First World Parenting Problems Are Still Parenting Problems

white picket fenceI couldn’t help but feel personally attacked by Eve Vawter‘s piece on entrepreneur women and the empathy they don’t deserve when they dare find balancing their businesses and family difficult. I find myself in a very similar situation to Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-a-Porter. Like Massenet, I have a new baby, a new business and a successful husband. Unlike Massenet, I also have a demanding 3-year-old. Also unlike Massenet, I don’t get to talk about this extremely difficult time in my life in retrospect.

My baby is 11 weeks old and my business is only a few months old. I don’t know how it turns out yet so I particularly relate to Massenet’s comments about the early days of her child and career.

My business is a lot of work right now and newsflash but few people start businesses out of an “utter necessity.” A business is a huge, scary risk. My partner (who has three kids including a baby) and I employ over a dozen people. We have a ton of responsibility to them and to our families.

I had a good career as a writer. I could have continued in the safe and comfortable. But I had an idea and this drive to do something else that is never questioned in men yet needs to be explained in women.

I don’t feel” traumatized” by my kids like Massenet — not exactly anyway, and I’m not looking for pity. I’m sure Massenet wasn’t either. What I am looking for is the nod of “wow, this is hard” camaraderie shared among mothers. I’m looking for an acknowledgement that no matter how comfortable my life may be, raising children is incredibly difficult. Kids and a business may yet kill me.

I get that many people have it worse than I do. My husband and I are both immigrants. I came here from the Soviet Union when I was a kid.

We were seriously poor. A staple of my childhood was overhearing scary hushed conversations about money. We lived in a rough neighborhood. McDonald’s was a luxury. I understand today there are women, same as me with a newborn and a toddler, working multiple jobs without the flexibility that my business affords me.

But that doesn’t make my sleepless nights and anxiety-filled days any less difficult. It doesn’t mean that I’m not working my ass off to be a good mom and to get my business off the ground.

I keep hearing that my means should make childrearing easier. Maybe.

I just can’t figure out which part of raising my kids I should farm out. It is the nursing? The bedtime story? My daughter likes hearing a really complicated one I made up involving dueling princesses and a stolen piano. I’m not sure I can pay enough to have someone remember it and tell it to her in the exact same way every single night. The doctor appointments? My daughter has had two screaming-all-night ear infections during the 11 weeks her brother has been alive. Do I pay someone to come into her room and hold her as she wails?

I know I have it good. My mom is a huge help to me. I have a cleaning lady once a week. When I can’t deal with cooking we order in. I understand these are luxuries and I am grateful. But nothing about my life is easy.

This is a reader submission. 

(photo: nexus 7 / Shutterstock)

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  • Hibbie

    “What I am looking for is the nod of ‘wow, this is hard’ camaraderie
    shared among mothers. I’m looking for an acknowledgement that no matter
    how comfortable my life may be, raising children is incredibly

    There seems to be a cultural attitude about parenthood that lends itself less to camaraderie and more to one-upmanship (either “I have it better/am a better parent” or “I have it harder”). It’s not just parenthood, of course. The sanctimonious and suffering Olympics are pretty prevalent across the board, and nothing has made that more clear than social media! (Just take a look at STFU, Parents.)

    No one should have to apologize for success and your struggles and burning-the-candle-at-both-ends experience isn’t any less than because you live a financially comfortable lifestyle. Parenthood is stressful! Beyond that, it shows a lot of fortitude to start a business and it is refreshing to hear you talk about your concern for your family as well as your employees.

    Your bedtime story sounds awesome!

  • Guest

    I may be lazy but would it be possible to edit the post to include the pingback to Eve’s piece? I’m really curious about it.

    • Koa Beck

      It’s up there already and in the “related links.”

  • Carinn Jade

    I get this. I wish you didn’t have to make so many apologies, but I do it too. We are all trying to do the best we can. I think it is brave and amazing that you are following your passion. No matter what the result or when it reveals itself, you are taking the path that follows your heart over security and a sure thing. That isn’t easy no matter how many nannies or housekeepers or millions of dollars one might ever have. It takes something in your soul that forces you to push through the really tough shit. For this, you have my gratitude and respect.

  • Karol

    Thank you so much for the kind comments. It’s almost strange to read such snark-free reactions on the internet!

  • Victoria

    I’m not sure why it was the author is feeling personally attacked by Eve’s article. I think what she was pointing out is that very hard work and fear go hand in hand for most working class moms. That fear is not present in the wealthy, regardless of how hard they work. Massenet is not the kind of mom who worries about getting sick, or what happens if the car dies, or if baby has to go to the hospital and racks up a huge bill, or if there was an unpaid holiday and now it’s tricky to get groceries.

    Massenet’s complaints about her trials and tribulations feels like a slap in the face to moms who struggle every day, who don’t have the option of solving problems by throwing money, however hard-earned, at them. Both work hard, but money makes the world go ’round.

    Karol has earned the camaraderie of a hard-working mother, without a doubt, and she should be proud of everything she’s done. But looking to be seen as an equal in suffering by the everyday working moms/women who go to work wearing plastic nametags and hairnets is possibly asking too much.

    • Jessie

      And that same mom, that has to work long hours and sometimes multiple jobs to keep her lights on, probably couldn’t breastfeed because her paltry 15 minute breaks didn’t allow her to pump, she couldn’t take time off because of her unpaid maternity leave, and she may not get the chance to read her child a bedtime story because she’s at work. So yes, you do have it easier–when you work for someone else, you are at their whim, when you work for yourself, you answer to yourself, so you can take time to nurse or pump and be home for the bedtime story, then work after the kids are in bed. And I bet you don’t have to worry about losing your job because you had to call in sick for that child that was up all night with the ear infection. Get back to me when you do, you may understand where I’m coming from.

    • Karol

      There’s always going to be someone who has it worse than you do. That doesn’t mean your hard times aren’t hard. The hypothetical women you describe still have it better than say, unemployed women, abused women, or, hey, women suffering from third-world-problems. It’s not a contest and I’m not trying to win some pain prize.

    • once upon a time

      Can we please stop with the ‘my suffering is worse than your suffering’ bullshit? It’s absolutely ridiculous and so anti-woman.

      Now, if Massenet or the author of this article walked into, say, a daycare centre for low income earners and started expecting sympathy from the shift workers, single parents and working poor who came in, yes, that would be a dick move. But neither of them are. They’re just venting their frustrations, in the case of Massenet, when she was explicitly questioned about it. People are allowed to vent. And the great thing about the internet is that when something really pisses you off, you can hit that little x in the top right hand corner and make it go away.

  • Sean Phillips

    There is very little that is more offensive of condescending than the whole “first world problems” nonsense. I say this all the time : one person’s problems do not negate or lessen anyone else’s. the mom with two minimum wage jobs has problems. the mom with a business also has struggles. both are legitimate.

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