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.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole

I am a full time working mom I have a daughter who is 5 and another who is 1 and a baby boy on the way. I work 9am-7pm mon-Thursday which to a lot of people doesn’t seem too bad because I have an extra day off in the week. I wake up at 6 every morning get myself ready, and get the girls ready. My husband usually works 6 days a week and only has Monday off. He also had a to be in work at 6am so he cannot help with the mornings. My 5 year old goes to preschool mon, weds and fri so Monday I get the girls ready for school n the day leave the house around 8:15 and go to work by 9. I get home around 7:45 to a very very messy house. I’m pregnant and exhausted – my husband cooks dinner we eat extremely late at 8-8:30 I spend a little time with the girls and do baths they go to bed around 9. I go to bed around 10. Tuesday’s my kids go to my sister in laws house who lives about an hour away from me in morning traffic then I head to work .. weds n Thursday’s are not my worst days the girls got o my mother in laws who is about 15 mins from me .. weds my 5 year old has preschool so my mother in law takes her for me.. every day I get home about 7:45 and it’s dinner baths bed .. fridays finally that extra much needed day or is it!? Fri I take my daughter to school by 9 have to b back to pick her up by 12 usually get my errands/doctor qppts done on fri and since I don’t have time to do any cleaning during the week I get as much as I can done on Fridays .. my husband works all weekend so we don’t have a day off togather and we can’t do family activities togather. So weekends r usually filled with me doing something special with the girls and dragging them out to do my errands with me. Because I work so late and we have no time off togather my kids cannot do any activities/sports. My husband is great most of the time.. we are definitely a team and I know he feels guilty about it but unfortunately he doesn’t make enough $ for me to work less or stay home. We are barely getting by as it is and now I’m bringing a third child who I’m so thankful and excited for but wasn’t planned. I feel like I’m falling apart a little more each day and I’m not sure how I will do it with 3 kids under the age of 5! And inspiring words will help!!

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Ashley

Hi Nicole,

I’m not sure how old this post is but I can so relate to all that you stated above. I actually just got divorced though. I have a 2 year old, 4 year old and 7 year old. I got approved to go into work around 8:45 and get out at 5:15. We live an hour away sometimes it takes an hour and a half. I wake up at 5, get myself barely ready I always feel like I look a mess, get the kids ready, I always feel like I’m missing something, and then pack lunches, backpacks, water bottles and sippies. Drop two off at daycare and one at school and then get out of work go pick up everyone and by the time we get home it’s 7-7:30. I get everyone bathed and fed and do homework with my oldest and then it’s time for bed. My ex husband never really helped with the kids but now that we are separated (it’s been a month) he wants to work things out but I just feel exhausted and have no energy for a relationship. I don’t want one more thing to have to make happy or take care of. I know how that probably sounds. Anyways, if I were you try to make one day where you don’t have anything planned out of the three that you spend with your family or kids. Maybe that would help. I just feel like I’m running through the notions of taking care of everything but everything is falling apart. I don’t feel like a person anymore. I have gained so much weight. I have no time to myself and if I ever do I use it to clean or run errands.

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Lola

Hi, I am 28 years old & the Mother to 3 beautiful Children. I work Mon – Fri 8AM – 5PM and get weekends off. My husband works at the same company as me although he has different hours since he is the Manager, when I say different I mean we work at a materials testing lab for construction and his hours can be 8 -5 also or some days 3 AM – 5PM or even as early as midnight starting and finishing. He works long hours sometimes so at home I take on majority of the work load & deal with most of the kids routines. My kids are 11(son) 4(daughter) & 3(daughter) Here is our daily routine;
5:30 am – I wake up and start getting EVERYONE’S clothes ready for the day.
6 – 6:30 am – Start getting my children up and dressed.
7:10 am(No later) – My husband takes off to the small town 8 miles from us to take my 11 & 4 year olds to school & my 3 year old to my Aunt’s house since she watches her and the other after school which is why we had them transfer to a different district.
7:30 am – Husband picks me up and we make our 30 miles into Lubbock, TX where we work to be there by 8 assuming he didn’t have an early job in which case I would have taken the kids.
8 – 5 – WORK WORK WORK
5:45 – 6 – Pick up kids
So we get home about 6:30 – 7 pm everyday Then I start dinner sometimes my husband will, start laundry & try to chill a bit! So then I try to cram spending time with my kids, eating, getting them into the shower all before 8:30 pm for the little ones and 10 for my oldest. By then I am freaking tired I forget to finish laundry, stuff doesn’t get put up & cleaned then the next day everything is worse! I am also beginning to get anxiety attacks. The other day I had one so bad it felt like my hands were trying to close up and it was hard to open them! I feel like I am falling behind on things at home and sometimes at work, missing out on school related functions withy my kids and just time in general with them. My house has gotten so out of order I just want to throw the whole thing away and start over!!! Sometimes I get mad at my husband because he does so little until I point it out, then I feel guilty because he works so much overtime for us! He does help when I ask. I just feel like nobody sees all I do and they don’t appreciate it, or they only notice if things DON’T get done. Above all I am tired, too tired to think half of the time. Tired of being overwhelmed, tired of being tired lol! I am only 28 and my back aches I have Diverticulitis now?!?!?! Panic attacks that have sent me to the ER, I have horrible eating habits that have caused kidney stones (Which HURT)(Poor guys). I just want to find a way to balance things, I am still looking for the time to eat healthy and work out I just have no energy! I love my life, my kids, & my husband! I just need to find the balance!!!!!! Or more hours in the day!

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Jade

Hi I am 27 and I work full time I even work on a Saturday but I do stilly hours so I might not work as long as my husband but I don’t drive and I have to do a lot of traveling hours,I am literally at breaking point I just cry everything I come home and see the mess in which I cleaned before I left,and everything I asked my husband to do something I find him chilling on the bed,we have 2 children one who is 2 and the other 6, I hardly get to see them and when I do I’m cleaning and sorting washing out homework etc, my husband does help with breaking me up from work when I work late but everything we have a argument who uses that against me,I just don’t know what to do I’m sooo stressed,stressed with work and home life I just feel like walking away but my kids keep me there me and husband have started arguing a bit and that’s not helping

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Monica

I am a 23 year old mother of a 3 year old and married to my husband for just over a year and a manager at a clothing store full time. I work 8:45-6pm 5 days a week from Tuesday till Saturday. I am up from 7:00am every morning to get myself up and my daughter. My husband also works full time as a sales representative from Monday to Friday 9-4. I have to get to work before the store opens so on top of getting myself ready my daughter as well to be fed dressed and ready for day care which my husband takes her to 3 days a week. I don’t have a supportive boss who is very demanding and makes my work harder every day and there is never a excuse allowed for anything that goes wrong. By the time I’m home around 6pm my husband gets home around 5 sometimes 5:30pm. We both allow a small period to acknowledge one another than straight to our daughter when we’re not too exhausted. We have also many pets to feed when we get home I have washing and dinner to cook. We don’t eat till 8 than not long after my daughter is off to bed. I have a good 2 hours a day if I’m lucky with her. Even on my days off I have work to do to prepare for my weeks when I return. The point of me getting this job and promotion was to benefit us as a family and it’s not like the money has made a huge difference . We can live comfortably but still have a million bills and rent and just really getting by. My daughter is also starting to have worser tantrums and I feel it’s because she’s missing out on me and her dad. But I can’t leave this job but at the same time it’s taking everything out of me body and soul. I’d pick her over work in a second if I was asked but I want her to have a stable life and be able to say yes to things she needs down the line that we can afford. I was so young when I had her and I have had to grow up so quickly and it’s alot to be honest I am crumbling and breaking down each day. I can’t feel like a good mother Because of work and I can’t feel like a good manager because of the worries with my daughter. I’m in limbo and have got no help to get myself out of it.

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KSD

Am 34 years old with a 6 and 7 year boy and girl.
I work 3 days a week and my husband 5 days a week. So after reading all the replies I know am very lucky to have weekends with my family and two days in the week.

Seems perfect I know. But I may as well have 3 children because my husband does not help with anything.

I wouldn’t complain with my schedule if I was 100% with my health but am not. I recently finished cancer treatment and I don’t have all the energy of 34 year old.

I sit down and write plan after plan of how am going to better manage my time but it never goes to plan.

Monday to Wednesday I get home at 6. Morning routine is all up to me since he leaves at 7am.

And after work I get them from childminder then I bath, feed and read with them. As well as prepare dinner for my husband and then prep his lunch and our clothes for next day.

My days off consist of Thursday hospital appointments. Friday cleaning before I know it it’s time to get the kids then it’s non stop untill they sleep.

Weekends I feel guilty having the kids stuck in the house because I have so much to catch up with launders, cleaning, food shopping.

I hate that my kids see annoyed, tired “leave me alone” mummy 80% of the time.

And my husband gets to sit back and go on his phone and plan his day as he pleases.

I’ve tried to get him to help me but it always turns into, “what exactly do you need help with?” “The problem with you is you don’t manage your time well”

When looking a the bigger picture I can see why he thinks with working part time I should have my shot together but the point is am tired and on top of that it’s not fair that am not a single mum yet I feel like I am!

I know what I need to do:
1. Communicate without fear to my husband
2. Do laundery everyday so it doesn’t pile up
3. Designate homework to my husband
4. Meal plan
5. Choose a day where I have guilt free rest

Am so proud of all you mums. You are doing great.

Let’s keep pushing and prioritise.

Our kids love us regardless.

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