life Reading

5 Quick Things on a Friday

November 12, 2021

Thank you for your kind words and suggestions yesterday. I honestly think I will feel better once the Big Presentation (next Friday) is over and done with.

I also recognize (more now) that some of these problems can be solved with delegation and/or $. And the plan of waiting until we are moved to send holiday (2022 New Years’ Cards, slightly late) is pure genius. One less thing to think about right now!

5 quick things on a Friday:

1- I finished Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I definitely liked this book in concept and felt truly moved when it ended, but there were some plot elements that didn’t make sense to me. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say more. I’d say it’s a worthy read and would be fantastic for a book club, because I have lots to say about it!

2- I’m still off of Instagram. And happy about it.

3- I was excited to hear Laura get a shout-out on Cal Newport’s podcast (ep 145, ~45 min in)! I really feel he should bring her on as a guest, ASAP. She would be the first female. . .

4- I realized my kids do not have pants (well, not many pairs anyway- especially C + G). GAP and sometimes Boden are my usual kid go-tos but the urgency here is likely going to mean a Target run. This is what happens when your weather remains balmy into November and then you realize that NC weather is going to be quite a shock to these FL systems!

5- In the midst of everything, we did a walkthrough our soon-to-be house! (It was also inspected + appraised). Josh and I had honestly forgotten many details about it and we were very happy to see that we still really love it.

I feel comfortable sharing this b/c it could basically be any South FL home. But I love our red door!

I’m dreading some aspects of home ownership (mostly paying for expensive things when they inevitably break and arranging for people to repair them — though this has been largely Josh’s domain in the past). But I’m also excited. Annabel was even watching Organize 365 Kids videos — she’s very excited about setting up her new room. I guess it will have fun aspects to it!


  • Reply Mrs. Candid November 12, 2021 at 6:15 am

    Happy to get a sneak peek at your soon-to-be home.Best wishes to you and your family Sarah.

    Congratulations to Laura. Rooting for her to be soon invited in his show, and actually rooting for both you and Laura, to get invited to many shows, and for your individual and combined work to get all appreciation 😊

  • Reply Omdg November 12, 2021 at 7:32 am

    Great news about the house!

    So, this may be an unpopular opinion, but if what you’re telling us is correct (cal Newport has never had a female guest), then Laura should say no if invited to speak on his podcast. How embarrassing for him.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 9:28 am

      To be fair, he doesn’t have that many guest eps! I just scrolled back and he has had: his producer (male), Srini Rao, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, Jordan Harbinger, Greg McKeown, Joshua Fields Milburn, Tim Harford, David Epstein, Ryan Holiday. A couple of those he has had more than once.

      • Reply omdg November 12, 2021 at 12:01 pm

        Well, BOBW is kind of geared towards working moms specifically, and you HAVE had two male guests, whereas CN talks about topics more generalizable to both genders has had zero female guests.

        I’ve found amazon to be surprisingly ok for pants. Dyl has several pairs of sweatpants I ordered from them last winter when I was in a similar situation.

  • Reply Chelsea November 12, 2021 at 7:52 am

    I think he actually acknowledged once on the podcast that he hadn’t had a female guest yet because he has only invited his “friends” on and he only has male friends. It was – frankly – fairly weird. Like, he really couldn’t dig up a single female professional contact “friend”? Because he certainly has a lot of female listeners.

    So, while it would be kind of gratifying to know Laura turned him down at his request to be his token female guest, I would actually enjoy listening to him interview her. Their approaches to productivity and time management seem so different to me. Especially because Laura’s current approach to life seems (to me) much more “YOLO, cram in all the activities, money is no object” than it did in her early books like 168 Hours. And Cal is basically the opposite of that. Hopefully it would be a more spirited debate than the bro clones he currently has as his guests.

    • Reply gwinne November 12, 2021 at 8:42 am

      Chelsea, I agree. Vanderkam’s work and Newport’s work overlap only insofar as they both address issues of time. His (which is much more interesting & useful to me personally) seems to be much more oriented toward creating useful systems for knowledge work on both a personal and organizational level. If his blind spot is gender, hers seems to be $$ and privilege.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 9:22 am

        I find both of them have very valuable things to say (obviously) and I would love to hear an interview between the two of them!

      • Reply Chelsea November 12, 2021 at 12:23 pm

        And I do think it is a blind spot for both, which doesn’t discount the good and interesting work either does. I feel like Laura really can’t comprehend that we exist in a world where women work very hard and still don’t make tons of money, and when Cal thinks about “people who think interesting thoughts about life” zero women come to mind.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 12:42 pm

          I disagree with this – just for the record. I think so many of Laura’s strategies and ideas could apply to anyone. Not all (particularly around childcare- which is in my opinion more of a societal problem!) but many.

          • Jenn N November 12, 2021 at 1:51 pm

            I disagree too regarding Laura…especially in recent Bobw episodes you two have given caveats that I really appreciated: namely, that you are speaking to a specific audience and that you acknowledge the privilege that both of you and many of your listeners have. I am a working mom whose husband works part time and looks after our son the rest of the time and we mainly rely on my family and best friend for backup childcare. We can’t afford many of the childcare solutions you present, but I still get a lot out of both of your bodies of work despite our differences. 🙂 Laura has helped me sooo much with time management, especially when it comes to mindset and reframing things like “average days,” weekdays vs the weekend, setting goals, etc, etc, etc.

        • Reply L Ruth November 12, 2021 at 1:04 pm

          While I agree to a degree about the privilege blindness–Laura does have a particular audience she’s writing/recording for. If you create books, blogs, or podcasts for an audience of everyone it ends up being for no one. Cal does have lots of women in his audience, and I’ve been turned off by his lack of female guests and the fact that 90% of the blurbs on his books are by men. It seems like he doesn’t value cultivating relationships with female professional colleagues.

          • gwinne November 12, 2021 at 1:23 pm

            So interesting all around. I’m turned off by guests on podcasts as a general rule (unless for some reason the guest happens to be someone else I read/listen to)! So when Cal has them I skip/fastforward. Same when I listen to BLP, fwiw.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 1:55 pm

            I totally get it. Unless the guest is someone I was specifically curious about!

          • Chelsea November 12, 2021 at 2:17 pm

            I agree with your point about having to have a specific target audience, but I think there’s an assumption made by BOBW that if you work hard and care a lot about your job then it follows that you will have all the same financial resources that Laura does. And that’s just not true. Sometimes it feels like the only way to have the BOBW is to have a mid-6-figure family income.

          • gwinne November 12, 2021 at 2:44 pm

            @chelsea: the six figure thing. Yes, that was the explicit criteria for inclusion in LV’s “I Know How She Does It.”

            @SHU: On the other side, BLP is pretty much literally the only podcast I listen to regularly. Because you 🙂

          • Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 3:16 pm

            Omg I’m so flattered! I hope I can keep the content fresh enough over time!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 9:47 am


      • Reply Karen B November 12, 2021 at 8:01 pm

        The caveats on recent episodes about childcare are appreciated but I definitely BOBW could use more acknowledgement of the role that finances play–even across the many wealthy households that the podcast targets.

        For example, my husband and I do make two low to mid six figure salaries. This is AMAZING, especially for two profs, and puts us in the top 5% of Canadian incomes. But even before I listened to the childcare episode, I knew that the recommendation was going to be get a nanny plus daycare. We are so fortunate to be able to afford daycare for two kids, which runs about $3K a month in our area, but I honestly think you’d have to pull in 500K a year to have daycare plus a nanny. So the recommendation is really only for the top 1%, not even the top 5%. That’s not great, and I think it’s not great to have a conversation about childcare without talking in real numbers about what these things cost (though I acknowledge that cost varies geographically.) Sarah, I really appreciated the moment when you said that daycare was what you could afford in residency.

        If I can nerd out here for a moment though, I think that putting systemic issues to the side is part and parcel of the self-help genre. It’s all about bootstrapping and ignoring systemic barriers–Samuel Smiles, who wrote the first book in the genre, Self-Help (1856), argued that social class didn’t matter, anyone could be a gentleman, make a fortune etc.

        Anyway, I still really enjoy the podcast and find a lot of use in it! I especially appreciate the messaging around it being okay to love your job and your family–not something we hear a lot of as women. And Laura has made some great points about female academics not doing things like picking their kids up at the 2:30 bus (just because you can doesn’t mean you should).

        Oh, and no female guests is horrendous. Podcasting is a notoriously male space, and it’s very different for BOBW to have mainly female guests (partly as a corrective to the sexism! Forever35 made that choice on purpose for that reason) than for Cal Newport to not have any women.

        • Reply Jenn N November 12, 2021 at 8:03 pm

          Love this really thoughtful comment Karen. I’m in Canada too! 🙂

        • Reply Elisabeth November 12, 2021 at 8:33 pm

          Chiming in as another Canadian! So happy to see a little crew here 🙂

          I became a mother at a relatively young age (23!), just a few months after completing my Master’s. I went on to help co-found two small businesses. Up until after our second child was born we were – on paper – living below the poverty line.

          We had tremendous privilege – we were well educated, albeit poor; living in Canada I had maternity benefits, access to subsidized daycare, free health care, and worked under the assumption if we worked hard enough we would break through and become financially independent.

          We did, but even still as I now sit in that top 5% we could not afford full-time daycare + a nanny. I think access to high-quality full-time + backup/flexible childcare is out of reach for most people.

          I’d LOVE to hear from a BOBW guest who is doing things without family support (e.g. in-laws) or extensive childcare. I think that would be relatable to a lot of listeners who fall into the demographic you’re trying to reach but either don’t have access or the finances to afford this much childcare.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger November 13, 2021 at 8:20 am

            totally get this! Will have to find a guest that could speak specifically about what has worked for them. Again – I think this is a societal problem that it’s hard to find those that are satisfied with solutions at lower cost points.

            Au pair + public school is a cost effective combo once kids are older . . .

          • Erin T. November 15, 2021 at 9:21 am

            The typical hours daycare + no family support or regular babysitters is our family (I’m an academic and my husband is in IT consulting; 2 kids ages almost 4 (in Jan) and 18 months). This only happens because of a very supportive husband who works from home even pre-pandemic and we both have a lot of flexibility, so there still is a lot of privilege there. Our income is lowish six figures and I have no idea how we’d be able to do additional childcare while meeting our other financial goals (retirement, college, house down payment). Our family is all on the west coast while we’re on the east coast so we truly don’t have any family support.

            Also, Cat & Jack clothing at Target is our go to. The pants have gone through several children (we’ve received hand me downs from friends that are on their 4th kid).

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 13, 2021 at 8:22 am

          Yes – all very valid points!
          Full time day care + full time nanny = yes, this is a proposition that is over $100K! but more affordable versions might be preschool plus au pair, day care plus several ‘backup sitters on retainer’, or parents explicitly discuss how they will cover each other (ie, not all left to one person just because of gender .. .).

          Older kids open up SO many more options.

          BOBW makes sense to be all female. We do pay a lot of attention to inclusivity from a cultural/race background and I think we’ve really improved there. BLP too. But planner enthusiasts are mostly female 🙂

  • Reply gwinne November 12, 2021 at 7:57 am

    A hodgepodge response:

    1. Yay for the house! That door is awesome! I have been thinking about painting my door a vibrant color and this might be the boost I need to do it. (I was thinking a blue, but maybe red…. my house has gray siding and currently faded blue shutters.)

    2. Target is great for kid emergency pants. And kid pants in general. They are my go-to for Tiny Boy. Last year they helped out in the oh-my-there-is-a-ton-of-snow-and-no-fitting-snow-pants crisis.

    3. I found the comments on your last post both insightful and stunning. So much there that is taken as “need-to-do” that I literally *never* do (i.e. send holiday cards of any kind). That’s not to say I don’t like the practice and that folks shouldn’t do it if they want to do it….but if a source of stress??? While I liked the suggestion via a podcast to give yourself permission to take things off a list for this one year….why not always? I realize this whole comment has very little to do with what you wrote, so I apologize for the “subtweet.”

    4. I also find it completely fascinating that your readership has such a love/hate relationship with Cal Newport’s work. I find it really useful if I take it for what it is and not for what it doesn’t do. I don’t think it has much relevance outside the “knowledge work” and academic sector… I keep sending his articles to my department chair. (LOL)

  • Reply Amy F November 12, 2021 at 10:01 am

    What the actual f*. One HUNDRED and forty five guests and not a one female? Something ain’t right there. One more reason not to listen to his podcast. I stopped listening to Rich Roll awhile back bc he has this annoying tendency to talk over women or mansplain. This is so much worse

    • Reply Amy F November 12, 2021 at 10:03 am

      Ok after reading that he hasn’t that many guests I feel a bit like I overreacted. But still .. no women?

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 10:12 am

        I’ve only had two male guests on Best Laid Plans! So maybe I’m guilty too.

    • Reply Grateful Kae November 12, 2021 at 10:10 am

      I don’t know, this actually doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Actually never even noticed it or thought about it before, and I listen to almost every Deep Work episode. Cal features oodles of female call in questions/comments, so it’s not like he refuses to acknowledge women in the workplace or something! I’m sure he could argue that BOBW has primarily/almost exclusively FEMALE guests…. (which also doesn’t bother me! I don’t care at all if a guest is male or female or other if they are discussing a topic that is interesting to me.) Just my opinion though, to each their own. 🙂 I personally love his podcast (and, BOBW. 🙂 ) I agree with SHU that he doesn’t really even have that many guests in the first place on his episodes- rarely? or now and then only. Most episodes are Q&A style.

      • Reply Amy November 12, 2021 at 11:35 am

        Same, I don’t care whether a guest is male or female if they have interesting and thought-provoking ideas. I don’t even care if they’re all male (or all female).

      • Reply Chelsea November 12, 2021 at 12:01 pm

        I think that if his podcast was about working fatherhood (like BOBW is about working motherhood) then it wouldn’t be weird at all that he didn’t have any female guests. I actually like his podcast a lot and have enjoyed the guests on there. And I get that there aren’t many guests.

        For me, it’s more like, “What does it mean about the world that one of the foremost experts in productivity can’t bring to mind a single interesting female guest for his podcast in the more than a year that it’s been on the air?”

  • Reply Amy November 12, 2021 at 11:36 am

    I love your red front door! Congratulations on the house, I hope closing and the move go smoothly.

  • Reply Amanda November 12, 2021 at 11:39 am

    “it could basically be any South FL home” –> YES!!
    Red door, brick pavers, mezuzzah, barrel tile roof, Trinette Variegated Arboricola hedges (I had to google the name) describes my house, too! 🙂

  • Reply Keren Nir November 12, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    Good luck with the new house! I love the red door.
    I loved Klara and the sun and I’m curious to which plot elements are you referring.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 12, 2021 at 12:59 pm

      i’ll email you!!! i don’t want to spoil JUST in case 🙂

  • Reply Iris November 12, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    Re: pants — I’ve had great luck with Stitch Fix for kids. They send 10 items and it’s reasonably priced, especially if you end up keeping all 10 items. You can probably say you need a lot of pants and they will over index on that.

  • Reply Mrs. Candid November 12, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    Re: BOBW (which spawned into an important discussion topic in comments). Many valid points shared by all the commenters. 

    I am a SAHM from India, and none of the topics discussed on BOBW  applied to me ever. Still I love hearing to this podcast to learn about this whole different world out there, across the oceans, and how the women are handling it. Laura might have the $$ privilege, maybe she doesn’t even have to work at all, and could just enjoy running the house and taking care of the kids. But I feel that at every juncture, she has chosen a bigger life (as it applies to her). She has chosen to juggle her various responsibilities,  with the resources available to her. 

    I respect her and all you women out there who have decided to make the most of your potential, with whatever resources each has access to.

    On a side note, if Cal doesn’t realize that time management is what each and every women is juggling with all her life, and usually is much better at it than her male counterparts,  then well, I feel sorry for him.

  • Reply JCL21 November 15, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Sarah – super curious about what led you and Josh to jump back in to home-ownership after you sold your last house and rented for several years. Any forthcoming blog posts about this?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger November 15, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      Mostly inflation and rent costs rising at a rate they have not in quite some time (and that we had not expected in our thought process).

  • Reply Natalie December 1, 2021 at 10:08 am

    Just saw this post in Sarah’s December newsletter. 🙂 I wanted to add a bit to the discussion about BOBW.
    As a Canadian with a more middle income, I also find a lot of the solutions mentioned in BOBW out of reach financially. The nanny issue yes, but also even meal prep services and a paid cleaner would be barely (at all?) affordable on our budget.
    It seems like most BOBW listeners (as well as the two hosts) are women in the United States with high salaries, not many societal supports (like paid extended maternity leave, subsidized tuition and subsidized daycare), and relatively low taxes. Clearly there is a need for advice to this group, and there is nothing wrong with giving advice to this group.
    The challenge for me is the way BOBW is marketed. Laura’s “I know how she does it” was explicitly aimed at women making very high salaries. BOBW seems to be presented as a show for professional woman who is seeking to balance a career and family. This makes no mention of salary. When Laura and Sarah were creating BOBW, I seem to remember a discussion about how most podcasts were for stay at home moms, and how BOBW was trying to address the issues of professional women. Salary was not mentioned.
    If the decision of BOBW is to focus almost entirely on the demographic of highly paid women in the US, great! Everyone can have an audience and it doesn’t make the show privileged to have one. It is unrealistic to go too far, and to expect that one single podcast can cover every situation of every country in the world, with families making $20 000 or $800 000 per year.
    But if the focus of BOBW is also going to be relevant to professional women making more normal salaries (teachers, pastors, women in entry-level office jobs), it really could use some guests with more normal family incomes. (Or who are living outside the US, where taxes are considerably higher.)
    I love BOBW, by the way! It is a wonderful podcast. I’ve certainly appreciated hearing encouragement about how balancing work and family can work, even if some of the specific solutions won’t be possible for my family.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 1, 2021 at 10:20 am

      All totally valid. We will keep this in mind as we expand guest horizons. (Fascinating about taxes – never really thought of that. You would think high taxes would mean more support for working families but perhaps not!)

      • Reply Natalie December 2, 2021 at 8:02 am

        Thanks for your reply, Sarah! Yes, you are right; the higher taxes do mean a lot of social supports for working families. (In my province, that means subsidized daycare, public healthcare, lower university tuition and family allowances for lower/middle income families.) I love living in Canada, and I know that most Americans feel the same way about living in the US. 🙂
        I suppose that what I mean is that each country and profession has different financial and time challenges. Many BOBW listeners couldn’t have a year long maternity leave, even if they very much wanted one. I couldn’t have a nanny, even if I very much wanted one. I am delighted to be free from student debt, in a career that has fairly flexible hours, and in a province that has subsidized daycare! The flip side of that is that my disposable income is, I think, considerably lower than most BOBW listeners.
        As I said, even though I’m from a different country and a slightly lower income bracket (I think) than the average BOBW listener, I still love the podcast. It has been so encouraging to hear you and Laura talk about the ways that you love your families and find such meaning in your careers. (And to hear the stories and insights of guests too!) Thank you for a wonderful podcast! I’ve just started listening to Best Laid Plans and am really enjoying it too. 🙂

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