Penny Flanagan

Freelance writer


Penny Flanagan

Freelance writer: opinion, humour, news and social commentary. As seen in: The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Choice Magazine,,, and


Parents who brag about ATARs are the enemy of the state education system

It’s that time of year again when everyone starts talking about ATARs. But parents, we need to stop talking about ATARs. ATARs, Australian Tertiary Admissions Rankings, should be like babies who sleep through the night (if you’ve got one, no one wants to know about it) and fight club. You don’t talk about ATARs.

I traded a Spotify subscription for 24/7 access to my teens' location

My 15 year old son has gone into the city to play pool. I’m trying to read in bed, but I can’t relax until he’s home safe. If I sound neurotic to you, it’s probably because you don’t have a teenager. I have three teenage sons: Eldest (19), Twin One (15) and Twin Two (15). If this were the author's son, and it was after dark, she would be onto his whereabouts.

Facing the divorced parent's elephant in the room

There’s an empty room down the hall. It’s got all his things in it: guitars, more pairs of Nike shoes than one boy needs, a corkboard full of photos and a well-thumbed copy of his favourite Australian novel. But he’s not there. He’s chosen, by default, to live at his dad’s house. Although, neither of us is prepared to admit that yet.

The school run is a twice-daily fresh hell for parents

When Penny Flanagan read that a school mum lost it at pick-up and ended up in court, she wasn't surprised. When I saw this headline on page three of The Daily Telegraph, my only thought was, “No sh**, Sherlock.”. It didn’t surprise me that the mum in question “was so annoyed by a (young girl’s) criticism of her parking abilities that she threw an object at her head …”.

The how to work a baby guide every new parent really needs in their life

It is a fact often lamented by weary first-time parents that babies do not come with an instruction booklet. If they did come with an instruction booklet, here’s what it might say. Congratulations! You have made a person! We strongly encourage you to name this person as soon as possible: the more you delay, the harder it will become to settle on a name and the more your family and friends will:

OPINION: Our "freerange" childhoods have left us terrified

There is a lot of talk about the way our generation is parenting our children. Too involved, too overbearing and too overprotective. But have you ever considered that there may be a reason we are so afraid for our children? When I was a kid the big white house on the corner was notorious. There was a pool in the courtyard and you could see it through the small circular openings in the wall.

Mums, the 'other woman' is not always your enemy

No matter what you think of her, there is one special reason the other women should never be your enemy. When my son turned 18, he requested an all-in dinner for his birthday. ‘All-in’ meaning: me, his brothers, his father and his stepmother. We have been divorced for seven years now and while the initial shock of how quickly men move on was stupefying, I have since realised how lucky my kids are to have another good woman in their lives.

Which age are kids at their best?

In my 13 years as a parent I have found some phases to be tedious (a newborn baby for instance is something I would never want to revisit) and some phases to be delightful (the ages of five and eight were particularly good for all my children.) My two youngest children (twins, see above photo) recently turned 10.

11 parenting achievements that truly deserve to go viral

Forget your child’s dux of the school award (#so proud), the fabulous family holiday at a picture-perfect resort (#blessed) or that loveable dad who does elaborate dance routines with his daughter (#socute) these are the parenting achievements we really want to see celebrated on social media. Social media and its boasting posting has made modern parenting a competition that’s impossible to win.

Seven things parents should never do in cafes

THERE is a certain attitude among parents (and I know, because I am one) that because we are suffering by the hands of our children, so too must everyone around us. This has led to some particularly entitled behaviour in cafes and restaurants around Sydney. As the self-appointed arbiter of “parents in cafes behaviour”, I think it’s time we all took a good, long, hard look at ourselves.

13 reasons why my kids are bumheads

Sometimes you gotta let go of the perfect parenting facade and just admit it: kids are bumheads. How are my kids bumheads? Let me count the ways. Here are 13. Every Thursday, to celebrate mourn their loss, I make myself a shaken margarita on ice before flopping on the couch to watch all the episodes of The Good Wife I have stockpiled on the TIVO.

Sex and the single mum: how to manage dating again when you have kids at home

If you are a single parent and think the terms "sex" and "single mum" don't go together, Penny Flanagan has some good news and some bad news. To be honest, after 14 years in a relationship, I was in no hurry to get into another one. I was quite happy (actually I was like a pig in mud) to spend some time by myself.


Penny Flanagan

Penny Flanagan is a Sydney-based writer. She is the author of three novels, 'Changing The Sky' (Hodder Headline, 1993) 'Sing To Me' (Penguin Books, 1998) 'Surviving Hal' (Puncher & Wattmann, 2019) and has had various short stories published in Meanjin, Imago and Picador New Writing anthologies. She is a prolific contributor to many high profile digital platforms such as - The Sydney Morning Herald,,, and Her specialty is humour and opinion but her skill is versatility: she can write in any style on any topic.



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