Carolyn, I think your advice stinks.

by Lesley on March 25, 2013 · 5 comments

in friends,motherhood


I wrote a version of the following post several years ago (before I was a mom) for I think it’s still as relevant today as it was then. This is the first time it has appeared on…

If you’re a woman on Facebook, at some point or another you’ve likely seen a letter written to advice columnist Carolyn Hax in which a childless woman writes in and basically says, “I don’t have kids, but my friend does. I work all day, sometimes into the late evening, but I still have time to get everything done. My friend just goes to play groups and the park but she doesn’t have time to return my calls or email. What’s she doing all day? Why doesn’t she have time for me?”

The column writer, Carolyn, responds by listing all the tough things moms face on a day-to-day basis. She then tells the childless woman, “Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.”

When a friend posted this letter to Facebook years ago, tons of moms left comments about how much they agreed. And since the first time I read the letter, it’s been re-posted many other times by people in my Facebook network. The thing is, I think Carolyn’s advice is, well, terrible. 

I’ll admit, when I first read Carolyn’s advice column it was difficult for me to relate to stay-at-home moms who claimed to have no time for friends. I was tempted to write to all the whining women on Facebook about how my day was just as busy, or busier, than their day. I wanted to tell them how often I feel anxious because it’s been three weeks since I dropped off the dry cleaning and I don’t know when I can pick it up because the store is closed by the time I get off work. Or, how days can go by when we throw a pizza in the oven at 8:00pm and then fall into bed exhausted. Or, how I feel guilty for not calling my own mother back because by the time my work events end, it’s 10:00pm.

I wanted to put these stay-at-home mommies in their place, to win the competition over who has it tougher.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t respond because most likely, these moms probably are more sleep deprived than I am. Worse, by responding I would be partaking in a comparison game that women have been playing for far too long.

And in the comparison game, there’s never a winner.

Instead I realized it was the writer who I really wanted to address. Over the last few weeks, I’ve wrestled with what I might say to her. Here, in letter form, is what I’ve finally concluded:

“Dear Carolyn,

I’m a young woman who hasn’t figured out this game of life quite yet. I don’t know if I ever will.

It doesn’t really matter if I’m single, married, childless, pregnant, or a mom. All that matters is that I’m a woman—and because of that I’ve got plenty of responsibilities.

You told childless readers they need to make an effort to understand busy moms. I agree. But, I wish you’d have taken this advice one step further. We all need to make an effort to understand each other. We all need a phone call every now and then from a friend, an encouraging email, or a Starbucks delivery for no good reason. We must, MUST, work hard at building each other up regardless of our life phase. Women need other women. It requires effort, time, and follow-through. It requires picking up the phone occasionally even when you’re tired. And, it means serving each other even when life is busy.”

The reality is, life-giving friendships are hard to come by. They thrive when we are authentic, and when we show up. They thrive when both people choose to understand each other.

Yesterday I called a friend who is a new mom and asked if she’d like to meet me for a walk around the neighborhood with her new baby. I suggested 10:00am. Her availability wasn’t convenient, and I had to wake up extra early to meet her.  That’s okay though because her friendship is important, and her time is limited.

You know what she said after we circled the block and caught up? She said, “I know I don’t always do the best job reaching out to you. I forget to call you sometimes and it makes me feel bad because I love hanging out. Thank you for being persistent with me.”

Whether you’re putting in hours begging a two year old to use the potty, hours at the office, or hours in the school library—my challenge to you is this: choose to make understanding others’ life situations a priority. When you do so, you’ll love others more. And when you love others more, you’ll remember life isn’t all about you.

And to my friends like Alicia, Anna B and Tammy who don’t have kids yet, thank you for going out of your way to meet me for walks at 10:00am between meetings, or bringing me lunch when my little one isn’t napping. I so, so, so treasure the way you’ve been patient with where I’m at. 

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Kelli Breton
Kelli Breton

I saw this article from Carolyn on FB too with a gazillion likes and comments and I had mixed feelings about it all. I figured I had NO place to chime in or even have an opinion because I am not a mom. But I love hearing from a mom that it doesn't matter and that we all need to make an effort. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and response to it. I love seeing your heart really come out in your blog! "And in the comparison game, there’s never a winner." This one is a real zinger! sooo good!


Good reminder! Life has changed a lot over the years and this is one thing I wish I would have considered along the way. Friendship is not usually convenient but it is worth it!


Great post, Lesley. I couldn't agree with you more. I do believe we all should be considerate of and make an effort to understand each other.... along the lines of "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" ;)


Tim--Yes! I know Michele from Westmont. She's fantastic. Small world! Thanks for your comment. :)


Excellent, Lesley. "And in the comparison game, there’s never a winner." Such a good insight! Whether it's young parents or high school kids or old guys like me, life can get away from us. thanks for the reminder that it's ok, and for pointing out how we can give grace to one another. And by the way: you know MIchelle Molkoy?! So do we! We went to church with her for years. Great young woman! Tim