Don’t fuck someone who’s not a feminist. Certainly don’t marry someone who’s not a feminist. And for the love of unicorns, don’t coparent with someone who is not a feminist.

Let me be clear: there are some men who are pretty good feminists who don’t really call themselves that. There are some men who call themselves feminists only because they like women having the individual liberty to have sex with them. I’m talking about—if you’re into men—only getting together with men who 1) recognize structural oppression of all kinds, and 2) believe in actively dismantling it.

Getting together with a “nice guy” is not good enough. I’m deadly serious. “Nice” will get you through dating and coupling and nesting. But if you get pregnant, give birth, and breastfeed, you introduce a strong biological component into your relationship. (There are lots of other ways to make a family, and all of them are likely to, to some extent, activate ideas about gender roles that you’ve absorbed without meaning to, over your entire lifetime.) And then the weight of thousands of years of tradition and acculturation will hit you both, unless you are both actively committed to ending gender-based oppression.

Here is an example scenario: You marry a nice guy. You both work, and you split the housework. Everything’s great. You get pregnant. You talk about both continuing to work, but one or both of you have unexamined biases against professional childcare, and one or both of you were raised in an environment in which children were the woman’s domain, and it just so happens that, probably partially due to cultural and structural forces, you make less money. You cobble together some kind of maternity leave out of whatever options are available to you. Paternity leave is almost never a thing, though. You have the baby. You are hit by a ton of bricks. He does what he can—maybe even heroically—but has to go back to work after a few days. You settle into a pattern where you do all the baby stuff, so the baby becomes more comfortable with you. At some point, you look into childcare but the cost really hits you—especially if you’ve already taken a financial hit from a rough pregnancy and/or unpaid mat leave—and maybe this nice guy of yours says, “I don’t know about leaving our baby with a stranger,” and you wonder about going back to work and how you’re going to manage, and every structural inequality and microaggression and well-meaning assumption just piles up until all the sudden it “just makes sense” for you to stop working “for now” and “this is what works for our family” and there you are, wondering what the hell happened.

You avoid this by only dating feminists in the first place. You can also just practice good management skills by dividing the tasks roughly down the middle and not overseeing, micromanaging, or wasting energy on the tasks that aren’t yours. If your partner is the lead on diapering, he’ll do it however he pleases.

My husband does 50/50. It doesn’t matter who’s making more income at the moment (for the record, I made more when we met, then he made more when I was virtually incapacitated by pregnancy). He’s tired, but so am I; we’re equally tired. All that shit you read about “mommy brain” is probably what happens when the tiredness is unfairly distributed. He’s amazing.

Side note: Think twice before marrying someone—or having children with them—where your relationship is already “work”! I mean, unless you like that sort of thing, I guess. Because you’re about to add a lot more work.

Money ISn’t evil

I am infuriated by people who insist that money is evil, or can’t buy happiness. If you have enough money to think that, you never missed out on field trips or braces for lack of money as a kid, did you? (See Bullish: Social Class in the Office.) Money solves a vast number of the causes of unhappiness, which is pretty close to buying happiness. And, frankly, I’ve bought plenty of happiness directly.

I don’t think work-life balance applies to your launch phase of life (which is probably your twenties). If there’s going to be a phase of your life where you work little or not at all (because of a baby, for instance), there should probably be a phase of your life—when you’re young and full of energy—that you work sixty hours a week and get single-minded and cut out people dragging you down (here and here) and maybe you go in a room and code something (here and here) and don’t talk to anyone until it’s done. Saying maybe it’s good to work extra-hard in your twenties doesn’t necessarily mean just giving that extra time to a boss—it may mean a side hustle or night school or a startup or aggressively networking and seeking mentors or a future entrepreneurial plan ready for activation if your job turns to shit.

Years before having a baby, I wrote a somewhat sarcastic article about preparing for motherhood in a cutthroat capitalist economy. I suggested making twice as much money as you need before you have a baby, so you can make half as much after and be okay. Obviously, that’s a fucking challenge! But if you have time for a challenge, there you go. And I basically did do that. Once, a coworker asked why I was working so hard (this was at a company where I was paid hourly, so the more I worked, the more I made, in a very direct way). Society tells us that only “crazy” women say, “I might need to have a baby when I’m single, so I’m making sure I can make twice as much as I really need.” So I said, “I want to buy a Manhattan apartment.” But I got shit done.

If you’re interested in how, specifically, I did that in my field: I made sure, before having a baby, that I had my name on published works and products that people would continue to find (I have written or co-written many GMAT and GRE books and tools), even if I was just lying around my house, too pregnant to move. I made sure I had recurring and passive income, from profit sharing for a division of a company I helped found, and from digital downloads. I raised my hourly rates; when you do this, it’s possible to lose a few clients but still come out making the same amount of money in less time.

I strongly believe in cultivating quantifiable hard skills that don’t depend on whether people like you. Am I a good freelance writer? Depends on your tastes (freelance writing is, by the way, the world’s worst way to make money). Do I know how to run an online boutique retail store? Yes. I can demonstrate that via spreadsheet. Am I a good GRE coach? Yes. I can prove it with numbers and success stories. Anything can be quantified. Anything you do at a company is done for the purpose of ultimately making money. How much more money was made? By what percent were sales and profits increased? How many hours were saved? At the very least, you can count how many times you did something and that the somewhat subjective thing you did generated positive feedback on social media or from clients a hundred percent of the time.

If all of this sounds ridiculous—again, it would be ridiculous if we were Swedish. But I thank my twenty-eight-year-old self for setting me up, because I’m kind of tired now and couldn’t do some of the things she did.

Don’t flex yourself out

Flexibility is great, but don’t sacrifice too much income for it. Plenty of people have extremely flexible careers because they are freelancers who barely have any work.

It’s also possible to have a career that’s so flexible that it gets flexed into nonexistence when your partner makes more money and there’s childcare to take care of. You can work “anytime, from anywhere,” so your work time gets relegated to naptime (no word on when you get to eat or shower). It only gets worse from there. If you opt out (here’s one good argument for keeping irons in the fire even if you step back from working full-time), you are unlikely to re-enter the workforce at even the low level that caused you to drop out of it in the first place. (That is, by the way, one great thing Lean In got right—even if you only make enough at your job to cover day care, you’re not “working for nothing.” You’re building a career that will pay much more over the next twenty to forty years than it would if you had dropped out for the four plus years that daycare is an issue.)

A staggered schedule works well for me and my partner—he works a typical schedule, and many of my speaking and teaching engagements are in the evening—but it’s infinitely helpful to have something that has to start at exactly 6pm, in a conference center, as opposed to, “Can you hold this baby while I run to a coffeeshop and try to get something done?”

Flexibility is great, but not at the expense of large amounts of income. If you aggressively increase your income over a number of years, you can make yourself valuable enough that you can later arrange your work life as you please. Maybe not within certain U.S. corporations. You may have to start your own business, or you may end up taking on projects on a contract basis. But going it alone is a lot easier when you have savings, a strong network, and have a large and powerful network of people who know you’re worth what you charge.

Extreme Advance Planning

You’re not crazy to plan aggressively for an awesome—and very different—lifestyle in three or five (or more) years when you upend your life with kids, or in forty years when you want to raise alpacas in a ball gown or something. Some people who like to just “let things happen” may look askance. Do not be derailed.

Focus on high-profile wins. Get credit for your work. Have an entrepreneurial plan in your back pocket. Cut the crap out of your life, like watching TV shows you don’t care about. Pursue forms of pleasure that are really pleasurable but less time-consuming. Don’t let complacent friends and relatives dampen your drive. Love them and pleasantly ignore their advice.

The people who tell you you’re ridiculous, or you’re working too hard, or you should relax more when you’re twenty-five are the people who may change their opinions when shit gets complicated ten years later. Look, all the hard work you did in high school set you up for what you’re doing now, right? Do you wish you’d spend more time going to high school parties instead of studying? It’s the same thing. The nerds in high school win later in life. Your twenties are basically the high school of your thirties and beyond.

Also, I never thought I was a baby person, but babies are adorable and sometimes quite charming! They also benefit from you being in a permanently good mood from having enough money and wine and professional respect.

Obviously, my approach is not for everyone; this is just one woman’s how-I-did-it. My mission is to make clear some of the many ways to get from A to B, preferably with a little pep talk along the way. We live in a capitalist society that is often inhumane to its workers. Sometimes it takes extreme measures to be extra-humane to your future self.

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  • Sarah

    On marrying a feminist: yes yes yes. The past month has been a pretty big “test” on this front. I just started law school and have pretty much zero time. I used to be the one to tidy up after coming home from work, cooking dinner, running random errands for both of us, making sure laundry and groceries get done, etc. My husband had a very busy job at that time. Now I’m the one who is busy and he has been doing freelance work at home.

    Well…not to brag too much (although I totally am) I havent done any house work, laundry, or much cooking since I started law school. Husband has picked up ALL the slack. He picks up my prescriptions for me. He cooks even though he only knows how to make burgers. I am able to be so productive and badass in class because of how supportive he is.

    Feeling pretty darn good about the division of labor we’ll have when we have kids. It makes ALL the difference.

  • anonpsu

    I love all of this so much!! I want to have a baby next year and I’m trying to “lean in” really hard lately by adding professional engagements, pro bono work, etc….I do think some of what Sharyl Sandberg said in Lean In is echoed here: Don’t opt out of your career because: a person “might” marry you, or you might have kids one day, or you might want to stop working outside of the home eventually. Put in the time and the hard work when you can and having the right partner who supports your goals 100% is necessary. Those men, and women, ARE out there.

  • Megan

    LOVE this. I used to read the Get Bullish articles religiously. The posts about how to ask for a raise/why not to feel guilty about asking for more money helped me SO much when I was just starting out in my career and I’ve told all my friends to go read them. Can’t wait to see more from Jennifer on APW!

  • Eenie

    “You’re building a career that will pay much more over the next twenty to forty years than it would if you had dropped out for the four plus years that daycare is an issue.” – This. I tell everyone this. Future earning potential!

    • anonpsu

      yes yes yes. This is so frustrating for me to hear “daycare is almost my salary and I don’t want to work for $5,000/year”. But you’re not working for that! Career experience, 401K plus the corporate match (if you are lucky enough), etc….Plus that fact that earnings fall by 30% when you take 3 years off of full-time work.

      • Laura C

        Plus the drop in your projected Social Security if you’re out of the workforce for years! I hadn’t given that much thought, but recently learned that that’s going to hit two women I know, both of whom have great careers in their 50s and 60s but took a lot of time off when their kids were young. My MIL will be able to get her late husband’s Social Security, so that’ll be ok, but someone else I know will only have something like $1100 a month despite having spent years as a card-carrying member of the professional-managerial class before and after her time at home with her kids.

      • Noelle

        It kind of shocked me that I had never truly considered the non-monetary value of continuing to work (and also that *hello*, we share expenses so the daycare costs would come out of *both* our paychecks).

        Just goes to show how deep the bias runs, even when you think you’ve already recognized it all in yourself.

        • Yeah, I have to admit, when i’ve done the future calculations I’ve always done them as coming out of my pay, mostly because I’m the lower wage earner. It makes WAY more sense to consider it a combined expense though. WAY MORE.

    • Sarah

      Yes, exactly. I do well for the field of education (i.e. not making “bank”) but my retirement and health care plans are totally awesome and that would be missing out. My husband and I have discussed this too….getting out of the working world can put a real damper on future prospects. Husband is also quite a bit older so I have to realistically prepare to be taking care of myself in later years. Even with his substantial savings, I couldn’t float by with a kid and no job for a real long time if he died anytime soon.

    • Alison O

      I think this applies to the private sector but much less so in my experience to public interest and human services fields and any careers that are not based on advancement (i.e. changing title over time, increasing responsibility/impact)…i.e. basically all the jobs I’ve ever had or intend to have in the future. As a teacher, I would have gotten like a thousand dollar raise MAYBE each year…insignificant difference (to me) over the long term if I’m out for a few years before I send kids to pre-K. In many government/public sector jobs like this, you can’t hustle your way out of standardized, modest salary schedules.

      • I respectfully disagree. As a teacher, I find this advice really helpful, actually. Not only would I be missing out on my modest pay step, I’d miss out on four or five years of the road to being vested in my pension (and the increase in what goes into my pension). I think that thinking about how stepping out of the workforce, public or private, affects long-term finances is something all stay-at-home caregivers/people interested in pursuing life dreams need to think about so long as our government doesn’t mandate paid parental leave and universal pre-k and employers want to keep pretending that workers don’t have a life outside of the office that can in turn make them more productive.

        • Alison O

          That’s not how retirement in my district worked, so longevity wouldn’t really matter. God willing, I plan to work substantially past the standard retirement age, and the match was minimal, also. If I cared that much about the money, and that relatively small (to me) amount of money would make a huge difference in my life, I probably wouldn’t be a teacher. Or, I wouldn’t have kids. I think what it comes down to is pretty obvious: if finances are important to you or your financial situation is such that you have a lot to gain or lose with these decisions, and particularly if you’re having children, you should think about the impacts of different choices financially. I guess that is not obvious to everyone. And it just depends on your values how the +/-s shake out in the end. If you tend to want to stay home with your kids, the opportunity cost of not working may seem insignificant. If you tend to want to keep working, the slight to substantial perk of staying in the workforce might help justify your resolve and satisfaction in that choice.

          • In this, as in all deeply personal decisions, your mileage may vary. I actually spent most of my 20s thinking I would stay home when I had kids because I like kids, and I like the flexibility that sort of lifestyle might entail. But when I took a long hard look at the financial and political implications for me in such a decision, I stopped being able to imagine that. I might have started planning sooner for that decision if someone like Jen had come into my life earlier. And while I certainly chose education as a profession based on the more intangible rewards of helping others, I can’t really pooh-pooh my salary or other benefits. This is all just to say that I think Jen’s advice can definitely apply to those in the non-profit or government sectors–especially considering that it sounds like much of her income now came from projects that were side hustles in the past. I know that it applies to me!

  • april

    Loved this whole post, but my favorite line just might be “You’re not crazy to plan aggressively for an awesome—and very different—lifestyle […] in forty years when you want to raise alpacas in a ball gown or something.” How did you know that was my life goal?!

    • Eenie

      If we ever live anywhere that is zoned to have alpacas…out plan is to get alpacas.

    • I’m not sure about the alpacas, but hanging out in ballgowns sounds fun.

  • Rachel

    THANK YOU!!!
    I have never heard a parent talk this way about their career and family choices. You sound so positive, but also practical and kick ass. I am currently 28, making bank, and planning like hell for when I want to have a baby. I often feel like everyone thinks I am insane to be planning so carefully and far in advance, but your words were crazy validating. The US is set up for stay at home moms and working dads – if I want something different I am going to need to have a plan. It felt like you were speaking directly to me.
    Now, please excuse me while I go read everything on Get Bullish.

  • I like some of the advice, though I never want to work 60 hours a week, even if I’m in my mid-twenties and in an upward phase of my career. I did that in my undergrad, thank you very much, and I’m done with it. My idea of work-life balance is having enough vacation time to visit a new country every year and still have time to, say, visit my family in another province a few times a year.

  • Amy March

    I love this article, but I don’t see how it’s explaining what Lean In got wrong- this is pretty much exactly my take away from the book! Sandberg writes with a corporate focus since that’s her experience but I don’t think at all her advice excludes more entrepreneurial careers. And I’d rather be throwing up into the Google toilets than the one at home for sure!

    • Mary Jo TC

      Hmm, throwing up in Google’s toilet or your own? Privacy vs. having to clean the nasty toilet later?

      • Amy March

        Getting paid for that time versus not?

        • Sarah E

          She mentions passive and recurring income which was important during her pregnancy, so that would mean she could get paid for that time AND puke in her own toilet.

          • Amy March

            Sure, and so could anyone with investments, which I’m quite sure Sheryl had. Like I said, love the article but to me it’s just Lean In, applied in a really awesome way.

    • A.

      Yeah, I’ve been on a full tour of the Googleplex, thanks to a friend. Some of the toilets there are quite lovely and comfortable, like a spa. And no clean-up! And you can go to one of the massage rooms after!

      • I am laughing so hard at this. Truly never occurred to me. I wasn’t thinking about cleanup – when I had this thought, I was thinking about needing to lie down 24/7, not wanting to be seen by other humans, and being COMPLETELY unable to “act normal” in late pregnancy. I literally could not 1) sit at a 90 degree angle, 2) stop throwing up acid into my mouth and spitting it out somewhere, 3) wear even slightly restrictive clothing (like anything with seams, at all), 4) talk about anything without mentioning that my ribs were being pushed apart from the inside. So sitting in an office and pretending to be part of a meeting for even five minutes would have been torture. So getting to and from the Google bathrooms would have been a problem. I think I originally wrote something about my horrific pregnancy symptoms and cut it because I decided to spare everyone having to hear about that.

    • Eenie

      I think that’s what she says: “what I do at GetBullish is like Lean In, but for younger, quirkier women who don’t want to give themselves over to corporations.” I think the framing of Lean In isn’t desirable for everyone, so framing it how Jennifer has reaches a different audience.

      • pajamafishadventures

        I don’t think the article does a very good job of articulating what is younger or quirkier about it- perhaps that’s just because I only have cursory familiarity with Lean In

        (I do agree that it was an awesome, interesting article so my critique up there is really focused on that one point. I don’t want anyone thinking I didn’t enjoy the piece as a whole or think it was poorly written as a whole)

        • Megan

          Both this article and Lean In are of very specific perspectives. (White, able-bodied, educated, upper-middle class, hetero, cis-women). One thing I think both women do well is articulating that this is their story and that they are privileged and their advice does not work for everyone (especially people who don’t have the same privelages). I read Lean In and have taken a cursory look at GetBullish and it seems as though their philosophies are very similar but the endgame for their audiences is different. Sheryl wants to reach those women climbing the corporate ladder (or creating startups that they hope to become a huge deal company) and get more women in the corner office. Jennifer seems to speak more to women who are looking for an alternative to the corporate ladder… who maybe don’t want to rule the world but are more focused on changing the world (maybe more creative, social-justice, artsy types?)… One is getting into the niche that already exists (and typically precludes women) and the other is creating your own niche…

          Not sure if this makes sense to anyone else… ?

          • Kara

            I definitely agree. I read Lean In and this article and I saw them as guides/advice/something worth considering for 2 different niches as you described.

            As someone who doesn’t want to be a CEO and doesn’t want to manage all the hustle, responsibility of entrepreneurship, neither niche “fits” me, but I see ways to apply advice from both in my life.

            Just my 2 cents.

          • Eenie

            Yes. I am in the same boat as you!

          • It’s interesting to get an outside perspective on this. I find that when your work is fairly similar to someone else’s, YOU see all the differences, but everyone else sees the similarities. In any case, I do have some intersectionality- and corporatism-related complaints about Lean In, but here didn’t really seem to be the place.

            I wrote a bit about class and my own class background here – might be of interest:

            Also, not everyone married to an opposite-sex partner identifies as hetero! ;)

            Again, thanks for this perspective and thanks for reading!

  • Sara

    I seriously admire your forward thinking and serious planning skills. I would love to be that type of person honestly but my brain, personally, is not set up that way. I don’t have the drive to ever work 60 hour weeks (I’ve tried it, didn’t work out), and generally end up flying by the seat of my pants on most things. I wish I had this type of tenacity in my working life but I also realize that a lot of the things I enjoy doing don’t help me get more money – I volunteer two days a week at an animal shelter, I help run plays at the community theater, I help plan events with a Meetup group (which really costs me more than anything). But I love those things. And I love watching trash tv as well. I work to pay my mortgage, my credit card bills and maybe put a couple hundred dollars away a month (that usually go to me taking all my money out and buying stocks because I do love investing). If/when I have children, I hope that I’ll be able to plan better. But knowing me, I’ll likely still be making it up on the fly.

    • Kelly

      I’m on the same page as you. I read this is and thought, “this is some kick ass advice for an alternative universe version of myself.”

    • Glen

      YES. I have ADHD, which makes planning and executing a plan more challenging (not impossible, but definitely more difficult). While I do/did some of these things (daycare – check; marry someone who supports me working — check; get back in the game post-pregnancy — check), there are other parts of this that I just cannot do; just getting through my day requires so much brain power that there’s not much left for these things. (Like when I tried the Getting Things Done system, and just remembering oh, yeah, this is a context and I’m supposed to have a context folder with things to do… where did that go? The whole experience made me want to curl up and cry.)

      • I also have ADHD and every day is exhausting. 100%. I can’t do every element of this, but I think taking away the philosophy: maximize luxury, plan for what you want, surround yourself by supportive ambitious people, don’t be ashamed to kick ass and take credit… that’s been pretty damn useful in career/life moves.

  • Mary Jo TC

    I like all of this and want to read GetBullish now.
    My favorite part is the discussion of daycare. I was prepared for lots of guilt about missing milestones, but I also found that I liked having the baby surprise me by doing stuff I didn’t teach him. It was like he had things to show me, like he was his own person or something. What a revelation! Of course, I like it better when it happens that way, as a surprise, than when the babysitter tells me at pickup, “He took his first steps today!” Childcare workers should be advised not to ‘spoil’ milestones like that, everyone is happier that way.
    I had an awkward moment with another mom once when I said that daycare dropoff is one of my favorite moments of the day. Hey, mornings are hectic, and getting out the door takes so much work and packing! After I hand off my child, I feel a giant relief, and then I feel able to focus on my day ahead and the things I need to get done. And my other favorite moment of the day is pickup. My toddler grins really big and says “Mommy!” and gives me a big hug. It’s so sweet. I feel like if I were with my kid all day every day, I wouldn’t get those intense little rushes of love and excitement, it would just be a more constant lower-level feeling.

    • ItsyBit

      I work in a daycare right now and I have to say, watching those kids’ faces when they see their parents is The. Best. Thing. Ever.

  • “Your twenties are basically the high school of your thirties and beyond.” – Amen. Also, they are the time to figure out what you don’t what to do with the rest of your life which though less helpful than finding your passion, is still pretty damn important in the grand scheme of things.
    Question: how do you ladies go about IMPLEMENTING the side hustle? I have conjured up and killed more than a dozen enterprises and am already in my early thirties (eeps), mostly due to the fact that all my jobs to date requires a minimum 60 hours of input and the things I eventually want to do require so much effort I could not side hustle and not get fired. How do you settle on second best side hustles when you might be an all in or nothing kind of person?

    • AP

      I feel this question big time. I come up with side hustle ideas all the time and then quickly realize I can’t incorporate them into my life without seriously compromising my main hustle (which I currently really love and don’t want to leave). My fiancé listens to podcasts about creating passive income streams and thinks we should write e-books and create e-courses in our respective areas of expertise, which…I guess, but so far I can’t get too excited about that. Lately I have been thinking more about ways to turn skills I’m using for my main hustle but that aren’t what I went to school for (website building, grant writing) into fallback plans. Which I think is kind of the same idea?

      • Totally agree – same idea and I feel you on the lack of enthusiasm problem. I value practicality, so while I could rationally make the argument to just do what I’m good at and can muster up some interest in, it’s just so hard to wonder if that’s the best use of my time since I view side hustle as the way out of not being entirely 100% committed to my current career path. The thinking is, if I don’t 100% love my side hustle, then is it worth it when there are multiple interesting sounding side hustles I could try to go for instead? *existential crisis*

    • Audrey

      So I love GetBullish, but I’ve never been able to get myself into a side hustle. After I come home from work I can do a lot of things, but I don’t have the mental energy to do anything that I’d really be qualified ENOUGH at to make money. It’s the same brain cells as the ones I’ve exhausted all day!

      Personally what I’ve been working hard at is:

      1) Kicking ass at my main job and networking
      2) Getting visibility by giving presentations that are awesome (both internally and not)
      3) Working places with at least some work from home flexibility.

      I’m also lucky that both my husband and I make enough money that there’s no question daycare is “worth it” financially.

      Personally I work really well in the traditional 9-5 confines. IF my husband and I were to have a kid (and of course assuming things turned out relatively normally), we’d probably just go the daycare route. I know a lot of women going that route.

      • Roselyne

        Depending on whether there’s a market for that… Would any of your presentations be applicable to a webinar/seminar kind of model? Because you can make decent money doing that 3-4 times per year, if so…

    • Hey, I write/think a lot about this. One solution to this problem (certainly doesn’t apply to all fields or situations) is to start a side hustle that is really time-limited – for instance, a class you teach just once a week, or a pop-up shop that only exists four times a year. Then, instead of constantly hustling for more, more, more business even when you don’t really have the capacity to take it on, you get to say, “Nope, sorry, the class is only on Sundays. No weekday classes. I’ll be here if your schedule changes!” Or, “Sorry, the next time you can buy a messenger bag is our holiday popup in December.” Ideally, you can turn limited time/capacity into an advantage by creating a feeling of (or actual) scarcity.

      As with everything here, easier said than done, I know.

      • Love the idea of manufactured scarcity in this context – thanks for another avenue to ponder! And for hosting the adults-only spelling bees! They are the best.

  • lady brett

    “I really enjoy when the baby comes home having learned stuff I didn’t teach her.” ha, this is totally the best part of daycare (that and not spending 100% of my time with my kids).

    • Emily C

      I realized this week that my daughter has learned how to say “help please!”, “thank you”, and “more please” from daycare (she’d been signing versions of each before, but now is speaking them out loud). It is so sweet!

  • This is the best thing I have read in my entire life (reading it while my kids are learning things I don’t have to teach them in school/daycare and I’m taking a quick break from cranking out work for two awesome entrepreneurial jobs I love). I’m bookmarking Get Bullish now!

  • ItsyBit

    LOVE THIS. I said this on another post, but I’ve been devouring GetBulish articles since it was mentioned here a few weeks ago. And sending them to women I love. And reading parts out loud for my husband.

    It’s funny because I don’t really feel like I’m the target demographic; I’m currently in grad school for child development & social work. Not exactly big money-making “business” stuff. But the attitude of hustling and the real-world “this is how to get shit done” is SO motivating! I laughed a little when I’d read certain things because they were similar to what my husband says (he’s running his own business, aggressively planning for our awesome/different future lifestyle), but I’ve found that I really appreciate & internalize it more when it’s coming from a badass woman. I tried for a few days to reconcile this realization (as in, was I being prejudiced? not trusting him?) and I think it’s really just because even though my guy “gets it” in a general sense, you’ve lived it in a specific sense, doing all this as a woman in corporate America.

    Anyway, that was long. As a young woman in her twenties getting through grad school and trying to plan out a future w/ career + babies, I appreciate this so much.

    • JDrives

      Me too re: not feeling like the target demographic. My dream job is the ED of a nonprofit – again, not exactly $$$$$$ (as some family members like to remind me). This is honestly why I haven’t spent much time on Bullish, even though I have mad respect for Jennifer and the fact that she is all about helping other women. You sharing that you still got a lot out of Bullish encourages me to check it out more! Thanks!

  • Katriel

    While a lot of this advice is great, I feel like it leaves little room for error.

    1) It assumes you will have a normal pregnancy (which is still hard, but not the same as someone who ends up hospitalized for the entire last trimester, or at home on bedrest with three weekly doctor’s appointments).
    2) It assumes you will have a healthy baby, not a preemie, or a baby who needs 4 open heart surgeries their first year, or any other major infant health crisis. It assume your child will not have life-long special needs that require PT, OT, EIS, and won’t allow them to go to that great daycare because they can’t accommodate your kid’s physical or mental health needs.
    3) It assumes neither you nor your partner will have a major emergency like losing a job that seemed like a sure thing. Or getting a serious health diagnosis requiring long-term treatment and care. Or having a mental health crisis.
    4) It seems to assume one-and-done on the baby front. This all gets a lot more complicated once you’ve got one in elementary school, one in preschool and you’re pregnant again.

    I think people need to remember that the best laid plans “gang aft agley” so don’t be so rigid about the plan that you can’t continue to re-assess as you go. Because I know it can be easy to fall in love with your plan and feel like everything is going straight to hell when the plan can’t work anymore.

    • Mary Jo TC

      I’m usually all over calling out someone who gives advice while making assumptions, too, but I don’t know if this criticism is fair or not. Jennifer makes a point of acknowledging her privilege and good fortune, while she also talks about good choices she made to set herself up as well as she has. It’s certainly true that you can’t plan for everything, but I think Jennifer talks a lot about setting yourself up so that even in the worst case scenario, you’ll be ok. For example, she talks about generating passive income so you have money coming in even if you can’t work at all, and making twice as much before kids so you can work less after if necessary. Sure, not everyone can do that, it’s hard, but she’s working from the knowledge that bad things happen. I’m sure she’d acknowledge she’d be writing a totally different essay if she had any of the things you’re talking about happen to her. And I don’t think she’d say that even a woman dealing with those things has only herself to blame for not having an awesome life and bad-ass career. If she said that explicitly, I’d certainly object, and I’m sure you would too. In having a kid, she was taking a risk, like you do in business or in life, and she got lucky that there was no medical catastrophe like the ones you describe. It’s a risk anyone must take to become a parent. I’m not sure it’s fair to criticize her for being lucky, especially when she does check her privilege.
      But you might have a point about the one-and-done thing. I’d love to hear more from women of multiple children who continue working. That’s why I’ll be excited when Meg comes back from her maternity leave!
      And if you’re struggling with the things that you list here, I’m sorry. It’s hard to hear get-tough advice when you feel totally overwhelmed and unable to act on it in any way. It can feel victim-blamey even when it’s not intended that way.

      • Katriel

        Oh, I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t plan – I planned obsessively. Just that you shouldn’t get so attached to your plan than you can’t cope when it doesn’t work. We obsessive planners can get so hung up on getting every detail pinned down ahead of time that we forget that The Plan can become a hindrance if you don’t reassess as you go. I know I have stayed attached to The Plan when sometimes I needed to change it because dammit – it was The Plan!

        • Eenie

          I usually work this flexibility into my plans…and then I don’t feel like I’m abandoning the plan! Option Z is always figure it out on the fly.

      • Katriel

        Also, I’d love to hear from someone who’s got older kids! As a
        neuroscientist with a special needs almost-12-year-old (who I did not
        have as a baby – he was adopted at 11), a lot of the baby advice does
        not apply. What you need to succeed with a baby is a lot different when
        your kids
        are 5, 10 or 16. On the one hand, your child physically needs you less,
        on the other hand you have to worry about extracurriculars, grades,
        friends, relationships and more. And the childcare problem still doesn’t
        go away – school ends at 3pm, there are a million holidays per school
        year, parent teacher conferences and IEP meetings are always on weekdays, and when you don’t have that 5-day-a-week daycare option, you have
        to get super creative about childcare.

        • Mary Jo TC

          Totally agree. School hours and holidays and extracurriculars are great examples of how American family life is set up with a specific kind of family in mind: working dad and stay-at-home mom.

      • z

        +1. I think a lot of this is GREAT advice for being prepared when things don’t go as expected. Picking the right partner, building a strong career in advance, passive income, and financial smarts are awesome no matter what kind of parenting scenario you end up with. These things gave me a lot of comfort during a difficult pregnancy, and helped me feel more prepared to parent whatever child I ended up with.

    • Sarah E

      You’re right that there are a lot of assumptions here. I think Jennifer makes a good case that it’s a capitalist society that leaves little room for error– hence the need to plan intensively for even a normal pregnancy, or an average retirement.

      • Lizzie

        So sad, and so true.

    • AnneBonny

      How is she making those assumptions? Or, I suppose my question is, under what circumstances would the things you list NOT be problems? Jen is explaining how she planned her life consciously and to be independent of corporations…and also, specifically, to plan for the unexpected/undesirable. (She specifically mentions working enough in case she had to raise a child on her own—not her current situation.)

      Maybe you’re assuming she doesn’t have health insurance?

      • Katriel

        Well, advice like “don’t drop out of the work force no matter what” ends up unfeasible if you have to care for a partner, child, or yourself with a major medical condition. Insurance is lovely, but I assume most parents don’t just drop their kid off at the hospital until their kid is cured. Caregiving in these kinds of situations can end up getting you fired, forced to quit or take huge amounts of unpaid leave and wreaks havoc on your ability to think and plan because you’re so incredibly tired. As a special needs parent, I know so many families where one or both parents have ended up tanking their careers because their child’s health needs were so great. Sometimes, even the most awesome plan simply cannot work. Which can be frustrating if you spent 5-10 years laying the groundwork for how your career could stay on track after kids, etc.

        • Mary Jo TC

          Those are great arguments for national health insurance and better (meaning paid) FMLA protections, as well as a change in work culture that encourages workers to use these benefits, rather than penalizing them for being unfortunate. All of which Jennifer strongly supports.

          • Eenie

            I got lost in all the awesome articles linked, but specifically the socialist one refers to that.

        • Rachel

          Re-read her last paragraph.

          “Obviously, my approach is not for everyone; this is just one woman’s how-I-did-it. My mission is to make clear some of the many ways to get from A to B, preferably with a little pep talk along the way. We live in a capitalist society that is often inhumane to its workers. Sometimes it takes extreme measures to be extra-humane to your future self.”

          I think you are taking one woman’s experience and advice as a personal attack on your own struggles. In these situations I try to say, and then eventually genuinely feel “Good for you, not for me.”

          • Anon

            I don’t see how pointing out that the plan outlined on the post leaves little room for error means Katriel is taking the post as an attack. Very few discussions of work life balance reflect the added challenges of difficult pregnancy or special needs children, and it’s good to be reminded of that.

          • Violet

            But the author did remind the readers of that. She has a whole acknowledgement of that. How much can one write about what their piece is NOT about? Someone who IS living that reality should write a piece on that experience, right?

          • Yep!

            I’m with Violet, we can’t write too much about the experience that isn’t ours. But Stephanie (on staff) has a kid with medical issues has written a bit about how that works. We do try to represent multiple perspectives. It’s just hard to do in the same essay.



          • Katriel

            Meh – everyone piled on with the hate, so I deleted. This is the kind of thing that ensures special needs parents opt out of mainstream conversations about parenting. Luckily we have our own places to go, but it sure would be nice if the mainstream conversations about parenting could be more welcoming. Guess I’ll go back to my own places…Peace!

          • Amy March

            I didn’t see any piling on of hate here at all. I’m honestly not sure what else Jennifer could do here.

          • Hey there, those comments got deleted before I could weigh in. Thanks, and I wasn’t offended at all.

            I did have a difficult (although not life-threatening) pregnancy, ultimately being induced early due to cholestasis (and, before that, being basically unable to work for months at a time). But other than that, yes, things went remarkably well, and I only have one child, with no special needs.

            I’m always interested in resources regarding kicking ass despite limitations. While I don’t know of any specifically about parenting special needs children, I do look to Esme Wang ( for asskicking despite mental illness and disability, and I think Laura Vanderkam’s new book (I Know How She Does It) provides a unique look at asskicking among high-income women with 2+ children (of all ages).

          • Katriel

            I don’t see this as a personal attack at all. I just think the “I have an awesome life, and I designed it that way” mentality can set you up for failure when things go WAY differently than expected. And can cause you to blame yourself (“My life isn’t as awesome as I planned – must be because my plan wasn’t good enough.”) Work-life balance articles generally assume a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child. Unhealthy pregnancies and critically or chronically ill children make the work-life balance conversation a lot different.

            Overall, I like the article, and I think most of the advice is sound. I’m a planner, and I did many of these things in order to end up with a neuroscience PhD by 25, while getting married and being a foster parent. My ONLY critique is that you can’t take too much credit for your plan working if everything has always gone according to plan. Some things you cannot plan for, no matter how hard you “lean in” ahead of time. So don’t get too hung up on the plan if it all goes to heck.

  • Another Meg

    Yes to all of this. If one more person tells me daycare will come from MY paycheck, I’m going to strangle them. I want more of this writer!

    I love the tone on this site generally regarding parenting – “I fucking love my job and my career, and HEY, I also really enjoy my kid.” I haven’t seen a lot of that in my RL circle or online, so thank you a million times over.

    • Roselyne

      Ugh, seriously.

      In situations where I don’t mind causing friction, my actual response has been “I make more than my husband does. Why wouldn’t daycare come out of his pay check?” And then I let the awkward grow. Because, dammit, REMEMBER that awkward before speaking next time. And when they ask my husband if my salary will cover daycare, I’ve actually heard him answer “she makes more than I do. Why would you assume that?”

      Marrying a feminist DOES help. :)

      • NB

        I am unabashedly stealing your response and using it next time this comes up. Awkward is a powerful learning tool (though sometimes the truly oblivious need to get bashed over the head with it).

      • Emily C

        This is our reality too – when this comes up I generally point out that my husband’s father did all of the childcare in their household because his mom is a kick-ass feminist economist professor.

    • Sarah E

      Plus, the cost of daycare doesn’t come out of your paycheck. It comes out of your bank account– which for many married couples, is joint. If that question came up for me (don’t plan on kids, so probably not), that’s what I would explain in the tone of voice reserved for explaining something particularly simple to someone particularly obtuse.

    • leafygreen

      It literally had not occurred to me to think of daycare costs any other way (maybe because we’re not quite nearing baby-having yet, but definitely also because it’s such a pervasive trope). Hell yes it’s a shared cost.

      I don’t have particularly high career ambitions (in my job, I’d be happy if I did the same thing for the rest of my career with the usual cost of living raises, honestly), but man, I love this article just for that part. Totally flipped my brain around in a good way.

  • MC

    “All that shit you read about “mommy brain” is probably what happens when the tiredness is unfairly distributed.”

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this line. I am not a parent but something about the phrase “mommy brain” has always bugged the crap out of me.

    • Superb online work from house and make five thousand dollars a month.I made seven thousand dollars a month from the comfort of my house.3

      Check details by visiting hyperlink in my pr0fiiile.

    • Kate Zehnder

      “Mommy brain” is an obnoxious term, but is real and not entirely about sleep deprivation (though that’s certainly a big part). It has a lot to do with the crazy hormonal changes you go through during and after pregnancy. After having my second baby, I’m well rested because my guy is a great sleeper and my husband is awesome, but I sometimes struggle to remember simple things, even trailing off mid sentence because I forgot what I was saying or can’t find a word to describe something.

  • Alexandra

    I always thought I’d stay home with my kids. Then I had a baby and missed work so much during maternity leave I thought I was going to lose my mind. Daycare is the best. I love being a working mom. Thanks for giving me a guilt-free day.

  • Anon

    Please, please, please keep writing Jennifer. I just sent this to my (pregnant) BFF, my mom and my husband. I’m also pregnant and f’ing terrified of everything that’s coming. In a weird way – even though you’re not bs’ing here, the planning and the working and the making money is HARD – this makes me feel better. Because you’re right: I worked hard in my 20s, I’m still working hard now, and I plan on working hard well into the future. Baby is going to have to learn to love me, my husband, and whatever daycare situation we end up being able to afford. And if s/he learns to moo from someone else, so be it. (Says the woman who has never had a maternal bone in her body and is still wondering if this is all just a scary dream.)

    • Hey! I kind of felt that way about the maternal thing. It turns out what happened for me is that I became interested (very) in my own baby, and interested only in other babies **the same age as mine**, or younger (everybody’s older babies seemed sort of bloated and ungainly to me). And that has persisted! So now I LOVE other people’s six-month-olds, but not other people’s five-year-olds. So maybe once my kid’s an adult, I’ll love everybody? I doubt that your experience will be the same, but it’s really not an all-or-nothing between maternal/not.

      • Anon

        Ha, as long as I become interested in my own baby, I’ll consider it a win. Seriously. (And there’s no shaming on here, right?)

        Also, not sure how I have never heard of Get Bullish until now. Have just spent the last two hours reading, laughing, and crying. Sort of awkward when you work in a cube. Also, the Swedish article. Sent to my husband and then called him (out of a meeting, as it turns out) to make sure he read it ASAP.

        Fun fact of the day: when the U.S. is one of nine countries IN THE WORLD without any form of paid leave for mothers (yes, we’re not even THINKING about the other half that is biologically required to make a child, whether you are actually partnered with them or not) – joining such economic powerhouses as Palau, Niue, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands – you know that this article is actually not, in fact, sarcastic. So please keep writing and thinking on this, Jennifer. You’re making it better.

        • ItsyBit

          Definitely no shaming here. We even use shame-blasters! :)

          And for what it’s worth, my (totally awesome) mom once told me that she doesn’t really like kids. “I mean, I love you and your sisters, and I loved it when you were little, but other than you guys I’m just not a kid person.”

  • AMcCRead

    I think you might be my spirit animal.

    • Christina McPants

      I’ve recently been called on this, so I’ll share – the term “spirit animal” is appropriating from Native American culture. Jen Dziura might be your Patronus.

      • PATRONUS.


      • JDrives

        Thank you for this, I have been guilty of the same and will enthusiastically sub in Patronus from now on!!

  • Lizzie

    I have no desire for a high-profile career, and I’m on the fence about kids, but I love this so so much anyway. And not just for the mental image of raising alpacas in a ball gown.

  • Kelsey

    Whew! Reading this and GIRLBOSS simultaneously have me alllll sorts of fired up!! And feeling like I really didn’t do a good enough job ‘maxing out’ my twenties. But that’s my stuff, and I’ll get over it (and should probably get hustling in the meantime)

    • Yes girl. Also, I’m about done with my 20’s and I probably won’t know for a few more years if I did it right. Ha.

    • Danielle

      Oh God, don’t feel bad about your 20s! These two business ladies are wonderful examples of one end of a spectrum of work and hustle. Not everyone has to follow Sophia Amuruso’s or Jennifer Dziura’s example.

      I mean, it is awesome that their voices and businesses are out there! They are wonderful leaders and thinkers. AND there’s (got to be) room for everyone to have their own life and struggle and expression, and their own definition of success.

      Sincerely, a 37-year-old who also felt kinda bad when reading “Girlboss,” but then realized it was ok, and now I really wanna have a baby and my career is starting to get into an awesome phase and this essay was particularly relevant but I couldn’t totally relate in all ways, so.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      If it makes you feel any better, I maxed the shit out of my twenties and, um, didn’t really love a lot of it. I was mostly very, very tired.

      • Roselyne

        Word. So exhausted during my twenties. 80-hour work weeks suck.

        But now, in my early thirties, I have a job where I make a really good salary working 28 hours a week, and half of that time is from home. I live in the country, next to a lake, and can take my laptop to the beach to work there in summer.

        The problem is that there is no guarantee of that. You could be putting in 80-hour work-weeks and not land the awesome follow-up job. Like… It worked for me, but I would advise other people to put as much effort in but to diversify the focus, so that you know you’re at least going to get SOME return…

  • Allie

    somehow you just articulated my own personal life trajectory better than I ever have!

  • Leigh

    I really needed this article today!

    I have been struggling lately in my professional life- I am in a semi-soul sucking job while completing the final semester of my second master’s degree and planning a wedding. My job doesn’t require real use of my brain or skills but offers flexibility to complete my degree, pay my bills, and live comfortably in the SF Bay Area.

    My supervisor and her supervisor have been giving me additional projects. The way these are assigned are frustrating- I’m either told about my role late into the game (i.e. several emails of “Sorry for not mentioning this to you sooner- you own this project” accompanied by no real detail of what the project entails) or a pseudo-motherly approach combined with micromanagement (i.e. “Oh we thought you would be good for this project, does it seem like you would be interested in doing it?” when there is no true choice or input invited). I’m not sure if I’m overreacting- but the management styles of my boss and her boss drive me insane.

    Just trying to get this off my chest- I know I am not my job and that I’m privileged to be employed, paid well, have health insurance, etc. I am actively seeking new employment and know that opportunity is on the horizon. Also, I’m happy to know that other parts of my life are thriving :) I’m working towards making changes to make all of my life awesome!

  • Julia

    This is the type of essay I want to print out and put up on my inspiration board and/or keep open in a tab for, well, forever. Thanks for writing it.

  • BSM

    Not throwing shade on Jennifer because you do you, but, putting this out there for anyone else who had the same reaction: this did not resonate with me, nor did it inspire me to go kick some ass today.

    • laddibugg

      Me either, but everything isn’t for everyone.

      • BSM

        Truth. Just wanted to be a tiny fleck of dissent amongst the sea of folks who seemed to have really felt this. Good for them, but this isn’t the final word nor the only word on being a feminist/having it all/designing your life/careers/parenthood.

        • z

          Who said it was? Maybe you skimmed over the part where Jen says “Obviously, my approach is not for everyone”….

          • BSM

            So just because the author puts in a disclaimer, I’m not allowed to voice my disagreement or my opinion on the topic?

          • z

            By all means, voice away. Just don’t imply that Jen is saying something she clearly is not.

          • BSM

            Sorry if my comment implied that; it wasn’t my intention. I don’t think Jen is saying that (like you said, she literally says the opposite), but sometimes the overwhelming YESTHIS!! from the comments here makes it feel like that is the case. I’m just putting up a little flag of solidarity for anyone else out there who read this, felt very disconnected to it, and then came down here to comment and saw no one else who felt the same way. As I said originally, great for Jen and for those who found it compelling. And if you’re like me and didn’t, that’s perfectly OK, too.

          • emmeline

            It didn’t resonate with me. I just don’t have that amount of energy or career drive. I got exhausted just reading it. And I probably have what the author calls an unexamined bias towards childcare. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I don’t have a problem with being a stay-at-home Mum for a season, and for my partner to be earning the money. I found it challenging that she had what seemed to me like a distainful attitude towards working from home, which is something else I would like to do.

            But I’m really glad APW posted this article. I will be showing it to my partner. I found it challenging, but it’s good to be challenged!!!

          • JDrives

            “Challenged” is a great word for how I felt about this article, as well.

        • Violet

          I find that response really fascinating. She never said it was the final word, but you felt concerned that the article gave that impression. Obviously something about this prompted you to specifically say you didn’t like it, in a way I’m guessing you’re less moved by, for example, a flower crown tutorial (“Just saying, there’s no one way to accessorize your hair for your wedding. For anyone out there who might be worried you now HAVE to have flowers in your hair.”) Anyway, I don’t know you or why that was your response, so I can’t analyze it. I just find it interesting.

          I kinda like z’s point. There are a number of posts on here that don’t resonate with me or might even make me roll my eyes. And sometimes I feel an urge coming up to say I don’t like it. But then I guess I wonder, what’s my motivation to say that?

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            I often find this discourse happens whenever we publish something that goes against the popular narrative. Typically that overwhelming “YES THIS” comments come from the fact that we’re publishing an opinion that doesn’t get a lot of airtime in mainstream media (stuff about not changing your last name, for example) so people are like “OMG THANK YOU FINALLY I AM HEARING SOMETHING THAT RESONATES.”

            I’m not sure what to make of that. But it’s an observation I’ve made moderating these time and again. We seldom get that kneejerk reaction to things that don’t challenge the status quo.

          • Violet

            I see what you mean. I feel like on balance, I’m way more likely to see articles by men saying, “Here’s what I did to create my awesome life,” and way more from women either a. trying not to brag about their awesome life at all, or b. putting their success on someone else or luck or pull a “What, little ‘ole me?”

            I found it really nice to hear from a woman saying, “Yes, I appreciate my life and am taking credit for some of its awesomeness.”

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Mmm, yes to this too. I think a lot of these reactions come from the idea of finite resources. aka if we celebrate one woman’s choices, it’s devaluing another’s. I think these kinds of articles make a lot of people go “Hey, hey, that’s not ALL of our experiences” because of how frequently the part gets taken for the whole. Like we have to agree on a collective female experience, or the powers that be are never going to listen to us. Something like that.

          • NB

            Maddie, you are awesome. Thanks for voicing that annoying conflict in the world, which sometimes makes me feel like it’s impossible to find a win-win. How is it that the 5 year olds all get soccer trophies, but we aren’t all carrying around “you do you” trophies?

            (I am making a you-do-you trophy. Thank you, that is all.)

      • z

        +1. Don’t we all roll our eyes at something on APW now and then? I know I do.

    • Sarah

      Didn’t resonate with me either. And I say that as an attorney/small business owner with a feminist husband. I think my issue was that I’m just not a “gunner,” as we used to say in law school. I’m not the kind of person who has to reach for the stars and get a promotion and a raise and be a millionare at 35 or whatever. That stuff exhausts me. This article exhausted me. I’ve made my way to where I am – partner in a very small, public-interest private firm – by putting my head down and doing good work M-F 9-5 then going home and vegging out and going to bed early and also having adventures and awesome daytrips on the weekends. I was also given a whole hell of a lot of privilege, which probably accounts for at least 75% of my success. Point being, no gunning. No leaning in. of course, it also means I earn far, far less than people in comparable positions – but those people who are making more than I do 1. don’t generally work in public interest and 2. work way longer hours. I’ve chosen to make some aspects of my life suck (like, how the hell am I going to pay for daycare?) to make other parts manageable. So has this woman, but we’ve got different priorities. This article was more for the “capitalism may suck, the patriarchy sucks, but dammit I’m going to do whatever it takes to bust through it!” crowd, whereas I’m more of the “capitalism and the patriarchy suck so I’m going to rebel and work to change it in small ways while opting out of bullshit that stresses me out” kind of person.

      • Kara E

        Yes. Heck yes. Being angry all the time is NOT something I signed up for. Yes, privilege and all that, and yes, being in the right place at the right time, but we’re doing just fine with our kid. And daycare sucks for some kids. And 50/50 sometimes isn’t “fair” — yes, sometimes I do 80% (+) –and sometimes my husband does instead. Right now, it’s probably more me, but that’s just because of where our lives are right now.

        • EF

          I mean, it takes all kinds. I was the gunner. I still am. This article gets me fired up. My 35 hour european work week does not (I do a LOT on the side). but luckily, we don’t all have to live the same life!

      • Katherine

        As someone who’s almost done with law school and wants to do something very close to this, I want to tell you that your comment did a far better job pumping me up than anything in this article did.

      • HD

        Right there with you–but as a teacher, not a public interest lawyer. I spent my 20’s writing, waiting tables, doing grad school, etc. but the connection with people and social justice was always missing for me and teaching gives me that, in spades. I just love it. And I’ll never make a ton of money but I love my purpose each day, and living in the beautiful mountains of Maine, and raising my family. So sometimes I feel a bit guilty when I read articles like this because I DO feel ambitious in my daily work but from the outside I’m never going to be that “gunner.” So, yeah. I feel you.

    • Molly K.

      Nope. .I’m definitely more the type who would rather put in her 40 hours and be done with it, most days. I like my job most of the time, and I want to move up with my current company (which i love), but I don’t know if I’m all that interested in 60 hour weeks. My husband and I just want to be mostly debt free, retire a little early, and raise respectable humans.

      My husband will probably end up being the one who works all the overtime given his career (engineering), so I figure one of us has to get home on time and start on dinner. I’ll probably be the one picking kids up from daycare, and I’m fine with that.

      • eating words

        Yeah. I used to have a lot more ambition, but now I want to work hard while I’m at work, and then go home and have time for my wife, going to concerts, being outdoors, the all-volunteer theater company that we’re a part of, and all the other things that also make my life worth living. I love this essay and I admire the hell out of Jennifer, but I’m a different person.

        • I read this essay in a different way — I looked at it as figuring out whatever it is that DOES make you want to commit like crazy, and applying the same principles to it. Sure, there’s the money talk, but I both substituted intangible rewards and realized there’s nothing bad about making money while also pursuing a not-usually-commercial dream. Like, bust your ass at work in those 40 hours with glorious daycare so you have the free time to do something that lights your fire — it doesn’t have to be a side hustle. I know that doesn’t address the “make lots of money early because babies cost bank” part of the article, but I still found the article inspiring (and full disclosure, I am part of a couple of entrepreneurial projects, but I come from a nonprofit/public sector background and am still committed to the “greater good” ethos).

        • Molly K.

          Oh yeah, she’s awesome, and it was an interesting read given what different lives we lead. I am also a very different person :)

  • Katriel

    I like this article, and I think most of the advice is solid. But I really would love to hear some work-life balance articles form people with kids older than babies (which in my mind is 0-5). It’s easy to think you’ve got it figured out at one life stage, but then discover later on that you had to totally rearrange once your kids were in a new stage. Like daycare vs. real school. Like playdates with your friends’ kids, vs. your kid making their own friends. Like signing your kid up for baby yoga because you like it and it’s on a day that works for your vs. your 10 year old demanding to be in a soccer league that can’t possibly fit your schedule because their friend is in that league and the coach is better.

    Older kids come with activities, relationships and preferences that require totally different kinds of work-life balance, but nearly every work-life balance article I’ve seen is written by “experts” with fewer than 5 years of parenting experience. I want to hear more from people with older kids and more than one kid, who are further down the road and can reflect back on what worked and what didn’t and what needed to change as kids got older (or they had more kids with mutiple kinds of needs to juggle).

    • I’d like to see that, too — my kids are 2 and 5, so we’re just now entering a new stage with the oldest, who does go to real school and has his own friends and is in soccer (also, it sucks to have one foot in each world). I do stuff like quasi-ignore my toddler so I can get work done at the oldest’s soccer practice, and I am just super, duper grateful I am self employed/part of a startup team (I have 2 jobs). The big thing I keep seeing in different articles is being ridiculously protective of your boundaries and being willing to work weird hours/in small bursts. That’s great, if you’re self employed or remote, but what if you’re not? Do you work your ass off to save up enough to jump ship and let yourself try living the dream for a year? Why don’t we have a culture of sabbaticals in our workplace, where anyone can take a year off to do something else — whatever they want — and come back with new ideas/experiences to bring to the table? I suspect many women choose to stay home with kids so they can use that time as a chance to try out something new under the cover of something that’s socially acceptable.

      • Katriel

        I see the same thing about weird hours and small chunks. But that only works in certain kinds of jobs – I’m a bench researcher, so a good chunk of my work requires me to be present in the lab for long stretches of time. While I do analysis, reading and writing at home and in odd hours, I have to be physically in my lab for big chunks of time, or I don’t collect data. Not to mention the meetings and lectures and conferences I need to attend if I want to advance my career, which also require my physical presence.

        • Yeah, this is a clear example of why the *real* solution needs to be policy and culture change, not hacks and time management tricks. It’s easy for me to fall into the flex trap because of the nature of my work (writing, indexing, web startup), but that’s not feasible for lots of people. Also, just because I can make it work that way doesn’t mean I (or anyone else) should have to.

          • Roselyne

            But there’s the long term fix (aka, the culture sucks for everyone and we should fix it) and the immediate fix of “this is an immediate issue and how can I get through it with the resources I currently have?” Both are important, but only the second one is gonna blow up in your face immediately if you don’t figure it out.

          • Well, for sure. But I think it’s super important that we keep bringing up the cultural problems so they don’t get lost — so the patriarchy or whoever don’t just see our success at kicking ass despite their shit as evidence that we don’t need to change the culture because we’re doing fine anyway. I’m not saying we don’t need to have some rubber bands and staples to hold things together, but that’s not all we need — and we need to make sure we don’t end up relying on them instead of fixing the bigger issue.

          • Roselyne

            Oh, for sure!

            Honestly, this hits a personal sore spot for me… I hang out with a lot of child-less/free activists (most of who also don’t have full-time jobs, by choice, and they have lifestyles that work with their income and goals, which is great, but means they have a lot of time and energy to devote to their causes and they don’t see that not everyone does…) and they’re all like “change the world! I prove things for everyone! Doing otherwise is selfish!” And I agree in theory, but… Right now I’m exhausted and holding things together by sheer willpower, and I cannot make things better for everyone, I just need to make it through the day. Once I make it through, I can help. But right now, I’m stretched to breaking point. So, basically: totally projecting current personal issues. :)

        • Yes. I am a bench scientist and I wish there was a good way to pause things temporarily in the future when I have my hypothetical children. Because I do need to be physically in lab for various periods of time which I can’t always choose because of the life cycles of the animals or classes I have to teach, so there is only so much flexibility there.

    • Amy March

      If you’re looking for more parenting voices, the NYTimes blog Motherlode is pretty interesting, and India Knight has written fairly extensively about parenting a child with special needs.

    • Julia

      Good point. Seems like the first huge transition (from no babies to having a baby) is frequently covered in articles because it is so monumental. Which I appreciate because I’m pregnant with my first child, but have no doubt I will be scouring the interwebs for insights at different life stages with kids.

    • Lulu

      All Joy and No Fun has a couple of chapters on school-age kids and adolescents. The school-age chapter spends some time on over-scheduling, and it might start to get at what you’re interested in, and point you toward more resources.

    • Jane

      At the most basic level, how I dealt with having 2 school age kids (5th and 6th grade) is

      1) working from home with hours I set, so after-school through dinner is just … not work time. When other parents are available and after bedtime, more work is done as needed. I am not sure I can actually recommend this — I sometimes long for a manager and an office — but it works.
      2) being a “big meanie” (my kids words) when it comes to scheduling certain kinds of things. Soccer with your friend would be great, but I cannot make it happen. Period. Sometimes they come up with something else, sometimes I do, and often they just get over it (Dunno if this is going to work in high school, though.)

      My work-life balance is far from ideal, but the regular and firm use of “No” have been essential to getting to to a tolerable place.

    • elysiarenee

      OMG this. I feel like almost every article of this nature is written by someone with, like, one under-one-year-old. I have a 4 year old and an 8 month old myself and just in general whenever I figure out an approach to life that works well for everyone’s needs right now I wouldn’t dare assume it would work for the duration of parenting. It’s not like preschool is the only part of parenting you have to trickily plan life around.

  • z

    I’ve always found Bullish enjoyable, though hilariously over-the-top at times. But I do love that the long-term planners and the financially savvy are getting a turn in the APW spotlight today. I am naturally a planner, and financially pretty with-it, and sometimes I feel social pressure to conceal that side of myself. I am responsible, dammit, especially financially, and that has paid off for me in a lot of ways that make me a MORE fun and awesome person, not less fun. I plan and I’m proud!

  • Nicole

    This was a really interesting article that I really enjoyed. I might have to check out Bullish!

    Like many other commenters, I’ve always read advice about side hustles and working more and realized that in my situation, it just isn’t the solution. I recently found a great website that helped me think of ways I can prepare for the future without increasing my salary. Mr Money Mustache ( is a guy writing about how he and his wife retired early when their son was born and he did it mostly by focusing on ways to reduce spending without reducing quality of life. Though his circumstances are very specific, he has a wide range of readers who have found his advice helpful for reducing spending, which has a double effect of reducing the amount you need, and increasing the amount you’re able to save NOW to live off in the future whether you want to retire at 30 like he did, or be able to work part time, or get out of debt, or meet other goals.

    For those who want to take the advice about preparing in advance but don’t want to up the hours or find a side hustle this might be a good place to look for ideas. Reading his stuff challenged a lot of my own ideas about what costs I had control over and how I was making financial choices and helped us find ways to increase our savings without increasing the hours spent working. I found it because someone mentioned it on another blog I read and I’m so grateful she did, so I’m mentioning it here too in case someone finds it helpful.

    • Roselyne

      I will second that rec.

      I think he’s extreme on some points, but following about 50% of his logic had us saving a down payment on a house in under 4 years on an average Canadian family income, so: yes, if you take what works for you.

      Also, there’s something reassuring about knowing that you can make ends meet on one income if you need to.m

  • ruth

    I find there’s a huge disconnect currently between life as I’d ideally like to set it up, and the economic realities we’re currently living in. My awesome feminist husband used to be great at splitting housework 50/50…then he got laid off, and the new job he’s had to take to make ends meet is literally 80-90 hrs a week, no exageration. And so I find myself handling the disproportionate share of housework – because I only work 40. His current job is not sustainable and he’s looking for something better – but I’m finding it tough to share and be equally involved in care when one of us works such longer hours. I also spent my 20s working for idealistic non-profits and arts companies making day care center worker wages instead of making bank or taking low stress day jobs so I could focus on writing novels. Now I’m lucky to have a major publisher pick up my series – and my hubby is happy to hire child care so I can keep writing when we have kids – but I have no idea how we are going to be equal parents when men are expected to work 80-90 hour weeks in so many industries

    • Ruth, I also have the same situation. My husband is also awesome and feminist, but his chosen career is not. But he chose it for all the right reasons (or at least all the reasons that I can admire and love), so I’m okay(ish — I do bitch about it, but to him, not at him, and bitch at people who could try to change it). I do a huge share of the childcare and housework during the week, and he picks it all up on weekends so I can manage to get enough hours in to make up for working some days only 3-4 hours. What does help, though, is he really loves his job, and it sounds like yours is not happy at all, and I am sincerely sorry about that. I try to think of it as us having a big pot of life-related hours to put in, and the specific tasks are distributed differently, but we both do half the work. And when he IS around, he does more than half the kid/house stuff, and takes me seriously when I say I’m at work, but I’m still in the house.

      Basically, that was a really long way to say the one thing that helps me keep the resentment in check and focused on society and not him personally that he loves his job as much as I love mine, so I can tell myself I’m not supporting the paradigm by picking up more of the housework because I have more time. That, and we hired a housekeeper. I really hope your partner can find something better soon. And hey! Super mega congrats on the novel-writing success!

      • ruth

        Thanks, Meghan! I really appreciate that! It is actually true that my husband loves his career – which is doing lighting and effects for theater / TV – if not this particular crazy hours gig for a terrible show. I’ve been encouraging him to do what he loves, to not give up just because jobs are scarce. It’s encouraging to hear from those who have kids – since we currently don’t. I worry sometimes about what traditional gender roles we often lapse into just because of these hours – but then again, I wouldn’t want to be the one working 80 hr weeks. Gah. Anyway – thanks for sharing. It’s always great to hear someone else’s perspective :)

  • Jen, I love everything you write and this has been no exception.

    Faves; Flexibility is great, but not at the expense of large amounts of income.

    I am infuriated by people who insist that money is evil, or can’t buy happiness…Money solves a vast number of the causes of unhappiness, which is pretty close to buying happiness. And, frankly, I’ve bought plenty of happiness directly.

  • sadly anon

    This is all such good information. I really wish I’d had this kind of information when I was in my 20s or before (I’m pushing 40). What does one do who has made all the mistakes this article is trying to help younger folks avoid and is now screwed in the workforce?

  • Becky

    Any thoughts for those of us who work in education, other than starting and/or maintaining a side business? I’m a school psychologist and work in an elementary school – while many of the principles mentioned in the article really resonated with me, I’m having a bit of trouble thinking through how they could be directly applied in a job with pretty intense hours (I don’t know any teachers who work just the contract hours – I’d estimate that most people in my building work at least 50 cumulative hours weekly) and limited flexibility (during the school year at least!)

    • Anne-Marie Morey

      Becky — I’m an educational therapist, so I work with a lot of school psychs and ed psychs. At least in our area there is a huge demand for evaluators who can provide thoughtful assessments and support parents in educational planning and placement. Classes, workshops, evaluations are all in huge demand. Summer might be a great time to provide this support.

  • Nikki Hellyer

    This is my favourite article yet on APW….

  • Elizabeth

    Hmm, interesting article. I find myself disagreeing with a lot of it, at least on a personal level, but it’s interesting to see someone else’s perspective that’s so different from my own.

    One of my friends burnt herself out very badly trying to work consistently and rigorously and give her all to her job in her 20’s. And there are a couple of companies in my industry that basically take that as their premise, that they will get people fresh out of school and work them until they just can’t do it anymore — usually around the same time they start having a family. At which point the company just moves on to more recent college graduates. I guess that’s working for them, and I suspect that most people who leave the company can get a pretty good job elsewhere — if they still want to work in the industry, which I think becomes a very serious issue.

    I know that it’s not for me. I like working my 40-50 hours, and I like my stability, even though I’m only 25. I have a career plan — it was a bit eye-opening to realize that personally I may not be ambitious in the classic sense (I have 0 desire to go into management or make any of the career moves possible to me that would get me more money but move away from a technical role) but I am technically ambitious, I want to learn how to do all the things and I want to work towards being a technical expert in my field.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    Having children, raising children and life with a family is very different in Canada!

    Whenever I read articles like this, i get so stressed. I feel like American mothers and parents are missing out on such an important time developmentally, emotionally and psychologically for both parents and baby in the first year of life. I cannot believe how hard you have to continue your hustle after childbirth!

    I considered going back to work part-time while on maternity leave when my daughter was 6 months old to ease back into going to work after 10 months off. I could not make that happen. There was no time in my day to make time for work, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to continue spending all her waking time with her, and all her sleeping time was spent in playing catch up with chores or trying to nap.

    While I may not have had to hustle right away after childbirth, I did have to hustle before and when I was pregnant to prove my loyalty to my company and hope that I would not be passed up for any growth opportunities because I was an impending mother, employment status unknown after one year of leave.

  • BeeAssassin

    So much yes to marrying a feminist. I know so many women who ended up dropping out of work for years, not necessarily totally willingly, because of the unexamined structural inequality that you mention (“Oh, I make less than my husband so he should continue working but wait maybe the reason women make less in this industry and feel like there’s no good example of working moms is because ALMOST ALL OF THEM drop out after having a baby because the men in this industry make more money…etc”)

    And you make such a good point that splitting the housework does not mean that he’ll be on the same page about working after baby. My husband and soon-to-be-father-of-our-child will be taking almost 4 months off, most of it unpaid, while I’m taking 8 weeks. He is doing it with good cheer, and it’s in large part because we were very clear with each other from the start of our relationship where I stood on my desire to continue working in a fairly demanding field if we were going to have kids, and where he stood in terms of feeling like men should pick up more of the family stuff than they do. (It probably also helps that he’s half-Swedish, so this shit seems pretty self-explanatory to him.)

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  • zero

    I love Bullish and Jennifer Dziura because many of her articles offer truly original ideas and suggestions that I hadn’t heard before and because she is clearly a genius out-of-the-box thinker. Not all of her stuff is ‘for me’ – why would I even expect that – but even when it isn’t I usually benefit from reading it.

  • Dawn

    I love this article. I don’t “agree with” everything in it, but it is awesome.

    But is that insulting comment about homeschooling and religion really necessary? It is a cheap shot that relies on stereotypes.

    Or is it a joke? If it’s a joke, most people are far too unaware to get it, and unless you’re in the club, don’t make fun of people.

    Having been homeschooled — and now being a college professor — I know a lot about the pros and cons of homeschooling and other more traditional schooling methods. Like every educational option I’ve been able to discover, homeschooling can be great or terrible. Some kids have disastrous experiences with it, but that is at least as true of some kids’ experiences in public and private schools. Some religious schools (home schools or private schools) are great. Some are terrible. Some home schoolers are religious. Some are not.

  • HD

    Very interesting. I’ve read Jen’s work for a while, on and off, and while we couldn’t be more different in our aptitudes and interests, I love her emphasis on finding an equal partner in life and never selling yourself short that way. I have no desire for a high-powered career (…because I love love love my free time…and I’m a full-time teacher/dept. chair/mom but I NEED my time to garden, exercise, bake bread, read, write, socialize…and just be…), but at the same time I’m ambitious when it comes to finding the right life for myself, and I feel like her writing is always energizing to read in that respect. And I mean, she’s just a badass and I love all badass women, whatever they are doing!

  • Eva Jannotta

    Jen – this is golden.

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  • Legatosaurus

    This article was really thought-provoking and definitely opened my eyes on the internalised assumptions around daycare and the careers of women as parents. A lot of fantastic points and engaging ideas.

    However, I was pretty upset at the narky dig on homeschooling and Christianity. Was it really necessary? It just made me feel angry and offended that my personal experience was slapped in the face as a stupid option, and it suggests that the author hasn’t actually considered that feminists can be homeschooled/homeschooling Christians.

    • It was specifically a dig at people who don’t let anyone contradict their holy book to their children. That, I consider child abuse. If you’re a different kind of (potential) Christian homeschooler whose kids are reading Darwin and Hitchens, hey, have at it. I would read about that.

  • Melissa Yuan-Innes

    I liked the comments.

    A: Yeah! I want to be badass too!
    Me: Cool.

    B: Meh. I already have the life I want.
    Me: Cool.

    To me, Jen talks about optimizing your life. It’s not a blueprint that everyone has to follow.

    I’m an emergency doctor. My side hustle is writing. I married a cool guy who took three months of paternity leave for each of our two kids.

    Which doesn’t mean I think you should all be writer-doctors married to my husband. We all have to create the lives we want. No one’s is perfect. I read Jen, and other thinkers (fiction and non-fiction), to help fine-tune mine.

    You do you.

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  • Feminists say “fuck” a lot.

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