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.

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Stephanie
11 years ago

Ohmygod. This is the EXACT conversation I’ve been having with half of my friends. We’ve been at home, now our kids are (mostly) at school all day, and yet if I’d headed back to work, today would have marked the fourth time I’d have had to call in to work because of some child-related issue/illness since early September. The freelance work I do is mostly in the evenings, but God forbid it be easy to get my own husband to guarantee he’ll be home from work on time so I can go. And finding an after-school sitter is near-impossible, given that every single 12-18-year-old girl around here is in multiple after-school activities.

I get this so very, very much.

Randy
Randy
11 years ago

Our society is really screwed up. Mothers are quite literally the vital life support of viability as a nation. Their duties go unpaid, largely (IMO) because no one could ever afford their services, not with the same quality or passion any way.

You are indispensable and your rewards aren’t monetary. Of course, things of true value can’t be bought or sold.

Mariya
Mariya
11 years ago

I empathize with you completely and I only have ONE child at this point. I wish I had something better to say than, “I totally get where you’re coming from” but that’s all I’ve got :)

Sande
Sande
11 years ago

I just need to say as I read your blog lately the pink lipstick on the side always makes me do a double take because I think it is a big pointy shaky thing!

Sheryl
Sheryl
11 years ago

My kid is 15, and I’d like to tell you that it gets easier, but then I’d be a liar. I’m a WOH single mom; I’m not ready to have her stay alone when I go out of town. My mom should be my go-to person (lives close by, healthy, retired), but she about loses her cookies when I ask. My girl knows when and where she needs to be places; she just really needs someone to drive her, sleep in the same house with her, and look her in the eye and say “bullshit” when she says there’s no homework. This is too much for my otherwise reasonably capable mother. And it’s not because my kid is a jerk, because for a 15 year old, she’s pretty cool.

On the other hand, if my mom needs something, she doesn’t hesitate to call me for assistance. My sister (married, childless), on the other hand, gets calls when my mom needs someone to play golf with.

So, somehow, what I do as a parent is so complicated it cannot be done by someone else, but I can drop it all to replace a light fixture or feed the cats while my mom goes on a trip. Huh.

Megan @ Mama Bub
11 years ago

Holy shit, this is my life exactly. I’m going out of town for a weekend, and the plans for Friday were so stress inducing that I almost canceled the entire thing. Thinking about it right now is making me sweaty. And YET, it’s laundry, carpool and peanut butter and jelly. It’s a mess that can’t be contained. And it’s costing me a freaking fortune to outsource it for the day.

Heidi
Heidi
11 years ago

Hear! Hear!

June
11 years ago

I have that regenerating laundry-monster thing going on, too.

Not sure if you just wanted to vent or if you’re looking for potential solutions, but in my area, there are drop-in day cares, and if you look on sites like care.com or sittercity.com (NAYY), you might find someone who is prescreened and decent (check referrals) who is available for that kind of random thing. Of course, these services all cost money, but if you don’t have friends/family to help, that’s what it’ll take.

You should be able to leave once in a while without engaging in a clusterfuck or feeling guilt. Parenting is tough, everyone needs a break occasionally. Sorry that it feels unrewarding… I’m in the trenches with you (with a 4 y-o and 2-yo twins), wondering when is it ever going to get just a tiny bit easier.

Katharine
11 years ago

What Randy said.

Read Tillie Olsen. Read about her, too. She was a writer who did work during and about the Depression, and she talks elliptically and brilliantly about the fact that the ten thousand washed dishes keep you from feeling like a real person and it’s unfair. She doesn’t have a solution, either – there’s an enormous swath of her life, decades, in which she did no writing work while she was raising children – but boy, will it make you feel understood.

Melissa Anderson
11 years ago

Thank. I just don’t consider ever going anywhere, until one of my kids can drive and cook, then I assume they won’t all die if I’m gone. Right now, me leaving is guaranteed madness.

Nicole
11 years ago

Ah man, totally I feel ya. My husband is a chef and works nights, so we had reverse the rotation of the earth just so I could attend a dinner function (for work!) on a Tuesday night. The only parents who don’t have these problems are those lucky bastards with live-in nannies or retired, willing grandparents who live less than 30 miles away.

Kim
Kim
11 years ago

Wait a minute, are you me? That sounds so familiar. Being an ahem, domestic engineer (I actually flinch when “homemaker” is the option I am given on forms), is a thankless but overwhelming job.

Jennifer
11 years ago

To echo the other commenters: YES. So much yes. We have family nearby but they all are non-retired so during the day, it’s all up to me. Any diversion from that routine is a HUGE hassle and just not even worth it sometimes. We’re so important! Yet we have to clean up poop! Doesn’t exactly make sense. Heh.

Kim
Kim
11 years ago

And you know what conversation you should not have in your head? The one about how many years of education and professional experience is going unused while staying at home with the progeny. Because that conversation sucks.

Lauren
Lauren
11 years ago

Just when I start thinking having kids sounds good, I read things like this. Not to say you shouldn’t have written it or anything of the sort.

It just scares me a lot. If I do have kids though, I’ll be happier to know I entered into it with my eyes wide open.

Vanessa
Vanessa
11 years ago

Fuuuccckkk… Yes. That. I’m home all day with a 2 year old and a 6 month old. I was at Anthropologie today pondering part time seasonal work to keep from losing my mind. When I brought it up to my husband he said, “that would be a disaster. What would we do with the kids?”. He’s right, but it’s still lame…

shriek house
11 years ago

Ditto, ditto, ditto, effing DITTO. And in 6 months I’ll have a parasite stuck to my boob, just to ensure I NEVER get out. It’s like the Hotel California. For S/WAHMs.

Heather
Heather
11 years ago

Sing it, Sister!

Deb
Deb
11 years ago

EXACTLY.

What you need to do, see, is lower your standards. Like for example, I actually took a shower today. I’ve been riding that high all day, man.

mlegreenberg
mlegreenberg
11 years ago

I think it is the cyclical nature that makes it feel like we have not accomplished anything…because it keeps recurring it is hard to quantify what we have done. I never see the bottom of the laundry basket or an empty sink for more than a moment when it fills back up and seems like I never finished it. The only way I can get even a little sense of accomplishment is to make a list then mark it off as I go and then look at it at the end of the day. But often I feel like I waste too much time tending the list when I could just be DOING whatever is on it. It is good to get reminders that you ARE necessary sometimes though.

tanya
tanya
11 years ago

It must be an October thing, because I’ve been feeling a general sense of purposelessness as well of late. I feel like my contribution to the world is so minimal and yet there is this cycle that I am part of that is inescapable – primarily of the rent/food/etc. variety. And while I actually help people feel better pretty much every day, it somehow feels unimportant, empty. So I feel you – I don’t know if it helps, but I feel you.

Danell
Danell
11 years ago

Yeah, the lipstick…it’s…distracting. Heh.

Em
Em
11 years ago

How often I have passed on a 12 hour shift so I can be somewhere for 15 minutes. But they are an important 15 minutes and I’m glad I was there. Still, ouch. At least my employer understands what is important. Right.

If I had the words, I could have written exactly what you wrote but all I can do is agree. Even with so many going through exactly the same thing, it gets kind of lonely, doesn’t it?

Meg
Meg
11 years ago

Deb’s comment about the shower and lower expectations made me laugh at loud!

Meg
Meg
11 years ago

* Laugh out loud. Not at.

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

Hey, now that you’re off in your new land, and in a town with a University, have you started thinking about classes again? Maybe a night class a couple times a week when JB can take the boys? That would be a distraction and something to accomplish? I think you were once working on those math classes etc. toward a goal… so is now the time to get back on the horse? Remember: dreams never die.

Sundry
Sundry
11 years ago

Jennifer: for a variety of reasons, that dream has been shelved. That’s probably a post on its own, but…well, yeah.

Angella
11 years ago

Aw, Linda. We no family help here, whatsoever, and while Matthew and I are a great team, a little help would be nice, too.

xo

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

Maybe shelved temporarily, but still on the shelf. Even if on the back of the shelf, still up there. You can dust it off and clear other stuff out of the way and get to it in the future. You’ve conquered adversity and made your dreams happen before. You’ll get past the latest roadblock.

Kathie
Kathie
11 years ago

Yes, yes and yes again. I work from home, doing the bookkeeping and admin for my husband’s IT firm, and I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old. And it is sad, because I just feel like it is all such a waste sometimes, you know. I have no family here, and my husband works such long hours that the buck always stops with me. And it’s made more difficult because I feel ungrateful, and know that so many people would love to be in my situation, where a sick kid isn’t a disaster because I’m at home anyway, where I have flexible hours so that I am always there for every Kindergarten event etc, so I feel like a spoiled brat for wanting more from life. But I do. So thanks for writing this, because I now at least feel like you, and the other commenters have at least validated my frustration, and made me feel less alone.

Meike
Meike
11 years ago

Gathering from all the comments, apparently this is a very common thing to experience for SAHMs! I feel the exact same way. I actually took up sowing just to have that feeling of accomplishment, some finished product to look at now and then. It’s really kind of pathetic in its 1950s-housewifey way, but so what. Makes me happy.

Vanessa
11 years ago

…”re-generating itself like the blobby metal dude in Terminator 2″… BEST. ANALOGY. EVER!

I always called laundry my personal hamster wheel. But I like the blobby metal dude analogy better!

Vanessa
11 years ago

I forgot to add, it totally chaps my butt that the hubby doesn’t have to worry about any of this either. Because I am here. Ever solid, dependable, freelancing WAHM, me. I often have a little daydream about landing a gig requiring a short plane flight, a hotel stay and insane loads of money…however the fantasy part is less about the money, and more about me responding to my hubby’s question of “Who is going to look after the kids?” with a hair-flicking-backward-glance-looking-high-heel-clacking-suitcase-loading-into-limo moment and my response of, “Well honey, you’re just going to have to sort it out.” Epic. Hands up, who enjoyed that just as much as I just did?

jonniker
11 years ago

You are just singing my tune, Linda. I contribute via freelancing, yes, but most of my job is exactly as you describe. Laundry, bills, pick-up, drop-off, dishes, making sure we don’t fall into UTTER RUBBLE, etc.

This morning’s big challenge is finding a red shirt for color theme day at preschool, FFS. You know? And yet. If I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done, and it would be all this stupid little stuff just piling up and becoming insurmountable. But it all feels so unimportant at the time.

I needed to read this. Thanks, Linda.

Deanna
Deanna
11 years ago

Have you ever texted your hubs a photo of the clean sink/kitchen? I do that- and grit my teeth at his off the cuff response asking how long I think it will stay that way.

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

yup. I work out of the house full time, with 2 part time jobs (one night each) so can’t relate entirely, but I feel like you need as many high-fives as you can get.

Ali
Ali
11 years ago

Oh my. Do I ever hear you. The intangible benefits of being here for my daughter as a WAHM are awesome. But you know what?

Somtimes, I just want a fucking gold star for cleaning the umpteenth dish, the trillionth pile of laundry and the funk that accumulates in the corners because no one else in the house gives a crap about it.

I want a thumbs-up for planning, scheduling, and driving to all the doctor, dentist, and after-school appointments, while still managing to generate a meager salary.

I’d like a medal for managing the household funds, creating budgets, and making sure shit is paid on-time, every time.

The intangibles are great, for sure. But damn, man–sometimes a cold beer and a paycheck for working so hard sounds pretty good, too.

High-fives all around for everyone who rocks taking care of their kids, house, spouse and job. Rock on.

Michelle
11 years ago

Yes. Thank you. Everything you just said and more. WAHM moms straddle this uncomfortable existence between managing the same but different stresses of both the SAHM and the “working” mom (I hate that phrase, by the way, because it somehow implies that the moms who are not working in offices or away from home or doing something other than taking care of house, kids, life are not “working” but I don’t have a clever acronym for those kinds of moms – WAFHMs?) I started working from a home office before we even thought about having kids (well, really, just kid) but somehow, now it feels more rut-ish. Teeball on Tuesday, Dance on Friday, every night make dinner, do dishes, do laundry, work, work, work, write, write, write, and then feel guilty if I try to carve out just a little time to do my own thing – but with every opportunity I turn down because of logistics, I try to remember that this was the life I chose and that, someday, my kid will be grown up and things may get easier. Until then, I guess it’s just about hanging on and hanging in there.

Erica
Erica
11 years ago

Omg. You hit the nail on the head. My kids are grown so I am working again, but I feel ya. Was in Starbucks the other morning on the way to the office where I overheard a dad talking to his 4 preschool age charges: ‘Guys, I’m really proud of us all. We started as 5 and we are still all here…no blood, no serious illness. We look tired but none of you looks underfed…lets see if we can keep it together today until mom’s plane lands…’ Moms do the hardest job in the world….

Maggie
11 years ago

The other day I was talking to my 3 YO daughter and saying something like “when you grow up and have kids, you will be a mommy.” Her response: “I don’t want to be a mommy, I want to be a daddy.” My thought: Don’t we all? Smart girl.

My husband and I both work FT outside the home and he is helpful, but I am still the one doing the laundry, making dinner most nights, helping with homework, and staying on top of anything even remotely out of the ordinary (school days off, special clothing, volunteering etc). Every random school day off or sick day we get to play my favorite game: whose work is more important/busy/pressing today.

Sometimes it feels like no matter what situation we are in as moms, we get the housekeeping/organizing/kid wrangling shaft.

Erin
Erin
11 years ago

Can I just recommend SitterCity.com? Seriously, I don’t know why I didn’t use it years ago. I posted one job (our favorite sitter just moved and my husband travels a ton), and got FIFTY applicants. Most of whom seemed like lovely people. Get the coupon for 50% off, and it’ll cost you $17 for a month. Call in the troops, lady! Build an army to support you! (No, I am not affiliated with them in any way, BTW.)

Also, this is the first year both of my kids are in all-day elementary, and it is LIFE-ALTERING.

Amelia
Amelia
11 years ago

Every day I look at my family of boys and think, “Holy GOD, you want food again? You wore more clothes that I have to WASH? WHY are you going outside to play and then inside to go to the bathroom so I have to vacuum AGAIN? Will it NEVER STOP?”

Jessi
11 years ago

My husband stays at home with our 3-year-old and works a few hours each day. He doesn’t think about dinner or laundry or anything when he’s at home. Apparently that’s my job the second I walk in from my 10 hour day. It never stops for women no matter what position we’re in.

Em
Em
11 years ago

I so hear you…I was just thinking some of the same things myself. I just try to tell myself that someday my daughter will appreciate all I do for her, even though she might not. So yeah, not much help, really.

It does help to know that I am not alone, though! Also, I don’t know if this helps, but I like reading your daily columns on the Stir. They always brighten my day. So that is something of value, however small! :)

Andrea
Andrea
11 years ago

I so get this. I WOH 3 days/week, 12 hour shifts. So I do have a full time job. But I also do 99% of the housework, laundry, dishes, etc. One of my biggest aggravations is working a 12 hour shift (RN) and coming home to a sinkful of dishes and trash and no clean clothes for school tomorrow. WTH? Conversely, there is no better foreplay than coming home to a spotless kitchen and “I’ll get up with him, you stay in bed.” This happens like once in a blue moon, but I’ll take it!

Cara
Cara
11 years ago

How interesting to read this on the day before I plan to turn in my notice to the soul-sucking marketing job I’ve had for the past 5 years and go home to do the part-time freelance work that I love (sound familiar?).

One of the reasons I’m going home is so that I can get a handle on the laundry and the house and the meals which have been completely neglected for years since my husband has been in school full time and now is working full time again. Something has to give and I hate my job anyway, so I’m making the leap! Regardless if anyone else appreciates the clean house, *I* will appreciate it!

chris
chris
11 years ago

I was also going to suggest care.com and sittercity. I’m a nanny and I’m on both. (i also happen to live in eugene! Been reading for years and years. :) anyway, I am also a mama and I’m currently working as a contactor 3 days from home and nanny the other two. My hubs works at a school and I have always felt like childcare and working and keeping up the house is just my responsibility. It sucks. There’s just nothing else to say about it. :( But if you are looking to hire some help, there are lots of people with flexible schedules like myself out there.

anne
anne
11 years ago

You actually don’t have to be a mom to feel this way. Sometimes your pets are enough to do this to you! I feel for you, and I hope you can get away.

Karen
Karen
11 years ago

I work full time and took my middle daughter (16yo) on a college visit Sunday and Monday. My oldest is away at college. Why is it soooo wrong that I was SHOCKED to come home to no dishes? I can honestly say this was the first time it happened! I don’t know if the 14yo or husband was the one who figured out how to open the dishwasher! I agree though to your point…just being away Sunday and Monday was monumental. I had to change soccer carpool because I couldn’t expect him to pick up just one other 14yo and take them to practice! I had a huge list of things to do just for a two day trip. But he travels 6-10 days a month and he doesn’t have any of that pressure. He just comes home, dumps his suitcase in the laundry room, and all is back to normal.