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.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirsten

I’m debating cutting my hours back from 35/week as an Employment Counsellor to casual work as an Education Assistant. My husband has kindly pointed out that we just got my dental in order and began our daughters 2nd phase of braces. So now the guilt comes. Yes it would be a cut in hours , by about $600/ month but I’m exhausted. We have 2 teenage boys- one graduating and one 15 year old boy with ADHD and that’s challenging enough. Now a prepubescent 11 year old girl and a husband who isn’t able to show compassion for anyone, especially his wife. I wake up, wake the kids, make the lunches, deal with the dogs and the rabbit, maybe do a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, drive kids to school, get myself to work 5 minutes late and then go home, clean up after the kids, the dogs, the rabbit, do laundry, make dinner, etc. All while my husband- who has a ‘real’ job and a serious one at that, lays down, chats on his cell, sits in the bathroom, falls asleep etc. I’m done. Why do I feel guilty? What is this need to have to accomplish everything and aren’t I doing enough already? I don’t feel efficient at all and I wonder if I too have ADHD. Im sadand im tired and I’m lonely. Weekends blow by and we do nothing. Hunting season is 9 months of the years and that’s great now because sometimes I crave the space but I can’t even think about having a hobby. I’m just so done. It’s nice to know that there are other women who feel the same. I’m not crazy or lazy or less ambitious than most.

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Amanda

Hello Kirsten,
I want to help you with your work side of it Kirsten. I can hear you fully. Would we be able to chat somewhere sometime? My name is Amanda, and I want to help mothers like you, because my mother is just the same except 7 kids…yes 7!!! Bipolar husband and very unwell herself. Mothers like you need some breathing space some time, an a way to make there money that isn’t so time consuming. Please, even if you come around to my place. I have the perfect thing to offer you.
Please either email me on: mandi.r.dowell1995@gmail.com or ring me on 0418853068

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Nadine

I am in a similar situation. I have been working all my life. Part time since 17 yrs since having children. My daughter is 8 My son 17. when my son was 4 i worked part time 22 hours, studied at university and looked after him. There was lots of energy. Due to part time my career didn t progress and it was somehow frustrating. The last two yrs i did an mba and started working fulltime this january. Last friday i resigned as i couldn t cope with being 50 hours per week in an office. I have a complete burnout from all these yrs as a working mom. I am done with it. i am also done with having a boss.

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Amanda

Nadine my friend,

Can I offer you an opportunity to earn the needed money but you being the business owner? It’s something that is allowing people like you to stop having to work your butts off leaving no time for anything else. Financially free and time scheduled your way. It’s almost unheard of in this day an age but I promise you. If your interested and if you contact me I’m free to give you the same freedom I’ve got.

Email: mandi.r.dowell1995@gmail.com
Ph#: 0418853068

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Angie R.

I can 100% agree with you on this. My hubby is the same way as yours. I am a nurse full time and at home I do it all. I often cry out of frustration because it gets very overwhelming. I feel lonely too because I do not feel the support from my spouse. We have to kids and I am the one that gets them ready, checks homework, makes sure they shower. Then there is the laundry and cleaning. I have no time to myself and have been depressed for a very long time now. I have spoken with my partner on the issue of helping out more but all I say goes in one ear and out the other. I too feel at times like so many moms have it all together so what am I doing wrong?

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Michelle

So, I am have small boys (6 and 2) and house that I myself clean, laundry, grocery shopping, assist with homework, do my own homework (I am taking some online classes to get ready for nursing school), work full time and I come home to my husband saying “I’m stressed.” Seriously!? I have read all of these articles on how to help your husband with stress at work, but most of them urge you to take on MORE duties! I am seriously already doing EVERYTHING and I am barley holding on for the ride. I get to work this morning after already feeling like I have run a marathon with getting myself and two kids ready and get everyone where they are supposed to be, to an email from my husband saying that he slept like crap last night. I mean, I could really do without his complaining. I don’t complain. I just put a smile on, take a deep breath, and keep going so why can’t he just suck it up and do the same? I love my husband and I am supportive of him, but sometimes I feel like he forgets what all I do. I mean, when he actually does help around the house (which is hardly ever), I always make it a point to tell him thank you. I mean, positive reinforcement, right? Well, it doesn’t work on my husband. And do I ever get a thank you for washing those pants he wants to wear the next day or cleaning three bathrooms after three disgusting boys (note: we are still potty training my youngest, so you could imagine the mess). At church, my women’s Sunday school class talks about how we should be thankful and look to the Word for answers. I am thankful and I am looking to the Word for answers and I am not finding any answers. Someone help!

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Christine

Hi Michelle,
I’ve been there and am there right now. I finished nursing school, second career after teaching, after having my first daughter that I had become unexpectedly pregnant with. After completion, I went through a divorce. Then I had to move in with my parents at 30, devastating, and was finding my way. I met a wonderful man and we were dating again. I was told I couldn’t get pregnant again due to endometriosis and was on the pill. Well surprise, I was pregnant, unmarried and caring for my three year old. I didn’t want to get married but at eight months pregnant I decided it was probably best. My husband is wonderful man, hard working, kind, but is old school. After my second girl I went back to work and school and completed my BSN. I worked for three years at a job I loved, case managing in hospice. For about a month I was exhausted, emotional and thought peri menopause was happening. Nope, at 37 I was pregnant again! I continued working and applying for NP programs since my husbands company had been experiencing lay offs. I do everything. I am the sole care taker for the kids, I take care of the house, finances, etc. My beautiful son was born and my mother helped me when he was young but now he is 20 months old. He’s to much for my parents to handle, oh did I mention I had to remodel my home with an addition so they could move in because they no longer could afford to live and had to sell their home? So I quit my job I loved, stayed prn, and am doing my courses one class at a time. I placed my son in preschool that has an aftercare in case I need more time to study or have an activity with the girls since my parents can only help with them for about two hours. My husband has been trying to help more with kids, after I have had numerous talks with him…this has taken five years. My suggestion to you is to find what is best for you in the long run. Finishing nursing school will be challenging now but the pay off will be higher pay and a guaranteed job (may not be the position you want but there is always a job). Nursing is hard. Some days I would come home after caring for others all day and then be angry when I had to take care of every little detail of kids, house, husband, etc at home. But they are the ones that matter. I never wanted to be a nurse, I wanted to be a physician but knew the NP route would be a better choice for me as I wanted a family and was starting all this at an age that wasn’t 21…I went to grad school at 25 for MS in neurobiology and should have just applied to med schools. But I have gained insight and patience. Empathy is something that comes with time. You can do it. It won’t be easy. Just talk to your family and let them know what getting through school will do for your family. If you can stop working then do it. You can do it all for a short amount of time, but then it takes it toll on you. Your priorities should be your family and education. There is always a job. See if you can take out a loan for school or maybe a family member may help. Can you have a garage sale? I made some cash to pay for kids activities that way. I also pray, a lot! I cannot do this without the help of something bigger then myself. I know this was long winded, but I wanted to emphasize you are not alone. This is a short amount of time and then it will get easier. I hope that helped.

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Sherri Mills

I know the feeling with a 13 and 7 year old …and a baby on the way..I work 45 hrs a week and my 7 yr old has gymnastics 3 nights a week….I’m scared and nervous but luckily a supportive husband…I just feel like something is missing…and with a new unsympathetic boss at work…its been stressful. I work sun up to sun down and then some. I feel so much responsibility on me and any minute I will lose it. I can’t find the basic happiness I feel like I should have…when did it start slipping away??

A vacation that we can’t afford would be nice..just me and him…but who am I kidding…and with our 3rd on the way.
I can relate to the comments and appreciate all of them…glad I’m not alone
..keep our heads up ladies….that’s what I’m trying to do…trying. Thanks to all who shared.

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Tanya

It’s nice to read these stories. It’s a little easier when you know you aren’t alone. I spent 10 yrs in the military as a single and loving it. Met my husband and soon after was unwillingly medically discharged. I was left confused and scared because this was never the plan. Decided to go back to school. I started in the spring of 2013. I’ve taken two different semesters off to have our 2 daughters. They are now 2 and 3 yrs old. My major is petroleum engineering and I’m in my junior year. I’m so tired and burnt out from never stopping and getting 4 hrs of sleep every night. My husband is wonderful but he works 12 hr shifts and a lot of overtime to keep us afloat. I don’t want to quit but I at times find myself up at 1am wondering what the hell im doing. I don’t want to let my beautiful little family down, they are the reason I keep going. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m just tired.

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DSK

It’s a Sunday afternoon. I’ve just spent £350 on food shopping and other bits in Sainsburys. Who paid for it? Me.

Who drove me and myself there? Me. He ain’t working. “Self employed” but I don’t see the money.

Do I get a “sit down darling let me make you a cup of tea or thank for the shopping”??

No instead I get him sitting down on how phone instead of helping me unpack the groceries.

Honestly what is actually wrong with men?

You ask them to help and they say your nagging. You ignore them and they say you are moody. You tell them what’s wrong and they say your dramatic.

Sometimes I think okay let’s all sit down and stay on our phones.

Then I think of my daughter and son who I want to enjoy a nice meal and clean house.

I honestly truly believe things wouldn’t be half as hard or tiring for us women if women stepped up and actually pulled their weight as much as we do.

Why does the saying “better half” even exist?

Gosh I feel so much better after venting. Hahahaha

First time posting here but love reading all your stories.

Love this group. Thanks for sharing everyone. We are this together.

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DSK

A lot of mis type errors in the above but am basically talking about my husband. Lol

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Jessica

So glad I stumbled across this site. I’m 31 and I run my own (very) small business from home while taking care of my super active 18 month old and babysitting 15 hours a week – I take her with me. I do all of the cooking cleaning laundry shopping chores etc. Husband works and is in school so he is never home not even on the weekends. I feel like a single mom. I try and find support but I’m a work-from-home-stay-at-home-work-outside the home mom who’s totally exhausted and trying to keep my head above water. I’m with you women. It helps to read others stories.

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Satya

Hi,I am satya.i have 2kids of 8 and 5 std.i am computer graduate and even worked as a teacher .managing both works is
really like a nonstop running marathon .i dont say my husband is not coperative but he strongly belives that a person should be free to take care of all and at the same time must not wotk to the full energy .he cares very much and keep educating me to just take care of ur health and us.but i feel that i am not independently earning for myself i evrn tried for part time jobs where i can work 4hrs without any issues but it didnt work.
I have seen quotes of so many so felt like sharing mine
I am a women of today irrespective of my responsibilties
Hats off to all the women who work hard to maintain both home and work equal

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Maisie

Hi Kirsten,
I have 2 young children and I work part time as an RN in a very busy and stressful unit. My travel time to work is sometimes 2 hours due to traffic and I have my 2 kids with me whom I drop off at daycare and pick up after work.
I am exhausted, I have no family support as although my husbands family live near they are elderly and my mum lives on another continent and I miss her terribly.
We moved after I had my first child to a more affordable area- consequently now long journey to work and also I am now far away from my close friends. Life feels overwhelming at the moment.
My husband doesn’t have a regular income- he is a builder trying to start his own business and we aren’t homeowners yet. The only way we will probably be able to get a mortgage is if I go back to work full- time.
Recently I have missed a lot of work due to my younger child starting childcare and getting sick regularly and I have been run down also. So I have got into trouble at work for this which is yet another stress.
Sometimes I feel at breaking point.

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Leslee Martin

It is so nice to see I am not the only one. I have a daughter who is 12, a step daughter that is 4 and her mother is a terrible narcissist that dangles her as a bargaining tool, and I also have a 8 month old baby. I work 45 hours a week and my husband works an hour away which put him home late and never home on the weekends. So this leaves me to care for all 3 alone while trying to keep my house clean and cook. My ex husband is not paying child support and can be verbally and emotionally abusive to my 12 yr old daughter, whom I have in therapy. My husband is a wonderful guy but just doesn’t seem to understand how streched thin I am rught now. I am currently takeng 75mg of Effexor and Xanax .25 3x a day. Some days I literally cry becaue I am so overwhelmed. My house is a constant mess, I never have a moment alone, I never sleep through the night because my baby doesnt sleep well. Recently my step daughter asked if I could be her real mom she doesnt like her mom bcuz she is mean. My husband makes remarks how we never get alone time which I understand is important but how? When? Then he continuously talks about how messy out house is, not dirty just clean clothes in a million baskets. And the kids’ junk all over. All he has to do is go to work and come home and on his days off he doesnt have the kids but my only days off I ALWAYS have all 3 kids. I am starting to feel extremely resentful and like I am being taken advantage of honestly. I just want to make him see how hard this is but he always plays victim himself. Regarding work and being tired and sore. Any suggestions?

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Diana

I would say before tackling anything else. Date nights, your ex husband, your lazy current husband (not judging I have the same), your kids.

Tackle that house. I have come to learn a big lesson in this.

I am one woman who I can say loves a plan and a perfect life. But there is no such thing as perfect. However after looking for perfection I have come to a dead end with a huge sign saying “step by step”

So first step I would recommend the house work.

Let that despite anything else be your focus for the next one or two weeks depending on how much you have to organise or tidy.

Declutter declutter declutter.

Start with clothes and start putting away any clothes that you know you will use for you and kids and hubby, but not for next few months. Put away in labelled boxes or bags.

Then organise the draws and wardrobes so that all that is in there is usable and something that each person is happy to wear not just a decoration for the wardrobe. Throw away and give away everything else.

I have more tips for the organisation side of things if you need them.

But once your house becomes easier to tidy up because you have gotten rid of a lot of things you don’t need or cause more trouble than they are worth. Then you will begin to think more clearly.

Then the next thing you need to tackle is setting aside time for yourself. Whether it’s to watch your favourite programmes, go to your favourite coffee shop, read or even go to the gym. Set that time aside when hubby is at work, kids are at school and baby is having a nap or she can be with you if you are fully prepared with her milk.

So house decluttered, so you know where everything is, then time for yourself.

Put everything off for a couple of weeks and work on those two things. In the mean time you will get the answers to the other questions you have.

Ps: when I say everything I mean all the problems you feel your facing and need to tackle. Deal with one thing at a time.

I know the feeling of being overwhelmed and feeling like you have the whole world on your shoulders.

But you are in control!!!! You got this.

Make you happy and everyone else will be.

Good luck and we are here for you xx

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Marissa

I’m in a similar situation. I’m a 28 year old single mom of a beautiful six year old girl and I work part time barely making anything and I go to school full time, I barely get by plus I don’t have any help. I’ve been experiencing panic attacks for the first time and I’ve reached a new level of unhealthy mentally. I can’t handle it all any more and I don’t know what to do. There is still so much schooling I have to go through before I get my degree and I don’t know how much more I can take. I’m not working at a place that fits me and who I am and that brings me down. I’m not nurturing myself and I feel so isolated and neglected. I keep telling myself that once I get my degree it will be ok, everything will be fixed but that’s not the answers so it seems. I guess it’s that moto, “if it’s not one thing it’s another.” Nurturing myself and my daughter is my world and what ever I end up doing those need to be put first. But how; In this busy world we live in where priorities are broken and drama and worry seem to seep through the cracks where ever you go? I’m learning how to nurture myself and I hope that once I teach myself how, with guidance, I will be able to see more clearly what I need to do! If anyone has any tips I would love to here!!
M. M. T.

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Laura

I have 4 children ranging from 2 through to 13, I work full time in a demanding job, my husband works away with the mines being away weeks at a time and I just found out I’m pregnant…. I’m not coping with this surprise and lack of help/ support from family and friends/ husband! This baby was a “suprise” and I have been struggling ever since, bouncing from moments of delight to moments of sheer horror at the thought! I just don’t feel like I can keep this up, I’m struggling worse than I ever have with morning sickness and tiredness, I just want to bury my head in the sand, I have bitten off way more than I can chew!!

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Working Mom in NC

I have always been driven and good at sales. When I was single I was a beast. As soon as I had kids I started to sacrafice and let my husband fast track his career. I was just an account manager but there was potential to grow. Then we moved and I transferred closer to home. Then we had our our first daughter. My husband traveled a lot and I was basically a single mom. It was tough and I managed because I left my thriving and perfectly built up NYC accounts to start my scratch in Stamford CT. I grew my territory again and exceeded goal but the following year they gave me a ridiculous quota and even with daycare and then I was pregnant and my husband had the opportunity to move out of state and got a great salary deal. We moved to South FL. He was again working and I’m upper management. My company transferred me to another Dept basically to the first tier of b2b so it was love and leave them. It was also an open territory so it was very competitive and cut throat. I had my son and made goal and then my boss pushed for me to get a higher level position but even though I was seasoned in the company and successful in my old department, I was new and unknown and was passed over. It was heart wrenching because I felt like I gave so much and then I was pretty much bitter and checked out. Again my husband got the opportunity to advance but we had to relocate. I was in between jobs and toyed with being s stay at home mom but I couldn’t. I just had to work. So I focused on the move and when we relocated I focused on finding a good job. I was with other company for 8 years and had not really been out in the market. After 8 intense interviews I got a really great account management position with a higher ed pub company. Again it was starting over but I successfully made goal with a few hiccups like having to cancel last minute do to my sick kids. Even with daycare they still get sick and because I’m a working at home and have always been in a home office it fell on me. I am into it and working hard to stay on top but the life balance with a 3 year old and 5 year old is so hard. My priorities have changed but the inner winner and drive to succeed in me is not gone. Again my husband is now grounded in a 8 to 5 job in corporate but still has me staying home with the kids when sick. I literally lost it today. I couldn’t keep up. I had both kids at home ( not to mention out with the flu the week prior) and I just want to cry every time my email pinged or phone rang because I had to take care of my kids. It made me feel like super frustrated. Now fast forward my husbands the new guy and getting passed over and miserable. He wants to leave and take on a start up as s sales director. Again the money better than me. I have a 2 state territory so I travel a bit and we manage but I am sick of having to manage it all. I can’t. I need help. My husband is like well plan our travels. Ideally it sounds good but life can’t be planned. I said we need a nanny and his attitude is why the kids are easy. Every time he had to watch them there’s never an issue but I can’t do it and balance it. Am I being to dramatic or is my husband taking advantage of me. How do double income traveling dales couples and especially working moms keep it together. I need advice.

Sorry to vent but I feel like I want to punch my husband so hard sometimes and scream I want to work and not be the go to care taker. I want you to acknowledge that I take on a lot and if I’m upset or depressed don’t treat me like a fabarge egg talk to me. Help me. Ok. I’m done but any advice is welcome. I am new to the area and can’t really confide in anyone and my 2 sisters have their own issues. Soooo. Ok. That’s my story.

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Lisa

I never really believed in any of these things but when I was losing Jackson, I needed help and somewhere to turn badly. so i ordered a LOVE SPELL. 2 days later, my phone rang. Jackson was his old self again and wanted to come back to me! Not only come back, the spell caster opened him up to how much I loved and needed him. Spell Casting isn’t brainwashing, but Dr. Todd opened his eyes to how much we have to share together. I recommend anyone who is in my old situation to try it by contacting his email at manifest spell cast@gmail.com. It will bring you a wonderful surprises as well as your lover back to you. The way things were meant to be.” contact Dr. Todd he’s very nice and great. ….. Lisa

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John

“Dr. Todd” hahahahahaah

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Melissa

I feel like running away but I would miss my kids to much. I work full time and take care of my two.kids when not at the office. My husband w9rks day amd night but when he’s home does absolutely nothing. I mean Nothing! I tell him all the time to help and it’s like talking to a wall. I don’t have friends outside of work amd fell like I have nobody to talk to.

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Dottie

I don’t have kids at home unless you count a 60 year old husband. I work anywhere from 50 t0 60 hours a week, have a 45 minute commute one way. In the past year I have gone through colon cancer surger and chemo and stilled work 50 plus hours. My husband might work 30 hours per week and doesn’t help at all. All he does is play on the computer, his phone or play his guitar or keyboard…oh yes amd.drinks every night. My house is dirty, my yard is overgrown, laundry piled up and I just don’t careven anymore. I am to the point I give up. I have no friends, no me time. I can’t even go to the store without him calling me to see where I am because he is lonely. When I am home he is looking around Facebook on his phone. I sometimes wonderror why God is punishing me. I go on and on….thanks for listening.

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Amanda

Hello Katrina,

I would really love to help you. I have a mother that struggles just like you. A husband this just like you explained. She’s very unwell. And 7 children.

What I have to offer you is a network market that is built up just by meeting friends. With such little effort I never realised or believed it possible to get such a reliable wage supplements that is life long‎.  Not only that, there is no set hours or anything, and you’ll have much more family time to spend with your children and husband/partner.

I’d love to make a time with you that suits, and we can talk it over and I’ll explain it more in detail. Please just let me know what time suits you and we can have a chat. 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you and love to catch up

Amanda

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