Why are we here?

by Katrina on March 8, 2010

“How do you do it all?”

I used to get that a lot. From other moms at my son’s preschool. From parents at the Y where my daughter took swim lessons. From coworkers at the web consulting agency where I managed a team of designers. From the editor at the publishing company that offered me a contract to write a design book. Even from my husband.

I was a 37-year-old mother of three* and somehow, my kids, my marriage, and my career were all thriving.

Then, one Saturday afternoon in the spring of 2009, while driving to Target to buy diapers, I broke down. Not my car. Me.

photo by Natasha Mileshina

I pulled over to the side of the road, my hands shaking, barely able to breathe. I called my husband and sobbed, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Thus ended my career, and thus began a journey into crippling depression, anxiety, and insomnia; medication, meditation, and therapy. As I learned to heal my body and my mind, I searched for answers to one question: What the hell happened to me?

At first, I thought there was something wrong with me. After all, I had a loving husband, a supportive boss, healthy kids, a good income. If I couldn’t manage a career and a family then how were other women doing it, women who didn’t have all those advantages?

I started talking to my friends, my relatives, my housekeeper, my doctor, my babysitter. I wanted to know how were they managing it. Guess what? They weren’t. They suffered from panic attacks and depression, heart palpitations and hives, migraines and mysterious coughs that won’t go away. Some of them took anti-depressants. Others took anti-anxiety medications. Most of them fantasized about quitting their jobs. They were barely getting by. I had no idea. Like me, they had been putting a brave face on their suffering. Like me, they all assumed there was something wrong with them.

There are dozens of self-help books telling women they can do it all—succeed in demanding careers and still be good parents, good partners, and even happy, fulfilled people. But my experience and that of the women I know tells a different story.

I decided to start this blog as a place where I could organize my thoughts and connect with others who are thinking deeply about this issue. And so, dear reader, we find ourselves here, on an auspicious day, International Women’s Day, at the beginning of what I hope will be a fruitful conversation about why raising kids in the U.S. is so ridiculously, head-achingly, heart-breakingly hard, and what we can do about it.

If you have a story about raising kids and working or watching other people do it, I want to hear about it. If you’re a researcher or a policy maker and care about this issue, let’s talk. If you have a wild or brilliant idea for how to make this better, I want to hear about that, too.

Leave your comment here, or email me privately at katrina@workingmomsbreak.com.

*NOTE: I have two kids of my own and a stepdaughter on the weekends. I never know if I should say I have two kids or three. I usually say three because there are three children I love and care for on a regular basis.

{ 149 comments… read them below or add one }

Mel

I am so run down. The house is always a mess… there are always dirty dishes and the floor is littered with toys which i clean up daily. I work night shift so i am exhausted, drag myself up to make the kids breakfast…i spend my morning on the laptop while they play or watch tv. Afternoons they go to childcare where i am about to pick them up from. We don’t even eat very good meals anymore, i don’t really have much energy to cook and i think more of a problem is finding time to go to the grocery store as we share a car and i go to work not long after he gets home. I can’t really do this anymore but we need the money… i decided i will take the kids to the park on the way home today as i am realizing that they don’t get QUALITY time with us, not enough of it at least. I feel miserable and working in fast food has made me put on so much weight that i am no longer healthy and that is rather depressing too. I don’t feel i get any help around the house, i used to at some point but with his job being so demanding i no longer do.

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ashley

mel im doing the same thing…one car he works days I work nights I leave right as he gets home…I don’t even enjoy my time home most days…I often look forward to going to work…not so much lately tho…me and my other half constantly bicker about everything and anything…my kids attitudes r getting worse…now my oldest (2 1/2) needs speech therapy…another thing to add to the list of having to move by march…share a vehicle keep my job…I feel this job has made all worse but we need the money….I don’t know how much more of this I can take..im tired of being so angry and sad all the time its never anything else..

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Janet

I’m struggling with the intense mom guilt I feel for working outside of the home. I find myself weighing the pros and cons of seeking a career constantly throughout my day. I want my children to eat healthy food, have a roof over their head, go to excellent schools (right now my daughter is in a Chinese immersion class at a very innovative international school), and have money for college. I want my husband and I have to have money for retirement and to travel. But I also want to cook dinner for my kids every night, read them stories, and be a part of their day, play with them, run with them, teach them and watch them learn new things. I think social media ends up being my downfall a lot of time..I feel stressed that my pleasure in enjoying the moments I have with my children are not deemed to be enough. If I am not with my children 24/7 I am all of a sudden not considered to be parenting them, and then I think that is where most of my Mom guilt comes from… Then I wonder, is it fair to stay at home parents to say I am as much parent as they are when I don’t stay home, but is it fair to me to say I am not as much parent because I work… Thanks for your blog, I am looking forward to subscribing and finding support. I am the mother of 2 young children. I worked with my daughter for about 18 months, and then stayed at home with her for 6 months. Then I went to work full time and sent her to day care. When she was 3 I had my son, but with him I went back to work when he was 3 months and he went to day care for 3 months. Then I quit my job, and am now attending law school full time on a scholarship while my son is now watched by my husband and Mom, and my daughter does part time preschool and has my Mom too. My school schedule often allows me to spend additional time with my kids compared to my 4o hour work schedule, but I worry about the career path I’m working towards.

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map carptek cool bag tags

Yes! Finally something about web design company video production.

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Jessie

I am a mom of a three year old little girl. I have my own business and I live with my daughters father ( my boyfriend ) I am so burnt out!! Between running a business, working out, cleaning the house running to nursery school and ballet. I’m just Exhausted!!! I want out of my relationship he is useless and I’m pretty sure he is cheating on me while I run our house hold. This is not what I thought it was going to be. He is demanding and a fool but I don’t want to leave because of my daughter … I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

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Ann

Leave him.

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Gary

Leave him, you will have a better quality and peaceful live :)

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kav

I am solo mother to two beautiful boys. I work full time teaching ontop oF traveling to work which is 2 hours away in busy traffic.my day begins at 4am in the morning and doesn’t end till after thr kids r asleep which I’d around 8-9 pm.and than ontop of that I do my teaching planning assessments marking etc etc.so i would on average get around 3-4 hours sleep maX. luckly i am grateful to have my parents help who help drop my older boy to school and my youngest travels with me.sometimes i forget to give myself credit at how hard I work and that I am a great mum.luckly i have 2 best friends that do that for me…..i am very greatful for thEm.i try and embrace everyday as a new day and smile and tell my boys i love them everyday. EVEN though financially it it hard especially with all the long hours bills keep coming and it can get hard at times.I keep reminding myself to stay positive and i make sure I pray before I go to bed…

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pookagt

wow. Im glad i found this. I am a full time student and have 3 kids, (10,5 and 2) Im trying to get through school as fast as i can cuz i got a late start and want to be able to support my family. I live with my boyfriend and he is a dream, but I want to be self sufficient. I am on aid and have been since my youngest was born, but it’s no way to raise a family. Because of this I find myself taking 18 units so I can transfer next semester (Fall) and because I have no money, and a divorce left me with horrible credit my only option to pay for tuition is financial aid and scholarships. I maintain a 4.0 which means I am always doing homework. Well not always I also have a family and they require a lot. I try to divy myself evenly between my kids so no one gets “neglected” and try to spend enough time with the bf to keep a healthy relationship. At times I feel like super woman juggling my school, my kids school (volunteer work), errands, food, laundry, dr’s, and my family and then one day out of no where I can barely get dressed. I have the cough that never goes away and have a hard time dealing with all three of my kids at one time for more than an hour or two. I get stressed out and have the urge to run away sometimes. I felt crazy and ashamed like I should be able to do this without so much effort and sometimes it is easy, but the gas runs low at times and i freak out. I keep dusting myself off and getting back in “the game” until the next time i have a mini melt down. I have the support of family and an amazing man but sometimes it feels like im doing it alone. idk, it’s nice to vent. :)

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thekgi

hi, i am a single mother of two toddlers, a full time employee and a student and i do not have a live in nanny. every morning i wake up, bath the kids, feed them, drop them off at the nursery travel 200km to and from work, rush back to fetch them, cook, feed them, bath them, play with them, read them a bed time story and put them to bed. I rest for like 30 minutes to an hour, take out my books and start studying. I am completetly worn out. i am tired. i forgot what i loved to do in my past time. i have lost alot of friends because i do not have time. my life has become a vicious circle, a fulltime job of giving myself unto others. I have put on this super mom cap that is starting to feel heavy on me. Tonight as i am writing this i was thinking of just how tired i have become how lonely i now feel. maybe some of you can help

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Ann

Hi,

I am a successful manager, married mother of 2. On the surface I have been doing a pretty good job of appearing that I am handling the endless meaningless grind of waking up at the crack of dawn, pushing my two girls out the door to before care, driving for an hour in bad weather to go to a job where I am so overworked that I usually work through lunch, leaving at 5 only to drive at least another hour, get home where my husband has not likely done too much, so then I start making lunches for the next day and supper, eventually flopping into bed exhausted yet again. I am cranky at my children, they don’t deserve this. This week I finally started to crack at work and push back on the ridiculous workload, of course by this point of course it’s not coming out right, after years of this cycle, I guess I am only just human…

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Kay

I’m glad i found this thread. I’m married and i’m a part-time nurse with a 2 year old and a 3 years old. My husband works night and i work days flexibly. Kids attend nursery for 3 days in which my husband brings and picks them up 2 days and i do one day when i’m off work. I feel lucky to have him but at the same time, he waits for me to come home to get them ready and dressed for bed, tidy the toys, cook the dinner sometimes and prepare their clothes for the next morning. He also tends not to help on the days i’m not working and gets upset if i try to discuss it. I do feel though that im being unfair to him as night work is difficult especially when everyone else is awake in the day. He keeps saying its tough on him and i dont appreciate what he does for the kids but i feel like he also does not appreciate that i also do alot.

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