Letter from Baltimore

by Katrina on December 1, 2010

It’s been quiet around here for the last week. I took some time off to focus on my kids. (“Happy Chicken Day!” says my daughter, Ruby.)

Kids are back in school and today I’m catching up on a few bloggy things.

Thanks to everyone who left their suggestions to my question about what you’d like to see here on the blog. (It’s never too late if you’d still like to leave your suggestions here, I would still like to read them.)

It’s clear that just about everyone wants more stories of real women struggling with our competing obligations and, when possible, finding answers.

So in that spirit, I’d like to share an email I received recently from a blog reader named Ami who works as a college administrator in Baltimore. (She kindly gave me her permission to post it here.)

Like many of us, she’s feeling overwhelmed with her responsibilities and frustrated that there’s no obvious solution. (And she’s the second person I know who will admit she fantasizes about going to the hospital because it would be a vacation from regular life.) She would love to hear your thoughts (as I would) on what we can do.

From Ami:

Your site was exactly what I needed.  I am so far over the edge and it is reassuring (if that’s the right word) to read that other moms feel as insane as I do. As background, I am a full-time working mom of an 11 year old boy.

My son has Asperger’s and a host of co-morbid disorders. It is impossible, and I do mean impossible, to juggle work, battles with the public school system, and raising a difficult child. I could go on and on, but let me get to the reason I wrote…What can we do about this untenable situation? I would love to know if other women feel as trapped as I do.

When I graduated college, it was assumed that I would work full-time and bring in 50% of the income. My husband grew up in that environment, as well. But, as we all know, we are now expected to work full-time AND still be full-time moms, wives, etc. If I had known how hard this was going to be, I never would have had a child.

I stumbled back to work when my son was 6 weeks old. He had colic and chronic ear infections, so I really didn’t sleep for a year. No exaggeration. I would fantasize about having a minor car accident on the way to work. Nothing serious – just enough to lay me up in the hospital for a few days so I could sleep!

After 11 years of this life, I’m starting to have those fantasies again. I know that wishing does no good, but I really wish that I had remained single my entire life and had my tubes tied! How did we get to this point?

I have thought and thought over the years about a way out, to no avail. My husband won’t even entertain the idea of me working less than full-time and, honestly, we can’t afford it with all of my son’s medical bills. I feel like a zombie. I’m not really living my life. And I just love that advice about “taking time for yourself”!  How? When? There is always, always something left undone.

I don’t know what the solution is. It may be that there isn’t one for our generation (I’m 39).  But I surely hope that the next generation of women learns a lesson from our agony and wises up. Don’t go into marriage and family thinking you can “do it all.”  It’s a crock.

So, what do we do now? Is there any hope of relief for us? I feel that the only thing we can do at the moment is to vent to one another. At least we know we are not alone in this mess.

Thank you for starting a blog that really hits at the heart of the matter. The mothers in this country are slowly but surely being driven insane.

* * *

Have a story to share about this modern day mess of working and raising kids? We welcome your war stories, happy stories, opinions, crazy ideas, questions, and brilliant solutions. Leave a comment on the blog, or email me at katrina@workingmomsbreak.com.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }


Ha. I think about the hospital ALL the time. Matter of fact – I JUMP at the chance to “run to the store” during Kiddo’s nighttime routine (so Daddy can handle the bath, etc. for once). And I LOVE early morning meetings I can’t “get out of” (so Daddy can handle breakfast, and the commute, for once). Once, because my BP was spiking, I DID end up in the hospital overnight for observation, and the nurses thought it was hysterical that I spent the entire time, laying in the dim light, reading… (“Do you want us to turn the TV on, hon?” “No thanks. I like the quiet.”) It was heaven.



Is anyone else reading the above email and taking pause at the moment where the woman dismisses going down to part time work because her *husband* won’t entertain the idea? I have recently decided that I will nolonger ashamedly admit that I am a feminist: don’t take this wrong, I don’t believe women are better, but I sure believe we are equal, at least when we let ourselves be. And I believe that when anyone, man or woman, gets to a breaking point they can only save themselves. A spouse who just doesn’t get it will encourage you to keep on keeping on for their own reasons, but we need to find our own way to break habits that are suffocating us. And this *is* what is best for our kids.
I get the stress-I work a demanding full time job and have four young children. If I let myself, I can easily feel like every day is a failure because of how many things are left undone, every day. We ( meaning parents, both moms and dads) need to step up and remind eachother that we *are* giving enough. I get to go to work and feel the success (woth my coworkers) of a patient gotten to the hospital alive, or a house fire put out. As parents, we forget to revel in those victories. We don’t need to strive for perfect. We need to remind eachother that every day our children are fed and kept from burning down the house *is* a success! And celebrate that, and pat eachother on the back!


Kristy LaFollette

Ami, thanks for sharing with the rest of us. You are def. not alone. I noticed in this letter you made no mention of friends or any other support beyond your husband? I have found my friends to really be the driving forces of keeping my sanity in my life, pre-kid and post-kid. I consider my husband my friend, but there’s also the partner aspect that can be really frustrating at times, as many of us know! And I admit that I’m very much an extrovert, so it does come easier to me than others to reach out and connect.

I hope that you are able to connect with others who are in your community that share your feelings and give you a few shoulders to cry on, because you need these. After all, we’re all just humans trying to cope in one way or the other. Friendships really make the difference. That may sound cheesy, but I swear by it.



I have many thoughts and ideas I’d like to share but that can wait, I guess. (I have many things to do and need to run to work – isn’t that a surprise? Haha.) I do want to take a minute to reach out to Ami.

I’m sending many virtual hugs and warm vibes your way. Please, if you can, take a minute to STOP, breathe, and give yourself a HUGE pat on the back. Yes, there must be a tonne of things to do that are still undone, you might feel like you’re barely keeping it together. But, to use your own words, even that – keeping it together despite everything – amounts to achieving the IMPOSSIBLE. Consider that you’re trying, every day, to achieve the impossible and cut yourself a LOT of slack. Given everything you are going through – raising a child is exhausting but raising a special child pushes you even more – the fact that you’re even staying afloat is incredible and I really admire you for it, as I am sure many other mothers do, and I hope that you too take pride in it atleast from time to time.



I agree with other commenters about wanting to find out how your family is helping. We always hear “It takes a village” but it’s so hard to get that village involved in the day-to-day. It sucks to say “I need help, who will do X” but sometimes you just have to do it. My husband and I moved to be closer to family and it means a big change in lifestyle and some days it drives me crazy but so far it’s worth it for the help with my son.

Also, yes, the job thing isn’t working for you from what it sounds like. Do you think your boss would allow you go to to part-time? Just 4 days a week? Money might not take as big of a hit but you’d have one more day not at the office?



It feels impossible with everything else we’re managing, but I agree with Holly that we have to decide what we need to recharge a little–and then just do it. Myself, I hate to ask for anything. What’s surprising is that when I do, my husband may have a moment’s grumble, but then he will help. Then I’m happier or more rested, and I can be nicer to him, and everyone’s better off. Annoyingly, I can’t expect him or my friends to intuit what I need. :) I just need to work my way through a) figuring out what would feel good to me, and b) working up courage to face the momentary grumble, which is never as bad as my own internal dialog!

I wonder what that a) thing might be for you? Once a month going to a motel just to sleep in a neutral place? (Beats a hospital with all of the beeping!) One evening a week where you can go to a cafe to be by yourself, to journal, or to meet a friend? A weekly yoga class?

I know as a working mom too, it feels impossible to fit in regular “me” time. (I admit I haven’t exercised in years.) But we sure need it! I trade off one night a week with my husband. He goes out on Wednesday nights (which leaves me a quiet night at home, when I frequently write a little which always makes me feel more “myself”), and I can go out on Thursday nights to meet up with a friend, per Kristy’s comment. I don’t always use my Thursdays, but having time out of the house “reserved” for me in advance means we don’t have to negotiate every week.

It’s not a complete solution for the Working Mom’s Plight that Katrina’s blogging about, but it’s a little something, which you clearly deserve and require.

Warm thoughts and love to you.



I must compliment Ami on her candor. There are going to be excellent ideas here from others on her day-to-day life but I want to address two other big issues.

I think the goal for equality has hurt mothers. We tend to think of equality with men as sameness. If there is anything our generation is learning is that we can do everything that a man does but they cannot do everything that we do. We must define this difference and reshape our society around our biological and moral responsibilities as Mothers.

There is power in this. It is the angle that I use to try to shake the other moms awake — the ones with the time, finances and ability to help other moms who are experiencing this struggle. For things to get better we must make an effort to advocate for each other and to access positions of power however we can.

Thinking of you Ami, and all of our “Ultimate Outcasts”.



Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts and well wishes. It means so much to know that there are other mothers out there who finally feel “safe” enough to talk openly about these issues. It is also quite telling that the hospital fantasy is apparently a common one among working moms. The fact that we feel that the only way we will get a break is to physically unwell enough to function is beyond sad.

I think I can respond to several of your questions/comments by being honest about something else. I do not want to turn this into a man-bashing post, but my husband is simply not very supportive. He is extremely self-centered and unreasonable. I suspect he also has Asperger’s (it tends to run in families) but I’m not going there with him as I have enough on my plate already.

That said, this whole “equality” thing gives him ammo (in his mind) to insist that I contribute equally to the household finances. He simply has no sympathy for my desire to work part-time or a different schedule. His attitude also makes “me” time via an evening out once a week or so virtually impossible. Case in point — when I have to work late, I come home to everything still left for me to do. Homework is a huge issue in our house and sometimes takes hours to get through. So, after an extra long day at work, I still get to come home and tackle hours of schoolwork.

I don’t want to complicate things; we all have our own “crosses to bear” as my grandmother used to say. I share this information just to explain that nothing is simple in our household and my son’s difficulties exacerbate existing problems. But so much of this stems from this ridiculous myth that we can bring home the bacon, purchase the bacon, put the bacon away, cook the bacon, feed the family the bacon, clean up after said family, take out the garbage, etc. All with a smile on our face, of course. Oh, and still with an unquenchable sex drive. Gotta keep everyone happy, right?

Sorry for the rant, but I am truly pissed off! (Am I allowed to say that, Katrina?) We all should be. There is no equality, as Heather said. We are doing EVERYTHING now and have nothing left for ourselves. And, yes, there are a lot of men out there who will help out when asked. But why should we have to ask? I’m sorry, but men have an awfully sweet deal these days. We work full-time, bear the children, drop the children at daycare and remember when the checks are due, do the majority of the child rearing and the housework, and get criticized when we dare to complain. Meanwhile, men go to work, come home, and have the nerve to grumble when we dare to ask them to “watch” their children while we run out to get the car serviced. Ugh. Why do we put up with this?!?

On a much more positive note, I am incredibly fortunate in that I have a tremendous support system of friends and family. They help as much as possible but they all work, too, so are doing their own juggling. As I said in my original message, it seems that all we can do at this point is share in the grief.

Please keep the dialogue going. I don’t want to be simply whining. I welcome your suggestions! We simply must support one another or we will crumble.



Yes, of course you have permission to be pissed off. If it makes any difference, I’m pissed off on your behalf.

And for the record, I don’t think it’s “man-bashing” to point out the obvious double standard. You’re doing more (probably far more) than your share. A lot of women do. It’s not fair. Perhaps if we put an economic value on caregiving, this whole argument would go away.



You my dear, have the right to be pissed off.
Having said that, I do think that there are things that YOU can do, that will help you;
If you’re tired after a long days work, take it easy. You dont need permission to take me time – just take it, and explain to everyone what you’re doing – eventually they’ll catch on. (I’m just throwing this out there – I realize I’m not in your shoes and it may seem easier said than done); but YOU are responsible for YOU!!!

One thing I’ve not seen addressed on this blog is that children grow up. Your life wont always be this way – so there’s something different and better to look forward to.
Hang in there!



I’m sorry and I’m not trying to be argumentative, but “me time” is a joke. If I don’t come home and do second (and third) shift, my son will sit on the couch and refuse to move. There would be no dinner, no clean up, no homework done and no showering. Some things simply have to happen and they happen to take five times as long with my child.

Also, not ALL children grow up and leave home — which is another bleak reality I face every day. It is unlikely my son will go beyond high school despite his incredible innate intelligence. It is even more unlikely that he will ever hold down a job and live on his own. He would simply forget to go to work, pay the bills, etc. So, I most likely get to live like this until I die. What happens to him after that is yet another worry…

While I appreciate the sentiments, trite encouragement phrases don’t work in all cases. It really is impossible to raise a child with multiple disabilities, run a household and work full-time. I do believe I have actually lost my mind. I have all of the symptoms of PTSD and I think we need a new syndrome. How about CTSD for Constant Traumatic Stress Syndrome”? I think that would work for a lot of us out there. The brain, nor the psyche, is simply not equipped to deal with unremitting levels of major stress 24 hours a day.

And, in response to your “joy” comment… I stand by my statement, at least for mothers who are raising children on the autism spectrum AND trying to work full-time. Let’s be honest. It sucks. It’s not a Hallmark movie with a happy ending. It’s grueling and it never ends.

You are free to disagree. And if so, I have a child I can lend you for a week. Try this lifestyle on for seven days and then let me know what you think.




You have no reason to apologize for your response to am. It is those trite comments and over-simplified world-view that has made life around the world for mothers difficult.

I see that am’s point involves being willing to say no. But Ami clearly cannot say no in her situation. It is easy for those of us who make it passed those difficult sleepless years (maybe am had the perfect child) to forget some mothers live very complicated lives long after other children start sleeping through the night.

Ami — you have done a very brave thing here to admit your truth. I have heard of other women caring for children that as you say at will be forever in their parent’s care due to disability, admit that they wish they had never had the child.

And with her truth, a mom can never win. So many are forced live lies.

am, we clearly love and find joy in our children. We want to be there for them, hence participating in this site’s conversation.



I’m with Ami on this one – there is no end in site when you have a child who can’t take care of themselves and never will be able to. For some of our kids they don’t really “grow up” and the burden of eternal parenting and the even scarier burden of “what happens when I die” are hard to fully understand when you’ve got normal kids. Part of our decision to have child number 2 was that our daughter would need family after we die, we don’t want to leave her alone in the world.

Ami – have you considered trying to get fired? Collect unemployment and have a really hard time finding a new job – maybe you can convince your husband that life is better without you working full time if you give him a taste of it. it sounds crazy, but you sound on the verge…you could also go for the “stress disability”, that seems to be a good way to get a break.

please keep us posted – we’re all here for you (to the extent virtual “here” helps)



Thank you, for your honesty. I have no doubt that it’s every bit as hard as you say it is. I wish I knew what the answer was. I heard a story on the radio recently (This American Life probably) about a family that ends up putting their autistic child in some kind of a group home. It’s a gut wrenching decision, horrible, extremely controversial, but it ends up being the best thing for everyone (including the autistic son). I’m not saying that’s the answer, I’m just bring it up to say there are many families in similar situations at the end of their rope, making decisions they never in a million years thought they would have to make.
I wish more people would be honest about what their lives are really like, because it would be easier to pull together. Someone called me a “Debbie Downer” recently because of this blog. I’d much rather be a Debbie Downer and be honest, than live in some kind of made up, sugarcoated, Disney lie.
As Shel said, please, keep us posted.



Katrina – It was This American Life. It’s a great interview and worth digging up here’s the link http://www.thisamericanlife.org/search?keys=unconditional%20love If that doesn’t work, the name of the episode was Unconditional Love – it’s a tear jerker. My cousin recently made the decision to send her son (with attachment disorder) to a residential program. I can’t imagine how hard that decision is and all of the soul searching you would need to take to get there – I hope I never have to find out. We are lucky that our daughter is gentle and easy going, we hope and pray that that doesn’t change…


My Mama Mojo

I would love to connect with you! So many things that you wrote about touched home with me. I am near Baltimore, have tons of experience with kids on the spectrum, currently work as a counselor in a middle school with an Aspergers program, and am a part-time life coach for moms who supports women with so many of the things you are describing. I feel your pain, I really do. I have been there. Please reach out to me if it is only to email or to have a good healthy vent!



I cannot believe other women also have the “if i get in an accident, I’ll get a break from my day” thought.

I truly thought I was the only person who thought this, and felt so ashamed about it!!!!

you are not alone in your struggle, and my heart goes out to you.



I almost started crying while reading this post. Some of the words are exactly the same words I find myself writing in my journal (when I have time to write in my journal!). Words such as impossible, overwhelmed, and untenable. I’m very fortunate in that my husband helps more than other men, certainly more than my father ever helped out. But I still don’t feel like this is working.

There is a song by a band named Enchant called “Juggling Knives” and one of the lines in the song goes “and now the choice is juggling 9 or dropping 10.” I feel like I’m dropping 10. In trying to work full-time, be a mother full-time, keep a house up, and be a good wife; none are getting my full attention and I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job at any of them. But like you, Ami, I don’t know how to fix it.

I was sitting here telling myself this morning that this isn’t what I expected my life to be like. I expected it to be easier and more fun. But I don’t feel like anything can give. So I’m sorry, I don’t have any answers either, but you aren’t alone in your feelings.



Darcy (and all),

I have the exact same feelings about my life. I’ve always been a hard worker and I never expected a life without struggle, but I never expected that I would be at the end of my rope every single day. My heart goes out to you.

I also think that this discussion is one that needs to come to a wider audience. For so long we’ve been told to be tough and that “it is all worth it”. Well, it’s not. I love my son but I certainly don’t love this modern definition of motherhood. I would like to see a huge poll of working women which asks specifically about the “hospital fantasy”. I bet we’d be shocked to see the numbers. I’d like to see someone like Oprah address this, too. It seems that those shows always follow the same formula — a mom is stressed out about having to do it all, she gets some tips on finding time for herself, and life is all rosy again. I’d love to see a panel of US on television, revealing the truth about how we feel. And the truth is that I counsel every single one of my younger women friends NOT to have children if they will have to work full-time. There is no longer any joy in having children.



What a great idea about the poll. I’m putting one together. Should be up in the morning.



There IS joy in having children…i hope no one takes your counsel to heart.



It shouldn’t be this hard. But it is. This blog is a calming connection we’re not alone. (And mine is a snarky snark laugh or we’d all be crying cynical eye…) Thanks for your composure and peace, it is real.



This is going to be hard but I believe you must put yourself first for your son’s sake. Having a difficult child is a whole ‘nother ballgame. It exhausts your physical strength, coping systems and relationships with others. Then you end up in a place where you can no longer make the best descisions for yourself and your family.

First, if your husband isn’t supportive then it might be time to do what you need to without his permission. Be upfront with him about what is going on and tell him what you’re going to do — work part-time and cut costs in x,y,z area. Give him an option. He can agree to make some sacrifices so you can work part-time or he can give you a night a week to yourself to recharge. If he doesn’t want to do either, then it might be worth talking about leaving.

It sounds to me like you need some recharge time in your life and in your current situation that is impossible. Your partner must help you and if he won’t then you’ll need to be firm with him about what you will no longer do (housekeeping, cooking, etc.) so that you can have some time to recharge.

Please take Heather up on her offer to assist — could be the perfect way to get a breather and come up with a plan for getting help at home, while your brain isn’t under assault.




Ami, you may not realize it, but you have just taken the first step toward completely changing your life. Absolutely touch base with Heather if you haven’t already. She has a fabulous spirit. Invite your friends over to your place once a month if you can’t escape. Trust me when I tell you that they don’t care how clean the house is. They are likely just as much in need of a night out. They can even bring their kids if need be. It’s the fun and the contact that count. Silly as this sounds – bring more music into your life – play music when you clean – get an iPod if your husband doesn’t like it. Groove around with the headphones on and make that your you time. Be the girl you used to be – let her out however you can – she is in there somewhere and she wants to live it up!
You also need to do what I’m in the process of doing – evaluate your routine and decide what is really essential. I have gotten to the point where I can clean the entire house in “good enough” fashion in an hour. In the end, having an immaculate house is simply not crucial to anyone’s happiness. There really are so many non-essential things that we find ourselves caught up in doing – things that don’t bring us joy or bring us any closer to living our dreams. Keep writing – to friends, for yourself. Keep venting so you don’t explode. Try to get some exercise – even if you take family walks together.

And ponder this – by opening up to the world, you have made a difference in the lives of other people. Perhaps your life and your story will inspire others to make changes in their lives. I’m sure countless women have read this post and not left comments – but I’m sure they have been grateful for your candor because they too feel trapped. You are an inspiration. Know this too – the other girls are right – you cannot give until you break – you must carve out some time for yourself – even if it is just a few minutes here and there. I know it seems impossible, but I’ve done it for myself and it has made all the difference in the world. Apologies for the rambling note – but your story touched me precisely because it hits home for me. You have the power to change your life, even if it is in tiny increments. Make small changes each day, live in the moment – not in the past or in the future. Make love your top priority, not housework. And look at things from 100,000 feet. You are a rock star – you are just so mired in the day to day that you can’t see that from where you are standing.

Some great links (I know, I know, who has the time, lol):



Sign up for this daily e-mail – these women are AMAZING – you’ll be glad you did:

Blessings on your journey – this is only the beginning girl – you are about to break out – you just don’t know it yet!

– One crazy mom.



Hi Ami,

First, thank you for sharing your post with us. I hear your pain and anger. You already received lots of good responses. I wanted to address one part that others haven’t. My husband also has Asperger’s syndrome. Probably like you, we figured it out only after my son was born. I think having to deal with an Aspie partner makes everything that much more difficult, and I totally understand what you mean by ‘he won’t even consider…’ BUT:

Your story reminded me of something that happened shortly after my own son was born, when my son was about 6 weeks old. We were planning to drive to a friend’s wedding, about 6 hours from our home, and I noted that we should allow lots of extra time for nursing and changing breaks. My husband got very upset, saying that ‘just because we have a baby doesn’t mean we can’t do the same things we did before we had a baby’ and went on to come up with a crazy plan that involved pumping milk while driving so that I could bottle feed while the car was moving. There was no way I was going along with such a plan. But the issue here is that it took my husband a very very long time to really understand what it meant to have a kid – to understand that our life DID change, that most things weren’t going to be the same as they were before.

And it seems to me that your husband still (at least on some ways) hasn’t come to terms with what it means to have a kid. If both you and your husband word full time, but you also do most of the housework and childcare, then you’re not splitting work 50/50. It’s more like 80/20 (you’re the 80, obviously). I think you need to tell him that.

With my husband, I had my own crisis point and I sat down and made a list of all the things I do and take care of outside work. It was a very long list. I showed it to him and told him that I could not do it all myself and that he needed to start contributing more, or it was time for me to reconsider the relationship. He took me seriously (yes, even Aspies can change!).

I wish you luck. I would be happy to talk to you if you’re interested. If you’d like to contact me, ask Katrina for my email.



Hi ShyMom, I’m so glad you addressed this–Aspbergers. Thanks for your comment.



Hi Ami,
I don’t think even the most sensitive of women can understand how complicated life with an Autistic child is and having an unsupportive husband makes it even more unbearable. my five year old is Autistic and i finally realized i had to quit my job to give her what she needs (just the doctors and therapists and school meetings are almost a full time job, let alone the assistance that she needs to do EVERYTHING). I have no sage advice, it is hard and there aren’t easy answers. it was helpful to do a spreadsheet and really figure out how much my working was costing us (commuting, dry cleaning, house cleaning, nanny, etc…), but the reality is that it’s a huge step to cut your income in half. it’s also a huge step to give up your identity as a working woman to be a full time mom – special needs kids tend to swallow the identities of those around them – as much as i like being kate’s mom, there are days… hang in there, you aren’t alone – does that help?



I’m sorry my comments were taken as trite – they are not. They come from experience, being where you are(i.e. recognizing the fatigue and frustration of being a working mother) and recognizing that no matter how bad things are in life we have choices. Nor do I have perfect children, but thankfully none have a disability. Now that Ami has vented, I hope she is able to do something, anything to better her situation for her peace of mind and for her family.


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