Coming Apart at the Seams


This morning started out like any other morning. Violet woke up a little bit early. I heard her little voice, a bit raspy from sleep, saying, "Mommeeeeeee... Mommeeeeeeeeee" from her nursery. I was in the middle of dressing (tie dye day at work - trying to find something appropriate to wear) so I quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and walked over to her room. She was holding onto the side of the crib, her mouth against the rail, peering over the top with her big blue eyes and mess of curls. I asked her if she slept well as I lifted her out. She was upset that I was still holding a hairbrush and that I had to rummage around in her dresser for her clothing. She wanted to go, "Down down down!" As we went down the stairs I hid the offensive objects from her behind my back and carried her over to her changing pad to change her diaper. She squirmed and yelled and made it pretty clear that a diaper changing was not what she wanted at the current moment, so we talked about breakfast (distraction, distraction, distraction). She wanted pancakes and Mary Poppins (AKA "boy, dirl, Mommy, Daddy, beeaaar!" Not sure where the bear comes in, but I eventually figured out that she was talking about Mary Poppins).

So I got her settled at the table and began the process of trying to bring the computer (that I had failed to charge the night before) back to life. She was so patient as we watched the little wheel spin on the screen until finally we were able to put in the DVD and press play. As she drifted away into the land of spoons full of sugar and chim-chimery, I walked to the kitchen to start her pancakes. I've been making her mini pancakes in the morning - a little easier for her to eat and just as tasty. I packed her bag as the pancakes sizzled in the pan and wrote a note to her babysitter in the daily journal that we share. Then I piled up the pancakes, poured a pool of sticky syrup on the plate and took them in.

I sat with her for a bit. She watched her movie and I watched her. She's so animated when she watches movies. I love to watch her face light up at the fun parts and her brow crease when she is concerned. I love how her little curls bob when she dances to the songs and how she's always worried about where everyone is, "Mommy? Dirl?" Her favorite parts always involve people running - she loves a little chaos :)

When the last pancake had been gobbled up I stopped the movie and told her we'd finish it some other time. Then we launched into a bit of our own chaos - tooth brushing, de-stickifying, dressing, socks, shoes, jacket. At the end of all of this the goal is to get her out the door happy and smiling to ride to the babysitter's with Kevin. Well, today that didn't happen. At the end of the craziness she clung to me with all of her might. No amount of cajoling could convince her to loosen her grip, so I had to pry her from my body and forcibly hand her to her father. All while she screamed, "Mommy, mommy!" in a voice of sheer desperation. It's on these days and in these moments that I don't think I can do it any longer. Be a mother, have a career, be a wife, write a blog, pay the bills, clean my house, care for my cats, keep appointments, make time for friends, have a little time to just sit and BE. It's on days like this that I get this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. A nervous, churning, guilty feeling that sits on my shoulders  like a huge weight for the rest of the day.

I know that five minutes after she leaves the house she'll be fine. I know that she'll have a fun day with her friends. She'll get to play outside on the swings in the fresh air, pick strawberries from the garden, read books and help to bake something. On Wednesdays she goes to the library and checks out a new book and makes a craft and has sing and sign and plays with the train. We have a wonderful babysitter and I am thankful for her every day. But it's on days like these that my life feels off. I feel like it's coming apart at the seams. Like I can't keep it all together for one. more. minute. Like something's got to give. I can only imagine how it will be if we have another child.

I know this is the same feeling every working mother experiences at one time or another in her life. I know that I'm no different. In fact, I'm sure that my life is easier than many mothers out there. Single mothers I am in awe of you. Serious and pure and utter awe.

I've been reading a lot lately about work/life balance and about money and budgets and finances. I love my job and don't think I could take the leap (especially in this economy) to stay at home full-time. I don't know if I'd ever be able to break back into my field someday if I did. It's extremely competitive and being down-sized all of the time. But this quote from Nigel Marsh stays with me:

There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

I'm going to try to keep this quote in mind the next time I'm thinking of buying something. At this point there isn't really much we need. Just a lot of wants. And I'm the worst offender. Blogging about pretty products kind of does that to you and I've got to start practicing a little bit more restraint. I've also been reading a lot of Adam Baker's blog - Man vs. Debt, and his Ted Talk - What does freedom mean to you?

I think to me it means that I want to work because I love it, not because I need to pay for another bag or skirt or decoration for our home. I don't want to be a slave to my job. And if I someday decide that working full-time isn't right for me that I would have another option. We're lucky that we have zero credit card debt and only one car payment that is at zero-percent interest. We have one fairly reasonable mortgage with a low interest rate and very little left to pay on our student loans. And I want to keep it that way. And I want to save more. Our current savings account is created for the sole purpose of being depleted so that I can stay home with another child for at least eight or nine months, so it's not something I can count on. I need something I can count on at this point.

I'm realizing that this post has become long and rambling, so I'll wrap it up with another little saying that has stuck with me (discovered, of course, on none other than The Pinterest):

So very, very good. If you made it this far I commend you (and if you have any words of wisdom I'm all ears). xo, Lauren


  1. Longtime reader, first time commenter here.

    This post really struck me. I'm a WAHM and feel just like you said most of the time. Like my life is coming apart at the seams and I'm using my whole self everyday to keep it together.
    I have no real advice. I take it day by day and could not agree with you more about buying/not buying "stuff". (Which is hard for me as we are on year 5 of renovating our house.)
    And hats off to the single parents. I just can't even figure out how they do it.

  2. I feel that way many mornings. I've said it before, being a parents is all about learning how to let go. the first step, the first time they eat on their own, the first time they choose what to wear and need 15 min to put their socks on BY THEMSELVES! it's all about letting go. And it's paintful every single step of the way. Whether you're a stay at home mom or a full-time working mom.

    I love the quotes you chose, especially the 1st one! While we're reno'ing it is hard to practice. But I do work very hard to keep in mind that this reno is for us, and not for other ppl. But I've come to terms with the fact that a comfortable home is in my top 5 priorities. And because we're doing this without going into dept, it doesn't feel as scary.

    Just wanted to say that you're not alone. I know you probably already know that. But I'll say it anyway :)

  3. Dear Lauren,

    From what I read here on your blog you are an amazing woman, but sometimes you have to cleanse what is on your plate. Check off a few things and enjoy the journey. One thing I see in common on most of the blogs of young woman is that you have to do it can't, because something important gets pushed aside while your trying to find the perfect paint color, the amazing window treatment. There is a lot of pressure out there to be perfect. IMPOSSIBLE. Think about what is truly important and what you can and can't live without...the list will be shorter.

  4. Lauren-
    I totally understand your pain. I have a 14 month old daughter and some mornings it kills me to leave her. Other days though I really find myself enjoying my work and being surrounded by people. I think it takes a balance. I read something a while back ( I can't remember where) and it was saying that we need to learn to be happy with the way our lives are at the moment. Because we can wish for things to be one way and once we get it we still find things to be dissatisfied with. That really hit home with me because I find myself doing it all the time. Another new outfit, a nicer house, another trinket...none of that is really going to bring happiness in the end. If we learn to be happy with what we have at this moment we will enjoy life more. I hope that doesn't sound like I am preaching at you. That has just stuck with me since I read it and has reminded me to enjoy the now more and everything that comes with it.

  5. Thank you for writing this. In a strange way, it's a comfort to know that other moms are experiencing the same feelings I have sometimes. I know it's little consolation, but I hope you can recognize that, in spite of the occasional off day, you're doing a great job at the work/life balance--and from where I'm sitting, it's really pretty impressive. Hang in there.

  6. Lauren,

    Go with your heart and "trust" in God. You can make the best decisions that way. Talk to your babysitter and her Husband and ask if they can help you to figure out how they do it.
    You are a wonderful Mother to Violet and my beautiful girl. Talk to you soon.


  7. I read several "mommy" blogs and you, more than anyone else, always seem so wracked with guilt for leaving your baby. I've thought for a long time that you would one day announce you've decided to stay home. I'm sorry I don't have any advice for you, but I wish you the best.

  8. I am a SAHM so I don't know what your going through but I think of it this way, if you stayed home you would have worries about that (I do all the time) there is no easy or right way about this ( I worry about when I do go back to work how the heck am I going to make what I have been making after being away for so long) and in the end you have to do what's best for you and your family. No matter what there are benefits in each scenario and drawbacks but you have to do what's best for you all.

  9. Lauren,
    Thanks for the Marsh quote. It really puts things in perspective. I totally know how you feel about leaving the teaching profession and wanting to get back into it later in life. I love my job (even though, as you probably hear from Kevin, I'm not sure I love my district as much as I used to!) and I wouldn't want to take a gamble that I'd be able to find something a few years down the road that I love just as much. The thing that I keep having to tell myself is not to compare everyone's "spotlight moments" to my "behind-the-scenes." Easy to say, not so easy to do! Thanks for sharing your "behind-the-scenes"!

  10. Lauren,
    I too am a teacher, and I too love my job. I have a 3 1/2 month old, and will be going back to work in September. For financial reasons, staying at home isn't an option, but I've still seriously entertained the idea. I think about it daily, even though the decision is already made. I think guilt is a side effect of the intense love we have for our children. I don't think we'll ever feel as though we're good enough, or around enough. I think you'd still feel guilt if you stayed home. You are clearly a wonderful, attentive, creative and loving mother. When Violet looks back on her childhood, she will know that, and know how incredibly loved she is. Be at peace. You are doing the best you can, and that is enough.

  11. I just spoke to an audience of a couple hundred about what it means to be a mother, and nowhere did I include anything about whether the mother works or stays at home. I think that has little to do with the kind of caring, nurturing, loving mothers we are. A favorite quote of mine is by M. Russell Ballard: "There is no one perfect way to be a good mother...Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children... Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."
    Best of luck! :)

  12. Giiirl, I am with you. My daughter is just a month older then miss Violet, and it seems to get harder the older they get. Ramona was a preemie, so I took four months maternity leave (so I could have two months at home) and I was SO ready to go back to work when those four months were up. But now...we do stuff, we converse, we have fun. I am feeling the pull of stay at homeness. Unfortunately, it won't work for us right now. Too much credit card debt, too little savings. Something I am working on remedying so maybe someday. I wish you the best of luck, and think of the bright least you don't work weekends! (Trust me, it's for the birds.)

  13. As a SAHM I will say to just follow your heart. The way I look at it is that they are only little once and this time is very precious. If this is something that you and your husband really want for your family then I would make it work, even if it means doing without other things. This really is such a special time!

  14. I've had a lot of moments like this lately and have been really quite emotional. I go back and forth about leaving my job, going part time, finding another job, not working all together (but that's not an option at all). I struggle with this ALL the time and my daughter has been really clingy lately too, so I've had days where I cry myself to work because I hate to leave her. You're not alone.

  15. Wow, thank you everyone for your words of encouragement! I know I'm not alone but it does help to hear it sometimes. Amy - thank you for your quote. In my heart I know that it is true, but somehow I still have days where I feel like this. Laura, I think you've hit the nail on the head - I think it is a side effect that is almost unavoidable. Nichole - we should totally talk sometime! Holly - I have the same roller coaster of thoughts in my mind almost daily.

  16. Lauren - it seems pretty clear cut to me. If you're feeling guilty about not being at home, on some level the 'reasons' for working outside of the home are not enough for you. You seem like a bright and talented individual, however just because you 'put in your dues' with your current position, it doesn't mean you can't be successful in a different capacity, or in an entirely different career once your children grow up. It sounds like your family is in a sound financial position to allow you to quit your job long enough to either work for yourself on a part-time basis or in a part-time position elsewhere. Having been a SAHM, WAHM and now transitioning into working full time out of the home, I can tell you that none are necessarily 'better' than the others, it just depends on your priorities and beliefs.

    Being a regular reader, I too have observed your avid feelings of guilt, but I’ve also observed your dreams of working elsewhere - like with the paper fashion gal.

    So I suppose that the real question is: do you like your job enough to give up the time you could otherwise put towards spending more time with Violet, working towards a career fulfilling your passions and dreams (and talents, you're clearly a skilled artist and designer), and living the life you'd like?

    Sure, you'd have to cut back, but if it's cutting back for a better life, why not? My husband and I both took the plunge and gave up corporate careers paying MUCH more to do what we're doing, and we haven't looked back. We make less money, drive older cars, live in a small house, yet are working hard to living our dreams - - not once have either of us regretted this.

  17. Hi Lauren - I was catching up on your blog this morning as I sit at my desk here at work (shhh, don't tell). I saw that adorable picture of Violet and thought, hey, I want to ask her where she got those fabulous gold sandals for Violet! Then I started reading...

    All I can say is I know exactly how you feel. I have a 21 month old and a 3 1/2 year old, work full time and try to keep up with my blog and flower business on the side. Having that creative outlet really helps balance me. I'm sure now about a week removed from this post you're feeling a lot better. Those heartbreaking moments leaving your kids just sting and you begin to question everything in your life.

    You know in your heart what is best for your family. Trust your instincts, it's our best gift! I keep telling myself that I'm working hard now to make my kids have a better future. Just be kind to yourself and it will make you a better mama! Take care!



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