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.

{ 9 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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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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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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