Does parenting destroy creativity?

by Honolulu Mother

An interesting article on the effect of parenthood on the ability to create:

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Mom

I pretty much agree with the conclusion, that having a house full of kids can pretty much eliminate any prospect of having the mental space, the Woolf-style Room of One’s Own, to write or do other creative work; but in the long term, the immediate chaos will lessen and the parenting experience gives one a richer experience of life to draw on in creative work.

What do other Totebaggers think?


96 thoughts on “Does parenting destroy creativity?

  1. I remember hearing an interview with Anne Tyler where the interviewer commented that she’d noticed that the paragraphs in Anne Tyler’s books grew longer over time. And Anne Tyler responded that it was because the interruptions from her kids decreased as her kids got older.

  2. I have found that my noodling on the piano has gotten much less since the third kid. And then recently one of the F keys broke, so I need to schedule a piano repair-person after we move. Apparently old pianos are cheap these days, so if this one (100 years old, was my great-grandmother’s) are irreparable, we should be able to get another.

  3. I am not a creative person, so I admit that I don’t get what the author is talking about. That said, I found the tone a bit self-involved. Also, the numerous negative examples of famous artists as terrible parents didn’t help her case in garnering sympathy for her “plight”.

  4. I think parenting takes part of your mental space and keeps it 24/7, at least for mothers, maybe for fathers too, but not in my direct experience unless it is a single parent dad. That part is collecting and sorting all the child-related data and creating an action plan. At some ages, that is figuring out the best time to go grocery shopping so you don’t have a child melt-down half way through. In my kids current stage is it figuring out who will be home for dinner which nights and who needs transportation where and when, then sorting out the conflicts.

    The amount of your mental space it takes is dependent on things like, how many children are you juggling, if they have any health issues, what activities do they have, and how much help you have and how flexible is it. I am not an artist, but I think many professions require creativity from engineering to architecture to consulting that we don’t normally think of in that way. But, to me anything that requires problem solving often requires some level of creativity.

    I agree that having children takes away some of that mental space, but so does caring for an elderly relative or a spouse with a significant health issue or even dealing with your own serious health issue.

    I dislike the idea that saying that if anything isn’t perfect in my life, I don’t have enough mental space to create to my potential. I think you may create differently, at a different pace, or in a different way.

  5. “I am not a creative person, so I admit that I don’t get what the author is talking about.”

    I agree, but I’ll also note that if you’re 33 and wondering why your photography or your writing hasn’t made you as famous as you’d expected to be at this age when you were 23, it’s going to be a lot easier to blame kids and family than your own lack of talent or distinction.

  6. JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter as a single mom, parenting makes everything harder, but it can still be done

  7. I do admire those women who were self-aware enough to know that they would be unwilling to sacrifice their craft or art to (help) raise children and therefore decided not to have children.

  8. I think children probably do decrease your time and bandwidth for creative endeavors but I think there are stages to it all. I can’t imagine trying to write a book until kids go off to school because it’s just too much hands on time. I don’t know any writers personally but do have a few artist mom friends. One mom I know is a really talented artist and once her last kid went off to kindergarten (she stays at home) she really started to paint again and she does a lot of commissions for friends. She said she thought about buying out this local art class business but she realized she would probably not be the mom she wants to be if she had to deal with other people’s kids all day. But in five years when her kids are older something like that might better match the stage of her family.

  9. Well, my first thought is that I wonder if the author has ever held a paying job that is NOT writing. I feel the same way about balancing my own job and family — the neediness and overwhelming logistics/stuff and my own desire to enjoy time with them all takes away from the time/headspace that would make me a better lawyer; similarly, the demands of my job frequently have me that same “only 60%” there for my kids even when I’m physically present. I mean, last week I watched my kid pitch his first inning ever (strike out two, walk two, hit two, strike out the third), then himself strike out with the bases loaded — all while managing a conference call on a matter that needed to be resolved that night. Having kids and a family will interfere with any job that requires focus. Period.

    I also agree that when you’re in the thick of the tough parts, it feels like forever — but when you get to the other side, you can start to see some of the benefits you get from it. I am a much better people manager/strategist now than I was 20 years ago, in large part because I had to learn how to outthink and manage a highly intelligent, creative, and defiant 4-year-old.

    I also think there is something to be said for experience, period.. Someone like Austen, who can generate wonderful novels in her teens, is truly exceptional; most of us need more time and experience to draw on. Had I written a novel at 19, it would have been complete drivel. At my current age, it would probably still be drivel, but it would now at least have a fighting chance.

    I think of my boss/mentor in this. He is brilliant — he is one of those people who puts together two completely unrelated things in a way that makes you realize that the connection has always been obvious, you just never saw it. But I realized over time that he can make those connections only because he has so much experience in all of these disparate areas. He is an extrovert, and intellectually curious, so he is always interested in new ideas and new things to learn. And after @60 years of that, BOY does he have a trove of information that he can now weave together in a way no one else can.

    So, I guess, I would counsel both curiosity and patience with yourself. Everything builds you into who you become. The demands of home and even career won’t always be so overwhelming.

  10. I did sense the unique desperation of a mother of small children in that essay. It’s gotten so much easier to balance work and family life as the kids have gotten older, and when things are crazy, to be able to take the long view that it’s temporary and life will settle down again shortly (Month of May, I’m looking at you).

  11. “Having kids and a family will interfere with any job that requires focus. Period.”


  12. Would the story be any different if she was in an MBA program, law school, engineering, etc? She’s be wistful for the CEO, partner, startup founder she could have been if she’d chosen another path.

  13. “Having children, entering the realm of parents and parenthood, changes our relationship to the world in ways we could not have anticipated ”

    and this helps a creative as the kids get older

  14. I think we need to distinguish between creativity, and time to do work. There is no question that parenting decreases our ability to spend time working – any kind of working. It is just as hard to concentrate for long stretches on entering numbers into a spreadsheet as it is to concentrate on painting or writing the great American novel.
    As for creativity – it is well known that true creativity – that ability to come up with a ground breaking idea that completely changes things – is concentrated amongh the young. Among mathematicians and physicists, the great insights come in their 20’s, with the rest of the career spent burnishing and expanding. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Perhaps it isn’t parenting, but simply aging.
    Artistry, on the other hand, which I consider to be different from creativity, often improves and becomes more complex with age. I think parenting can only add to that, not take away.

    As for the assumption that you have to be in a childfree zone filled with wine and scintillating conversation to be creative, well, I think that is just people’s stereotypical assumptions.

  15. I am not an artist but had I not had kids, I would work longer hours. Where that would take me I don’t know. It could be that I could be high on the corporate ladder or be senior and let go. The early days of parenting were tough for me. Now, though it is fun having kids and being a parent. I have to figure out how to gradually transition and what I want to do when I am no longer required to actively be involved day to day.

  16. “Would the story be any different if she was in an MBA program, law school, engineering, etc?”

    @Rhett, I suspect she would have gone into it with different expectations. I think if you choose one of those careers, you go into it knowing that you will spend 60 hrs/week at the office if you want to grab the golden ring. I think with something like writing or art, there is this perception that you can do it in your “free time,” like when the kids are at school. Plus, practically speaking, a young writer or artist isn’t the family breadwinner, so then she probably takes on the primary responsibility for managing the house and kids. All of which means that she went into it with absolutely no concept of how little “free time” there would be, nor how difficult it would be to make the mental shift to focus on the writing/art when you know you need to cram it in before the kid wakes up from a nap.

  17. From what I see, my friends who are single or without kids have time to focus on themselves. Along with work, they travel quite a bit, one has gone back to school. Nothing earth shattering just different.

  18. I don’t know. I found that article irritating.

    “Art, itself is inherently subversive. It’s destabilizing. It undermines, rather than reinforces, what you already know and what you already think.”

    . Yeah, yeah, blah blah, yackety smackety. Whatevs.

  19. My job is an abnormality, I suppose, because I really only do it while I am at work. I am never contemplating problems in line at the grocery store, or managing a conference call while my kids are enriched in some lovely studio. Maybe my focus is crappy because the kids got me up three times last night, but my coworker has crappy focus because he was out drinking all weekend. I really don’t think I would do my job any differently if I was childless. It’s possible I would work more, but it is also possible I would work less if I had less financial responsibility. (To be fair, I have lamented before that I wish I had a job that was a bit more engaging intellectually).

    I consider myself a creative person, in a small and not all-consuming way. When I was in school, I used to doodle quilt designs through all the lectures. Occasionally, I would execute them. They were interesting, different, and very validating that I was an Artist. However, I haven’t imagined a quilt in years, nor have I executed one in even longer. My life is just more full right now. Some of it is the children, some of it is the fact that my spare moments are on Facebook (or here). It is hard to be creative unless you have an element of emptiness and loneliness.

  20. Would the story be any different if she was in an MBA program, law school, engineering, etc? She’s be wistful for the CEO, partner, startup founder she could have been if she’d chosen another path.

    I think it would be different. If you are a young woman who goes to law school and wants to make partner and a big firm (the analogue to the Writer’s workshop to best selling novel), there are a series of clear steps you take. If you have children, you are still going to take those steps if you plan on achieving the goal. If you are a writer, you have the choice of delaying the things you need to do, or doing them half-heartedly on the margins, or thinking that you won’t need to do them. You can do co-op preschool, and plan to write after the kids go to bed, except that you end up collapsing from fatigue. You don’t see articles (at least I don’t) saying, “I was going to be a high-powered lawyer, but I skipped getting a full-time job and stayed home raising children and doing a little contract work on the side and it never happened. Oh! Motherhood!”

  21. You don’t see articles (at least I don’t) saying, “I was going to be a high-powered lawyer, but I skipped getting a full-time job and stayed home raising children and doing a little contract work on the side and it never happened. Oh! Motherhood!”

    You don’t see those articles? There are thousands of them. Just google “mommy track” for examples.

  22. Ada – I feel like I *just* saw an article/post about that exact situation (maybe it was on Mr Money Mustache?) last month – someone who never started practicing and then the next thing she knew they had 3 kids and were getting divorced and now she has no career path.

  23. Too much navel gazing for me. Yes, children, especially young ones, require a lot of hands-on time from someone. It is hard to truly multi-task, so something must suffer. The least urgent and important thing usually does, so creativity will often take a back seat to getting the kids dinner and bathed.

    And, Ada, that is pretty much what happened to me! I was actually a lawyer who let motherhood take over because I thought at least one of my kids really would benefit from my attention and interest instead of our nanny’s. No one is more surprised than I am that this is what happened!

  24. The difference is that people here are saying, “I chose kids instead of _____, and I am unhappy/surprised how things turned out.” The author of the original piece is saying, “I was pursuing my calling in a way that I thought would lead to success and suddenly, after years, I realized it wouldn’t.”

    Kate – you may be surprised at the choices you made, but you are not surprised that you are not partner. You don’t expect that you can do a little extra work in the evenings for the next few months and you will suddenly become partner. In some fields – law/medicine/business (fields that are perhaps less self-directed), the choices and trade-off are a bit more clear.

    I’m kind of surprised at the amount of creative output I have had over the past decade (almost none). At one point, I sold art – not enough to live off of, but more than I could make at a college work-study job. I have other things that define me (personally and professionally), so it is not heart-wrenching to see that I am not currently making art/crafts. I always thought I would squeeze things around the edges and I am kind of surprised I haven’t.

    On the other hand, clever updates on Facebook? I have found plenty of time for that.

  25. Like Ada, I used to do a lot more of the arty-crafty amusements and sewing and playing piano to unwind and so on pre-kids (even more so pre-full time employment! I guess I didn’t truly treat law school like a job), and rarely find time for it now. It probably leaks out into other places, like cooking, but I think it’s true that creative endeavors need a certain amount of apparently aimless mental space to marinate. Or maybe it’s purely the time element; goodness knows I’d be hard pressed to squeeze any time-consuming projects into my evenings and weekends.

  26. I think we all have “expectations” about what and how much we can/can’t do and the outcome from putting in that effort. Those “expectations” are sometimes not based in a lot of reality. I initially thought I would be able to wade through MORE of my mom’s stuff faster as I have minimal emotional attachment to anything she acquired after 1988 as it wasn’t part of my growing up period. Well, this is false because (1) I don’t know enough about some of her “collections” to differentiate between the valuable pieces and the ones that could just be donated; (2) I’m finding it hard to let go of things I know she loved; and (3) decision fatigue on any given day arrives sooner than I thought it would.

    Apply that same “rose colored glasses” approach to having kids and career balance and you can have the same disconnect, at least at first. In my case, after the first two days I had completely revamped my thought process! I think that is sort of what this author is working through is the disconnect between her expectation and reality.

  27. “I think it’s true that creative endeavors need a certain amount of apparently aimless mental space to marinate. Or maybe it’s purely the time element; goodness knows I’d be hard pressed to squeeze any time-consuming projects into my evenings and weekends.”

    ITA, or at least that’s the way my head works. For me, it’s an on-and-off thing: I throw 100% focus on something, and work through a draft. And then there are things that bug me, things that feel like plugs that are stopping up the free flow of the argument, and sometimes I even know what they are but don’t know how to fix them. So I put it aside and ruminate, while the tumblers keep rolling in the back of my head. And then I come at it again, and I see it differently, and things click into place and I see what was bothering me and how to change things up so everything starts flowing again. Rinse, repeat. So it’s not just time — it’s pushing to where I can’t push anymore, then giving it time to marinate. And rushing the process — forcing me to get back to it before the tumblers have all clicked — just shuts off that part of the brain that comes up with the connections and solutions.

  28. Where is our totebag lawyer/author today?

    I’ve been spending by free time on a creative way to throw out my child’s old toys without her noticing at the end of the day.

  29. When my kids were in preschool I knew this family who had three kids — two boys who at that time were right up there with my youngest on the shortlist of the most memorably naughty though charming boys in recent preschool history, plus a baby girl — and both parents worked full-time, yet somehow they had found time to lovingly renovate their ’20s bungalow into a showpiece and have it not just clean enough to invite preschoolers over for a party, but actually grown-up clean and tastefully decorated. And I mean they themselves did the hands-on renovating. And they’re nice people! My assumption is that they are actually gods in human form.

  30. Lauren – Two strategies (1) we move stuff into storage in front of the kids and then chuck it later (a week/six months/when I remember) if the kids haven’t asked about it again. (2) Sometimes I go straight to putting stuff in a clear garbage bag, walking all over the place and making it very apparent that I am throwing stuff out. I’ve been surprised – the kids often are perfectly fine with it and only rescue a few things.

  31. ATM – ditto. I am also surprised at how much they’re willing to get rid of!!!

  32. “Apply that same “rose colored glasses” approach to having kids and career balance and you can have the same disconnect, at least at first. In my case, after the first two days I had completely revamped my thought process! I think that is sort of what this author is working through is the disconnect between her expectation and reality.”

    I can see that. I know that it has gotten much, much easier to juggle things even though my job is much more demanding now than it was when DS was born because my expectations for both work and parenting are different. The first year, I carried so much incredible mom guilt that was really unproductive, and I had to get over that to truly reset my expectations. Then there is what Lark described – where the perspective of experience comes in – the feeling that a lot of things that seem important are not, and that there are blips in the road where you are going to tip your balance more toward work or family, but that these blips don’t last and the thing that you neglected for a period of weeks is just fine in the long run.

    That said – I couldn’t even get halfway through the original article. I found the tone really off putting for whatever reason. Probably the same type of reaction as RMS. Whine whine whine, delicate creative geniuses, art is the real important work of life, whatever.

  33. I have admired the fancy cakes my cousins have been making. However, I have to remind myself that it took them quite a while to get to this point. And though they have one kid each now, both of them quit working before they got pregnant and have help both family and paid help. It’s just that I can’t show photos of my work !

  34. “it is well known that true creativity – that ability to come up with a ground breaking idea that completely changes things – is concentrated among the young. ”

    Perhaps due to youth and inexperience, they did not know what was not possible.

  35. “Because the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.”

    This is nonsense, really. Perhaps the writer does not know any parents who are also academics, or small business owners, or trial attorneys, or anyone else who lives and breathes their work and finds it difficult to unplug when the kids need attention. Or politicians, for that matter. All of those fields require creativity.

  36. Ah, but Scarlett, that is “creativity.” She is talking about Art.

    And, no, not the guy who used to have an office on my floor. . . .

  37. “I am also surprised at how much they’re willing to get rid of!!!”

    I have found my kids are not very sentimental about things, so I have decided that sentimentality is for the generation older (i.e us) for now. Unless they can tie a specific experience to the thing/souvenir. Regular toys etc don’t hold that attraction. We see things like the Richard Scarry Book, particularly “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go” and say to ourselves we can never get rid of that, even by donation to an appreciative home, because our guys loved that book. Even though if they have kids, even girls, we’ll probably buy a brand new one for them.

  38. Fred – I have several stacks of books that I cannot get rid of for exactly that reason. A few toys too. I know I will enjoy it immensely if someday I get to read those same books to my grandkids and see them play with the same toys. I doubt I’ll have the same view of Plants v. Zombies as Little Blue Truck.

  39. Fred,
    We still have all of the children’s books our boys loved for the same reason — they were such a huge part of their lives and we could not bear to part with them. Not that they would have let us. Just recently, I was asked whether we gave away “The Fire Cat,” (an easy reader which I got at a yard sale) because its best line, “A fire chief knows many things,” apparently still comes in handy.

  40. And we got DS a new copy of “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go” to share with his DD. All of the originals must stay on the mothership.

  41. But when I asked her about her photography, I could hear the pain in her voice. “I’m not doing it,” she said. “I just can’t. I can’t get the space. Even when I have a few hours, it doesn’t work. They’re always with me, even when they’re not.”

    Pfft. I believe the ability to compartmentalize can enhance creativity and productivity.  From what I’ve seen, I was able to do that when I worked as the parent of young kids.

    This article was also too “much navel gazing for me.”  I disagree that “true creativity” must be produce a ground breaking idea.  My jobs and many other jobs comprise elements of creativity and even art.  For example, solving your client’s tax/valuation problems can require jolts of creativity, which often benefits from a “certain amount of apparently aimless mental space to marinate”.

  42. It would seem strange to come from a family where any of this stuff was saved; it is just so different from my upbringing. Anything that was saved was most likely due to oversight rather than sentimentality.

  43. Even though we were very tight on space for saving picture books, I still saved Duck for President for my own sake. Every four years I find it necessary to pull it out.

  44. Milo -as the youngest, barely anything of mine was saved. My older siblings’ stuff was saved and there are a ton more pictures of them too.

    As for my kids, these will be my only ones, so while I’m not usually that sentimental, I have saved quite a bit of their things. I have storage boxes for the year where lots of stuff gets saved. At the end of the school year the boxes get purged, with only a few items kept. I’ve found I’m more ruthless in tossing stuff out as they get older. I do still remind myself to take pictures of everyday events so there are not big gaps (like in my childhood photos).

  45. My parents kept my books for such a long time that I’d assumed they would be saved forever. Since they were books for older kids, I didn’t bother till my kids were old enough. Turns out my Mom did the Totebag 30 day equivalent and got rid of most, saving a few.

  46. Perhaps we can quibble over the meaning of creativity, but however we want to term it, there are ideas that people come up with which are truly innovative and new – think Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle, or cubism, or Turing machines – that are fundamentally different from the more everyday idea of creativity. These are the ideas that fundamentally change how we view entire fields. And they are overwhelmingly produced by people in their 20’s.

    I used the term artistry in my post to refer to the other kind of creativity – the mastery of a creative field or creative problem solving. Think of a master potter at the top of his or her form, or Yo Yo Ma, or an older novelist who has brought his or her wisdom to books. Or even a great software developer, who has learned lots of algorithms and problems solving techniques. That is different from the first kind, and gets better (I think) as you get older.

    Here is a fun paper that uses text mining to show this

  47. MM, do you think that the makes-you-uncomfortable form of art that the author prioritizes is also the preserve of the young? I’m thinking, it’s one thing to tear apart received ideas on musical composition theory or perspective and color in art when you’re 23; a couple of decades later you’ve either succeeded in creating a new type of music / art and you’ve become pretty comfortable continuing to turn out more of the same, or perhaps you’ve set it aside and decided to stick with the day job. You do have your occasional geniuses too weird for their own lifetime who nonetheless keep creating — there’s an Italian madrigal composer that way who could do it because he was so rich he didn’t need to please anyone — or those who keep restlessly creating new style after new style, like Picasso. But it seems like that’s a minority.

  48. everything will be perfect and easy. I’m sure of it.

    And if it’s not, just picture an alternate universe in which gremlins come through your house while you’re out and drop chip wrappers and drink cans and dirty socks all over the place and leave all your devices streaming YouTube simultaneously to consume all your bandwidth, and then compare it to your actual gremlin-free life, and it’ll seem perfect and easy!

  49. Rocky Mountain, we have a ScanSnap. It is great. It just works. We use it to scan all the kids homework so they can email it to their teachers before they lose it! :-)

  50. The problem is that she is organized, and she knows where her stuff is located in the house. If I throw it out, she will look for something because she knows what she tossed. I want her to throw out a lot more stuff than she is willing to put in the garbage.

    I just put a huge stack of old math notebooks inside an Ugg boot box for paper recycling this week.
    She is willing to go through everything, but she wants to keep about 50% of what I think is garbage.

    My husband jokes that he spent more on bins to organize hand sanitizers from Bath & Body than the cost of the sanitizers.

  51. Being at home full time or most of the time with three or more small children, especially if you have primary responsibility for the household, too, is for many if not most a soul sucking job, just as soul sucking as the average corporate or other drone job filled by the sole breadwinner. But it usually gets better fairly quickly.

    I know a lot of committed artists and musicians, and I expect a certain kind of writer is the same. They resent the time and effort spent on work other than their art, especially if it fouls the ratified atmosphere that they have deemed necessary to practice their craft. However, most of them dont have children, including the men, or they have one or two and are aware that a break or a spouse who handles everything for a few years is necessary.

  52. Sky,
    I hope that your kids fight over who gets The Fire Cat when they are grown up! I have to keep all of the boys’ picture books here because of potential custody battles. They each got brand new copies of several Church Mice books when they were reprinted (used copies are often $100+) and I should probably start collecting some of the other greatest hits, in triplicate, before they are impossible to find.

  53. RMS, good luck with the scanner. I’m on my 3rd scanner now, which is an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier.

    I was going to do what you mention– scan stuff as it comes in, and just keep the digital copy. But that didn’t really work out for me; what I’ve found works much better is to not get scannable stuff in the mail in the first place. As much as possible, I sign up for paperless delivery, and the download the statements or bills or whatever would have been mailed to me, skipping the scanning entirely.

    The scanner still comes in handy, mostly for one-off stuff. And I still have several boxes of old brokerage statements from days before electronic delivery and several boxes of photos that I should scan at some point, which is looking more and more like when I retire.

  54. My parents and inlaws saved way too much stuff that they thought we’d want for ourselves or our kids someday. My mom is always sending me boxes of it, and only maybe 1% of it I actually want. So it was stored for several decades and shipped across the country for no reason. Worse, my pack-rat husband is sentimental about everything, even things like computer games he loved as a kid and the PC that goes with them. And every time we go to see MIL he thinks of more things he wants to take to our house. I’m constantly reigning him in. Sigh.

  55. HM, I’ve read that article before. The same thing applies to a lot of flagships that have already been aggressively offering merit aid to OOS students, especially NMF, e.g., Bama, OU, and ASU.

    I’m not sure what to make of it, since UW-M hasn’t historically been a player in OOS merit aid, and I didn’t see anything on their website really trumpeting it, like on some other schools’ . I’ll bring it to DS’ attention; it does check a lot of his boxes.

  56. Rio–My ILs kept all kinds of my husband’s stuff. They had boxes of old baby clothes and toddler clothes, down to little underpants from potty training days. They had full boxes of action figures, puzzles, old books, you name it. I’m lucky that my dh apparently isn’t too sentimental about these things, especially the ones he doesn’t even remember. We had to have several conversations where we reminded them that we really didn’t have a use for the stuff or the space. Eventually dh chose about one small box worth of memorabilia, and my ILs sold the rest on eBay & split the proceeds between their two kids. I am reminded of that every time I am tempted to keep too much of my kids’ stuff and it keeps me pruning.

  57. Well, this conversation reminded me of a collection of short stories by Reader’s Digest which one of my uncle’s gave to me. I was mad that my parents discarded that particular book because not only was it my favorite, my uncle had written on the inner cover. He passed away, fairly young so the one thing I had was lost. I’ve looked up the book on Amazon….

  58. Milo,

    Each one of these writer articles makes me want to slap the shit out of them. Something about the tone just grates on me.

  59. I have a house cleaner. I go out to spendy restaurants about twice a week. And I always have $400 on hand in case of an emergency.

    And yet my 2015 taxes reveal that my income was $43,000.

    I think her definition of “spendy” must be different from mine.

  60. “Each one of these writer articles makes me want to slap the shit out of them. Something about the tone just grates on me.”

    I’ve put that past me in my old age. Not everyone’s going to be a nurse.

  61. And why didn’t her tenured husband at Oberlin pay child support? I hate it when they leave out critical information like that.

  62. The writer’s job situation – seems like she scaled back to a half time academic job. The thing I take away from my own situation and reading about others is that you have to take the longer term view. It is hard on days when you have work deadlines plus sick kids. But once you make certain decisions know, that reversing is often hard even if you want to. Mostly kids get older and then you have more breathing room.

  63. RMS – I bet he does. That is how she gets to go to the spendy restaurants. 😈

  64. Rocky – In her immediate area of Shaker Heights, TripAdvisor lists Zanzibar Soul Food as the #1 restaurant. It looks good, with very reasonable prices:

    But the TripAdvisor list is not what you’d call a deep bench. Subway, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut are in the top 13. Works fine for me, though.

  65. “The thing I take away from my own situation and reading about others is that you have to take the longer term view.”

    She took the extra-long-term view. Her parents are loaded.

    (To be fair, and just for purposes of comparisons, so were the parents of the Hamptons guy. She’s merely pointing out that, unlike him, she’s able to cover her heating bills.)

  66. Kate — no, she says explicitly that he doesn’t pay child support or spousal support.

  67. Hmmm, no idea. I just skimmed because these people always annoy me. Maybe his discounted tuition benefit was worth more?

  68. @Milo – my parents would give me a kick in the behind, if I took the extra long term view :-).

  69. Maybe he has joint custody so he pays for half any way (and not just the decision-making kind, but the real kind where the kid lives with him half the time)?

  70. That was an interesting essay from Coates. Very enjoyable prose without really telling me much of anything. So he’s not moving to a specific location because he’s too much of a celebrity, and this will be different elsewhere?

  71. Honolulu: Interesting article. I agree with the college administrators. They will have to pay up or lose their best and brightest to merit aid in other states.

  72. “these people always annoy me”


    They put an unseemly amount of energy into justifying their life choices.

  73. They annoy me because they’re so self-absorbed, and with so little justification.

    The Coates article was just irritating because he’s whining about being successful.

  74. Rhett, these people annoy me too, but in my old age I find them more amusing than annoying.

    Living in a college community, I get to see plenty of these types in embryonic form. The future Professional Catholics,who have been brainwashed into the conviction that working with filthy lucre is beneath them, are actually more annoying than amusing, especially the male variant enrolled in a non-marketable 6 year PhD program in theology or philosophy with a wife and several children eligible for Medicaid, WIC, and probably food stamps. I have talked with several of these guys; none of them researched the tenure-track academic job placement record for their department or the relative placement records of the senior faculty. It is so contrary to DH’s department, which has spreadsheets with this kind of information.

  75. Oh come on – there are good restaurants in Cleveland. It might be flyover country, but it’s not exactly rural (and FWIW, there are good restaurants in rural areas too sometimes).

    This was published just last week. There is a bit of a sneer at the Midwest in here, but seriously – The Hamptons is not NYC either, especially in the winter.

    “They annoy me because they’re so self-absorbed, and with so little justification.”
    Yeah – the creative type navel gazing. I don’t know that it annoys me as much as I find it supremely uninteresting and can’t finish the article. I did finish the article that the Hamptons writer guy wrote though because it was just such a train wreck.

    I find it hard to believe that Coates is getting stopped on the street on such a regular basis due to his great fame that his life is disrupted as if he is a Kardashian, but who knows.

  76. Milo – the navel gazing, the self-absorption, the complaining/explaining. I want to just tell them to get a job at Starbucks. Or don’t. But just STFU and get on with it.

  77. ” the complaining/explaining. I want to just tell them to get a job at Starbucks.”

    In this particular case, I read it as simply saying that she earns a bit over $40k, and this is manageable where she’s living. I really didn’t see it as complaining. In other cases, and this may surprise you, I’ve been known to recommend just getting a job of any sort, like Barnes and Noble, to people in different circumstances.

  78. A job at Barnes and Noble would be perfect for me when I retire. Hope they don’t go out of business before then!

  79. In recent years there has been a lot going on, on the food scene in the smaller cities. Where there is farm country nearby farm to table is popular. In my city several small breweries have opened. I guess it is because the space in former warehouses is suitable ? My favorite food truck is available for catered events only, so that’s progress for the chef but a good lunch option is gone.

  80. Milo – agreed, I saw her as bragging that she earns so little and manages to save – not as bad as the people on the MMM forum, but that same flavor.

  81. I thought it was weird that she had a house cleaner, and had to mention that in the same breath as eating out. She has herself and one kid, and the kid isn’t always there? It’s like that’s part of her definition of middle-class comfort, no matter whether she has time to do her own cleaning.

    I guess I’m just living a deprived life.

  82. In Cleveland, I would be happy to eat at Lola and Etna frequently – one is downtown and one is in Cleveland’s Little Italy. Yummy!

  83. “It’s like that’s part of her definition of middle-class comfort, no matter whether she has time to do her own cleaning.”

    Agreed. She did concede that she was bothered by her downward mobility as compared to her parents who are somewhere between UMC and 1%.

  84. I agree that the article is annoying, but I think she has a valid point – people who live in the most exciting and expensive cities often look down on those who are in smaller cities – when that could actually be a way to live the artist/writer lifestyle that they have chosen.

  85. “So it turns out you can get richer simply by moving to where people are poorer.”

    We weren’t poor in northern Virginia, but we are definitely in the top 1% here in the rustbelt. Moving to where people are poorer means moving to where people don’t generally patronize spendy restaurants, so the spendy restaurants crash and burn.
    We know a lot of people who moved here because they can live the creative/academic life and not be too poor.

  86. Scarlett, your comments on the theology/philosophy PhD’s and money combined with living the academic life make me feel very close to you today.

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