My normal morning routine on the days I go to work involves rushing around getting both boys ready for daycare, waving goodbye to everyone as JB drives off, then finally sitting down to bolt my own breakfast and jump into the shower before driving to the office. While I’m blow-drying my hair and rooting through my closet the silence of the house often changes from the immediate peace and relief I feel when the noise and chaos walks out the door to a growing sensation of loneliness. I step over a colorful jumble of toys and the visual doesn’t compute with the accompanying hollow absence of giggles, shrieks, raspberries. It’s like those Nevada houses they used to test nuclear bombs: everything is both right and terribly wrong at the same time.

This morning I got ready while half-listening to the happy din of children in the other room. Riley jabbering nonstop about how he was going to build a REALLY BIG TOWER with his Legos, Grandpa, look, look how TALL this is; Dylan issuing forth a series of satisfied blats and bleeps as he pounded on his exersaucer and quality-tested its springs by vigorously bouncing up and down. I came out and kissed Riley goodbye while he was seated at his little blue wooden table ham-fistedly trying to draw the letter R, I kissed the top of Dylan’s sun-warmed-smelling head while he screeched joyously at the dog. JB’s parents made little fluttering motions with their hands, they told me not to worry, to have a great day at work.

So far this week I haven’t had a great couple of days at work. It’s been one of the few times when all the reasons I enjoy working outside the home take a giant step backwards, and I find myself thinking, this is hard. I try and be a good mom, I try and be a good worker, I try and find happiness and productivity in all things but oh, sometimes I just feel like I’m failing at it all. I’m half-assed over here, I’m part-time over there, I’m trying to do more than punch a clock but man this clock just doesn’t seem to have my goddamned back, I’m on this insane treadmill and the days keep flying by like some cartoon spinning calender.

I want the impossible, maybe. Or maybe it’s all within reach: the contented home atmosphere, the rewarding career, the feeling that for once the word compromise is on the back motherfucking burner. I just don’t know.


46 Responses to “Obscured”

  1. Pete on September 23rd, 2008 9:54 pm

    And then you blink you eyes and one boy is in high school and the other not far behind.
    “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

  2. ang on September 23rd, 2008 10:29 pm

    that’s exactly how i feel.

  3. BethanyWD on September 23rd, 2008 10:40 pm

    Can I just say ditto?

    I just want to be good at one. darn. thing.

  4. Kirsten on September 23rd, 2008 11:01 pm

    I’m just nodding over here…I swear it’s like you’re IN MY HEAD

  5. Kristi on September 24th, 2008 12:09 am

    Keeping the balls in the air is exhausting work. It’s good to take a breather every now and again to realize just HOW MANY you’re trying to keep going! Cut yourself some slack – the only balls that really matter are your family.

    And yet, do you think I can take my own advice?

  6. Shana on September 24th, 2008 1:07 am

    Linda, I’ve been meaning to ask you, where are your parents? I don’t remember you writing about them before, but maybe I’ve missed it.

  7. Joanne on September 24th, 2008 2:04 am

    Oh I know how you feel – something always have to give. I work full time and feel like my daughter doesn’t get enough of my time, when I need time of for my daughter I worry about work, I need to work out to stay sane but that cuts into what little free time I have.
    But I try and cut myself a bit of slack, and sometimes trying your best has to be good enough. It’s just hard when you feel you are letting everyone down.
    It’d be nice to get of the hamster wheel for long enough to catch my breath though

  8. Eric's Mommy on September 24th, 2008 4:07 am

    I know how you feel, sometimes it sucks. The hardest thing for me was when Eric was 3 months old and I went back to work, my husband was a stay at home Dad. It was nice that he was with Daddy all day but when I came home and he didn’t want me to hold him or play with him it broke my heart. He did grow out of it but I will never forget those days.

  9. Elizabeth on September 24th, 2008 4:07 am

    I totally agree. I often feel the exact same way.

  10. Karen on September 24th, 2008 4:42 am

    I don’t think the word “compromise” ever goes away. My kids are 14 and 16 now and, except for 6 weeks maternity leave following each birth, I have worked outside of the home since they were born. I always go through periods where I’m questioning whether I can be good at anything when I’m stretched thin. Then there are times (like I’m going through right now) when one or the other – work or home – forces itself to the front burner and magically, everything else flexes itself to make room and I realize that I CAN do this, I AM doing it. It’s tough when the doubts start, but for me they have always been cyclic and I realize that they will stop again.

  11. ashley on September 24th, 2008 5:09 am

    Dude, welcome to the world of being a working mother of 2. I always feel like I’m being torn in different directions and that neither side is happy with how much I give. It’s hard and it sucks. I feel you.

  12. MDH_Jenn on September 24th, 2008 5:24 am

    Quite frankly, I find the constant need to seek to have it all and have it be perfect is what makes most women (in particular) go insane. When I accepted that I CAN’T do it all and have it all done perfectly my life certain changed for the better.

    I think with the mantra of “we can do it all” – which we certainly can, we just forgot to say, “we can do it all, just not all at once”.

    We set such unattainable goals for ourselves, are never satisfied unless we feel everything is perfect (which I don’t know when it ever is) then lament how we aren’t Super Women. We want to be a good wife, a good mother, wonderful at our careers, slim, good looking, never age, be knowledgeable of current events and hang out with our friends whenever the time permits and do it all while being cool.

    Meanwhile, if a man goes to work from a satisfactory career and comes home and manages to play with the kids and is actually involved he’s a hero and can sleep good at night. (Not a bash on men, just reality)

    The expectation between the two sexes is out of balance. But, I think a lot of that is self-inflicted.

    Do what you can, when you can and sometimes things fall through the cracks and that is ok. Shit happens.

  13. Traci on September 24th, 2008 5:38 am

    I remember especially feeling that way when my two boys were the age yours are now. At that time I had my “dream job” too, so I really wanted to make it all work. And about once every few days, I’d have a mini stretch of balance. But most of the time I was doing something at just the minimum level of what felt acceptable.

    I agree with taking the philosophy that shit will happen, and doing what you can do is a very worthy goal. And my pre-children standards of grooming were SO overrated!

  14. Becky on September 24th, 2008 5:58 am

    Amen….you are seriously typing all the things going on in my life right now….one exception…my boss is headed overseas for another tour…and guess who luckily gets to assume his duties? Yep…me. So the constant struggle will continue.

  15. Jeanette on September 24th, 2008 6:14 am

    I have nothing really to add to anything said here except looking back now that my kids are adults, I would have moved mountains to stay home with them.

  16. bessie.viola on September 24th, 2008 6:27 am

    The juggling. I hate it, it’s awful. I know that feeling – the feeling of leaving your happy kids behind. Even though there are days that I want to sell Madeline to the gypsies… I wish I had the choice to be with her, to be the one making her giggle every morning. I’m sick of punching that clock, of just showing up. It doesn’t fulfill me anymore now that I know what’s at home.

    It’s a mom thing I guess… classic Catch-22. I don’t have a solution, but I did want you to know you’re not alone.

  17. Margaret on September 24th, 2008 6:45 am


  18. Claudia on September 24th, 2008 6:47 am

    First off – it’s hard! My two kiddos are 17 months apart and I barely remember the first 18 months once the 2nd arrived! I, too, work and have since they were each 12 weeks old. I changed companies to be closer to home and to work only during school hours (since my youngest is now in kindergarten) – scariest and BEST decision ever. Sometimes taking a jump, not knowing exactly what’s on the other side, while terrifying, is immensely gratifying. “Success” or “failure”, at least you went for it, you made a decision and took the leap – that’s the reward. To feel that you are in (some) control of your time and focus on what YOU want…awesome. You can do this… whatever “this” is!

  19. Joanne on September 24th, 2008 6:55 am

    Ha, I stay home and right now, so I can type this comment, my daughter is grousing away in her pack and play. It’s not like if you were home all the time it would be perfect. Probably this week is a good week to not think about it, since it’s so stressful with JB gone and everything.

    GOD is it weird to be home without your kids, right? We took our 3 year old to my MIL’s a few weekends ago as we were having a party and we figured he’d make it harder than necessary to get ready. So all day we were puttering around, cleaning and cooking and walking by his room was nothing less than really really depressing.

    Hang in there. Don’t think!

  20. Amy on September 24th, 2008 7:14 am

    It is possible. I’m living proof of it. A year ago I was exactly where you are – half-committed to my job, feeling half-committed to my kids. My job gave me a good kick in the pants out the door and that’s exactly what I needed (they told me it was just because they couldn’t afford me anymore, but I still wonder if maybe they noticed that my heart wasn’t in it anymore). Now I work from home part-time and even though I have a babysitter with the kids so I can actually get anything done, it makes such a difference having them under the same roof during those days.

  21. Jenny on September 24th, 2008 7:18 am

    Sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing as true satisfaction in a decision like this. I stay at home with my children and while most times I feel like I am doing the best thing for MY family, I am feeling more and more often that maybe I am cheating them in a way by not working. Does the time spent with them make up for the lack of money in our household? Or would I be doing more for them by making sure that we are more financially secure for the upcoming years? I have a feeling that I would always wonder if I’m making a mistake no matter which path I take.

  22. steff on September 24th, 2008 7:18 am

    I am so with you on these thoughts!

  23. Sharon on September 24th, 2008 7:19 am

    I too feel the part time/part time weirdness. I work outside the home 4 days a week. I feel like I don’t give 100% at work and when I’m at home there are many times I have to put on the TV to finish up some work project that is due! Talk about phoning it in!

  24. Melanie on September 24th, 2008 7:24 am

    This is exactly why I am considering changing jobs right now. Since my job is now starting to be this monster that needs 150% of my time to be done properly. Therefore my house seems to be falling apart, I go home exhausted and grumpy. Not fair to anyone in my family…especially my beautiful girls.

    Just decided yesterday that enough is enough and I’ll have to accept a cut in pay if that’s what it takes to find a job that is not so crazy.

  25. Bumbling on September 24th, 2008 7:28 am

    Ah sweets, I know how you feel. This morning Nicky (my oldest) looked at me with big brown eyes and said, “Mami – no work? Stay with Nicky and Seba home and play?”
    Just about broke my heart. I share that feeling of not being 100% there for your family, of needing to rush out the door to work to bring home the paycheck so that they can benefit from it. While I don’t have any words of wisdom or a genie in a bottle that I can share with you I send you a big hug and maybe I can get you this: Because nothing takes your mind off your woes like the threat of a zombie invasion.

  26. Sara on September 24th, 2008 7:48 am

    It’s never easy. There are very few moments when I think, “Hey, I’ve got this all figured out!” There are always THOSE DAYS. From what I read on your blog regularly, I think you’re doing a fantastic job of balancing being a mom, wife, career woman, fitness buff, writer, and strong woman in general. Hang in there!

  27. Krissa on September 24th, 2008 7:50 am

    My dad often compared his life to those guys who spin plates on sticks – they all have to keep spinning, but sometimes a few have to get pretty wobbly before you can give it another turn. The point is not to keep them all spinning *fast*, it is to simply keep them on the sticks.

  28. Julie on September 24th, 2008 7:54 am

    I totally agree. Not to sound trite, but some days are easier than others to be a superhumansupermom.

  29. Jen on September 24th, 2008 7:55 am

    I’m pretty sure ‘having it all’ is impossible. It is possible to have A LOT, and appreciate all the opportunities you have been blessed with. I stay home with my two boys and feel like an uncommitted, half-assed mother all the time. I love being with them, and it’s the right choice for our family, but there are are plenty of days when the toddler watches an extra episode of Curious George just so I can play on the web. (Like, uh, right now). So don’t beat yourself up. Hopefully soon you can focus on freelancing and make some happy changes to your schedule. You know we’ll lap up every tidbit of writing you throw our way!

  30. Mary on September 24th, 2008 8:07 am

    This post is evidence that you can write full time and make a living. It does what good writing is supposed to–it resonates. And you make surprising and pleasing connections (ham bone fist?).

    Feeling ready to take the leap is half the key to any life change. I’m just saying you’ve got what it takes if you want to go for it.

    I quit my day job six months ago to freelance, felt all the “I’m going to be penniless and sleeping under a bridge! / What about dental insurance? / How do I get people to hire me? / How the hell do I do my own accounting?” fears, didn’t know what the hell I was doing, etc. And it’s so much better than I expected. Talking to other people who’d gone from office work to full-time freelancing was a huge help for me. Drop me an email if you want to.

  31. dorrie on September 24th, 2008 8:31 am

    I think something big is about to happen. I read once that life throws you all these little worries and distractions and makes you question everything that’s going on so something wonderful can be born. Keep a weather eye on the horizon, and hang in there. You are not alone.

  32. tash on September 24th, 2008 8:39 am

    Absolutely and completely relate. I’m on that treadmill too. Is it any comfort to know that so many of us are running right beside you?

  33. bessie.viola on September 24th, 2008 9:01 am

    Random tangent/question: I’d like to add more to my plate in the form of some 30 Day Shred. What size free weights should I buy? I’m thinking 3lb… will that work?

  34. JennB on September 24th, 2008 9:23 am

    Ah, thank you so much Woman’s Lib. You gave us TWO full-time jobs….
    I read “Second Shift” when I was in college and said “that will never happen to me” and that’s exactly where I am. There is no “me” time – I go from a full day of work including 2 hours of commuting, to home, cooking dinner, feeding the baby, doing the dishes while the husband gives the kids a bath, then stories and bedtime. Sometimes I have to do work for my husband’s company after the kids are asleep. Sometimes I just read or watch an hour or two of mind-numbing TV before the day ends and I get to do it all over again the next morning when the alarm goes off at 6:30.

    I can only hope that my kids understand when they are older how hard I do try, even when I’m unavailable to meet their immediate needs and demands as quickly as they want me to be.

  35. Mama Ritchie on September 24th, 2008 10:17 am

    True that.

  36. SJ on September 24th, 2008 10:35 am

    AMEN Linda! You have no idea how close to home this entry hit for me as well.

    I’m right there on that treadmill with you as I can relate. And if it makes you feel any better, I totally feel for you.

    Hang in there!

  37. Krissa on September 24th, 2008 11:11 am

    @Bessie – OMG yes the 3lb weights will work. You’ll feel kind of stupid for about 2 minutes, until Jillian is handing you your ass with those little things.
    (My best friend, who can do 100 pushups in a row without stopping, struggled with the 5lb weights. I couldn’t laugh at her because I was crying from the burn.)

  38. Amy on September 24th, 2008 11:42 am

    I hear ya-it must be that kind of week for everyone. I hate having split attention disorder. No one gets my full attention, not kids, husband, work or myself. Spend a lotta time wishing woulda coulda shoulda…

  39. Casey on September 24th, 2008 12:00 pm

    I think EVERYONE is going through a shitty-feeling period right now. I know I am too. Not sure what I could say to make you feel better but I hope it doesn’t last.

  40. SART on September 24th, 2008 12:08 pm

    I’m right there with you. I don’t know why, but the last week or so I’ve felt absolutely inadequate in pretty much every area of my life. I’m a half-assed mother, I work for people who don’t have kids and don’t understand why I won’t work 80+ hours a week for them anymore, and I can’t even manage the simple task of getting pregnant again. Sometimes the thought of doing this another day makes me want to bang my head into my keyboard until something pops off. Keyboard, not head.

    I have no words of advice except to say that you sound like you have your shit together way more than most people I know. Most of my ‘supermom’ friends feel about as drowned as I do. I’m beginning to think that this entire have it all lifestyle is a crock and we have to do what gets us from point A to point B in life.

  41. Lise on September 24th, 2008 12:39 pm

    I’m afraid being a parent means never feeling whole assed again. I hope I am wrong about this.

  42. Penny on September 24th, 2008 1:10 pm

    Why agonize? Quit your job, stop complaining about being torn, start your home business and if you decide you don’t like it , re-enter the out of home business world. But seriously life isn’t a test run. Only you have the control to erase what makes you miserable. Think of it like drinking. You can overcome and succeed. There is no shame in chasing your dreams, or no sense in having cake if you cannot eat it too.

  43. Carrot Cake on September 24th, 2008 2:43 pm

    A-fucking-men, sister.

    No words of wisdom, though, because I’m going through the same exact thing. Actually shed a few tears this afternoon. It’s just so damn overwhelming and confusing and discouraging and draining and hamster wheel-ish sometimes. I guess we can’t be strong all the time, can we? Waxing and waning and all that. You’ll find your balance and strength again. Hopefully I will too.

  44. zdoodlebub on September 24th, 2008 3:06 pm

    Old as the hills. Or as this millennium anyway. But…you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.

    I feel you. I was feeling so inadequate all of last spring. I’m in a good space now, but I know enough to know this…days like the day you are having now will pop up for me again, of that I’m sure. They exist to help us appreciate the days that we do feel like our poop is all in the same group.

  45. Gleemonex on September 26th, 2008 10:27 am

    I feel ya. Completely.

    You know, it was worse when my MIL came for five weeks when I started back to work after maternity leave — besides the 5 weeks of MIL in the house, period, I mean. Heh. The thing was, it absolutely DESTROYED me to leave, and know that SHE was home with my baby all day, not ME. I’d come home, she’d tell me what all they did, and I’d practically snatch the baby out of her arms, run to my room and shut the door, because F*** you for getting to play at being a SAHM.

    We’re coming up on the baby’s first birthday, and it’s actually getting worse — I feel so stretched thin, I’ve got no reserves, I’m f***ing things up at work — and this is from a really, really enviable place: I work from home two days a week, in the office three days, and have a fabulously understanding and accommodating boss at a job I really [used to] love … I grew up really poor, and my widowed mom has NO retirement (she’ll have to keep working till she drops, basically, and then probably move in with us or my sister), so the money issue is what keeps me going. I tell myself I keep working FOR the baby, so she won’t have to support us when we’re old … but some days, even that excuse doesn’t fly — I see her babyhood zipping past, and I just feel wrecked.

    No clean solution, eh?

  46. Mary on October 11th, 2008 7:21 pm

    I remember one time when my oldest (now closing in on 19) was a baby. My husband had taken him and gone off for the afternoon. I was so excited to have some time to myself. And I spent the whole time thinking how quiet the house was, and singing his “Mr. Poopy” song in my head. I felt like an idiot, but I was sure glad to get him back.

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