Fuck the lie that we can have it all

by Janelle Hanchett

My husband was called to work out of town and I’m fucking pissed. Sometimes I resent the shit out of this motherhood gig, the way it goes down for me.

Yeah, I said it. Sometimes I don’t want to be the one on whom the KIDS ALWAYS FALL. Sometimes I don’t want to be the one “with the flexible career” who picks up the slack when my main-life-partner has to build shit in another town. (Hey internet incapable of nuanced thought: I’m not talking about all mothers. JUST ME.)

Sometimes I don’t find this fulfilling and I want a few (hundred?) things to be about me and I wonder what exactly I was thinking when I was all “Yeah totally let’s have LOTS O’ CHILDREN!”

(But then again I don’t really wonder because yesterday I watched my beautiful first kid push my FullSizeRender-4squishy last kid in the little wooden horse swing and I felt the pull of their love as if it were its own special force field.)

Sometimes I don’t want to be the one nursing the baby, though I don’t want to formula feed, either. And sometimes I loathe being the one who gets up in the night because I can “take a nap” if it really gets tough (AS IF THAT NAP EVER HAPPENS), but I like being here for my baby and when the kids get home, and it means something to me to work in that damn co-op preschool. I’m so here for the little angel terrorists.

But you know what?


My career has been central in our past. And it was his career that allowed me to go to graduate school, and if one single douchebag on the internet attempts to talk shit about my husband or bring up some second-wave feminist bullshit they learned in Gender Studies 101 back in 1989 about “women getting out of the home” and “shared partnership” or whatever the fuck you gleaned from your Gloria Steinham-worshipping instructor, well, I don’t know what. I won’t approve your comment and I’ll visualize shoving The Feminine Mystique up your misguided judgmental ass.

Kidding. I’ll totally approve your comment. But the ass-book visualization is true.

I don’t care what you learned in class or believed back in 1973: THIS SHIT AIN’T FIXED and some of us still find ourselves unable to find the glorious holy grail of the work-life balance, “have it all” goodness allegedly bestowed upon us by our crazed bra-burning predecessors.

That’s because it doesn’t exist and we were sold a lie.


I bought it. Hook line and motherfucking sinker. But that’s not my problem. My problem is I have 4 kids.

Is that my problem? Does it really matter? Little late now.

At any rate, I’m sure if I made better life choices I would find myself in more amicable life conditions where I could be Janelle Hanchett, Wildly Successful Writer and Top-Notch Mother, but instead last night I screamed at my toddler for flailing one more time in her chair at dinner because I’m so tired my face burns and I’m sick and bitter about my life being placed on hold because my husband has to work out of town, and I’m pissed off that we can’t survive on one income alone but I don’t make enough to justify working out of the home (um, childcare for 4 anyone, anyone, Bueller?), and I want to write a screenplay with a badass filmmaker who wants to work with me and there’s a draft of a book saved in MS Word so neatly and hopefully but starving for hours of merciless revision, and an agent who asked for a proposal (but was abandoned by me approximately 18 months ago), but the mortgage. It needs to be paid in a week.

Fuck it. I want to give up. I won’t.

But I want to, today.

Arlo also feels wildly put-upon.

Arlo also feels wildly put-upon.

How much self-pity can fit in one belly, I ask you? (I’m doing an experiment and I tell you it’s A LOT.)

I worked out of the home for a long time when I had fewer kids and it was worth it financially. That was one of the biggest crocks of shit ever. All the work of the week was just moved to the weekends and I just found myself stuck OUT THERE when I wanted to be IN HERE and if a kid got sick by god I was screwed and leaving a 4-month-old was like wrenching my guts out of my soul (drama?) and then I just sucked at work AND at home and found myself getting older on a rat wheel in a shit home in a shit area where the schools sucked and had no resources to help my dyslexic son. So we moved to a better area, where life costs more.

Oh the tangled web.


Which reminds me, can we please stop making these issues about MORALITY/right-and-wrong when it’s really about ECONOMICS? Can we please stop bashing women in and out of the home as if we all wake up one day and say “You know what? I’m just going to DECIDE to work or stay at home!”

Most of us are here or there because we are responding to the ever-evolving circumstances of our lives, and sometimes those circumstances are clear and good and neat (you know, for a week or month or two) and sometimes they RELEGATE US TO ONE ARENA OR THE OTHER WHETHER OR NOT WE WANT TO BE THERE.

Fuck the lie that we can have it all.

I get a little here and a little there and some success here and there and a baby, one two three kids. It’s my fault.

I made this bed. I’m restlessly not sleeping in it.

I nurse my baby at 3pm and play with him and want to burn his fuzzy chicken feather head into my mind forever, I love him so. I watch my husband roll out in the morning and he’s gone to work. I feel slightly resentful that he goes up and away, alone. Maybe I would give anything for a workday alone.

I'm home to get this, and give this, and that's a big fucking deal.

I’m home to get this, and give this, and that’s a big fucking deal.

Then I remember that sucked too.

I’d rather be here.

I’d rather be there.

I’d rather be both. I am both. I “work from home!”

I hate both.

I try, I fail. I’m going to make it to kindergarten info night this year. I found a babysitter for a couple days a week so I can write. When she’s sick I am wordless. I stay up until midnight staring at a blank page. No matter, because there’s the baby again. Nobody’s explained to him that sleep is possible without a nipple in the mouth.

They tell me to sleep train. It feels wrong. They tell me I can do anything. They tell me I’m enough. They tell me I can have it all but it seems they’re just saying DO IT ALL.

Some tell me I had too many kids. I tell them “NO FUCKING KIDDING ASSHOLE.”

But I would have 3 more if I could.

I can’t find my way sometimes, wedged here in this half-in half-out workplace, neither fully stay-at-home nor fully “working mother.”

I can’t find my way in and I can’t find my way out so I just keep moving here, and there, to preschool, to the doctor’s office, to the classroom where I teach, to my baby’s petal lips and dimpled fists, to the most beautiful lie I’ve ever bought.


They say I’ll look back and love these times. I could punch them in the throat, if I could only find them. If I weren’t too tired to search. If I weren’t too busy looking for my other fucking shoe.

In a few hours my kids will be home and I’ll make them dinner, teach them manners at the dinner table and ask about their day. We’re out of Cheerios and lunchmeat. I want to write fiction. That’s my next frontier.

I have 2,000 stories to tell but I’m living one I can’t contain, can’t write, can’t hold and can’t understand.

I have it all, except that. I have it all, except an answer. Tomorrow I’ll figure out there isn’t one, and become okay right there.

Or, I guess, I’ll become okay right here.

  • Heather Krcha

    me too. I’m right there with you. I feel so ashamed of myself that I feel the heat of anger rush over me when my husband walks out the door every morning on his way to work. I have to point out to him all the ways my day was so much harder than his. Obviously, this is not a competition. We have four kids- the oldest being six. Yup. I’m in deep. Not buyers remorse, but not not buyers remorse. 😉 this has been the best hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life! And we’ve just begun!

    Thanks for your raw honesty- it struck a nerve. I appreciate your boldness- it’s something I’m working on daily.

  • kimanne

    Bravo, lady! Bravo. Thanks for saying it for all of us.

  • Lori

    Amen. Hope your day gets better. You gave me a chuckle or two, so that helped mine.

  • Eleonora

    I am trying to “have it all” right now.
    I want to be an artist and teach and make a living at it! Crazy. And I want a third child.
    There is never enough time for anything.
    But I love my children SO much. And I am looking for my other shoe, or my son’s other shoe, or my phone, or the baby’s pacifier… all the time.
    Well, just to say. You are not alone in this lie!

  • Jenny

    I agree with your confused anger and aggravation, as a mother of 4 as well (8,5,3,3, yes they ARE twins) I am trying to work 3 days a week and be the home mom too (I stay away from Pinterest so I don’t feel so inadequate). Luckily I have a great husband who does a lot and he actually shares some of your feeling.. When asked how I do it and comments like “damn that sounds busy/hard/crazy”, my standard response is “I’m just grateful that I’m not sitting in a lobby at St. Jude Hospital and juggling treatments”. Us moms with mostly healthy kids have it pretty good, no matter the bad days. Thanks for sharing chic, I’ll think of you while enjoying this glass of wine.

    • Alexa

      This was so well said – it is amazing how a serious bout of flu that came through our family and causing some life threatening issues can put everything in perspective – it is EVERYTHING to have a healthy child/children, makes life sweet!

  • Nora

    I adore how cranky you are. It helps to know I am not alone.

    • Spanish Traci

      Me too Nora! Thats why I love her posts. Lol

  • em

    i so get this. i have four adorable monsters who i am with way too much (i homeschool them because apparently i am insane.) just to write this comment i have had to stop three times already to try and calm down a raging 6 year old being taunted by his nine year old brother while the three year old has been tied up and the toddler screams because i’m not allowed to put him down. i have been wanting so badly to just quit this job–but that’s not really an option is it? today i am trying to remember to breathe & stay centered…or is it grounded i’m supposed to be? present, right? oh, & i am a writer & an artist. but i am too tired & frazzled &, frankly, their dad sucks–so i’m pissed off & stressed out on top of that. breathe. stretch. center. zurbert the baby. accept. thanks for sharing your frustrations!

  • Caroline

    Hell yes. I have ONE child, I work outside the home three days a week and I’m seriously pissed off that husband is 6000 miles away on business this week. And that every day he goes to work before I’ve got Smallest ready for nursery and myself ready for work then gets home after bath time, when all the screaming and fighting is done. But I wouldn’t miss bathing my boy and playing silly games for the world. Having it all is bollocks. You can have everything in a shit way, or some of it reasonably well, but never the bit you want RIGHT NOW. Loved this post.

  • Nora

    by the way, I saw pictures of 3 of your kids. GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those dimples!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I bet that baby’s head is soft as a feather.
    I bet that, later in life, you won’t miss the puke and poop. you’ll miss holding them and snuggling, but not cleaning the puke and poop from under your nails.

    I am right there with you, sister. Mine are 6 and 3. (Yes, I stopped at 2 because I am a wuss…and proud of it!) a GRATEFUL wuss.

  • Ashley

    The whole work part-time from home bit is the best and worst deal out there. I can’t decide if it’s better or worse than working full time out of the home. I can’t decide if it would be better or worse than not working at all and staying home, because I’ve never done that. Sometimes I feel like it’s better that economically we have no choice, because if we had a choice I still don’t know what I would choose. But it’s hard to feel like I have no choice.

    • Julie

      About being better or worse/working or not working/part time or full time. My kids are teens now and I’ve worked from home for few hours a day on freelance basis, part time outside of the home, full time outside of the home and stayed home and not “worked” when my kids were different ages. This balance that people talk about has been precarious at best. I have enjoyed periods of time over the last 15 years both working and not working but I can’t say that any one situation was better than the other because my kids needs changed with their ages. What I can say is for me and my family situation, no matter what age my kids were, or whether my husband was working out of town or locally, whether I worked outside the home or not, the majority of the household and child rearing duties have been and are still mine. I wonder if there will be a generational shift in that area beginning with my kids or perhaps it’s already started?

  • Becky

    You nailed it, sister! Very well said, and I dig all the f-bombs. I also have four young children (including 2-year old twin boys). I love them more than anything while simultaneously missing my SELF and what I could have been and still want to be. They didn’t teach us any of this in college. I look forward to more of your posts. Thank you for writing this.

  • Heather

    Let me tell you a little story: 6 out of the last 12 school days, my kids had a delay because of cold temps or snow. My kids are 11 and 13. They are old enough to get up, get dressed, get breakfast, and get out the door on their own, but I can’t go to work and say “get on the bus…don’t miss it because you’re not paying attention to the time, and BTW, don’t let anyone steal you while you are at the bus stop”. When they have delays, the older one gets on the bus at 9:20a and the younger gets on the bus at 10:15. So, best case scenario, I’m getting to work at 11am, 4 hours later than I’m supposed to, and oh BTW, I still have to leave by 4p to be able to get home early enough to get them off the bus and in the door. Where’s their dad, you ask? Oh, he’s at work too. He works 7 days a week, leaving the house at 6:30a and not home until 8p (if we’re lucky). The best part of my story has yet to be told…Yesterday, after delay #6, my boss calls me in to HER office and gave me a warning letter saying that my excessive tardiness was being documented and while I am a very valuable employee, I am setting a bad example for the rest of the staff. I am now on probation. So, yeah, sure would be nice to have the option to be a work-from-home mom right about now. And my mortgage was due two days ago and the check still hasn’t been written. Life sucks. It’s just your particular brand of suckishness that you have to live with. Keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in the same shitty mess together, loving our kids more than anything else. Oh, and BTW….The forecast for tomorrow is calling for arctic blasts and sleet. Fuckity, fuck, fuck. How bad of a mom would I be if I Facetimed my kids getting on the bus?

    • StrawberryShortfuse

      I am fist-bumping you right now, Heather.

      Also I am fist-bumping your boss. In the face.

    • Jill

      11 and 13? yeah, I’m with you. Give the 13 year old a cell phone and totally just call the morning bus thing in. You’re good. 13 is old enough to baby sit, means it’s old enough to get on the bus alone — unless you live in like, South Central LA or a very unsafe area.

    • Heather

      I hear you, Heather. My child was born with a minor disability, but one that required several doctors appointments in her first year of life. I was punished and put on probation for taking my VACATION DAYS. Not even late, not even just not showing up, telling them a month in advance.

      So I found a new job, part time, because, as Janelle has said…you just can’t fucking have it all.

      Here’s to your dumb boss. May she she have 4 kids in the next five years as punishment for her stupid ass.

  • Brenda

    I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how any mamas with more than one kid do it. I don’t know how mamas who work do it. I have one kid, I have been a stay at home mom with him since he was born almost 4 years ago, and I am drowning. It’s the most wonderful and suffocating time in my life. Some days I can’t wait to get my life back, mostly I can’t believe how fast it’s going and how much I will miss this sweet little boy. Hang in there — the balancing acrobats on the hire wire act have nothing on you. You are doing a phenomenal job.

  • Ellen Gee

    You my dear, are normal.

  • Cassey

    I so get that anger…and I’m only a work at home mom to one kid 0_o Clearly I’m not winning at anything.

  • Just thinking....

    Hi Janelle. You are all about being real, so I want to be real with you. I’ve followed your blog for sometime. I am on your email list. I don’t have 4 kids, I only have 2. But my little girl has such severe special needs that sometimes it feels like 4. I did my degree in English lit too, and taught English before my daughter was born. Them I couldn’t go back to work because there were no daycares in my tiny community who would take her. So I quit my job to become a daycare lady to be home with my daughter. So I guess I do have 4 kids after all. I was really angry. Really, really angry, and I needed an outlet, like you. I needed a place to write it all out… I had an angry mommy blog for a while… And then I realized I could put that energy in another direction… I was wondering, why don’t you write? If you want to be a famous writer and you have so much angry energy, and so many beautiful things to say, how about you put that into something like a novel? Escape into another world in your book and create the story you really want to tell? I think you could do it Janelle. I think all this energy you spend bitching about motherhood could be an award winning novel on the modern mother….

    • Erin

      eek. something tells me this reply will NOT be well-received. ANY energy spent relieving oneself of internal feelings is not “bitching” it’s getting it out so it doesn’t consume you.

      • Just Thinking…

        I get that. Trust me. I’ve done my fair share of bitching. What I mean is what I mean. Selfishly of course we want Janelle to keep blogging about her daily life… but for Janelle, I sort of want to see her stop blogging and start writing that novel I know she has stashed away in the back of her mind. It is there. I know it is, and it keeps getting pushed back and pushed back, and blogging is a way of releasing the ‘steam’ per se in quick little bursts so that the volcano doesn’t explode… however, I would love to see Janelle stop releasing the steam in tiny bursts an instead contain it one one huge volcano of a novel…

        Janelle, have you ever seen “Happy Christmas” the movie? Check it out.

        • renegademama

          You are making a lot of assumptions about me, why I blog, and what it does for me. If you see this website as endless streams of bitching I’m not sure why you read it.

          But thank you for the heartfelt advice. It’s always helpful coming from strangers on the internet.

          • Aimee

            Please don’t ever stop doing what you do. I tear up with relief every post feeling so much better about life. That lady can shove it. You’re actually putting good into the world because many of us moms suffer in silence and feel alone. I just screamed at my husband recently for coming down on me for getting frustrated at my kid “it sucks to be the default person!!” Thanks for being the voice of reason.

      • renegademama

        Erin, good call. One of the strangest things about writing on this public forum (beyond strangers thinking they “know” me) is the fact that motherhood is the only occupation that you can’t complain about without being called “lazy” or “selfish” or “angry.” It amazes me every time. I mean we’re just people dealing with the trials of life. But if involves mothering, you get “angry mommy” status and people attempting to fix you. Yay!

  • KJ

    It’s a worldwide phenomenon, I left a small baby to go out to work because we needed the money. Was far from fulfilling, and made me miserable. Yet now I’m at home with 3 of them I would love a day or two to myself, working, shutting my office door. A lunch break!
    And I get judged! Judged for being at home, for not putting my kids in daycare, even though I’m at home?!?! For choosing kindergarten, but apparently that’s not the done thing? And I should be looking for work even with a small baby, and the other two not in school.
    Ah the joys of parenthood, everyone knows what you should be doing better than you! I’ve kinda given up on other people, just for now. Easier than getting angry all the time!!

    • renegademama

      Love this comment, especially right after the one before you. So perfectly timed.

      • KJ

        I kinda went a little fangirl just then! YOU replied to ME!! Just bragged to my husband haha!
        Disclaimer: I don’t think you’re overly angry, I think you’re just like me, though I swear a little more…..

  • April Bennett

    Hey, tears. Sending affection. Hopefully non-stalkerish.

  • Julie C

    Love you rant…probably because I have said it so many times, but no one was here to hear me….other than my 4 kids! Mine are 15, 12, 10, 10…… and I’d like to say it gets better, but really it is pretty great already- even when it sucks! So better isn’t the word….just different and know that all your hard work does pay off….just seems like a really fucking long way off! Keep doing, because that is really all the time you have to do is to keep moving forward and hope it all comes together and makes sense at some point.

  • Beth

    I’m with you! It is a filthy lie they tell us – that we can have it all! The day I realized it was a lie was a sad sad day. I work part time out of the house and have two kids. Working part time makes me feel like I can’t give the full the extent I would like to give to either my family or my career. So my career is on the backburner. And I appreciate the time at home with my kids, I truly do but I do love the work I do too. And just to make it more about not being able to have it all… I’d love to have a third but there isn’t enough money for that… and if I worked full time to pay for two littles in daycare and one in afterschool care and had to do all the house things on the weekend I would want to kill someone. It isn’t fair… it really isn’t. But our children are wonderful aren’t they?! I just look at their faces and know they are worth it and hope that things change before my daughter is older and has to deal with the “have it all” lie too.

  • pia

    totally get it! Some days are more like this than others. mine are now 9, 13, &16…It does get better. Not less busy, but more flexible. More and less crazy all at once, at least is that is what I find. But I really relate to the push and pull of in and out of home and how to reconcile that with what works and meets the family needs. mine were a bit sidelined there for a while. This decade is more mine 🙂

  • Melissa

    Amen! I have been stuck in this vortex for years! My 3 amazing kids are teen/ young adults. I’m just getting this shit down and they are growing up and leaving!? I have said for a long time now with a broken heart that we women have screwed ourselves! I am a career women and my husband is mister mom. It is how it has worked out in our lives and I am grateful but sad all at the same time… Thank you so much for once again being “our” voice! And letting me know I am not alone…

  • Liz

    Ha “We’re out of Cheerios and lunchmeat”

    I feel you

  • Nancy

    You wrote what I couldn’t. At home since my first was born, they are 4, 1-1/2 and one due in April. Most everything you wrote came straight from my head. Keep on trucking lady, you’re doing a service to us all!

  • tanya

    i love that you say out loud the words in my head that I am too afraid to say. but this is my life. exactly.

  • Charlotte wise

    Oh my god! How can you do this? Write words straight from my own life and make me grovel at your feet to know someone else feels the same! Love every word! Thank you! Xx

  • Nicole

    Amen sister! Having it all is total bullshit…and has caused me such anxiety I’ve been to the ER three times in the last 2 months with heart attack symptoms. I hope I can teach my daughter to handle this shit better than I do AND that I can teach my son to not expect his partner to expect it all.

  • Beth H.

    Just yesterday, someone was shocked to find out I am a single mom. “But you work, you volunteer, you are going to school, you……” Yes. I do those things. Because the busier i am, the less lonely I am. For me, it’s not about having it all, because I don’t even know what “it all” means to me. I just know I have to find the best ways to get through the day, and every day those ways change, but I keep at it.

  • Rebecca

    Yep. That about sums it up! Realistically we can have it all – just not all at the same time. That’s the message I’m going to be telling my daughter.

  • Scottie

    ((hugs)) I think you need them today.

    Been there, done that.. have an over-stuffed dresser full of “those” T-shirts.

  • BG

    I hear you, loud and clear. Thanks for making me feel less alone in this. And less of an ungrateful cow for not always enjoying being home (understatement), though I choose it every day because the pull of my rotten ungrateful children is stronger than anything else. P.S. Your kids are freaking adorable. But you knew that.

  • StrawberryShortfuse

    “Which reminds me, can we please stop making these issues about MORALITY/right-and-wrong when it’s really about ECONOMICS? Can we please stop bashing women in and out of the home as if we all wake up one day and say “You know what? I’m just going to DECIDE to work or stay at home!”

    Most of us are here or there because we are responding to the ever-evolving circumstances of our lives, and sometimes those circumstances are clear and good and neat (you know, for a week or month or two) and sometimes they RELEGATE US TO ONE ARENA OR THE OTHER WHETHER OR NOT WE WANT TO BE THERE.”


  • Ellen

    AMEN sister!!!! I feel you, I am you: ) I used to be a personal growth junkie and the phrase “You can have it all!!!!” was thrown around way too much. Maybe we can have it all, but not all at once. Why doesn’t anyone ever preach that sermon? From one writing mama to another, I get this so much… Thank you for your words today~

  • Jessica

    So true. All of it.
    I catch myself visualizing daggers flying at my husband when he rolls out of bed, throws his work clothes on and heads out the door 5 minutes later with empty hands, so free.
    It takes me TWO AND A HALF HOURS and lots of self control to even get out of the house with 3 kids

  • Emily

    Crying only a little after reading this…if only to know that, if I AM a horrible person for having all of these same thoughts (about my mere two beautiful daughters), then at least I’m not alone in my horribleness 🙂 Thank you.

  • CSmith

    I’ve worked out of the home and hated it. I’ve worked in the home and hated it. The fact is, when you have kids, it’s just work all of the time. Have it all? I don’t want it all. I hardly have any of it and I’m fucking exhausted! But God it’s so, so worth it.

  • Andrea

    Oh man, this? >>

    I have 2,000 stories to tell but I’m living one I can’t contain, can’t write, can’t hold and can’t understand.

    Hit the nail on the head. Every time I try to carve out a space for myself inside of this life, I get frustrated because it just seems impossible. And then I try to just get by, surviving the days, and that sucks worse. I’m jealous of my working out-of-the-home friends, but I don’t want anyone else home with my kids in these early years… like, I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want anyone else to do it more, know what I mean?

    Thanks for this. Sometimes just knowing that you’re not the only one who feels this way makes it all a bit better.

  • Yukon Butterfly

    I so get this! I have two kids and work full time, so I don’t work from home, but it’s hard to do the things I love. As an artist, I don’t make enough to live on, so I have to work an admin job to cover our butts, along with my husband’s full time income. It is an economic choice for sure, for all of us. I’m lucky I live in Canada and I got a whole year off when both my kids were born, but it was still hard to go back to work and leave them. I would also have a bunch more, but the fine line we walk is too much. Funny how 40 years ago you could have four kids and live on one income. No one talks about that…

    • Onebluestocking

      Because 40 years ago families lived in tiny ranch houses, shared one car, sewed their own clothes and had no bills for cable TV, internet service, cell phones, etc.

      • Yukon Butterfly

        Actually, it’s because wages have stagnated for the middle class since the ’70’s. We’ve haven’t gotten a raise for much too long and women still make less than men for the same work. Perhaps if we all got a larger piece of the pie, things would be better. Perhaps if more of our tax dollars went into social programs, quality daycare and free education, there would be more options. Also, things like clothes, cell phones, etc. are cheaper now, since the big corporations have shipped their factories off shore, and pay slave wages. Just food for thought!

  • Zoe Collins

    What you have is the TRUTH, and the guts to stand up and say it how it is. Power to you when you feel you have nothing left!

  • Courtney

    Thank you. So good to know I don’t think these thoughts alone. And, if I knew you in real life, I think we would be good friends. 🙂

  • Joanie Q


  • Erin

    Of course it’s economics, *and* tied to gender (ie: women are paid less because we live in a misogynist system). Couples work out what they can–my husband and I do split child care and both work full time…but, of course, he makes far more money with a BA than I do with a PhD, and everyone praises him for being such an active father while they wonder–OUT LOUD–how I can “bear” to leave the kids to go to conferences or do research.

    So of course I daydream about leaving work and living a simpler life-but I know that (a) it wouldn’t be as good as I envision it, and (b) leave a tenured job???!!!!

    Anyway, my only point (if there is one at all) is that I may be juggling it differently, but I completely agree that there is no winning. We need a whole different class-gender (and race) structure to fix it. But, let’s see, who controls all the political and business centers of power where those changes could be made? Oh, right: wealthy white straight men. Oh well, so much for that.

    I hope your days get better, or at least that you manage to get more sleep.

    • Jennie

      Yes- this. It is indeed a lie that we can have it all but I can’t begrudge feminism- I save my wrath for the fucked up system that doesn’t value what women do at home OR outside the home, so we end up trying to do all of the things, at the SAME TIME and then someone is like “why are you so uptight?” and I imagine ripping their face off, but I don’t, bc I don’t think I would do well in prison.

  • Aria Alpert Adjani

    Listen bitch – however tired or pissed off or not or whatever – this life of yours – these deliriously adorable 4 of yours – has made you, shaped you into a damn damn DAMN good writer. Maybe, maybe even better than if you only had 1 or even none. Possibly? But more importantly, what I really want to know more about is this script of yours you speak of?! Cause mama, I’m a once upon a time actress that hasn’t had an ounce of free time to “work on her art” or whatever since popping out my 2 and am more than intrigued to know what you got up that dirty sleeve of yours!

  • Yasmin

    “You can have it all, just not all at once.” Question Bryce
    Though sometimes I’m not sure about that either. I’m a doctor, and have spent many years studying and training to do my job, and do it well. Now I’m a mother of 2 kids as well. I work part time, to try and have “work-life balance”.
    But it just means that I suck at both jobs! But if I tried to concentrate on just one job, the in home or the out of home one, I know I’d end up sucking at them even more!
    So I figure I’ll take the good days when they happen, and try not to be jealous of my full time colleagues who are able to move their careers forward, while I pedal desperately so as not to be left too far behind. Cause I get to go home to a couple of beautiful and infuriating kids and watch them grow.
    Thank you so much for giving a forum where it’s ok to admit that it sucks sometimes.

  • Yasmin

    By the way, that quote is from Quentin Bryce, former governor-general of Australia.
    Damn autocorrect.

  • Cindy

    Thank you. I am so grateful that you could put into words, the exact feelings I have on a daily basis. Even though I know most parents at some point want to sell their children to the Circus, most don’t ever form the words. I know I am a good mother and I live for my children, but there are those days when the GUILT creeps in. So when I lay my head on what ever is available at that moment, pillow, desk, kitchen floor, I try to remember I am doing the best I can, and that has to be good enough because I can’t do any more than I already do. Then I awake to the chaos that is my life and start all over again.

    • Lu

      me tooo..

  • Giselle

    I only have one child (a threenager girl) and work full-time outside the home but I feel the same anger and frustration about being forced to work by economics and being the default parent for the house and kid ALL the time. My husband and I make about the same amount but he commutes an hour away, so can’t do daycare pickup or dropoff. He also works a side business, so I end up with all the housework. I don’t know a single mom, working or SAH, married or not, that is truly happy and fulfilled. We have so much expectation, on ourselves and from society, and NO support to make it happen in a meaningful way. It’s infuriating and exhausting.

  • Nicole

    I’m so right here with you. I only have one and she’s three now, but my life very much resembles the work from home roller coaster ride you describe.

    The best… when people suggest I get a part time job in the evenings after my husband gets home. As is I haven’t already worked ALL DAY LONG. —MUST… resist… urge to punch “helpful” idiot… in face…

  • Heidi

    It tried to work (retail), take an online class and homeschool a hyper 6 yr old with a 7 month old at home. Oh, and babysit a 2 yr old 10hrs a week. But it made me hate everything, everyday. I dropped the class, took a homeschool “break” and decided to “enjoy” my days before my baby starts walking… It’s not heaven, but it’s better. I am on hold. I have to wait. I need moments to journal, escape to the local coffee shop to read. I’m so tired of being miserable because I cant accept it. Trying.

  • Colleen

    This was the perfect post for me to see today; I just had my second baby and I just went back to work and feeling like crap.

  • Andy

    Thanks for this post. As a husband to an amazing mother and wife, I know she is having some of these same feelings, and your post gives me a better understanding, and hopefully more empathy and compassion, and time!

  • Lu

    Oh [Wo]man! Had me at fuzzy, chicken feather head.. Exactly like my baby

  • Angela Todd

    YES! When I had little babies I worked from home a couple of days a week and brought them in with me a couple of days a week. I always said I was so lucky to be able to, but it was the worst of both worlds. Both.

  • Judy

    Wow. You speak the truth that is my life. Or was my life. My 5 kids are grown now, but we were always at the mercy of the breadwinner. Not that I don’t adore him and appreciate all the bread he has provided, but I did lose myself along the way. Our baby is now 20, and I’m starting to figure out who I am.

  • Mary Robinson

    It doesn’t matter if you work in or out of the home or if you are part time. There is no magical balance. I have done each of these, and I was never fully satisfied with any of them because I kept chasing the ideal that I could have a pottery barn perfect house (and life) and still be a mother of four! HAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!! Now that I have stopped chasing that ridiculous ideal things are a lot better for me. I have had to come to terms with a lot of things. 1. Men are idiots. 2. Moms are always on duty, not matter where or when or how much we work. ALWAYS ON DUTY. If we work out of the home we are on duty the minute we walk in the door. If we work in the home we are doing several jobs at once. If we work part time we are still on duty when we get home and we are expected to cover things and have a flexible schedule to care for thei kids. And sometimes because we are moms, we expect ourselves to do these things. We are amazing and tortured creatures. I only hope I can prepare my daughters for motherhood! 😉 Your writing is great, I wish I lived near you so we could have coffee and our kids could tear up the house together while we deluded ourselves into thinking we’d do something productive.

  • Sandy

    What you said. The Cheerios, the lunch meat, the fiction. Exactly what you said.

  • gct

    This helps me so much with how shitty I feel when the partner, or mother, or co-worker tells me how lucky I am to have a flexible job. I have a 6-week old and do not want to go back. At. All. But we have no $$ without my going back. And I just want to be with this baby. And the toddler. And work, but not work. I know I am in a better position than many, but does that invalidate my feelings? No. And this post helps me not feel as badly about feeling the way I do.
    Thank you.

  • Adam

    Not trying to be a jerk here but, when you have children it’s not about you anymore. I’m sure its hard to not be self centered. But, it’s not aboit you or your husband anymore it’s about your children so time to sack up and handle shit.

    • Erinbeth

      When you have to start a sentence with “I’m not trying to be a jerk….” *eyeroll*

      • renegademama

        Right? It’s almost as stupid as “No offense but…”

        People should just be honest and say “I’m about to be a dick…”

        But there’s always one dude who sweeps by as a first time reader/commenter and graces us sad ladies with his profound insights. THERE’S ALWAYS ONE.

        • Aimee

          Wait…so it’s NOT about me anymore? Shit.

    • Todd

      You don’t need to try.

    • Strawberryshortfuse

      A, “about.” WTF are you, Canadian?

      B, I got your sack right here, Adam.

      Christ that was childish, but it felt good to write.

  • Kirsten

    As my youngest (of four) is so fond of saying…..


  • Brenda B

    One of my friends shared your blog post and I am going to take the bait….it is not a lie. It is possible to have a fulfilling career and be a mother. It’s just not very common because in my experience (I’m 52) most people don’t have fulfilling careers whether they are men, women, single or married. Most people don’t enjoy their jobs!
    I wanted to be an Architect from the time I was twelve. Now 40 years later I still love it..every single day. I didn’t get married or have children until I was in my late 30’s when I was already a partner in my firm. I have strived to create a family friendly office. I pick up my kids from school and we go back to our design studio where they do their homework and we drive home together at the end of the day. My husband and I share duties….children and housework. That is not negotiable period. Is it equal…sometimes he does more and sometimes I do. I think one of your commenters said you can have it all just not at the same time. I agree with this. Most of my 20’s and 30’s I didn’t have a family and I focused on career. I had my children when my career was already well established. You are young be patient you have time. My mother is 73 and still working because she wants to. You can have 40 to almost 50 years to work maybe more because you are a writer…you only have your children for 18 years and they are off into the world. Young children are incredibly draining I know I’ve been there. But, it gets easier as they get older and you will have more and more time for your writing. And eventually they will be gone and you can work full time. And then I bet you will realize that you can have it all over the course of your life. Take care.

  • ErinBeth

    ohmygod, when did I write this?! Holy mother. Yes, this. In all the ways, yes. So, how do we do this? Why is it like this? Is it everything: two-working-parent-homes, technology, consumerism, allofit?! I’m sure this wasn’t the idea when my mom was raising me- she worked because she was a single mom- to put food on the table, but there was little else vying for her attention. I feel painfully drawn to my writing (I have two unfinished screenplays in the works) and while I say I’m not motivated by money, I’m working two fucking jobs and considering re-starting the business my hub and I had before becoming parents. AND WE WANT TO ADOPT ANOTHER BABY. What is wrong with me? This is all so fucked up and yet, I don’t see any way out. I’m choosing all of it and it seems, choosing none of it, really.

    • renegademama

      Choosing none of it.
      That’s it right there.
      And hey. Would you teach me how to write a screenplay? 🙂

  • Nicole

    I could write a book on “it all” and how fucking mad I am at Cheryl Sandburg for making all of the moms out there feel guilty for either a) not wanting “it all” (the smart ones, really), or b) not being able to figure out how to get “it all” without either a very supportive and available extended family or a lot of financial help. Of course, the feminist in me wants to tell every woman out there that they can have everything that their crazy multi-dimensional personality wants. But, most will have to make career sacrifices because they are needed at home (and want to be there), and family sacrifices because they want to work, and health sacrifices because there is simply no way to focus on eating healthy and exercising well when there are all of the other creatures in the house that need caring for, and financial sacrifices because you can’t save for retirement when you have to pay for all of the fucking soccer shoes, and friend sacrifices and sleep sacrifices and creativity sacrifices and sex sacrifices… and we all feel so damn guilty all of the time because we’re not doing everything perfectly.

    The best we can do is our best… just fumble along trying to carve out time for what you need to do to keep your life on track and your sanity.

    Also, sleep training isn’t so bad. I know why you feel it’s wrong, but I did it because I hated the mother I was being to my kids when I was so tired. I figured that I owed it to them to be healthy – mentally and physically – and to be able to give them the best of me during the day. Screaming at them, or falling asleep while I was on the floor playing, or sticking them in front of the TV so that I could doze on the couch, was just not feeling right either. I needed to fix it, and for that, I needed sleep. And I was amazed at how easy it was and how painless it was. I actually think he cried more every single day before sleep training because he was so tired and needy than he did on that one day that we sleep trained. YES – it took A SINGLE DAY/NIGHT and he slept through the night… went from waking every 2 hours to sleeping 11-12 without waking. Not only that, he’s a happier baby for it (he was clearly chronically tired from waking so frequently), and I’m so much healthier, happier, calmer, and more alert (I was so tired that I probably shouldn’t have been driving… think about that…). Read the book “Bed Timing”… it presents everything in a really logical, informative, way. 🙂

  • Neek

    I always knew motherhood would be exactly like you described, and I never felt I had it in me to rise to the occasion. So I didn’t have kids, and people want to shame me, or tell me I’ll change my mind, they make it sound easy, beautiful, wonderful. And once in a blue moon, a woman like you comes along and tells the truth about motherhood and how hard it is. And you have a husband! I don’t. So thank you for your honesty. You are helping mothers in your honesty but you’re also helping those of us who chose not to be as we stand up to those who would shame us for our choices.

  • Carol

    I can identify with your frustration. Even if you love your kids totally, you’re still a human with needs and wants of her own. My mom worked while I was little, so I wanted a different experience for my son. With some rearranging and work, we were able to let me stay home with him. AND I WAS MISERABLE!!! I had a fucking career! I had a masters degree! And I gave it up for this? I knew I was committing professional suicide, and yup, now that I can start working while he’s in school, 9 years later, there are little options for me in my field. But I got a reality check too. Last Sept. I started work part-time in a childcare job. I learned the hard way what happens to 3, 4 & 5 year olds when they’ve been at school for 8 hours. Do you know how heart breaking it was to console a baby who just wants their mommy? I’m not trying to guilt any working moms, I know you’re just doing your best. But hug your kids extra hard after they’ve been in childcare all day. And stay at home mom think about who would be caring for your kids if you’re not there. Childcare workers are paid CRAP and they’re usually undertrained and overworked. I was told I needed to care for twelve 3-5 year olds by myself for 8 hours. Some WERE NOT POTTY TRAINED. AND BY 3 PM THEY JUST WANTED TO KILL EACH OTHER AND ME TOO. You’re right we can’t have it all. But we have to live with our choices, and so do our kids. God help us all.

  • Belinda

    Thanks. I really needed to read this today. I only have one 7 month old and I’m completely losing my shit when I just ‘think’ about returning to my masters in psych and work! If
    I’m barely coping now I wonder how I’m going to get my shit together for the career that I’ve worked so hard for to-date. I love my son and I’m fortunate to love my ‘paid’ job also. I just don’t believe I’ll be able to give 100% to both, it’s not humanly possible. I’ll need to try and accept that my new 100% will look VERY different. Oh and if someone else tells me to ‘sleep train him and it’ll get better’ I may explode.

  • Anne-cathrine

    It is totally absolute economics. My husband is American. I am Norwegian. We have lots and lots of family in the states and barely anyone here in Norway, so in many ways, we want to live in the states, but it would be totally ridiculously stupid based upon economics and wanting things to work out for us. Here, I had 1 year paid leave from work when my babies were born, and my husband 2 months on top of that with each of them. (it is more now). I also took an extra year of unpaid leave with the oldest, which made me be off work from almost three years all together since number two came into our lives just a few months after I got back from work after the oldest. When I had the year of unpaid leave, we got money from the state. We get almost 1000 dollars a month paid out if we are home with kids younger then 3 years old.

    Now, things are ridiculously lot more expensive here than in the states, so I also was a nanny for a little boy the year I had unpaid leave. We made it work, and we had opportunities to make it work.

    We have 37,5 hour work weeks, by law, meaning, no one can ask you to work longer. So you get time for family.

    We have county operated day care, and everyone has a right to a spot there for their kids if they want it. It is heavily sponsored by the state, so that we pay only a third of what it actually cost to keep our kids there. They are operated by educated personnel. There is also an after school care for school kids, which we pay some for, but not much.

    In this sense, I always tell my friends and family in the states that I think USA is such an “anti-feminist” country – because I know I could not leave a few month old baby and go back to working 40+ hours a week! As such, the women are on such a large scale kept away from the work force, by something that does not feel like a choice at all, you know? All my female friends and family members “over there” have education and a want to work, but they are home with the kids, because in reality, it is not a choice.

    Yes, I do feel exhausted at times having “two jobs” (one that starts when I get home and eats up most weekends, with all the things needed to be done around the house etc.), but at least I, in reality, have a choice!

  • Emily

    Hi – at least you can laugh about it – or at least entertain other people so they can laugh about it. Sometimes it’s like being a stay home mother is the crappiest thing in the world – my house looks like a monster vomited toys, bread crusts and dirty washing all over it constantly. Anyway I’m not sure if you’ve ever looked at this website (in all your spare time!) – but it’s funny and shows up “the lie” for what it is – total crap!

  • mommiemarine

    I got out of the Marine Corps in 1991,and became a sahm. That was so hard to do, I loved being at the edge of the empire-tip of the spear, I was married to another Marine and life was good. Our first baby was a preemie, caused by my being on active duty (long sad story). I was pregnant with my second baby when the first Iraq war started, I was not involved when my colleagues went off to do our jobs. I decided to get out then because I hated having someone else raise my kids. Turns out that it’s too expensive in Maryland to work and pay for childcare for more than one child. Two more kids and hubby has worked at 3-4 jobs to support us while I stayed home. Imagine childcare for 4 kids, the preemie later became a special needs child, yeah I wasn’t going back to work. Then life took another twist and hubby , who had gone back to the Corps, ended up at the Pentagon on 9-11 and after years of dealing with the VA he’s now a 100% disabled veteran who is medically retired and I’m his caregiver. Our last 2 kids are just starting high school and the money we get for him us what we live on now. It’s hard having him home all the time now, it’s what I wanted and now….lol. Long way of saying I feel you.

  • Julie

    I know exactly what you mean. I also work from home and i’m writing to you instead of doing that right now. My kids get to stay home with me but i do feel trapped and caged a lot of times and sometimes my partner gets home and i’m all stressed out and he doesn’t understand. How can i explain this mix of: i want to drive off with my hair blowing in the wind and i also want to live every moment with my kids before they are bored with me. You succeed at expressing this mix of emotions and you are right: we can’t have it all. And usually, we want the opposite of what we have even if its not better. Motherhood and life in general is VERY hard sometimes. Good luck to all of us!

    • Charlotte Wise

      Julie I love the analogy of wind blowing in hair freedom vs loving your kids to death. So perfect!!xx

  • Jessica

    I feel ya, ladycakes. You made me feel like it’s okay to be mad as hell at this whole “motherhood” deal sometimes.
    I have 3. Their dad was abusive and then left for another woman, so I’m doing this all on my own. After losing my job two years ago and not finding anything else, I decided, FUCK IT, I’m going to work for myself. When I have billable hours, it’s the best thing ever; I’m able to get the kiddos a hot breakfast {most days} and on the bus in the morning and then be there for them when they get home in the afternoon. When I do not have billable hours, it’s the most terrifying, soul-crushing experience ever. I feel like I’ve failed: them, me, life, everyone. Depression sweeps over me like 20′ waves.
    You said it best when you said, “good luck to us all.”

  • sandybt

    Bravo for writing so vividly about this. As a former stay-at-home mother of four now-grownup children I still have burning memories of these exact situations and feelings. And having no one to talk to about it, at least no one who seemed to really understand.

  • Elaine A.

    Your thoughts here make me think of that scene in “Raising Arizona” when they are stealing diapers (for the baby they stole) and Nicholas Cage says, “Well it ain’t Ozzie and Harriet…” It is not at all what we thought it was going to be. I agree we were given a big fat lie in the idea of “having it all”. What a crock. Sure, we can have it all, but half-assed and miserable. I’m a positive person, but trying to have it ALL drags me down. It drags us down collectively too. We are suffering as a society because of it. I won’t get into all my feelings about all of that because we’d be here all day (and you’d quit reading) but I agree with everything you said.

    This part right here: “I have 2,000 stories to tell but I’m living one I can’t contain, can’t write, can’t hold and can’t understand.”


  • erin margolin

    this. i fucking love it. all of it.

    i only have three kids. but i’m in the middle of an ugly divorce. and i can’t write about it, even in an offhanded sort of way. i feel stifled, stunted, silenced. and it sucks.

    thank you for sharing this. thank you for making my day, thank you for making tears run down my cheeks knowing I AM NOT ALONE. I am trying to juggle working from home while mothering these three and for fuck’s sake, my divorce alone is a full time job.

    Also? I love the shit out of this reply you left to a commenter (coincidentally named Erin as well):

    “One of the strangest things about writing on this public forum (beyond strangers thinking they “know” me) is the fact that motherhood is the only occupation that you can’t complain about without being called “lazy” or “selfish” or “angry.” It amazes me every time. I mean we’re just people dealing with the trials of life. But if involves mothering, you get “angry mommy” status and people attempting to fix you. Yay!”



    keep rocking it. keep doing your thing. because people like YOU? are keeping people like me ALIVE.

    • Todd

      “Only” three kids. Jesus. That’s amazing. Don’t fucking use that word & sell yourself short like that.

  • Chelsea

    Since I have two of mine at home right now and of two of someone else’s kids so that that parent can do to the doctors, ALONE, I’m going to make this comment quick. I FUCKING loved it. Thank you for writing this. It’s so true.

  • Rita Arens

    I just filed city taxes. My husband worked in another city 133 days last year, during the school-is-out polar vortex. AMEN, SISTER.

    (He’s out of town this week, too.)

  • Leigh Ann

    I do get this, even though I don’t have babies or toddlers anymore. My youngest is 5. It was a game changer when my twins started kindergarten last year, and I know the game will change even more when she starts next fall. And I know will keep on changing. I would be miserable if I had to head out to the workforce after staying home for 7 years (I was pretty miserable there before having kids, so…). Working from home is the perfect balance, except THERE IS NO BALANCE. I told my husband just this morning that I wish I had a day where the kids weren’t home, but I didn’t have to work (they are ALL at school 3 days/week, and that’s when I get the bulk of my part time job hours in), so I could catch up on the housework. I’m gleefully thankful for my PT job that I came to through blogging, but it’s not blogging or writing, BUT I am making more hourly than I ever did writing for allParenting. So MY writing is still going unwritten. There just is no perfect solution. But I’m confident that someday it will be easier. The kids will be older, I’ll gradually get more time to myself, and I’ll look back on these days and say “DAMN, that was hard, but I’m glad I was here.”

  • MS M

    Oh my god.You’ve nailed it sister. Am so glad I’m not alone. And to complicate it even more, my dumb ass husband (was-band) decided to have an affair when my kids were 2 and 5, and leave the marriage. So I’ve had to do it on my own ever since. So I get it. I do. The sense of isolation is unbearable sometimes.

  • Jenni Silverstein

    Thank you once again for your candor and insight. I always appreciate your posts.

    At the risk of sounding like an old academic feminist, the reason we cannot find this elusive work-life balance is because of the great old enemy: patriarchy. Second wave feminists accomplished getting women out of the home, able to do “men’s work” for (almost-but-still-not) equal pay. The reason their promise was a lie is because they never could see beyond the veil of our patriarchal system to the real issue: “women’s work” is still given no value in our culture. By that, I mean anything associated with the feminine in our dichotomous thinking: nurturing children, stewarding the planet, care taking the ill, etc.

    Add to that the modern American plague of corporate capitalism, which perpetually puts profits before anything of real value: the health and well-being of future generations, the planet that supports their life, the communities we live in, etc. etc.

    And we find ourselves here, discovering over and over again that we cannot have the “all” that “they” claimed was there for us.

    No matter what class we come from, mothers are a marginalized segment of our society. By that I mean that our work is unseen and under-valued, and we are an easy target for blame. As such, we fall prey to “divide and conquer”, a classic tool used by those in power to keep themselves there. They don’t even have to try. We are our own enemies. Harshing on other moms for their “bad choices” as if they had a wealth of great options and just were too stupid to pick the right one. When really, it is the options that suck, and we are each, always, making the best choice available out of a series of bad ones.

    Instead of wasting our precious energy judging each other, we should be using it to change the CRAPPY MATERNITY LEAVE POLICY in this country, and the equally crappy daycare system. Maybe, just maybe, we could have it “all” if we could co-create a culture in which we have real options – stay at home mom, stay at home dad, split shifts, flexible work, cooperative care with our neighbors, quality publicly funded daycare like they have in France…

    We are all too exhausted trying to juggle our lives to even lobby congress for real maternity leave. But the internet could be our best tool for organizing (there are a hell of a lot of us, we could effect change if we had the will to make it happen). First, though, we have to stop using social media to fulfill the agenda of our oppressors by bashing each other.

    Maybe this time, no one will waste your time or theirs, Janelle, bashing you for your honest, thoughtful and vulnerable words. Maybe that could be the very first step we need in the Mothering Revolution.

    • Tracey Larson

      Jenni. Did you grow up in Rochester MN and go to college in Duluth MN? If so I know you. Tracey (Burns).

    • Anne-Cathrine Nyberg


  • Mimi

    Yep this is me right now. Studying for the entrance exam for medical school and have a 9 month old an a 16 year old (and no the teenager wont help with the baby). So that leaves me and my husband trying to juggle his academic career. In the past I usually had to just stay home with baby if my husband had stuff he needed to do. Since studying for this exam he has taken mire time off and its more 50/50. But I cant imagine with 4 kids. Hang in there!!!

  • Sarah Mettler

    I love how you capture my eternal struggle – thank you! I have four kids and have nursed them all forever and am still nursing the last one at almost 2. I love my choices and hate them at the same time. My husband travels a lot for work and it kills me that he is getting whole nights in a bed with no interruptions. I hate that when he has to leave early for work or stay late I am the one who picks up the slack. I am forever conflicted! Thank you for putting it into words!

  • LaToya

    My husband works outside of the home (and he can work from home) and I work out of the home as well. The two of us, both, 40 hours + per week. And still, when we get home, I feel like I do 85% of the work.

    So I totally get it…. It’s the mommy way, I guess.

  • Momof3girld

    Love it!! I too chose to stay home with my kids. I have three daughts 12-9 years now. I am trying to get back in the workforce. I am an educated sales professional with over 10 years of experience. I interviewed with a large Fortune 500 company recently. Over 16 hours of interviews. I also had to work the job for 2 days and provide a summary (over 22 pages) and learn one of their programs and present it. I rocked it!!! I was told I was the top, only candidate but someone at the top questioned my resume hiatus. I didn’t get the job. I am blocked from being hired. I had the support of 5 managers with over 70 years of industry experience and some vp block hiring me. I don’t even know where to go from here. I am no longer young and cute which is required for sales positions. I am a fabulous sales rep. Now what???

  • Mandy

    Yes, yes, and yes. I bought the lie when I got my fancy degree with a nice income. Then I had my first kiddo and I was like “what the f&*(“, how the hell do I go back to work now?!?! This person is the most amazing human being to ever live! And I had to, because the universe guided me to someone who cannot support us so I have to. THANKFULLY I only have to work part-time but I hate every moment that I feel was stolen from me with my kiddos when they were really little. And I hate it now. And I would hate it if I had to stay home all the time. Crap.

  • R

    Thanks for this. I feel you in the traveling spouse. Even though I know I will be away for a little while this summer and more in the fall, I felt so resentful when I looked at our Google calendar yesterday and saw the weeks and weeks he is away over the next few months. I have been a sahm, a part-time working mom, and eventually evolved (devolved?) into a full time working plus part time doctoral student mom. None has been easy, all involved frustration and resentment, but this current one feels so impossible some days. I have one child, but I feel like I divided into multiple selves 11ish years ago and I may never be a whole functioning unit again. But each of those selves is just so in love – with my academics, with my husband, with my child (not so much with my work at the moment but I will be again) that I can’t say no to any of them.

  • Kelly

    My 2 boys are now 21 & 27 and both wonderful human beings who care about people, the planet, and are contributing to society. I had 2 work full time the entire time from when they were 6 and 8 weeks old. That was very difficult raising 2 without hired help and working full time. And there were times for sure when I felt like the author, that I wasn’t doing anything right because of being stretched too thin. I only feel like I have my life back these last few years since my youngest just graduated high school 3 years ago. I felt guilty most of that time for not being there with them but there was no other option. And I look back now at the fruits of my labor and am proud that I did attempt have it all (as much as anyone can) and my kids turned out beautifully. My house wasn’t EVER clean and there was always dirty laundry, but my kids came first and always will. And, you will look back at these years findly, believe that now or not. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat and love every minute of it as I did the first go around.

    • Anne-Cathrine Nyberg

      I feel this. Some days when I get home from my fulltime job and have to jump onto making dinner, at tmes without taking all my outerwear clothes off first, then clean up after dinner, then helping with homework, then take them to handball and/or dance or theather, or maybe a PTA meeting, then home to do laundry and clean some more before going to bed and up 5-6 hours later to make breakfast and school lunches and going off to work again… I just want to quit. But I can’t. So I don’t. And it is rewarding and lots of fun and all. But boy is it tireing as well!

  • Andrea

    Your words; my thoughts. All of them, every single day. You are in good company.

  • Kagome

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. I bought it too. I went to college, and then to grad school, because I had career dreams. I studied a long time for those dreams, and they didn’t pay as much as my husband’s, but man, they were a lot more interesting. My dreams were international, and they paid a small portion of the bills and had me traveling all the time. And when the kids came, my dreams were placed on the back burner. And they needed to be. I really couldn’t go to work every day in another country while my husband works here. I haven’t left the country since, because traveling abroad when no one else buys the plane ticket is a lot to ask of a single-income family with multiple kids.

    As for having a family, well, that was never even a question. I love kids. I have two. I want three. I may even want four. I love being a mother. My kids are my whole life, and that’s the way it should be for me. It’s just that sometimes, I feel so trapped, tied down. I can’t get out. I can’t see a time in the future when my dreams will be front and center. Like my other dreams, my non-family dreams were invalid because I’m the mom, whereas my husband (God bless him, he would give me all my dreams if he could) gets to have both career dreams and family dreams and rarely the twain shall clash. And sometimes, when I am sitting at home and my kids are fighting and my life consists of cooking and cleaning and laundry and cleaning and running errands and cleaning, I want my other dreams, so badly it physically hurts. I think it’s because I didn’t make the choice, I was told I didn’t have to. So I keep clinging to these dreams, and I don’t know if they’ll ever come true. So thank you so much for writing this, and expressing what I feel so much.

  • Michelle

    thank you for saying all of those things that I often can’t bring myself to say. I hate when my husband works 12 hour days, goes away for work, works every weekend and then gets an annual 5 day boys weekend. Our first child was unplanned t very much welcomed. We now have 2 and while I would never change it for the world, there are days when I am tied of being the one to get them to school and back, get them dinner every night by myself , shower time by myself, homework and all their after school activities. I’m tired and there are many days when I want to throw the towell in and he swoops in and is fun daddy….you are absolutely right that we can’t have it all. Some days it feels like we can, and we get close…but having it all is hard.

  • lisa


  • Kristen

    Oh Dear – I can’t believe I’m commenting.
    I do have it all.
    99.9% of the time I love it – no lie. I have a great full time job as a Librarian, great husband of 15 years, 2 terrific smart talented kids, a novel in the works & a clean house – I stayed home & worked part time in the evenings at the local library until my youngest reached school age, and now I’m doing it all…and have had the best of both worlds.
    Not everyone is as lucky as I have been, and not everyday is perfect (no great reveal there!)but let’s teach our daughters and sons to pace their lives, plan, and go forth to “get it all”. Maybe not ALL AT ONCE, but life has no limits if you don’t make them…

    • Maggie

      Kristen- while I think you’re well intentioned I also think you are completely missing the struggle. I’m going to go out in a limb here and assume that you are white, educated and have never known poverty. I’m also going to guess that your husband’s income allowed for you to live a ‘limitless life.’ I may be wrong in these assumptions and if so, apologies for putting you in a category but these assumptions are informed by experience.
      You are profoundly incorrect to say that life has no limits unless you make them- that is a very privileged thought.
      Please reconsider your future comments when speaking to working mothers. It’s ok to admit you’ve had a life blessed with the ability to balance, reflect, prioritise and enjoy your family 99% of the time but by also prescribing to women that they simply need to plan better to achieve a life like yours is at best horridly condescending and patronising and at worst obtuse and dangerous.

    • Vagina

      Wow…your life sounds great!! How awesome for you to have such an awesome life! hm….I guess we should all start doing exactly what you do, ..then we can all have this perfect life. The world will be a much happier better place once we all have exactly what YOU have. So….tell us what to do?? Tell us how to be?? Make sure though that you include all of the folks that have NO money or education because of their circumstances, …and the folks that have had to drag themselves up from a life so difficult that they came close to wanting to end their life rather then wake up another day! ( I’m speaking from personal experience! My dad committed suicide because he couldn’t seem to take another day on this earth!) because…you know….that is their REAL life! We can’t all have what YOU have because we don’t all have YOUR life! My belief is that life is much like the Lottery. Living in a society that holds beauty and money as the highest level of greatness…the circumstances that you are born into have a lot to do with the outcome. We can all rise above bad circumstances, and many people do….but this post was about solidarity of women, and mothers, fathers, and all of us struggling to find a balance between this push and pull of these ridiculous and false expectations built by society!! When you leave a comment that is to shame others or somehow build yourself up…then you are part of the problem with these ridiculous societal expectations!

    • Curious

      Hey Kristen,

      Not to be disrespectful, and I say this with curiosity rather than accusation: but do you really “have it all”? You’ve never had to sacrifice a trip? Stayed home from work because your kid was sick? There wasn’t one day when you were angry with having to clean up? There wasn’t one day you were mad at a bunch of people all at once? That you’ve read and finished every book you set out to read? That you get to work on your novel everyday with zero interruption?

      I understand being grateful, that is so awesome. But there has never been a moment where you’ve had to give up one thing for another? You’ve never made a decision where a need or a want was sacrificed?

      And in that case, I’m wondering what has you reading someone who’s so passionate and honest about struggle.

      If in fact you’ve never had to choose between writing and cleaning, I would really love to know your secret.

  • Ginna

    I’d rather be here.

    I’d rather be there.

    I’d rather be both. I am both. I “work from home!”

    I hate both.

    So this is why we made such quick friends that day. Because we’re meant to be. You are speaking my language, woman! Sometimes I feel like life is just too crazy and horrible but also too beautiful to even be lived. And way too fast. Anyway, thanks for the thoughts.

  • Todd

    Thanks for writing this.
    I’m a full-time stay-at-home dad of 19-month-old twin boys. I feel you. This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I fucking hate it. But I also love it beyond the English language’s capacity for description. I resent still not being able to fully start my second career after finishing grad school four years ago, but am also glad I’ve had this to do instead. I love my wife and how hard she works, collapsing into the couch after the boys are in bed, the clock ticking till 5:something tomorrow when she has to haul her tired ass out of bed to do it all over again, but I resent that she gets to breathe fresh air and feel sunlight on her face (so much as is possible in this godforsaken shithole of a Chicago winter; seriously why the fuck do we live here?) and talk to adults and just be out & about, even if she fucking hates her job and it’s exhausting and then when she walks in the door the boys are screaming and bouncing off the walls and she never gets a break and is too tired for me or for us and I have to do all the cooking and everything but she’s the breadwinner and we’d be fucked without her and she is a goddamn superhero and has more than earned my making dinner again and cleaning up again and fuck you if you think this sentence is too long. It’s eight minutes till 10, & I’m wiped. I’m having another beer and going to bed because soon it will be tomorrow and another day of watching my amazing and magical boys grow and laugh and poop and bite and fall and play and babble and further become real people and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

  • em

    I love this

  • Sarah

    The truth is that even with only one child the issues are the same. A child is a child with a child’s needs. Living your priorities is what matters.

  • Alice

    Oh how I needed to read an article like this today. Just when you think you’re alone in this shit pod called motherhood. I’m a work at home mom homeschooling her 2 children. Not by choice, by necessity. I hate my work at home job, I hate homeschooling my kids. I dream of the day I can freely walk out the door without someone asking me “What’s for dinner?” I long for the days I don’t look down and have some unknown substance on my tit. I sometimes resent my husband for getting to come and go as he pleases…even though I know he’s rather be home with the kids instead of working. But I also know how very blessed that I am to have this opportunity to be with my children. They grow up so fast. (At least that’s what people tell me) I try to stay positive, try to enjoy this time even though I secretly grit my teeth and want to scream “FUCK” every Monday morning.

  • Brenda Leifso

    I am so there. I have been so there all -40 degree winter, in this new city, “working from home!!!,” with my husband’s career always taking priority (it does pay 75% of our bills), and he is trying, but the whole system is screwed, and I’ve had at least one of my three kids home with me sick on and off for 8 weeks in a row, with me being sick three times in there, too. And now, my second, who is sweet and wonderful and crazy, is home again, and we are doing the annual dance of “is it bacterial pneumonia or just viral exacerbated asthma?” And I love them, and I’m so glad they are here, and yet no one told me. I couldn’t know. And life and life and love and desperation and despondency circle on.

  • Jenn

    This reads like the thought stream that buzzes in my head while I’m rage cleaning. I don’t actually know what Having It All even *means*. I had an okay job in finance for nearly a decade, I worked full time through having my older two (5 and 3) while my husband worked nights. Things just finally went to shit and we pulled the trigger on a cross country move and a career change for him, and now I’m home with the older two and also a 3 month old baby. I don’t feel like I even exist anymore. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, or why. I don’t know anyone in this entire state so the SAHM isolation thing is all the more compounded. I was excited to try the SAHM thing, I thought I’d be doing crafts and garbage like that- meal planning and play dates and finally establishing some order and peace in my life and my home, but all I do is rage clean, thinking basically everything you wrote in this post, and doing my best not to scream at everyone all the time.

  • Monica

    I was a stay at home mom of 5 so I know exactly what you are saying. With them raised let me say – this time is shorter than you may think now! You have a time when you can work but we never “have it all”. We just have what we need which is (I think) the way it is supposed to be. If we were really to “have it all” I don’t think most of us would be happy because to have “so many” kids means we are giving, caring, loving people and those types would feel guilty for “having it all”. This time with the kids will be gone before you know it and you will look back and say “I wish I could still have them small”. Hang in there ladies – you are strong women!

  • Liz h.

    You just described my last seven years. It is so refreshing to read these comments and know I am not the only one. Someone told me that Madeline Albright was a stay at home mom for years and didn’t really start her career in high gear until she was 40. Not sure if this is true but it gives me hope on the days when I feel really lost at sea.

  • SC

    Hey, there’s a website you might enjoy called JudgyBitch.com – the author, a woman, writes pretty frequently on family and relationships, and the importance of parents being responsible for childcare, rather than paying someone else to do it. Don’t know if you’ll agree with her on everything, but she’s definitely worth a read.

    • Mel

      Yeah, no. Out of curiosity I had a look at this site. Within about 10 minutes I had read several logical fallacies, a few sweeping generalizations, some unacknowledged cultural and economic assumptions, a simplistic (and inaccurate) grasp of history and some toe-curling hypocrisy. Feel like I’ve been click-baited. Ugh.
      As for your post Janelle. Yep. Nailed it. Especially your comments about ‘choice’. Yes! Let us scream it. This isn’t about morality and rampant individualism. It IS about economics (and systems, and social and historical forces) and life isn’t always this clear cut, totally sorted, neat thing over which we as individuals have complete autonomy and get to make all the ‘choices’ we want about parenting and work.

  • Jenn

    Key & Peele – Obama’s Anger Translator – Victory: http://youtu.be/eX8tL3PMj7o

    I wanted you to know that you’re my personal Anger Translator. Also my Quiet Thoughts translator and I Love My Kids So Much I Could Burst Translator, and so on and so on. I meant to link this video the last time I commented but I forgot and was whiney instead. So thank you for being my translator. If you’re interested there is a very annoying post over on xojane right now by a woman who wants to tell people how to feel about being a SAHM vs WOHM and your translating services would be appreciated at this time. I tried to comment on it but my brain kept saying “hnggggghh” and then I gave up.

    Maybe you should start a Bat Signal series, so if a reader finds something they need your help with they can just throw up the Bat Signal and you can swoop in and Say The Things. Only instead of a bat it could beKey & Peele – Obama’s Anger Translator – Victory: http://youtu.be/eX8tL3PMj7o

    I wanted you to know that you’re my personal Anger Translator. Also my Quiet Thoughts translator and I Love My Kids So Much I Could Burst Translator, and so on and so on. I meant to link this video the last time I commented but I forgot and was whiney instead. So thank you for being my translator. If you’re interested there is a very annoying post over on xojane right now by a woman who wants to tell people how to feel about being a SAHM vs WOHM and your translating services would be appreciated at this time. I tried to comment on it but my brain kept saying “hnggggghh” and then I gave up.

    Maybe you should start a Bat Signal series, so if a reader finds something they need your help with they can just throw up the Bat Signal and you can swoop in and Say The Things. Only instead of a bat it could be. i.imgur.com/lw7r2Uv.gig

    If that gif doesn’t work, it’s because I’m bad at internetting. Also I’m delirious with sleep deprivation and this is me basically drunk texting you. Peace!

  • Jenn

    Please delete that incoherent nonsense comment I just made holy shit

  • Kim

    Just Thank You. I was told this was the best/worst thing I would ever do and it couldn’t be more true.

  • Hopeful

    What if we saw life’s struggles, not as struggles, but as gifts? Gifts that help us to learn and grow and become better, more empathetic and compassionate people? What if the purpose of life isn’t to be happy…? The world would change if we began to be consumed, not with being happier, but with being more valuable. The question isn’t “How can I have more?” but the question really is “How can I be more?” Maybe we should stop wishing life were easier and instead wish that we could be better. More caring and more kind. Less judgmental and envious.

    I believe that people are motivated by two things only: Fear and love. Judgment, blaming (others and self), apathy, and envy all come from a place of fear. People who live in fear will do little to change their lives, instead blaming others for ‘lying’ to them about what their life should be, so that they can have an excuse for not achieving it. People who live with love already see the greatness of their lives, and the value of not just the good, but the bad as well, and are therefore able to embrace not just the good in others, but the bad as well. And love and give with grace.

    Whenever someone claims that they just “Tell it like it is” I feel the pangs of sorrow that this person is living in fear. When someone lives in love, and loves both themselves and others deeply they know that no one can ‘tell it like it is.’ They only ‘tell it like they see it.’.

    Love says, “Can I tell you how I see this? And maybe you can tell me how you see it? And we can hold a place inside our heart for both perspectives. Both perspectives can be true. One can have it all, without it being ‘all’ for the other.

    I hope that one day we can stop blaming, and stop competing, and instead find a way to lift each other up with love and grace. Maybe one day we will stop trying to hold the drop of water, and instead become the ocean.

    • LuLu

      Little too black & white thinking for me there..

  • Hopeful

    Oh, and when I say “living in fear” janelle, I don’t mean you. I want to make that clear. I think you do a great job of weighing the good with the bad and everyone is entitled to feel. I was more alluding to some of the commenters, who thought it fair to be sarcastic and rude to those who have said they feel they have achieved it all, or made fun of Canadians…

    And I wanted to add to that I don’t believe we were sold a lie. I believe we were sold a dream. The dream of a group of women who lived in such fear that they believed it to be the ‘truth’ for all women. For some the dream aligns with theirs and they have found a way to achieve it. For some it represents an ideal that women are still working towards, because dreams take time and work to realize. And some have said “thank you, but that is not my dream” and have moved forward to create something different but equally beautiful.

  • Heather

    I want to make an “It Gets Better” video to moms of young kids (special footnote for those with traveling husbands). My boys are 12 and 14 now and now I feel like they’ll be gone in 20 minutes. It goes by so fast! I had a traveling husband who did jackshit when they were little. It was so hard. And then you wake up one day and you’re talking about the perils of porn, acne care, expensive orthodontia and more porn talk. WTF! It does get better though. Those baby/toddler years are fucking backbreakers. But it doesn’t break you. Sometimes it makes you do dumb things like divorce that traveling asshole so then you can be a single mother with a traveling ex-husband so you still do everything. Live and learn. It does get better though!

  • Shay

    I read this when you first posted and it was a great post. I read it again this week and for some reason something clicked. Everything that you were saying is exactly how I’ve been feeling but pushing aside, making myself believe that I am 100% happy with how my life has turned out. My kids are my number one priority at this moment and any career opportunity I may have, my kids and family are my number one thought. We want to take a hiatus from parenting, to have just one worry free night but then we can’t get them off our mind- we want to be a stay at home mom but then can’t wait to get out of the home- or vice versa. I like to kid myself and say I DO have it all, I work outside of the home in a career I enjoy and that is fulfilling- I have two great kids who are healthy and happy and most days I feel ahead of the curve when it comes to balancing both home and career. But I know that at some point not only have there been sacrifices that I’ve made for my family but the feeling that I can’t pursue my real dream because, well, bills and all that goes into having a family. Anyway, sorry for my mumble jumble mess of a comment- basically I want to say thank you for writing this! I could really relate!

  • Kelli Woodlock Sayre

    Yeah, it was a lie for many of us. I see those women for whom it is not a lie. And I hate them. And I want to be them. And most of them are fucking “life coaches” who tell me I CAN be them- if I find my truth, if I nurture my spirit, if I follow my passion (if I have a husband who makes $100,000/year so I can afford to “find myself”). Well, here’s the truth I’ve been sitting with. All the time I was in college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do and not finding it, and ultimately dropping out, was because I was told a lie that wanting to have a husband and kids was NOT what modern women were to strive for. Yes, I understand my Mom was trying to tell me to follow my dreams, don’t let being a woman force you into being dependent on a man. I get that she was encouraging me to be MORE, but now that I’m a mom, that’s all I want to be- a mom. And not because I’m lazy, but because leaving my 4 year old (that I waited for and cried for and agonized for and finally had) at daycare tears at my guts- all day, every day. There is just not enough time with her. But because I didn’t say “I will set my life up so can be a stay-at-home Mom”, we did the american dream thing because that’s the lie- house, 2 cars, camper for the weekends. The lie is that you start from there. I’m working full time, and really, at 45, I’m too tired to “follow my passion” when I’m done work, making dinner, spending time with my daughter & hubby. So how do I just jump out of this rat race?

  • Alison

    Great to find your website and this post and all the commenters who get it. Yes I made choices to, for four kids, not realising that one who has special needs would challenge my resilience to such an extreme degree, that life pressures would overtake the family and as a SAHM after 15 years I’ve lost myself. My writing, so vital has become a casualty of the extra difficulties of the past year. I blog about creativity and resilience but sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions life gets the better of us. I’m trying like many here to regroup, to strengthen myself and keep on doing the best for my family and my own creative hopes.

  • Lucy

    Me? Too sick to work and unable to have babies.

    You’re fucking lucky. Luckier than many. So please for chrissake stop fucking moaning when you’re ABLE to make these fucking choices to start with.

    • Spanish Traci

      Im sorry about your situation Lucy. Really. But lets be honest no situation is perfect. If you want to say “focus on being thankful for what you were given” do it without the guilt trip.

    • Erin

      Spanish Traci is far more diplomatic than I. EVERYONE deserves the right to vent about their situation – self-chosen or otherwise. How dare you tell Janelle to “stop fucking moaning.” You are clearly bitter about your own situation and that does not give you the right to attack others who have what you want. Stop fucking reading if you’re so goddamn offended.

      Not cool.

  • Spanish Traci

    I’ve fought to stay home against everyone’s judgmental snarls and smiling comments dripping with disdain. Everyone else has bought the lie too. Expectations from others and myself are a bitch. I need to not care, but I do. Economics are forcing me back in the rat race. Here we go. Another guilt trip. Just slightly different.

  • pearson

    No you can’t have it all, won’t even come close. Change your expectations and goals to fit your reality, and accept everything as it is. Learn how to FIND PEACE, because it will carry you. Get the mate from another pair of shoes. So what if you, or your kid, have two different shoes on. BFD!
    You have the most important job in YOUR world, no you don’t get paid, and THOSE darling children, that completely drain you, might decide they don’t like you when they grow up! Believe me, I happens all the time. BUT, you’ll like you.
    I’m a 71 year old mother of 4…it was HARD WORK…much harder than going to work with adults everyday…but kids are way cooler than adults. Adults are the real PITA

  • Heather

    First off, I absolutely love the wooden horse baby swing. Secondly, I love how you have absolute gorgeous pics of your kids facing the camera and smiling nicely. They all seem to have that little “twinkle” in their eye when smiling. Thirdly, I think you are a great mother (from what you share with us), despite how many kids you have. They are all still alive, breathing, growing, smiling.

  • Jess_RVA

    My dream is to be a stay at home mom who can afford to send her kid to daycare. That’s right: I want to stay at home, by myself. And get. Shit. Done.

  • Marie

    Holy shit I’m here. In this place. Right. Now. I know you’re past this…. sort of so I feel like there is some hope for me. Until then, I will be here and there. Thanks Janelle.