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.

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I work almost full time night shift in trauma surgery, I go to school almost full time as well, and a single mother of three busy boys which the older two are in boy scouts which is a huge time commitment a lot of the time.
I don’t know how I do it or handle it honestly, but I try to regularly at least once to twice a week find time to join the free yoga in the park on the weekends. I meditate and ground myself every morning before I go to sleep to help me sleep or nap before my classes. I have had a nervous breakdown. I also have been dating a man for three years, because we both have such nutter schedules it works the best for now and he is ultra supportive of me and everything I’m doing just as much as I am supportive of his crazy schedule. I plan myself mini holidays six months to a year in advance with a best friend or even the guy I’ve been dating forever. It gives me a mini mental health break and I have the boys all situated with my ex husband or his family or even mine (depends on where I am traveling to). Taking a small amount of time just for yourself is absolutely essential. And I realize that I have an ex husband and his family- trust me, the majority of the time my boys are with me as he feels he is too busy with his life to have them longer than an hour after they wake up in the mornings and about two hours before they go to sleep on my work nights.
We all have to find something that works for us, even if its medications and therapy. We all have a breaking point and we all have to find a healthy way to cope. We can do it!


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