Out the Other End

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m a fraud.

Lately, for months now, I just don’t feel like being a mama. My kids, my darling beautiful firecrackers, just seem like so much trouble. I have no patience for them whatsoever, everything short of perfect angels pisses me off.

At first I thought it was just because of our big scare, then because we were emotionally recovering, then because My Man’s finals were upon us, then again because we were recovering from those finals. But now he’s been out of school for two weeks, we’ve lazed around and taken it plenty easy, and I am not bouncing back. Some days even their angelic-ness pisses me off. There was one afternoon, frosting Christmas cookies with my girl, the 2yo napping so that she and I could delve deep into our creative task. It should have been a triumphal moment. Hallmark material. But she kept making these little happy noises and I couldn’t concentrate for want of some goddamned quiet.

That’s when I knew something was deeply wrong.

When one has a regular job, there are days, sometimes weeks at a time when you hate your job, when you just don’t want to get up and go to work in the morning. So you call in “sick” or take a vacation, sometimes you go to work anyway with a bad attitude. Eventually there is the big flat wall of burnout, when you’re heart goes out of it and the job becomes a drudge. It occurred to me that I have never kept a full time job for more than 6 months consecutively. I don’t like doing the same thing every day, day after day. I never have, and pre-kids I had structured my life so that I didn’t have to.

Now here I am, 4.5 years into the same job, no vacations to date, going to work anyway with my bad attitude. And let me tell you in case you haven’t been here yourself, it feels like shit to hate your job when your job is taking care of your babies. It feels like shit.

You know I have struggled all along to embrace this mothering gig. I go in and out of good times and bad, as do we all I’m sure. But lately… lately…

It’s not that I don’t believe everything I’ve said here, I do. Mothering is heady, important, pivotal work, we should feel proud, hold our heads high, regardless the lack of any other product for our days. We are raising the next generation, giving them the values and skills that we believe matter. It’s not just okay to stay home with our kids, it’s goddamned beautiful!

As chronicled here on this blog, I submitted myself to my work, I let go all my grandiose ideas for how my life was going to be. It was hard, breaking even, but I think I actually did manage for awhile. Submission served me well during that hardest year in my life, when surrender equalled survival. I survived.

But as much as I have tried to release myself from the cultural expectation of productivity, of ‘greatness,’ I have not at all succeeded. I am beginning to admit to myself that yes in fact, selfish or not, I do want to do something big in the world. I do want to make my little mark and be recognized for my accomplishments. I am beginning to suspect that maybe, for me at least, trying to jam that desire back down and down and down again is simply not going to work. Compression can be explosive.

The explosion came last week. My Man mentioned the possibility of working for his dad in August. It sounds harmless enough, right? If I weren’t such a spoiled twat I would be thankful that we have this incredible safety net, cushioning our re-entry into a world of doubtful income. But instead, I completely lost it.

To understand you’ll need some background, and I’m sorry to say I have to go way, way back. Before Children.

Before we had kids, the idea was that we would split the parenting. As much as I champion staying home with your kids, I never in fact wanted or intended to be the full-time parent. Splitting it down the middle seems so brilliantly perfect to me, each parent getting what seems like just the right amount of time with their kids, and just the right amount of time to invest in grownup endeavors. We are both very driven people. My Man wanted to stop industrial progress via legal monkey-wrenching, and I wanted to figure out how to live as much as possible independent of that industrial system– a perfect team.

But dear god, we thought we could do all that and have kids? Of course we had no idea how much time and energy kids would take. The split parenting would work if we were both just righteously kicking ass in those kid-less hours, but then who’s gonna pay the bills? Someone has to get an at least moderately real job, and splitting the job force just doesn’t often work in the real world. Jobs are not generally constructed to be done part time. So we fell, like most couples, right along the gender lines. Man bringing home the bacon, Woman cooking it, feeding it to the little mouths and cleaning up afterwards. It was not how I’d imagined it, but life never is.

Then it became apparent that My Man needed to go to law school in order to continue fighting his Good Fight. I saw that he was restless and dissatisfied with his limitations, I knew that becoming a lawyer would allow him to kick a lot more ass, and ideally put a bit more bacon on our table than the non-profit he had been working for. I knew that as far as kids and families go, the sooner we got the job done the better, so I said yes. Let’s leave for three years.

Our first 4 or 5 months here in New Orleans were rough for me. I was hugely pregnant and toting a two year old through heat like I had never even conceived of, My Man gone all day learning exciting new things. I had not a friend to speak of, no mountains, no forests, no gill nets, rifles, berry buckets, no chest freezers or stacks of firewood. Everything I had worked toward with my life in Alaska completely irrelevant to this one.

We had been planning to go back home in the summers, so that I could work and get a break from the parenting and My Man could be with the kids more. First hitch was the oil spill here in the Gulf, providing an opportunity for My Man to put everything he had worked for, both in school and before, to good use. But, in retrospect I see that going home for the summers was an unrealistic plan in the first place. Three plane tickets per summer, averaging almost $1,000 each. The logistics of subletting our house here and finding a place to stay up there. Just a big fat money-sucking endeavor, all for the sake of some mountains?

So. We stayed. And I had my next big crisis, seeing the realities of life and money and kids collide, the slow receding of my lofty dreams.

But I met a friend, a kindred; and then over time even a small handful of them. I began to feel at home. I rerouted my towering ambitions to the smaller scape of the household, made a little garden, got cozy with the farmers market, discovered a latent passion for writing.

I faced myself, squared my shoulders, and kept at it. The kids grew up a bit and I gained a little of that blessed distance perspective, remembering that this too shall pass.

I looked forward to the time when we would return to Alaska, my familiar things all laying in wait for my return. My pressure canner, my fertile garden beds, my hunting rifles, my chest freezer and 14 dozen canning jars– all my dormant skills tingling with anticipation. We would go back in May, but My Man would need to study for the Bar, and wouldn’t really be free until late July. Then– then! He would be ready for a break, we could split the parenting for a month or two while I played with myself.

I am very good, disturbingly good, at accepting just about anything so long as I am given time to prepare my mind for it, and an end date to hold out for. Outwardly I might seem perfectly adjusted, but inside myself I hold on to that end date with a frightening tenacity. If it’s taken away, or some relief that I had counted on falls through, I go ballistic.

And so it was that when My Man mentioned casually that maybe we could all go to Spokane in August and he could work for his dad for a month, I had a breakdown of epic proportions. All four years of putting myself on the shelf for later roared to life and I became quite an unrecognizable blur of enraged weeping.

He was blindsided. We need the money and almost more importantly, he needs the health insurance. Our other option is a patchwork of self-employment and part-times, paying out seperately whatever ridiculous insurance premium they charge for a cancer survivor. His dad (also a lawyer) truly needs the help, and after a month in Spokane he could work long-distance from Cordova and continue to get the insurance coverage until he muddled out his own work situation. It made perfect sense. He suspected I might not like it, but thought he’d just test the waters and see how I felt.

I felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me and the world was coming to an end. I felt like I’d been chewed up by this growling, frothing motherhood beast which had, at long last, spit me out the other end. Stunned, confused, bloody.

Which brings me finally to my point, dear patient reader. If I am that conflicted inside, if I am holding myself so violently hostage that just the mention of an idea like that throws me into utter oblivion, isn’t something wrong?

As it always goes, this was just the pus rupture of a big fat long-infected wound. I have been feeling a growing concern that I’m actually not suited to being this awesome rock-the-home mother that I write so radiantly about. I want to be that mother, I really do, and for a long time I tried. But maybe I am just not cut out for it. Maybe I would be a better mother if I put the little guy in day care.

I hope you know that I am not opposed to day care. I have always felt that every family must work these issues out for itself. I do believe that, all else being equal, having mom or dad nearby for the majority of the early years is probably better, but I have never been so shortsighted to think that all else is ever equal. Life is nothing if not uproariously complicated. All financial factors aside, mom and dad are no good to anyone if they’re not happy and healthy, more or less. If day care and the real live grown up job it allows preserve some sanity and joy in the home, then I say hell yeah!

But here’s my particular quandry– I don’t want to leave the home to go work at a job. My thing, what I want to do with my hours, doesn’t make money. It might keep a bit of money in our pockets at the supermarket, but I’ve been doing it long enough to know that the direct savings are nothing to write home about. It increases our quality of life, which of course cannot be valued and I never cared to try before. But now that we have a family and all the bills inherent in our (modest!) lifestyle, our days have come down to a tally of hours. For every hour that I wish to be able to weed the garden or can strawberries without the constant interruption of spill wiping, leg hanging and fight breaking up that whittles 60 minutes down to six, My Man must give up an hour of work. Or, alternatively, I put my kid in day care and essentially pay $10/hour to weed my garden?!?!?! What the fuck?

I know that in two more years, the little guy will start kindergarten and I will have 2 or 3 hours a day to do my thing, even more the following year. I know that my kids are growing up, and fast, and before I know it they won’t even want to be around me. I’ll have buckets of time on my hands.

And maybe that’s what this is all about after all. Some wiser, if a bit premature, part of myself preparing for the time when my babies will need me to step back and give them space. Maybe this is some kind of protective measure– me chomping at the bit so that when they open their doors to boot me out, I’ll already know where I’m going.

Or maybe I really am just tired, still recovering from one hell of a few months. Our two week “break” so far has included Christmas, a 12 day mother visit, and now the flu. Last night before bed, as I surveyed the wreckage of our unusually filthy house with dismay, My Man said hopefully that maybe tomorrow we’d both feel better and we could really get on with our supposed break. I gave an exhausted sigh, “Yeah. Tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll take over the world.”

“No,” he said brightly. “You will take over the world. I’ll watch the kids.”

42 thoughts on “Out the Other End

  1. I love the post! Thank you for the honesty! I wonder too if I am cut out for it. I’m home with my kiddo part time and she is in daycare part time. And I feel guilty that she is in daycare as I’m off work trying to start a new business. But since it is up and running I feel like she should be home with me. Or I should get more done towards the goals. Or whatever. I would be completely batshitcrazy if we were home everyday together. And I wouldn’t pursue my dream(s) and would be resentful. I put pursuing them on hold while my partner completed a masters and doctorate degree. So I know i want to. I know I need to. And yet, the guilt. The resentment. If I am honest what I mostly want to do is grow more food, preserve more food, keep our expenditures down, make useful things, etc.

  2. Oh CJ… I know those days… those feelings… the shitty realization that you hate being with your kids sometimes… mostly because it’s ALL THE TIME. I stayed home with mine too… and I think I was depressed for most of it. I always got my wishes/needs/desires shelved for later. It’s still true to some extent, but with youngest in kindy… my world seems new and fresh.

    It’s not perfect, the kids come home tired, and there’s a whole new level of teaching boundaries and social interaction without pulling your hair out at how illogical they are. And now the kidlet conundrum turns to which parent is responsible to give up their time to stay home when the kids are sick… or on vacation. Yeah… it turns out that’s still me. I am still somewhat bitter… but it doesn’t affect me as much as it did. Did I learn more tools for carving out what I need? Do the kids truly need me less now than they used to? Or did time simply pass and now things are different? I don’t know… probably all of them.

    Honestly, those years where the kids are very young are the hardest, most demanding, and whatever people say about how it just changes and doesn’t get better… it’s not true. It is better when they are older. Even when the oldest goes to school… things are a little better.

    I’m not sure about a co-op or trade… sometimes when you’re feeling this close to the edge about your own kids, adding someone else’s just spells TOO MUCH. I know that spending $10/hr to weed your garden feels ridiculous… but it’s not just the garden, it’s time that you feel good, doing what you love, while not being responsible for someone else’s needs. I don’t know… $10/hr is starting to sound like a bargain. You can contribute financially to the family later, maybe it’s time to contribute to yourself.

    Whatever you choose… it’ll be OK. It’ll be OK because you will choose it and you’ll know why and what you’re trading for. Time will pass, because it always does, and things will change. That’s always the good news and the bad news, isn’t it?

    Best wishes, CJ… this ain’t no easy road…

  3. Hey. The last few sentences made perfect sense of why you feel so shit. Christmas, long visits from mothers and flu are seriously stressful events in their own right but all of that stuff piggy-backing on your shoulders simultaneously? Jeez. Enough to send the sanest of mamas over the edge!!! Sometimes teeny tiny changes are what you need and other times it’s the biggie earth shattering ones. Any respite from demanding bambinos is good in my book. Good daycare is not the end of the world, but can take time to set up a happy scene. In my own psonal experience the kiddos have always settled better in a home from home setting than somewhere institutional. A kind person is worth their weight in gold and cheaper than a nursery too…… You are a good person, a good mom, and it’s a bloody crazy hard job being a mama AND having ideals. Cut yourself some slack CJ. 2011 was tough on you but you’re strong enough.I know you are. Big hug from England X

  4. Oh, CJ, CJ, CJ….
    How I love you, your honesty, your ambition.
    I have nothing else to say that won’t get me rambling in my own direction, except (there’s always an ‘except’!) when I was a youth worker, we used to do courses for parents that needed help with their kids.

    The only parents that continually thought they were doing a bad job, or that kept thinking about the next ‘best move’ for making thier kids great, or the ones that continued to stress about whether what they were doing was the ‘right thing’ , it was those parents that showed up. Sooo my point is, you are a great mama, because you keep striving to be the best mama they can have. And whether you are working, have them home, put them in daycare, read to them every day, or let them roam the streets on toddler led walks, You are Their Best Mama. Because so long as you keep trying, and assessing how you are going, they know you care, and love, Them. And if that means you do stuff that helps you tackle each step of this ever-changing world, then that’s what you do.

    Hell, my mama wiped old people’s asses for a living when I was in primary school, and I went to before and after school care, and rode my bike and hung out with the neighbours kids. I can read, write, stand up for myself and have a pretty decent sense of morality. My mum was more than a mama, and so are you. And you’ll give them more than you ever know.

  5. Y’know, sometimes I don’t care for your blog because I try not to curse, and reading salty language makes me start using it. But posts like this remind me why I keep reading. I am farther along the motherhood path than you are, and can relate to each and every word of what you have written- curse words especially. It does get easier as the kids get bigger, but some paths that are abandoned “temporarily” can never be located again. Other paths come along, and maybe they aren’t better, but they can still be satisfying.

    Oh, and when was the last time you went out on a date? My life changed for the better when my kids were finally old enough to leave alone for two hours while we caught a movie or went out to eat. We traded babysitting with relatives/friends before that point, but too infrequently. The time I spend, even just in the car on the way to the theater, talking grown-up stuff with my hubby is invaluable in preserving my sanity.

  6. Once again an honest and refreshing blog. Thank you so much. And once again I am amazed at the connected-ness of this world. You are on the other side of the globe to me and yet you just expressed my feelings, sentiments, emotions, struggles exactly. I too have been struggling with motherhood of late and feel guilty because of it. I’ve just had a 5 week holiday with my beautiful kids and wonderful fella, and the holiday was perfect. But now I want a holiday from mothering! Thank you for letting me say that.
    Enjoy your time off – a day is still a precious day. Good luck with the struggle of finding the right balance. And go smile at your kids and enjoy the warmth of their smile back at you. Little moments count right now I think.

  7. Reach out and you will find a million hands reaching back in understanding and solidarity.

    You think women traditionally have gotten anything done alone with littles? Hell no! Traditionally there is a *community* of people to help. Any group that still is communally self-sufficient still does it this way – group of kids, group of women, group of work…consolidate and conquer. Kids play, older kids supervise, women work, men work. Most of us don’t have that tribal unit help as a built in feature of our lives and family, so you buy it. $10 an hour is substantially less money than a therapist charges, an infinitely less that the cost of a broke-down mama. You put the kids in childcare for a few hours, once or twice a week and buy the help, you buy what we would have had in the tribe. It’s ok. The exchange might feel a little crass, but it’s the best we’ve got right now. And we also have Thai food and croissants, so it’s not all bad, this new modern world.

    Plus, yeah, your vacation wasn’t a vacation in any sense. Motherfunker has it right.

  8. The tribe thing. Why don’t we do something like that? Are we just afraid to ask each other, or certain it won’t work out? Better than the group at the playground would be one mama gets to just leave the playground, kids and all. We could make it happen.
    Only a couple more years til he’s in school. And who knows what you’ll find when you get back to Cordova. I wouldn’t pass any big judgments on yourself just yet.
    On the other hand, if you can afford day care so that you can write and garden, and that’s what you want, then why the hell shouldn’t you? At least to try?

  9. I have always believed (in my own rocky journey through motherhood) that time to yourself makes you a better mother. Kids gain from being around their peers & active/ energetic/ attentive carers too. My husband knows I am much more pleasant to be around when I’ve had time to myself, esp. when our kids were younger. Having worked Part Time has saved my sanity! Is there something you could do that helps save the planet/ world AND gets you out of the house?

    Expectations, I find sometimes, just tend to set me up for disappointment. Looking forward to that ‘time off’ together, where we’ll do x,y & z, or just x… and then stuff happens (sick kids, bad sleep etc.) and then I am mad, annoyed, sad, anxious, grumpy because it didn’t happen how I thought it would. It’s so hard when I am caught up in that adjustment period (accepting the reality vs. what I wanted to happen & then trying to make the most of it) to see forward to a better day, or week! I guess I’ve been through those crappy grumpy-old-mother periods enough to know it won’t last forever. And when it doesn’t get better after all, there is always medication! I find Rescue Remedy is good for temporary emotional upheaval, like resentment, anxiety, irritability, mood swings. Probably just the alcohol in it!!

    I hope you feel better for getting it all out & getting some support… be kind to yourself like you woul treat a friend in the same situation.

  10. Thank you for the honesty of this post. I too wonder sometimes if I’m really – or at all – cut out for this job, and I *know* I’m not cut out for full time parenting. I know that when I ‘surrender’ to the mundane work of house and child care, everything goes more smoothly for that day. But I also know I can’t keep it up indefinitely without going apeshit. 

    As for paying money for childcare when you’re not using the time to make money? Who cares? If you can afford to do (and that is a big if, I realise), and if you decide to do it, the money you could be making is not the value you get. Nor is the weeding as such – that’s an added bonus, but what you really get is sanity, and that’s priceless. Mind you, I could be talking to myself here. I’m going back to one day a week of paid work in three weeks (not my passion though, unfortunately), and my man has cut down to four days three weeks early just so I can have three Wednesdays  of doing *my* work but I did think twice about the money we lose for those three measly days.  Ridiculous. 

    By the way I *love* this description of trying to get anything done with small children around: 
    “the constant interruption of spill wiping, leg hanging and fight breaking up that whittles 60 minutes down to six”.

    (ps I’ve commented before with the URL http://sustainablesuburbia.net/sustainable-living-blogs/ but this time i’m using my personal blog)

  11. I’ve always wished I wasn’t a mother who used regular childcare, and from the time the first babe was not even yet one I’ve used it. Because without it I totally lose my sense of humour. So to speak. I look with awe on parents who homeschool and wonder how in hell they do it. Without a bit of a break I find that that completely crammed up breadmaking mending gardening laundry sweeping market-going and cleaning fiasco would be a total drag with a small person or three hanging onto my jeans. If I can at least have one morning to do something unmolested, I’m happy to clean up the insane perpetually upended from-scratch kitchen. You know? Yep, it’s money we don’t have either. But the absence of a sense of humour is way more expensive.

  12. hey there all, thanks for the supportive comments. thanks for even just staying out there through my incredibly patchy posting!
    do we have the money for it? well, 3 hours/day, 3 days a week costs about $5,000 per school year here at any of the reputable places, if we put both kids in that’s $10,000 for 9 mf months! we have been living on more or less no income for almost 3 years, and are already in mountains of debt. because my man’s folks have plenty, we could always borrow more– so we both have plenty of money, and none whatsoever. very confusing, and yet so thoroughly normal.
    so you tell me, do we have the money for it?
    a better option i think would be a good babysitter, $12/hour for both kids. i could do just 4 hours/week or something. i have pursued every name ever given to me, and we have been through 3 different sitters, but they always fall through for one reason or another. we were just trying to get an occasional date night!
    speaking of date nights, yes, i’m all for it. the babysitter gig has provided a few, and we utilize anyone who ever comes to visit us. but when you only get a date once every few months, at least half of them go down to processing shit out of the closet, such as the aforementioned emotional breakdown which happened, yes, on a date.
    plus, would 4 hours/week make the difference? i already get 6 hours/week (on saturdays.) plus, unmentioned in the post, i also use an almost daycare quantity of video hours. like on average 3-4 hours. per day. embarrassing, mortifying even. and i still want moremoremore!!! will i ever get enough time to do my own thing? how damn much do i need anyway?
    which of course is what sparked this whole long tirade in the first place. but, great advice dixie, “be kind to yourself like you would treat a friend in the same situation.” why is it hard to be as nice to ourselves as we are to our friends?

    1. CJ, you are just in a funk. I remember those ‘TV’ days when my kids were little, counting the clock til my husband got home to give me a break, totally lacking in motivation, feeling like the worst mother in the world etc. Maybe you need a health check? Thyroid, Hemoglobin, Depression, PTSD??

    2. Hey, CJ, babysitters can be bullshit. Have you tried a nanny agency? They’re more expensive, yeah, but THEY SHOW. There’s not usually any mucking around, they’re older women who won’t freak out or let you down usually (at least here they are) at the last minute. They cost more maybe (although I was quoted by a uni student a whopping $30 an hour once for a night time gig with sleeping kids, oh how I laughed), but they usually have not just the entertaining ability with crafts, trips to the playground, ability to make food or at least get it from the fridge, they also have a first aid, child police check, and loads of experience. And if you put in $100 a week, that over 9 months will be what? About $3600? Economically that sounds like a lot, but geez, what price your freedom? I paid $7500 for the last two years for ONE kiddo to attend 3 and 4 yr old program at a montessori school, and it was worth every penny. He needed it, I definitely needed it, and he got loads more learning out of the ladies there than I would even know how to deliver. Anyway, something to think about, because I am a big advocate for mama’s to stay sane, no matter if their vice is gardening or making squillions on the trades market. Good luck with the numbers crunching, and I hope you find a happy medium.
      xxxx (one from each of us!)

  13. I’m gonna be the devil’s advocate here and say your kids are only young once and you will regret it if you don’t enjoy them now. If you are going to send them to school eventually, then you will get tons of time then to spend on your own projects. But your kids need you now to shape and mold them. I think part of the problem is that we have been raised to think we can have it all; a rewarding writing career, two grass fed homeschooled perfect children, the perfect homestead, a wonderful garden, etc. Well, we can but just not all at once. The next few years will fly by, and before you know it they will be gone.

    1. True Julie, but how to give them quantity AND quality, that is the trick. It’s OK to say you should appreciate them while they are little, and spend as much time with them as you can… but if being with them too much, or rather, not being by yourself (because we know it is not the kids themselves, just the lack of personal space & time) that sends you crazy/ grumpy, how is that helping them, or yourself? They need a sane, happy, energetic parent to shape & mold them, not someone at their wits end, barely getting by! Holding out til ‘they are in school’ is like a carrot over the donkey’s head, I am led to believe… because when they are in school, you might get 5 to 6 hours a day to ‘yourself’ but you are busy in other ways. I am about to find out this year, whether one & a half ‘school’ days to myself makes a difference or not.

      1. Sorry to cause such a stir with my comments. I was thinking about this thread a lot and my thoughts kept coming back to how we are all faced with these choices and it sucks. We all know that the ideal situation is the village. In the village there are (or used to be) aunties and grandmas and uncles helping to take care of the kids (actually, when I was in the south of India I saw this type of environment) and it’s not the burden of an isolated nuclear family. The move to the nuclear family created the necessity of institutionalizing child care and elder care, etc. And we’ve been sold this bill of goods by popular culture that we can be mom’s, have a career, a perfect home, etc. So this crappy choice, to stay at home without support (assuming you don’t have a handful of Aunties around) or putting a child in daycare or school ultimately will cause stresses. There are limits to everything and we have to make choices with our time.

        My husband and I have gone to tremendous lengths to try to create a village environment by buying a micro-sized house next to a communal house where six activist types live. That has not worked out as well as we hoped so in addition I have joined a mom’s home schooling group and occasionally take my kid to others’ houses. This approach works marginally at best to give me time to do what I want to do. Before this, I used to sit there and be miserable because I wanted to do all this stuff instead of and while being with my kid. I’m the kind of person who needs a lot of uninterrupted time to focus on something in order to learn it, like using a sewing machine. I used to resent interruptions during my sewing time. I still haven’t really learned to sew, and I don’t make any progress unless she is fully engaged with some other kid. My daughter is very high on the energy scale, has not been one to play on her own until recently and frankly exhausts me.

        My husband and I do unpaid work for a couple of non-profits and would love to spend all of our time being activists, but that’s just not in the cards for us right now and it is a crappy choice also. I’m never sending my kid to school because I think they are just training grounds to be cogs in the wheel, so I will never get the break that school provides. I don’t talk to my family and his live far away or are alcoholics, so no break there. But I can change my ‘tude and get the fuck over myself. I chose this life. I could have gone to work and put my kid in school, but I didn’t. I had 35 years pre-child to do what I wanted, now is not that time. As she gets older and can stay with friends, I can do more of what I want. I was trying to give CJ a different viewpoint, I’m not judging her. I hate school, but daycare when they are super young I am okay with as it is all fun anyway. I won’t respect her or like her any less for her decision to do school.

        Another concept that would be foreign in the village is concept of quality time. In our sometimes functioning village we just spend a lot of time together and the quality time comes as it comes. I have had to let my child know that dinner has to get on the table every night, we have to tidy up, we have to garden, basically that I can’t just stop what I’m doing constantly to have ‘quality time’ with her. She can join me in doing the work of our lives, or she can go play by herself in her room, or she can play alongside me while I work. Doesn’t mean I don’t love her, but I think it’s a realistic viewpoint of life and the moments that just happen are the best.

        So maybe I take some pressure off myself to constantly fulfill her needs. Of course a two year old is completely different in many respects from my 5 year old, but he can putter in the dirt while you garden. He can splash in dishwater, while you do dishes. A two year old also needs lots of aunties to help take the pressure off. CJ shouldn’t be afraid to ask for people to maybe take her son for a couple of hours. But if she is going to put him in school when he turns 4, it won’t be that long until she has more free time to do what she wants. Those years will fly by, and maybe her writing has to take a back seat until then, or just be diminished. It’s up to her to make up her mind what is most important to her.

  14. CJ – Wow, I recognized myself in your post again – this was me to T for all of 2010. I put my oldest in preschool one day a week. I can’t tell you how much it helped. It was all we could afford. One kid, one day a week. But it made a huge difference for everyone. I was happier and I missed him by the end of the day. He was happier at not having a mommy who was raging at him all the time. Husband was happier not worrying what he was coming home to. Since then, I’ve gotten my own emotions back in line and he’s not in school anymore. But I needed him to be then, and I don’t regret it at all.

    I was really fighting depression during that time. It was really hard for me to identify this, as I’m not the crying, sad, morose type. I’m the angry, raging, devil inside coming out of my eyes and vocal chords type. I was breast feeding and refused to stop. But I think the breastfeeding hormones were making it worse. I saw two counselors. I took all the supplements. We put our dog down (talk about guilt… I killed my dog because I couldn’t handle one more thing NEEDING me). It didn’t change until I got pregnant and realized I had not been eating enough. Yep, food. (And the pregnancy hormone changes probably contributed). But mostly food. I was not feeding myself and being hungry made me angry (what a thought, I know).

    Yeah, the years with your kids are short. But the days are long. Sometimes, unbearably long. And your babies will be much better off with a happy mama and in preschool/daycare, than with one who kept them home to preserve her ideal and went crazy. My mother worked and I was in day care from 6 months to 12 years old. And I am so close to my mother now.

    We are not supposed to be raising kids on our own. We should have great communities of women helping us with our children. But we don’t. Enter day care. It’s a good thing. Do what you can afford. It does not make you a failure in anyway. Instead it makes you a good mother who puts her children’s needs above her own ideals. I don’t know a single June Cleaver.

    HUGS! And you have my email too. ;) xoxo

    1. “the years are short but the days are long” absolutely brilliant. my new motto and explanation. thanks anisa.

  15. I sort of agree with everybody – been there, done that… still doing it – no easy answers, do what you need to do to get through. I wonder whether these feelings get worse around PMT time – uncontrollable emotional outbursts etc… and if so, would recommend some kind of supplement (we have one in NZ called 30 Plus which works a treat but I’m not sure whether it is available elsewhere).

  16. Such a powerful post and one that really hits a nerve for me.

    I think it is fascinating that the possibility of father’s sharing this load (and these joys) of early parenting is almost dismissed as a real possibility almost as soon as it is thought of. This concept that men can’t possibly work part-time in order to be full participants in the care of their children and provide days of time to mothers to do things that nurture their soul, family and possibly the family bank account too. For me having my partner move from full-time to 3 days per week when my eldest was 2 years old was revolutionary. Revolutionary in terms of enjoying mothering so much more, being able to spend real chunks of time nurturing my other passions (some paying some not) and for the kids to have the different energy and focus that their dad brings to days together without me. I know this can feel impossible (and sometimes even is impossible) but I think fathers sharing the role of parent deserves much more serious consideration and action. It seems as though it is untinkable for men to have to give up or delay their ambitions in order to take on the day to day care of kids. (This is not specifically about your man CJ, not at all, just men in our society, even this more radical homesteading society.)

    1. This is so true. My husband worked part time for the first 2 years of our daughters life (she’s now nearly 8), and looking back now I understand how good I had it, how good my daughter had it, how good my husband had it. It was an ideal situation. Now we’re doing the more typical two kids-stressed mom-full-time-dad thing and it’s just hard. I think both parents half-time work/half-time home would be so ideal in so many ways.

      1. My partner and I split being home with our daughter until she was about 20 months and it was awesome! We both had our Kid days and Adult days and it also really made those first almost-2-years feel great! Totally ideal, you are right.

  17. Wow! I’ve never commented before, I’m new to your writing, but loving it and never more so than today. thank you so much for your honesty. i cannot quite believe that I am fifty and my children are in their twenties now because your post brought back such electric and potent memories of my days as a younger mother. I wish I had the right words for you from this perspective. As mine leave home, finally raised, I more often than not wish that I could have just one more day back in the feisty muscular exhausting chaotic days of being at home with them as little kids. I can remember though, a moment when I got some relief by suddenly sensing my life as taking it’s place in a long line of women’s history and that I wouldn’t be finding a perfect solution ( to the “mothering/ being who i could be in the wide world” dilemma) in my one life- but that my imperfect efforts would be adding to all the other people’s imperfect efforts and the trajectory would change for the better for my children’s children. it sounds a little bleak when I write it down but it really was an easeful moment when I kind of uncovered and let go this subterranean sense that I HAD TO WORK THIS OUT AND FIND THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION In MY LIFETIME. There wasn’t one isn’t one. I fell down got up fell down got up fell down got up and they were raised. And here I am on the other side, and hello from here- the rewards are plenty- stronger, wiser, with lots of time and energy to do my thing. And despite my years of fretful wrestling between contentment and mad frustration my kids are divine and fine- imperfect, sane, funny, kind, hard working and happy. I know I’ll see you too in this land. You’ve had a rough trot- go easy on yourself.

    1. Beautiful, I love this. It reminds me that here we are, another link in the long chain of unbroken DNA that traces back to our common Mitochondrial Eve. We mothers are but the latest drop added to the great historical ocean of motherhood, and there is something calming about that, isn’t there?

    2. welcome nicola, and thanks for those wise words. i hadn’t applied that phrase to mothering particularly yet, though i had put it on my general need for revolution. of course it fits mothering perfectly, thanks.
      my immediate reaction is what is that right trajectory? but i guess i need to let go of the (arrogant) idea that i need to figure that out too. i like the fall down/get up/ad infinitum until they’re raised bit too. somehow i find that comforting.

  18. Oh, here I am a weeping mess again, CJ. Wish I lived next door, but I live near a bunch of Mamas here, very dear friends, and I will I will I will get us helping each other more. It’s time. My boy is starting nursery this week- 12-3 every day! And right now Daddy is playing lego fire engines with him and his sad, teething, sniffly, darling 9-month-old sister, (9 months! We’re getting there, wherever there is,) and I’m ignoring them almost entirely. Bliss.
    Isn’t it funny (or sad) that I feel like part of my bright side is that at least there’s nothing I’m desperate to be doing instead of this full-time Mama gig- no novel or thesis or career or world-change bursting out of me. Seriously burned myself out at my real job, which was actually a good part of the decision to have kids in the first place, after 20 years of saying “no fucking way.”
    I daydream about part-time work- might go and browse job ads now…
    Love you!

  19. Thank you for your post, you say all of the things that other WANT to but aren’t brave enough to. Parenting is hard, wonderful, frustrating, fantastic work. Thanks for sharing your voice!

  20. Eugh, know what you mean. I’m about to embark on baby number 2 (due literally in 3 days time) and while it’s great being a mum, I’m a bit like you perhaps – always have a million schemes I’d love to be doing and mounting frustration that I can’t get it all done. This can only get worse with 2 kids! Had high hopes and aspirations in life before I had kids but always wanted to be a mum. Eventually met the right man. Great! But now I sometimes feel like I’ve given it all up, my life as I’d planned it has come to an end. All that work and effort and all those years of putting myself through college and then working for peanuts but loving it because I was making a difference in the world. And now… I am nothing.

    ;) sorry, bit melodramatic, but that’s how it feels sometimes isn’t it?!

    I guess you’ve just got to make a success of whatever is right in front of you and try not to think how it might be different if circumstances allowed it. Accept the blow outs when it hits you yet again what you’ve given up and just let the fire of that moment roll away and fizzle out. See what you feel when all is calm again. Gradually it’s got to get easier. Eventually, it’s got to be possible to find a new set of ambitions that fit with the reality of life as a mother, rather than with what you thought life would be before you knew what motherhood meant.

    In the meantime, for me at least, I’m drifting on through, hoping the blow outs don’t come too often and trying to cram in as many little schemes as I can.

    1. swwetheart, did you follow the link to read (or re-read, i know you’ve been around awhile) Submission? i think you are due for it right about now. i know exactly what you mean, and i can identify with any amount of melodrama. i had to really reign myself in to keep that post from being big bitch/cry session. i two always wanted both, can’t claim i was hit with anything i didn’t want. i just thought i could have it all. in fact, you should go back to Having it All too. what else can you do but sit around reading when you’re that pregnant anyway?

      1. Ha ha, well almost – much internet trawling going on, but still can’t seem to sit still for long – managed to get a bit of fruit tree pruning in this morning and have started making a mini shelving unit out of paper mache for my little girl – got to get some projects in while I wait! I’m 3 days overdue now, so surely as soon as I get something properly started the baby will arrive. But anyhow, enough projects for one day, off to read those posts now. thanks for the pointers!

  21. CJ, sorry to hear this news, but as usual, the post was a wonderful bit of writing.

    I’ve seen this story play out badly with my now ex-wife and a few other neighboring wives now in a similar state of “freedom.” I’ve even seen it played out with the father working at home, changing diapers, playing legos, etc. with the kiddies during the day. You are far from alone on this.

    My input, from the papa perspective, is to sit down and make sure your Man understands how you feel. I know he’s busy, but if he’s got to squeeze 5 minutes between classes or between case studies to read your blog, and to follow-up face-to-face. Especially this post. Don’t assume your “blow up” rant may sank in.

    From his side, I grok the drive to work hard. He’s going to improve the world. Awesome. But can he do that with a few B-‘s on his transcript, to ensure his world still exists when he’s finally done with this degree?

    Can he finish off this degree next year in a more temperate climate? Don’t they have law schoosl in Alaska, or Washington, or Oregon? Can’t this be learned online yet? Did you two try looking outside the “box” that is the Orleans plan, that is not working for the two of you?

    Days ARE long, years ARE short, but so too is life.

    If none of that helps, I’m here if he’d like to talk.

    1. thanks Luni, i love to hear the male perspective. honestly though if my man had to read this blog to catch up on my deeper life status i would consider that a sign that something much more grave was wrong! there is no shortage of willingness to listen and change things on his part, the problem is more me not concretely asking for what i need. believing i am capable of more than i am.
      i get your main drift though, don’t put this off– deal with it before it takes a bigger toll than crying fits. and i absolutely agree.
      we are figuring it out.

  22. Hi
    I have only caught up on your blog and had to comment. I really enjoy your posts – you always have wise words that I can relate too.

    I have 3 kids and in a few weeks the youngest starts school, she will be turning 5. Like you I had planned to share the stay-at-home parenting with my husband. When we started having kids I was earning more money and went back to work 6 weeks after birth (part-time) and had my husband and family helping out. But when my daughter turned 1 it was all too much and I decided to stay at home (I still worked at markets) but was there for the kids. My husband kept getting promoted and earning more money so it made sense. We had more children, which I breast fed and it was great to be able to stay at home and nurture them, undertake gardening projects, renovating projects, money saving projects, small business projects. As my kids have started school I have started studying and plan to go back to part-time work in the next 12 months.

    But when my husband jokingly said that perhaps it is his turn to stay at home and look after the kids I nearly chocked! After all this time I can’t wait to enjoy some time to myself and my home-based projects when they are all at school this year. I have been waiting 9 years for this and I can’t wait.

    Enjoy your time at home, relish in it and also plan for your future, what will you do when they kids are at school.

    Take care and I love your blog!

  23. Hey CJ,

    My father sent me this post of your blog and I must say I understand how you feel completely. I am a stay at home dad, I have two part time jobs as well and am the full time care giver of two wounderfull daughters. However, I am always on the cusp of lossing it due to the fact that I have almost no time to myself. I find myself staying up untill 2 or 3 am just to have kid free time, dispite the fact that doing so makes me tired the next day. Good luck and hang in there.

  24. CJ, I read your posts and I don’t feel alone! One thing I want to say about your hubby needing health insurance (I am in the industry in AK…please don’t hate me, :) ) is that Alaska is the most expensive state in all the of the US for health insurance costs. If you guys can get on a group plan in Washington you will save loads of money. The only concern being that the plan you have has in-network providers in your area in Cordova. Good luck! Keep up the wonderful, insightful and just plain cool posts!

  25. Repeat after me….”This too shall pass”! I feel your pain sister! It seems like just yesterday that my two boys were toddlers and hubby was out to sea. I gave up my profession, working at a hospital to raise my little elflings and thinking that I would be the next “Laura Ingalls”. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t Little House on the Prairie”. Yes, a large percentage of the time, the little darlings were a joy, other times, I felt like a complete failure as a Mum. Sickness, lack of finances, and everyday life can seriously put a damper on the ‘perfect picture’ that I wanted my life to be. Fast forward a few years later, my boys are now 11 and 14. Yeah, puberty is a bitch but, the boys are much more independent which leaves me more time to pursue the things I enjoy. Hubby now has a port job and has a more active involvement with the kids. Please don’t get discouraged…as your kids get older, give them a chore chart…make them accountable. Take time for yourself. We are not supermom. I too moved away from my roots being a military wife and it’s important to find ways to get involved in things outside of the house. Pamper yourself so that you will be more refreshed to deal with the ‘everyday’ life. There will still be bumps in the road even years later. ( I was terribly ill with the flu between Thanksgiving and Christmas), the busiest time of the year but when I caught myself feeling sorry for myself, I realized, that the world wouldn’t come to an end if the house was a mess, or the laundry piled up. Cherish these early years with your children. Take the time to calmly tell your hubby how you feel and how you need to work together as a team so that you can ‘both’ fulfill your dreams. It will most likely take time and compromise but keep the lines of communication open. Wishing you the best. xxx

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