There Is Much Whining: You Have Been Warned

07.22.09


I don’t know how a marriage withstands two careers. I’d like to know, and I’d desperately like to experience it, but I’m teetering at the edge of real work, and I’m less certain than I’ve ever been.

The deal we made included me being home, raising kids and supporting my husband’s career. I have been mostly satisfied with this choice. I loved being a newlywed wife and decorating our shack modest home. I adored the first years with my daughter and the freedom to watch her blossom. I clung to every moment of our son’s toddlerhood, as I knew he’d be my last baby. During most of this I shared caregiving duties of my Grandmother with my own mother.

I had a thriving eBay store and I went to grad school, all in my spare time. My family was well cared for. I was fulfilled.

Now, I am not. Now I feel suffocated and bored and alone. I can play tennis, but my friends are working. I can blog, but I’d rather be in a room with someone. No one really needs me here any more. It’s just making beds and cleaning windows, dusting furniture that no one ever sits on and making supper.

I know being a housewife has value, but it’s tedious and dull and incredibly isolating. It’s fine to go out a little and network with folks from the LA Tech scene, but let’s face it, those are young men. I don’t have anything to offer them, and they have even less to offer me. Girls in Tech is always great, and it gets me out a little bit, but not nearly enough and it’s not always convenient.

I feel terrible for being ungrateful for what is surely a pampered existence. I love my husband. He is my best friend the only teammate I need. I adore my children, I love them with a force that I cannot possibly describe. I also like who they are. All this just adds to the guilt and shame of the words:

It’s not enough.

My husband is a bit baffled and would support me if I wanted to get a job. I suppose there’s something I’m qualified to do outside the home, but who would pick up the kids? Who would be at school for the presentations and the chapels and the volleyball games? Who would do the grocery shopping and cook dinner? Who would drive them to and from school and get to hear all the best conversations? Who would coach soccer? Who would love them?

I hate that I don’t love being a stay at home mom every day. I hate that I have to make a conscious decision to not resent the life and lifestyle that my husband and I worked so hard to achieve.

I know that this is the life I wanted. I know that these are the same feelings of a housewife fifty years ago, and I sound like a throwback and a wimp and a prisoner of a middle class miracle.

This is where I’m at. I’m 39 years old and I’m not happy even though I have it all.

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40 responses to “There Is Much Whining: You Have Been Warned”

  1. sam says:

    I hear ya sister!

  2. I, too, struggle with the tedium of being a housewife. This is going to sound awful, but when I’m around kids who spend all of their time in daycare, I’m uncomfortable with how that experience has shaped them. So, I remain at home, even though my kids are older. However, their stresses are greater. Having ol’ Mom around seems to help them tackle the challenges of growing up.

  3. Caroline says:

    Jessica, have you thought about working from home? Or getting a job part-time that would take you outside that environment that is beginning to stifle you? Or if you are in a position where you can pick and choose, find a job that is VERY flexible about the soccer matches, picking up children, being with family? I am a lawyer for God’s sake, and my boss knows that when the daycare calls and my child is sick, I am out the door! The times HAVE changed, if you look around, and you DON’T have to choose one or the other. There ARE options that will accommodate your desire to get out of the house and your need to be a big part of your family’s existence. And with technology, you can still be there with them, even if you are in a remote location, with video cameras, cell phones, and chat programs. Don’t be so discouraged . . . be creative, because from what I have seen, you absolutely have it in you.

  4. Landfrau says:

    It is in human nature to mostly want what we do not have.

  5. Rich Neher says:

    I think I understand your feelings and I’m not even close to being a housewife. I work remotely from home and love it. I also love cooking (for myself or my girlfriends, or larger groups), and do many of the household chores while my GF has an office job. Once a month my boss wants to see me in the office (about a 125 mile drive to San Diego), and although at first I didn’t like the idea, now I’m loving it. There is something real special to be with professionals and have access to resources and people.

    My suggestion: If you can’t work in an office, why don’t you create an environment where you’re amongst office workers, professionals of all ages? You have very special abilities and certainly you have a story to tell. Have you ever thought about teaching Social Media Skills and Techniques to professionals, company teams, management, small and large groups? I have a feeling that would be very enjoyable for you, would get you out of the house regularly but not all the time, AND would make you money.

    And when you’re realuccessful, running a nationwide consulting operation with 10 offices and 500 employees, I would like to run tennis events for your groups, haha.

  6. Jessica… my love bucket… I read this and I cried. That sounds dumb… but really I did.

    My children are still young. I’m at home with them. My husband works. I often feel unsatisfied once the dishes are done and the beds are made. In the quiet of nap time I wonder what else I could be doing.

    Then I stop and think… I AM doing. I’m a mother, a wife, a friend, a writer, a designer.

    One way I found I was able to fill this unnecessary void was to do what I love… travel and design. I design children’s clothing now from home and I travel all over to industry shows.

    I meet people LIKE me. Not like my working friend down the street who doesn’t know anything about blogs or sewing.

    I’m really looking forward to meeting you at BlogHer. Let’s unwind together and find a bit of solace in the mommy sister wifehood… if only for a moment… I know I will find that unwanted void filled.

    xoxo

    Kelly @childhood

  7. melissa says:

    you know what? i’m exactly at the same place! i’m 40. and as fulfilled as i should feel, i’m in life limbo. i want but i don’t know what it is exactly that i want. i know that it has to do with writing so i’m on the right path.
    but…
    my kids are growing fast so my role has changed.
    and i dont’ know what it is that it’s changed to.
    i don’t know if what i said even makes sense except…i totally TOTALLY get what YOU are saying!

  8. CatrinkaS says:

    We all know some version of this. I work from home and long for actual, touchable, daily human contact with other adults.

    I suspect, though, that more busy-ness is largely that: notsomuch fulfillment, but orchestrated distractions from feeling unfulfilled.

    If I had a tennis partner? We could talk about this over lunch. Love!

  9. Emily says:

    How about volunteering for a cause you really believe in? You are so talented with your writing, you have so much to give. Or even being hands-on? With volunteering you can make a schedule that suits you and it will bring you satisfaction that you are making a difference in the world, even though you already are to so many people!

    Help women become better bloggers, offer your assistance on Twitter…I know there are many other things you care about too!

    I must say that you appear to be quite busy to me already!

  10. Oh, Jessica, you and I are different sides of the same coin. I have the “big job” and yet I feel unfulfilled, torn constantly between office and home, clients and family…I fantasize every day about what would happen if I could give up this job, stay at home and reinvent myself as a consultant or freelancer. But that’s not an option — I’m the breadwinner, my husband is Mr Mom, that’s the choice we’ve made. Your talents could so easily be parlayed into consulting work, PLEASE. I could hook you up in two seconds with great corporate clients. ALTHOUGH. Hitching a wagon to corporate America has a way of stifling one’s true voice — am just saying, depending on your gig, you may find yourself with a muzzle. Happens to me everyday. I say we discuss further at BlogHer over fishbowl-sized beverages. xxoo

  11. Linda says:

    I can relate. It’s really tough sometimes. And I’m most frustrated with the fact that I’m often looking for more…or less.

    My hubby is a 6th year neurosurgery resident whose schedule made it impossible for me to have a “normal” 9 to 5 AND take care of house and home. So, I started doing what I love and a made a business from it. It doesn’t pay many bills, but it’s mine and keeps me busy and distracted.

    Do something you love. Just dive into it…photography, blogging, marketing, etc.

  12. Wendy says:

    There is no perfect answer. I’ve done corporate. I’ve stayed home. Currently I manage 2 companies – which both incidentally employ brilliant moms (among others) virtually and on their own schedules.

    I never miss a concert, teacher conference, sporting event. I am a mom first. But I do love my job and the inspiration and the challenges that it brings.

    Perfect? No. But it’s pretty damn close.

  13. Lisa says:

    It IS tough and you are completely justified to feeling this way. I think what makes it tough for me also is that most moms I know work also. At least our mothers had the rapport of other moms who stayed home also, back then.

    Hugs

  14. SoreThumb says:

    Sounds like you need human contact more than just a ‘job’.

    I’m certain there is some outlet for you– for being a tech user, you still might have something to offer those people. Not to mention there may be a few girls and mothers who would like someone strong, experienced, and in tech.

    I wish I had a better answer for you, though. I’ve had such a hard time meeting people myself. I’m certain if there were meetings or things you could go out to, it’d work for you :/

  15. cheryl says:

    I feel like I was reading something I could have wrote. Except I’m not a good writer and I have never had an ebay store or went to grad school. But anyway, I sit here so often feeling the same way. But I often keep my mouth shut so I don’t have to hear it from my friends who say I am so lucky and they don’t want to work outside of the home…. It is a feeling that I usually have a hard time describing. I LOVE my life, but at 36 I’m on a journey to find what makes me tick. Good luck on your journey.

  16. Laura says:

    Thank you for this post….and all the comments. I am on my way to being 40 and I too love being at home etc., but on those very trying days—well, I wish otherwise. But then my kids do something spectacular to remind me of how important it is for me to be here for them. I am not looking forward to the day they head off to full day school. Where is the manual for this: “What to do when the play dates are over?” :)

  17. traci says:

    These words are shared with my daily thoughts. I have said, if not a million times over, ‘I am not satisfied, though I want for nothing.’ These words are often misconstrued to sound ‘assholish’ but until you have walked in the (albeit, designer) shoes, nobody has any idea how hard it is to accept and admit that there is a wall in being a stay at home mom. I am facing that wall, and it scares me. I almost 30, have dedicated 10 years to this career. And now, I havn’t the slightest what I want to do and where to go. My only wish is that it could be enough.

  18. jb says:

    I read this because a pregnant friend of mine passed it along to me with a note saying “this is my worst” fear.” I am not a mother yet, and have serious doubts if I ever want to be one for reasons like this. I can not understand exactly, but I do sympathize. As an almost 30 something with everything a career, a wonderful fiance, financial stability, health and wonderful family and friends, etc there are days when I get upset with myself for “wanting something more.” It is even more upseting to me that I don’t even know what that something more is. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is never enough, or at least we do not think it is enough.

  19. A. says:

    <>

    I don’t have kids, so my situation is definitely different, but I’ve always had a career, as my husband does. And we have a great marriage (going on for 16 years). I think we have much more to talk about having our careers (we don’t live for work, by the way, making sure we have time to spend together and with friends and to take at least 2 vacations every year, which is helped by the extra paycheck).

    I don’t know how old your kids are, and perhaps you would have to wait a few years to be able to fulfill your dream of doing something outside the house, but I can assure you that since my siblings and I were 9 or 10, my mother worked outside the home and we were extremely happy kids. Sure, my mother didn’t get to see all my presentations at school, but when she was with us, she was so happy and fulfilled from her job (as a teacher) that we had a great time together. And by getting organized and having the family to help, we always had delicious dinners that we prepared together during the weekends and froze. Then it was just putting together a salad and defrosting a homemade meal every week day.

    I really don’t think I could have been a happier child with a stay at home mother, so that’s just an anecdote to make you think…

  20. annie says:

    The question is … I think … who would do stuff? And the answer is … probably you still depending on what kind of sharing of the load you can work out with your husband.

    I have no doubt that you are capable of working outside the home and still maintaining much of the status quo, but it comes at a cost. I was a working mom and then a widowed mom and now a SAHM and nothing is without drawbacks.

    The bottom line is if you feel something is missing to the point where you are verbalizing it and questioning and agonizing then something is missing. Filling the gaps however won’t make life perfect, it will just be different from what you have now and have issues all its own to be dealt with.

  21. Googie Baba says:

    Hey Jessica,

    I just read this post. I wonder if part of the problem is that so few women are housewives now. I stayed at home for my son’s first year and loved it. At first, there were other mothers to hang with. But as the months went on, they all went back to work. I really did start to get lonely.

    I think transitions can be really hard. Once you have this figured out, and you will figure it out, you will barely remember feeling the way you do now.

    And have you considered a part time job? Something that you love and would give you human contact, but you could still be there for your family?

  22. Ray Ofsunshine says:

    Sometimes I think, “I wish I could have the Prada shoes in every color. But, alas, I can only get them in one.
    It’s so hard to have to make just one color choice. It’s not fair.

    Really now, just drink more. It’ll ease your worries. Try not to start before noon, though. If you do start before noon, put it in a coffee cup like I do. You don’t want people to think you have a problem for God’s sake.

  23. Allyson/ @HBMomof2 says:

    I too suffer from the “white plight.” (From some book I read, wish I could take credit.) I have it all and all I can think about is the loser guy who went to grad school two years after me is two times dumber than me and just got the huge promotion that I really want someday. I have stayed home for 4 years with my almost 6 year old and 2 year old and I still have not found the right balance as to what is mine and what is ours. I do not have at home friends and the only people I relate to are online and brilliant. All I can say is that as I stare down the barrel at 40, I feel your pain. You are not alone.

  24. Amy B. says:

    Um, “who would love them?” Well, you would. Women who work are not incapable of loving their children. Loving your children is not something that has to be penciled in to a busy schedule. Do you think that because your husband works, he does not love his children?

    As insensitive as that sounded, I’m sure you didn’t mean it to be so horrible.

    As a woman who’s been both a stay-at-home and a working mom, I know both sides of it. When I stayed at home, I wanted to be working. When I’m working, I’d rather be at home. Someone who isn’t easily satisfied will, quite frankly, never be satisfied.

    But back to your questioning — millions of moms work and take their kids to school. Millions of moms work and make it to school presentations. Millions of moms work and cook a wonderful dinner. Why do you think these things are mutually exclusive?

  25. Christopher says:

    My wife hit this same lull and did a few things that seemed to help her with it. I offer this experience to you.

    1) She took a seasonal job at various retail stores. She’d work a few hours each night running a teller or stocking shelves for a month or so, until that holiday season expired. It was no-brainer work and she was way over qualified for it, but she said it helped. Interacting with adults and having an opportunity to build up her pocket cash was refreshing at first, and then reminded her how she’s rather work in the home.

    2) She started craft exchanges. She made friends with the neighbors and people at Church and then made up these programs where they would all make the same type of craft/baked good/jewelry/whatever. They would make enough for each person in that exchange to have one. They would then all send their crafts and a few bucks for postage to a coordinator (my wife) who would then repackage all of the items in sets and send them back out to the people in the exchange. It was really fun to see all of the different ways that people approach the same craft. And it gave them all a goal and a deadline to work to. This bit of structure helped pull her out of the daily routine.

    3) She started taking fun community college night courses. One night per week she’d go to class and take woodshop, or nutrition, or cooking, or chemistry. That single weekly class gave her a little bit of extra study and work during the week so she gained a bit of diversion from that.

    From observing her activities it seemed that having deadline and goals really helped her. It helped give her drive, something to think about other than the household work, and a sense of accomplishment. Those projects seemed to help her overcome feelings that are similar to what you’ve expressed here.

    I also offer that once the kids were all in school she went back to college, finished her degree, and got a full time job. She worked that job for about a year until it too became as equally unfulfilling as was working at home. While she was working away from the home the kids were in after-school care. There was a very noticeable degradation in our children’s grades, health, and overall happiness. She is now using her degree to work part-time. She drops the kids off at school in the morning and picks them up in the afternoon, between which she works at an office. So far this seems to be the sweet spot: Just enough time at the office and just enough time at home. She’s been part-time for a year and a half now and things seems to be working out.

    Hang in there…

  26. LPearson says:

    You’re an awfully generous soul to just put it all out there so all your yayas can know they’re not alone in whatever malaise they might be feeling. I’ve worked about 100 hours this week and it’s only Wednesday, so I know nuttin’ about the domestic arts. But I do get questioning where you’re heading and the value of your contributions.

    Keep Whrrling and twirling. The malaise will end and a new challenge will appear. Post more, more, more. You’re such a talent, and we need your words. xoxo Lisa

  27. Mrs Pop says:

    Jessica,

    It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be… At least at home I get to talk to people I actually like and respect. ; )

    Hang in there. This, too, shall pass.

  28. April says:

    I can’t even believe you did it this long! After a year, it was either get a job or commit suicide. Wasn’t quite ready to leave the girls with their father so I chose to get a job.

  29. Laura says:

    Maybe this is the angst that shows you that this phase of your life is coming to an end and a new one will be beginning. It suited you and your family, now it is time to reconfigure, nothing wrong with acknowledging that we change.

  30. Jack says:

    My wife stayed home for seven years. She went back to work a few years ago and I think that it has made a difference for her.

    She has a Masters, but she is not really using it right now.Instead she works as a TA at the kids school.

    It works really well for her. She doesn’t miss their functions and is available to drive them to wherever they need to be.

    And she gets a little bit more adult conversation during the day than she used to. It is not a perfect solution, but it seems to have helped her.

  31. It’s okay if that’s not enough. Your kids will be fine, and they’ll know you love them, even if you’re not there every single time.

    If I didn’t have my art, I’d be nuts right now.

  32. Susie says:

    This is so true

    I know being a housewife has value, but it’s tedious and dull and incredibly isolating.

    You can only enjoy it for so long, and it becomes hard to handle. Over the last year, I started working from home, on websites, blogs, art, etc.. my day job got cut from 25 hours to 15 over the holidays in 2008 – and I was busy with design for 25 of those hours, but once it dropped to 15, I found myself wondering around the house, just floundering, it did prompt me to go out and get a job that would take me out of the house.. you need the outside stimulation..

  33. Dena says:

    Hi Jessica from another 39 year old with much to offer the world. :) Given that you went back to school for your graduate degree, I can clearly see that you are not the type to be content. If you lived in the bay area, I would play tennis with you. I think of two things to tell you when I read your story 1) expand your social circle to find women in their 30s and 40s that are active (try meetup.com, a tennis club, the gym, etc). Or start a social club! 2) use that graduate degree and start your own business doing anything you want. write a book, design clothes, start an online store and take it offline, plan events, or try consulting. Be your own boss – you are highly qualified!

    Cheers,
    Dena

  34. Dena says:

    Hi, me again.. I meant “clearly not the type to be content with staying at home (and there’s nothing wrong with that! the world needs you).

    Please ‘add’ this to the first comment I made.

    D

  35. Kelly says:

    I wrote a post recently about the same issue on my blog. For me it has been 12 years of staying at home, and I have another 9 to go if I want to give my youngest the same as my oldest.

    I work part time on the weekends, which sucks, but so does staying at home all the time.

    We’re constantly adjusting things so I can do SOMETHING every once in awhile. Right now I want to set it up so I can work from home blogging and writing.

    For so many years I was totally committed to being at home, but I’ve had enough. Unfortunately the kids haven’t.

    I don’t know if there is ever a right answer, but for now I’m trying to work at home, the only part that’s missing is the income. :)
    http://www.thecentsiblelife.com/2009/07/15/stay-at-home-mom-or-working-mom/

  36. jenna says:

    oh no. i’ve been blogging for less than a year and it’s been a godsend to my happiness in the home. you mean it won’t last?? i’ve always struggled with happiness in my charmed life. i get to work, at home, get paid well (selling wet-stock inventory optimization software-don’t ask it’s boring), spend oodles of time with my kids, cook, eat real food, and now blog about all that (minus the boring software sales bit). before i started blogging i was feeling kinda in a rut. but i think that’s what life is. it’s a roller coaster. even good isn’t great and we notice a difference. but with every choice (working in the home, not at all, outside the home) there’s trade offs. ask your husband. ask any working mother/parent. they probably thrive on many aspects of their life but there are others that are less appealing. i know when my youngest was born and i was chasing an active toddler, nursing and infant and sleep deprived in the middle of hot hot houston summer, i really envied my husband’s morning. he got to pour hot coffee, sit in his car and listen to NPR for 45 minutes drinking coffee. i would have killed for a a cup of hot coffee on those crazybusy mornings. i suspect what you’re going through right now is a phase. it’s a low point and it will be temporary. think back on your years as parent at home. there have been other low points right. they ended? this too shall pass.

    i agree with pp though, if you can work contract from the home, make a little money, have your own pursuits, start a new journey, you might find the balance you’re looking for.

    i’m taking a break now from my contract and i’m 2.5 weeks into a “staycation” with the kids until school starts. although i’m enjoying more time with the kids, i’m starting to miss what working with professionals-even doing something i don’t love-adds to my life. if nothing else, it makes me cherish the time i get to laugh, listen, play, cook, nurture the family.

  37. I hear ya…we ALL feel like this – either we’re not home and we want to be, or we’re at home and can’t stand one more minute of it.

    Before the economy took a crap it was seeming (to me, anyway) that more and more companies were understanding that need for a better work/life balance, that they could get REAL talent from women who would otherwise not work if they offered flexible schedules, job sharing, etc.

    Now? I’m not so sure. I think a lot of people are finding what’s really important to them through this recession and I’d love to see even MORE of this work/life balance come out of the other side. I’m thinking, however, that’s just not going to be the case. :-(

  38. One of the not so well kept secrets of motherhood is the isolation that comes with it. There is no shame in it. Everyone has days of fulfillment and days of emptiness. It is what it is.

    That is what keeps us moving forward. As the seasons of your life change, so must you.

    The trick is to be looking for your new opportunities — so you can figure out how to keep the things you want while pruning the things you don’t.

    I don’t hear you saying you enjoy the housework… so let someone else do it. Go out and make a little money doing something new, and use the money to pay the housekeeper. So what if you only break even on the deal. There is value in nourishing your spirit.

  39. Mary-Lynn says:

    I totally get it… especially since my kids are older – 15 and 12-1/2. They still need me, they just don’t think so. I am unfulfilled (read: stifled, bored senseless, utterly decimated) by housework, but I am conflicted about outside work: I do not want to have to adhere to time constraints, requirements; someone else’s demands. I’m trying to find myself…again.

  40. […] 3. We don’t love our choices every day. Most days we do, but some days, we feel trapped by our own success. […]

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