Many years ago, I had a minimum-wage job working for a movie theater. It was a pretty fun job, as those types of things go, but god forbid you ever needed to miss a day of work. We got paid shit, we were treated like shit, but the way the management reacted if you called in sick made it seem like our jobs were as mission-critical as rocket scientists who were also firefighters on their way to a burning orphanage while carrying human organs packed in ice.

That’s sort of how I feel these days. Being at home all day often makes me feel like the most useless waste of food on the planet — my contributions to the world are nearly nil, and everything I do is cyclical. Everything has to be repeated over and over and over and over: nothing stays clean, article deadlines never stop coming, the laundry just keep re-generating itself like the blobby metal dude in Terminator 2.

And yet it’s goddamned near impossible for me to leave. I received an offer to travel out of town for a couple days — just a fun-sounding blogger event, something that sounded both interesting and like a nice break from business as usual — and the logistics involved in trying to make this happen have been nearly insurmountable. Who would pick Riley up from the bus stop? Who would take Dylan to preschool? Who would watch Dylan on his non-preschool day? The daily tasks that seem both mind-numbing and hugely unappreciated literally REQUIRE MY PRESENCE. If I’m not here, it’s a clusterfuck of epic proportions, trying to call in favors and beg for family help and work around schedules and feeling enormously guilty and like a massive pain in everyone’s ass.

Since my job is so very important, apparently, why then don’t I feel more of a sense of accomplishment each day? Or, say, ANY SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AT ALL.


81 Responses to “Boulders and hills”

  1. Karen on October 9th, 2012 11:02 am

    Crap, and I meant to say…maybe eventually you can find a community college student (is there one near you) or a college-aged student who isn’t at school who would help out? One of my older daughter’s friends can’t afford to go away to school, so she goes to the nearby cc, and loves kids and this would be right up her alley (if we weren’t 1/2 a continent apart). She is our go-to pet sitter and spend the night with our younger two when we are both gone for the night. She makes a little cash, and gets out of her house for the night. She is young enough that my two enjoy being around her and don’t feel like they are being “baby-sat”. Win win!

  2. Carrie (in MN) on October 9th, 2012 11:27 am

    Have you read the Atlantic Montly article about why women still can’t have it all?

    It was very thought-provoking. I’m older than you, closer to the age of the author (although not even in the same realm as her career-wise, omg). Anyway, like her I thought I could have it all if I: 1) was committed enough; 2) married the right person who would take on a full 50%; 3) timed it right. But here I sit – approaching 50 with three teenagers, taking a time out from my career to be in a consulting role instead of the in-the-middle-of-things big job I would have thought I’d have at this point.

    And it’s because a) our kids need us, need someone to be there, even when they are teenagers!; b) someone has to do these god damn boring cyclical tasks (you tweeted last week about which one I’d pay someone to do – acquire food and feed my kids, please! I’m so tired of it!). Like you, I have a husband who is working flat out as hard as he can. And when I was WOTH, he did fully his 50% at home too. But if something went wrong – if a kid couldn’t be picked up on time, or was going to be home alone after dinner with no one to ask if their homework was done…he shrugged and didn’t worry about it. I worried about it. So yeah, I here you and I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t necessarily get any easier. But! You’re not alone – there are millions of us out here folding our laundry, cooking a pot roast (took me till noon to pull that off); and waiting for that when that next 15 minutes come up when they need me.

  3. Carrie (in MN) on October 9th, 2012 11:28 am

    I wrote a book in your comments…sorry!

  4. Olivia on October 9th, 2012 11:54 am

    I’m so feeling this. I rarely complain because my spouse does a lot. He cooks half the dinners, washes dishes in the sink and does a lot of the work with our kids when he is home. But, apparently I’m the only one who can run the dishwasher, vacuum, take out the trash, do laundry…My biggest complaint lately is that he stays up so late on the weekends. Then he sleeps in on and I’m left taking care of the kids starting at 6:30 in the morning. I’m on my own with them all week, it would be nice if I could sleep in just once. And I get really mad when it’s going on 9 am and I haven’t been able to make breakfast because he’s snoring away and not helping.

  5. Carmen on October 9th, 2012 12:15 pm

    Ditto for me, too. When we’re living in Vancouver, we have no family close by and my husband’s a prof at the university, so he has evening events quite often. I get so cranky that he just assumes I’ll be home with the kids – he doesn’t even ask, just tells me the morning of the event. One day I’ll stab him with my cereal spoon, I swear. I got away for a few days at the end of June, but yes, you’d think that the world was ending, trying to figure out people’s schedules.

    Right now, we’re on sabbatical in Europe, which, sounds rough, I know. But I’m homeschooling my Gr. 1 son, and trying to keep my preschooler occupied at the same time. It’s just a brutal slog from morning to night and I feel completely unappreciated. I kept my job and am working remotely as well, (~75% time) so I clean, cook & school all day, then after the kids are in bed I start my work day. So I’m feeling a bit stressed.

  6. Lisa on October 9th, 2012 12:21 pm

    Yes, yes and yes to pretty much everything everyone has said already. At different times during the last 2 years I’ve been home full time, working part time outside the home and working full time outside the home. I can fully attest to the fact that it’s all hard!

    The single best thing I did was to join a local moms’ club (I joined my local chapter of MOMS Club International, but there are lots out there). The support of these other moms has been invaluable to me and at times is the only thing that helps me keep my sanity (well, that and reading this blog!).

    Because of them, I now have a list of babysitters on hand, and a group of moms who are also willing to help out in a pinch. This alone has saved me so much stress. I also find out all sorts of interesting things important to being a mom (local schools, businesses, classes, consignment sales, etc.)

    And best of all, are the stories they share that let me know it’s not just me – this really is hard, and no one does it perfectly.

    I really recommend getting involved in a local moms’ group – it really can make a huge difference!!!

  7. sooboo on October 9th, 2012 1:55 pm

    Someone else already pointed this out up there somewhere, but you don’t need kids to feel this way. I freelance at home, have pets and a husband and I feel overburdened and under-appreciated all the time! This Susie Homemaker crap sucks!

  8. Lisa S. on October 9th, 2012 3:07 pm

    Refusing to do more than my husband around the house is how we ended up with a housekeeper, and I cannot recommend that option highly enough. I have often taken on extra freelance work to pay for her. Totally worth it.

    And for every domestic duty I assume (running the social calendar, keeping paperwork in order), that’s one more I hand off to my partner. He’s cool with it.

    I have found that in terms of assuming homekeeping responsibilities, I am actually my own worst enemy here, because I am always stumbling over these internalized expectations that I “should” be handling A, B, C, D, E & F instead of handing off B, D & E to someone else without apology.

    That said, there is no doubt I’m the primary parent, i.e. the one who handles childcare, the one who is the first to take off work when she’s sick, the one who handles activities, keeping her clothed and fed, keeping track of milestones, taking her to doctor’s appointments, going to playdates, getting up in the middle of the night, etc. My husband is super hands-on, but we both felt that it would be easier on us as a family if one person was the “The Buck Stops Here” person on All Things Kid, and that’s me. For now. I keep telling him we’ll flip roles when she’s a teenager.

  9. Laura on October 9th, 2012 3:29 pm

    I’m so glad I read the comments to this post and learned about Tillie Olsen. I’d never heard of her before and look at this dedication to her book “Silences” “For our silenced people, century after century their beings consumed in the hard, everyday essential work of maintaining human life. Their art, which still they made–as their other contributions–anonymous; refused respect, recognition; lost.”
    I’m taping that up on my refrigerator. Amazing and thought provoking post, Linda. Thank you.

  10. Clueless But Hopeful Mama on October 9th, 2012 4:28 pm

    OH MY HELL YES. What we do seems totally invisible EXCEPT WHEN WE DON’T DO IT.

    I… better stop. I feel a caps lock rant coming on.

  11. sara on October 9th, 2012 5:51 pm

    I wish i was at home and feeling like this.. Currently i commute an hr to and from work and i STILL feel like this! Lol I feel like i spend all this time going to a job i hate, get paid and pay the bills, and literally have enough left over for gas for the week. Wtf is that?! Oh and i also have the laundry and sink full of dishes that never ever go away. And i hate to even say it, but my husband is zero help. Im currently running a social experiment where i put all the dishes that my daughter and i use straight in the dishwasher and see where his end up.. Sink!! Every. Fucking. Time! It takes more time and energy to nag him into doing something than it takes to just do it myself, sigh.

    Sorry for the rant. :)

  12. Nancy on October 9th, 2012 6:03 pm

    Based on your tweet from earlier, I’d have to guess you and JB aren’t quite on the same page, financially? It isn’t uncommon for one spouse to take on all the responsibility for paying the bills and/or making more money. But what doesn’t work is to act like one person is right and the other is wrong.

    My own assvice is to get thee to a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (FPU) class – 9 quick weekly sessions that will turn your world around. Or you can listen to his podcast and read his Total Money Makeover book – that’s all it took for me to suddenly start to a) understand and b) care about finances. Granted, I got hooked by his straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to finances before DH and I got married – but it makes no difference.

    The #1 cause of divorce in this country is money fights over money problems. If you aren’t on the same page, it’s easy to fight. Truly, I suggest the TMMO book, even from the library. You can tailor it to fit your shared preferences and needs, but to approach the finances – from the monthly planning side to the saving side, truly can make a big and positive impact.

    Because you work from home does not make your vote in your finances any more or less valuable than JB’s. Neither of you are wrong – but you will find a new sense of agreement and peace if you agree on the money side of things.

    And, FWIW, what you do DOES matter. Whether it’s raising your kids, keeping your home, running the 1000 errands you do every week or writing – you keep your world revolving and should be appreciated for it. I know I count on coming to your blog every few days to read a new post, see some pictures and admire the heck out of what an awesome lady/mom/wife/writer/photographer you are. Thank you for being you and for sharing your life here!

  13. willikat on October 9th, 2012 6:19 pm

    On your behalf: ARGHGHGH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!! *Shakes fist at sky*

    I’m 24 weeks pregnant and I’m already wondering how to fight through this feeling of having to work, of being sadly shorted on maternity leave, of how I am going to juggle it all and be a mom and feel personally fulfilled and wanting to maybe stay home but also sort of loving my job and also totally needing the income, etc. etc. etc.

    Your Terminator 2 analogy was the best ever. Some things in life are just like that motherfucker.

    Sorry I have no advice. Just know I HEAR you.

  14. Michelle on October 9th, 2012 8:16 pm

    Love Deb’s comments. That’s how I get through my days, lowering my expectations and standards and hoping at the end of it I feel like I accomplished a small something.

    Damn frustrating. Looking forward to when both kids are in school and I can have some time to myself! Even then, I know it will be eaten up with minutae, laundry, house crap, etc.

    Good luck! Hang in there!

  15. G on October 9th, 2012 8:37 pm

    Hang in there, Mamas! It’s a big job you are all doing and while it often seems thankless, we all know it is REALLY important to put in the time with our kids. This phase of your life will not last forever. Your time spent with the little kids will pay off in better prepared young adults. This 60 something grandma sends you all strokes for the big job you are doing. It goes fast. Enjoy!

  16. Frannie on October 9th, 2012 11:08 pm

    Well..I stayed home with the kids (technically I was in school for most of that-and pregnant twice in two years.) and my husband left me for his just divorced coworker. I was basically forced out of my home (have emails showing they both were trying to find places for me and the kids to move into) into something completely different, and marginal support. I took a break from my career to help raise our children and was left for someone who works with him. Maybe I’m oversharing..There is a section of my life now I have to file under manipulation/crossed boundaries.
    I’m raising two sons under age three, and yes I could say I really did feel like the babysitter, and not appreciated. Co-parenting and parenting are so alien to another, taking parenting onto another level of epic pre-divorce proportions. And damn. It is hard trying to maintain the normalcy, start over, deal with lawyers and co-parent. My esteem suffered over time and I found myself wondering why am I feeling this way and all the subtle things.
    Now I have to just set it aside and place the kids ahead of all of that.

    But. I found strength in my children and giving myself a well-deserved break, even if it’s small.
    I feel a little better when another older mother comes to my aid, helps and says, “I know”.
    I reached out. If most of my friends were getting married or I didn’t feel would relate then I reached out to others and I found such a supportive network.

    I want to tell you, you will look back on these days the way you do when you think about when they were small and everything was so difficult. You will remember all you have done and do not forget.
    That is what I tell myself. Don’t sell yourself short.
    Thank you for sharing.

  17. Alyson on October 10th, 2012 12:18 am

    Don’t worry about feeling bored with this part of parenting……Worry when you start to think that THIS is the most important job you have, and begin waxing lyrical about how “beautiful” it is to wait for Riley at the bus stop.

  18. Christine on October 10th, 2012 5:31 am

    This post is timed so well for me! Holy crap I know how you feel.

    I stay at home with 2 girls (8 and 5 years old) and the GD puppy (which, what the eff was I thinking when I said yes to that?). My husband busts his butt 6 days a week at a very physical, dangerous job (he is an electrician for the D.O.T.) and does not so much as put his dish in the sink after dinner. Which is fine – this is how we planned it to go when we thought about having kids. BUT! I feel frustrated, overwhelmed and underappreciated sometimes yet I don’t complain because he works hard. I thought things might be easier when both kids were in school full time but with the addition of the puppy it has not – and that is my fault because I should have said NO! I know it will sort itself out soon enough and I am sorry to be a downer on your comments page. I am in a bad head place today…thanks for listening.

  19. SS+1 on October 10th, 2012 8:50 am

    Classic case of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Putting things into perspective (from what you’ve shared in your fabulous corner of the world wide webz), you’re doing a FANTASTIC job at parenting two sweet and wonderful little boys. Keep up the great work. If the sitch needs to be adjusted, it will happen in good time.

    Keep on rockin’ in the free world!

  20. Sirena on October 10th, 2012 10:47 am

    What’s really depressing is not just that you feel this way, but on top of that 70+ responses plus anecdotal data of this being a woman’s lot in life dating back to – oh yes, the dawn of time. It is a lot to take and true, never ever acknowledged or valued in a way that conveys a sense of worth or accomplishment due to the pure transactional nature of each task – checking a box – until you try to be absent for just one day, then you’re Dick Cheney-level critically important all of a sudden. I hope it helps to know that you are not alone, although it also makes me a little sadder to know that no matter how awesome the husband, so many women in the same boat.

  21. Sarah on October 10th, 2012 11:07 am

    Oh God I agree a thousand times. I am currently on maternity leave with child number two and thinking really hard about not returning to work because it’s just….impossible, if I’m not home. I actually hated myself while trying to work full-time with one toddler. I was disorganized and bad at my job and bad at being a mom and I felt mad every single day. And yet when I look into an endless future of just mom-ing every day I feel sort of- UGH about it. Because there is NO OFF SWITCH.

    My husband got a bit huffy with me this morning when I asked if he could accompany our son to his toddler gym class. He worked late last night and he was tired and kind of didn’t feel like going….I wanted to punch him in the nose. I don’t FEEL like doing 90% of the stuff I do during the day, but if I don’t do it IT WON’T GET DONE. Where is my opportunity to opt out of doing certain things??

  22. Sharon on October 10th, 2012 3:16 pm

    Hey, Linda: thanks for posting, as always. I thought of you yesterday, as I was grabbing some CD that I was completely sick of, and I realized that you haven’t posted any of what you’re listening to lately, and I NEED it! So, you know, to add to your “to do list”… music us, soon, mmmkay?

  23. Kari on October 10th, 2012 3:39 pm

    We don’t have kids, but will soon. This division and allocation is something I think about so much. Observing our dynamic now, how sometimes I feel like I am taking on 75% of the household shit instead of 50%, and why 50-50 just isn’t a realistic model for us. I don’t know what it is, but I am actively thinking about it.

    Your post reminded of a night, about two years ago, when I was at my girl friend’s house. She is married, with two young kids, and is the primary, stay-at-home caregiver and manager of the house. Her husband works full-time and then some to support the family. Suffice to say, both of them work really hard to keep their family afloat and thriving.

    I was there right at the time her husband got home. My friend had been struggling with some depression and anxiety issues (which was part of the reason I was there), and when her husband walked in, you could just see the relief in her eyes. Help had arrived. And I felt her relief.

    And then I watched her husband ease down into the sofa, slowly untying his tie and sliding off his shoes. I could see the exhaustion on his face, too, and how, more than anything, he was hoping for maybe 30 minutes of peace and quiet after work before assuming the daddy role.

    I understood something in that moment that I don’t think I ever understood before. Both of them needed a break, both of them needed a little “me” time, and both of them felt overworked and entitled to a little reprieve.

    And neither of them was incorrect.

  24. Kris on October 10th, 2012 5:16 pm

    At least you have freelance. I’ve started crafting to keep my sanity. FUCKING CRAFTING!!!!! GAH!!!!!!!!!

    That is NOT me or who I want to be or what I want to be doing; yet I always put the needs/wants of everyone else first. It’s exhausting and claustrophobia-inducing, to feel stuck and worthless and useless and Jeezus Chrisesakes, I’ma gonna shut up now.

    Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  25. Taryn on October 10th, 2012 5:37 pm

    From what I’ve heard, being a mom is a thankless task. But at least you’re not required to ask if anyone wants “buttery” on anything. ;)

  26. s. on October 10th, 2012 6:07 pm

    My friend is getting a Master’s degree in marriage and family counselling, and because the nature of her future work is by its nature so UNFINISHED, counselling is always a work-in-progress, and things are never really “done” in that clap-your-hands-together-and-walk-away-from-it way, that her professors suggest that they always make sure they have things in their personal lives that are stand-alone PROJECTS, that have a beginning, a middle, and an end, so that they have tangible sense of accomplishment.

    That was wordy (and probably not even clear despite all the words I used), but I feel like the same idea can apply to parenting.

  27. amber on October 10th, 2012 11:35 pm

    I have read and reread this blog entry ( many time when I’ve felt the way you are describing. If you get a chance to read it, make sure to read the link as well. Perhaps it resonates with me because I like to can and preserve (like the blogger) but I think we all need what she’s talking about.

  28. Trina on October 11th, 2012 7:26 am

    I am so there with you. Have you read this blog, she is amazing and gives me a fresh perspective on this parenting gig.

  29. Jenny on October 11th, 2012 12:18 pm

    A thousand times, yes – this is my life, too. Yesterday my husband had to get my daughter ready for school and texted me at work in a panic because they were running late and he couldn’t find her shoes. I directed him – third cubby, left side, on top of Monopoly Jr., party edition. But like you, I wish I either felt like I was contributing more to the world or like I was appreciated for everything I am doing.

  30. Elizabeth on October 13th, 2012 9:36 pm

    It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I had the flu last fall so my husband took our younger daughter to pre-school – I had to give him 15 minutes worth of instructions for a 2 minute task. (Sign her in, give this stack of papers to this person, make sure you tell this other person something else critical…) And he still didn’t get everything done.

    I was amused, once, to see the survey about the monetary value of a stay-at-home parent. If you’re going to hire people to take over everything you do, it’s going to cost you SIX FIGURES annually. I think the average was something like $138K. All I’m doing is driving carpools and coordinating playdates and cooking dinner and the goddamn laundry over and over and it feels like a rhesus monkey could take over for me and very possibly no one would notice. But apparently I’m very expensive! Silly, but it made me feel better.

  31. Susan on October 18th, 2012 1:56 am

    I couldn’t believe the gratitude I felt flooding through me reading this post; the endless cycle of beginning the day with the same day process that I just wrapped up the day before; and feeling totally pointless like a big hamster on a big wheel. I have a twist on the situation as I am a stay-at home wife/caregiver. My husband is older than i am and after a stroke changed our lives forever, I chose to leave my job to be at home with him. Not an easy decision to make, but he really did not like having hired helpers and he had been tiring of retirement on his own anyway. He contributes as much as he can, but truthfully everything is on my plate. The biggest and hardest insult is that our income now comes completely from a Trust in my husbands name. Six months ago the Trustee decided that my husband would no longer receive any money that might benefit me; groceries, dining out, auto, phone, health insurance, misc., every penny for me is coming from our savings. The Trustee states that I am not showing sufficient love and affection for my husband my demanding that (I) be paid for what a loving caring wife would provide without compensation. What the F..K!!!!!We’re currently suing the SOB.

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