Hey, we need as many strong women role models as we can get right now — we know this. But prolific author Danielle Steel’s most recent interview with Glamour left us feeling deflated — and judged — rather than empowered. In fact, it was kind of everything that perpetuates the “moms need to literally do it all” myth that is driving so many of us into serious anxiety and depression.
The best-selling author has penned 179 books and mothered nine kids — but she says being burned out and needing a break is something she views as a “millennial affliction.” Excuse us? This here writer is a Gen X’er who likes this thing called sleep, and I take umbrage, Ms. Steel.
Glamour reports that Steel spoke of this “millennial affliction” when referring to her son and his partner, who are in their 20s. Apparently, her son was boasting that he’s got the work-life balance down: He never works past a reasonable time, and he gets free beer, food and video games at his modern office. This didn’t sit well with Steel. She said, “They expect to have a nice time. [But] to me, your 20s and a good part of your 30s are about working hard so that you have a better quality of life later on. I mean, I never expected that quality of life at 25. I had three jobs at the same time, and after work I wrote… Now, it’s a promise that it’s all going to be fun.”
Okay, okay, we get the annoyance with the “everybody gets a cool workplace with free beer by age 25” mentality — and how that can be quite obnoxious for those whose lives don’t include that level of privilege. But we do bristle at Steel’s scoffing at sleep, especially as a mother herself. There, we have to draw the line. According to Glamour, Steel works 20 to 22 hours a day. Yep, you read that right. And when she feels “the crunch,” two times a month or so, she’ll scrap those lazy-ass two to four hours of beauty rest and just pull full-out all-nighters in her cashmere nightgown: “Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work. Sometimes I’ll finish a book in the morning, and by the end of the day, I’ve started another project,” she told the magazine.
Gee, that’s swell, Danielle. I’m mid-career and I’ve never had 1) a workplace with IPA on tap 2) a cashmere nightgown OR 3) the ability to survive — let alone thrive — as a working mother on anything less than, IDK, six hours of sleep on a fairly consistent basis. Does that make me a lazy piece of crap? No. And if I may be so bold, Ms. Steel: Who the hell was raising your nine children while you worked 22 to 24 hours a day? Something doesn’t add up here. Smoke, mirrors, and invisible childcare — nice if you can get it, but most of us can’t dream of a life where we can have nine offspring we maybe bump into at the toaster for 30 seconds in the morning.
Whether or not Steel meant to offend an entire demographic of working moms who are doing their best to juggle children, aging parents, workload, home duties, a personal life (ha! ha! ha!), possibly a marriage or partnership, and self-care to steer clear of their breaking point, well, she did.
— Diana Prichard (@diana_prichard) May 17, 2019
I know Glamour buried the lede in that Danielle Steel profile but literally how are so many ppl calling that goals when it's glorifying Boomer "bootstrap" bullshit to a level I'd expect from The Onion or HardTimes. Four hours of sleep and living on coffee & choco is not goals!!
— All Roads (lead to Pokemon) Home (@allroadshome) May 11, 2019
"this new generation just want slife to be fun. They're so lazy". Yeah, I'm not going to listen to a bunch of garbage about how I need to get my life together from a lady who sleeps two hours a night and only eats chocolate.
— Rachel M 🎨 COMMISSIONS OPEN🎨 (@RavingMad16) May 10, 2019
Was planning to have a Danielle Steel sort of day with toast and chocolate and marathon writing since kids’ school is ending soon but then remembered I have a dentist appointment so I have to take a break to be shamed about flossing. It’s never enough.
— Sallie Hess (@RealSallieHess) June 4, 2019
When Steel spoke with Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts about her 2017 book Dangerous Games, the author said, “I’m usually juggling about five [projects] at a time… it’s like jumping through flaming hoops… it’s exciting.”
Steel’s relationship with sleep almost seems adversarial. She told Glamour, “I don’t get to bed until I’m so tired I could sleep on the floor. If I have four hours, it’s really a good night for me.”
It bears mentioning here that Steel is 71 — and batted away a question from the interviewer about letting age slow her down at all, even slightly. “I want to die face-first in my typewriter,” she replied (something she said Agatha Christie once told her). Damn.
So according to Steel, sleep is for snowflakes — and so is any sort of vaguely okay form of balance or self-care for working moms. Oh yeah: And coffee, too: Steel lives on dry toast (can’t make this stuff up), decaf coffee only, and bitter chocolate bars. And the weeping of women like me who want to know if she is, in fact, a robot.
Is this woman doing something right? Well, that depends on how you define “right.” After all, every single one of her books — every single one — has been a raging bestseller. By that metric, yeah, I’d say she’s doing something right.
Is Steel softening at all in her older age? She did admit to Glamour that perhaps, just perhaps, she wishes she had just a “little more fun.” But don’t worry; she’s on it, thanks to shopping in Paris and taking a week off in the south of France, where she says she does a little reading other than her own drafts.
Overall, fame and fortune aside, is Steel’s lifestyle and path to success something I’d want for myself? Hell, no. Is it something other working moms — any mom, really — should aspire to? We don’t really think so. But you do you. After all, the deficits caused by lack of sleep and lack of self care are well researched and documented (and not by random snowflakes and afflicted millennials either).
Burnout is real, people. And mental health is real — and slippery. Too many people would come dangerously close to a personal rock bottom on this militant self-imposed schedule. It clearly works for steely Steel, but the dangers of celebrating such a work-driven lifestyle are too many to count. I’ll pass, thanks — and I hope my mom friends will too. Because my kids are calling — and so’s my bed. After working hours, my work can wait until tomorrow. Even if that means I never hit the New York Times bestseller list.