Why Isn’t It Enough?

I have a beautiful 6 week old baby, a gorgeous handful of a one year old and a precociously funny 4 year old…my hands are well and truely full, yet why isn't it enough?

 

Why do I feel I have to tell everyone that asks that I was made redundant, that I didn't choose this stay at home motherhood? Why do I have to mention that I have "no choice" but to be full-time carer to this brood? 

Why is "just being a mother" good for other people? Why do I oogle over other families lives? Why do I love hearing about how other mothers spend their time? Why do I find such value and nourishment in hearing about what other people do, admiring the pace of their lives…whilst all the while devaluing my own?

The lovely Rebecca sent me a fantastic old crochet magazine and in her letter she wrote about this important work we do, raising humans.  When I read it, I agreed…in my head.  Logically, I know that this is my place, that it is important and incredibly valuable work, but my heart betrays me.  

I feel like such a failure.  Like I should be doing something else.  I should be contributing more to my family–as if working tirelessly night and day isn't enough.  As if constantly cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry and playing and feeding and changing isn't work. I am more tired in the evenings than I ever was as a civil servant, and yet as I sit at the end of the day, why do I feel like I've done nothing?

Why do I scurry around at 4pm to make the house look just a little bit better, so Kevin doesn't think I am lazy, even though I only sit down to feed Theo and I rarely even go to the loo?

I write a blog, I take pictures, I knit…small things. In my particularly self destructive moments, I wonder why I even bother. "If you can't be the best at something, why do it?" the voice in my head says. Other voices tell me that its all pointless, nothing dramatic happens here, why would anyone care? Its "just a mummy blog" and my life isn't even that interesting, to me at least.

Maybe its the fault of a society that values work outside the home and devalues stay at home moms.  As a politically active feminist in the late '90s and early 00's, I was told that we could have it all.  We could work and have kids and burn some bras all at the same time.  Motherhood wasn't mentioned, except to lament all of those poor oppressed stay at home moms, who refused to "have it all".

Maybe its just that I am not cut out for this.  

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More likely, it is the normal ebb and flow of life that means that sometimes the grass just looks greener. There are hard days and easy days and good days and bad days. And days when I feel like a failure and days when I feel like a hero to the under 4 crowd.  I wish that I could say this is what I always dreamt about, that this is always what I wanted to be when I grew up…

But for now, I just need to work harder at enjoying– to take it all in and see the beauty that is here, not the promise of elsewhere.

And to recognise that enough is, quite simply, enough.

 

 


38 responses

  • Really nice blog post – thanks. Go easy on yourself … many of us feel the same in all avenues of life (well I know I do!). Beautiful baby btw xx

  • Great post. I have long thought that we are all caught between a rock & a hard place – men too but especially us women. As girls we are told that we can choose but then nature and huge love takes over and we feel that we should be with our babies. The problem is that we are bombarded with mixed messages from all areas of society and we have to pick through following the best path we can. It is easy to know things in theory but life isn’t theory! When you work (as I do) you then just feel a fail at home. Bet you do a fab job – we aren’t in an advert – I think we should all stop looking at them. Perfect is boring anyway.

  • Oh my.
    I read your blog (long time reader, not sure if I’ve ever commented before!) because your life is inspiring! Because the little things you do show me that little things can make life better. Because (most of the time!) here, on the blog, you show us the pretty side of life, the joyful side of life, the beauty in being a family.
    And I aspire to that. As a working, single parent to an only child, not just working to pay the bills but because my career has always been important too, the grass is greener for me as well. But I know that, in my heart of hearts, *my* life is good too, and these little bundles we have, we should hold them close, and that not much else matters and it’s all gilding the lily.
    Although gilding, whether that be with pretty things and the noise of family around you, or working, or being creative, is nice sometimes too. I appreciate that
    Love your blog xxx

  • Muddledmama on

    I think that there is no clear cut answer but you ask the question so beautifully and eloquently. Thank you for posting this :0)

  • love the honesty of this post.
    While I’m not a Mum, I do know many many mums feel exactly like you are now. At least for some of the time.
    I hope this response doesn’t come over all “bloke like” by wanting to find a solution, but perhaps one possible answer is to start thinking of a return to work – albeit very part time with such little ones at home.
    great read – thank you for posting.
    Bob

  • it’s only ever the little things
    that I can focus on, that make the day worth living,
    because no one values the ‘bigger’ things we do.
    You will have your time at being a stunning photographer, and writer even, whatever you want to focus on. only right now there are not enough hours inthe day…. I know that feeling.
    there is guilt too at wanting more, esp when you look at your little ones.
    I too find I make excuses. And don’t like myself for it. If you get anytihg from all of thes ecomments – it’s that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! :lol
    You have a lovely life and I enjoy reading about it :)
    Claire

  • I think we all feel like this sometimes. Our work is so unseen — except by God. And what gets noticed is what we DON’T do in a day! But there is no substitute for what you are giving your children. You are there for them, meeting their needs, loving them, and that forms their souls in these early years. If you read about neglected children’s later lives, or talk to a mom who has adopted one at 4 or 5, the impact of the first five years is so evident! And don’t forget, these years won’t last forever. I have just reached the stage where all mine are in school, my oldest can babysit, and I realize the baby stage is gone. Not so many years from now you’ll have more time on your hands and we’ll be seeing your photos in art studios, or you’ll have your own knitting show, or who knows!

  • I blame TV and magazine advertising. The people who have just bought new cars or had a beer always have insanely huge smiles on their faces. They look happier than I have ever been, except right after my youngest child was potty trained and we could get rid of the diaper pail, and that is no joke. We partied when that happened, but not too much, because we had young children and we had to put them to bed.
    People in ads have to be happier than any normal person so that you ask, “What’s wrong with my life? I’m not that happy. Maybe a new car…or highlights in my hair…or that new baby toy…that’ll make me and my family as happy as the family portrayed on that billboard over there.”
    The underlying message in ads is, “Escape the mundane!” Really? Daily life is inherently bad? To really escape daily life, try not eating or drinking for a day. And don’t go to the bathroom, either. That’ll make your life feel different. You’ll be wanting to escape the escape.
    But that’s just part of it.
    Another part is that you have a writer’s eye, and that is always focused on tiny details and it never shuts off.
    Here’s what I mean.
    Non-writer: I’m 55 years old and I live in Minnesota and I’m starting a business. I read your blog every day and I’d miss you if you didn’t post. I live with my husband and two cats. I have two grown kids, a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman, whichever.
    Writer: I’m sitting here typing in my ‘office,’ which is really just the bedroom at the back of the house. My house is small, three little rooms and a bathroom.
    When I look out the window, I see a tiny backyard under a huge oak tree whose branches arch over everything and then my narrow driveway and the wood pile, and then the neighbor’s yard.
    My tiny yard is full of tulips and hosta, and then there are potted plants hanging on hooks from the eaves of the little green garage. My husband grew all of those potted plants from seed, which he does every year.
    I live in Minnesota, so here’s what that means. The kids gave my husband bags of dirt for Christmas as they do every year. And then four months ago, in the deep of a Minnesota January, he went down into the laundry room in the basement, set a plywood board over the laundry tubs, opened his bags of dirt, and started planting seeds in flat after flat after flat. And then he put each flat on a different shelf of his dilapidated plastic shelf system, and turned on his grow lights, which shine out of the basement windows with such intensity that it looks like we have a UFO under the house. Or a marijuana farm, take your pick.
    …and on like that.
    See? It’s a different level of detail. Your head, fortunately or unfortunately, creates a running play-by-play of your day in excruciating detail. Detail is what makes you a good writer, so you don’t want to complain about that.
    But the other part is that kids keep doing the same thing day after day, and they keep wanting the same stuff day after day (food, water, clean shorts) so that you, who are keeping them alive, keep having to do the same thing day after day.
    And it’s boring and that’s a fact.
    So just try to get your head to say different stuff, because you don’t want to talk yourself into despair. That can happen.
    Instead of asking ‘What’s the point?, because obviously, the point is to keep three young humans and yourself and Kevin alive, go ahead and say, “I’m bored. I know this is all necessary, but it is also very boring.”
    Kisses!

  • Thanks, Bob. I think that you are right, looking for a solution is the way forward and getting a bit of space to work is what the next step will be…just a question of when and how.
    Thanks for commenting

  • Wow, I think that was my favourite comment ever. You are so right. We are fed a line about life, when really its not about doing (or buying) its about LIVING. Its the little. mundane things that make it up. Thank you for reminding me.
    As an aside, I love Minnesota. The people, the landscape, the Twin Cities…if we ever moved back, I’ve always said I want to live in Minnesota.

  • I love reading about your wonderfully crazy family and life! The one thing that it has shown me is that you can find little adventures in the everyday. Your blog is the first thing that I check in the morning before I start work. I think part of what everyone who has and will comment is just letting you know that you are appreciated for what you “do” beyond the laundry, dishes, diapers, etc.
    I appreciate your blog today probably more than any of the others I’ve read. I am recently married (a little later than most at 32) and the question of children and what to do “after” has come up alot lately. I currently work full time and am not sure how I feel about the possibility of staying at home to raise children. I have a career that sends me all over the place and on short notice. Family has always come first for me and when we do have children they will come first and work second. My contribution to the world will hopefully be happy, loving, and responsible people. And the world can always do with more of those.
    BTW I am completely jealous of your super duper creativity! ;)

  • I prefer to think of myself as a WAHM – I just don’t get paid…. yet
    and ffs hon you’d be on maternity leave now anyway ;~) but yeah the mundane gets me down a lot. The endless washing is the worst of it, it’s like groundhog day but with socks.

  • I rather suspect your restlessness is what makes you so good at what you do though, hun… and once the troop are bigger, good at whatever job/career you turn your hand to.
    I think you ought to embrace your restlessness and appreciate that it drives you on, helps you..instead of seeing it as a burden. And looking to see if there is more we could be doing in our lives – is ultimately what makes the human race such a successful species – and keeps our lives interesting and exciting.
    BTW i have that book, What mothers do… and now stuff is settled a bit for me I’m looking to see what I promised to post out to folks and get it sorted… so drop me a line if you do want to borrow the book, hun and I’ll get it sent out to you.

  • Feminism is the radical notion that all people are created equal. When the day comes that it is acceptable for boys to grow up to be househusbands and we no longer feel the need to applaud men who do the daily care of their children, woman will also no longer berate themselves for choosing the daily care of their children.
    You were raised in an America that told you that not only could you be anything (and have the children if you must) but that you were obliged to be the best anything you chose (never mind how loaded that choice really is in terms of class and upbringing). And now you live in a country that tells you that you must be the unattainable perfect mother (and it would do so even if you weren’t a mother) and that you could have that now necessary ‘hobby’ of pretending to have a career (if you must). And so here you are with competing needs and necessities pulling at the same heart strings as those competing (and unreasonable) cultural norms.
    We can as immigrants choose this country for the good things it does for women and still find ourselves debilitated by the crashing together of culture and needs.
    I, as those above have said, applaud you.

  • Wow so many long comments, and mostly pretty good too. The things I wanted to say was, I read something recently about spending all your time with your kids, and the author quite rightly said, no-one ever gets to the end of their life and says ‘I wish I had spent less time with my babies when they were small’. Of course they don’t. I am doing this stay at home mama business for the 2nd time around having kids aged 22, 19, and 2, so I really know what you are talking about, but believe me, there was a time before the little one came along when I had to bribe my teenagers out of their room with movies and treats. I really missed spending time with them, I felt like I wasn’t quite a mama anymore,and I felt sad for me but happy for them. All too soon your 3 will be calling Kevin ‘The Old Man, and only willing hanging out with you when their mates are all busy. I think you are doing a grand job, and I envy the energy reserves you must have to keep up with all the things you do.
    Val

  • Doing something, wholeheartedly, is a wonderful thing though. I’ve worked, but mainly the work thing has crumbled to bits, so I’ve ended up running backwards and forwards and doing neither job properly. And those things I’ve ‘achieved’ at work – what is so important about most of them anyway?
    And there is no way on earth that this is just a mummy blog. I have read some, believe me. Yours does not fit into that category.

  • I don’t know where to start to comment on this. So many areas you touch on. I feel almost cheated – how I criticised my mother for not working, for her financial dependency and how I devalued her for being “just” a mum and housewife.
    It’s the greatest wrong I’ve done to anyone. It is such an important role, at times such an unnerving and unrewarding one, and what could be more unrewarding than a daughter who didn’t realise the value of this role. It must have been demoralising for my mother. Now I can see that she did the right thing, rather than me, chasing my tail in the rat race between wanting it all. I love my career, I love my home/family and it seems I can never do either justice. It’s all half baked, yet I can’t find the courage to let go of my career.
    It is enough, but we’ve been socialised in a world where everybody has told us it isn’t, thus putting unmanageable pressures on, well, just the women. Again. The one thing that was forgotten in the women’s lib and equalities movement was the biological and emotional aspect of motherhood. I do believe that through carrying baby, giving birth, feeding baby the bond is different and makes it much harder for the woman to focus on a “career” and maybe this is so because it’s good for our survival. So for all the ideology, nature will still catch up on us, and we feel bad because it makes our beliefs collapse and undermines our intellect.
    I’m not even going to touch on the “if you can’t be the best at something, why do it?” – that’s something that’s been on my mind for a while in a different context. The best is relative of course, and maybe you are “the best” at some things without realising?

  • This is me 100% even down to the extra tidying before Will gets in. I am a year ahead of you and still struggle now the boys are 14mths, almost 3 and just 4. I’m always going to feel it’s not enough even though I know this is a bloody tough job. Add to that the Scottish weather (we are in Fife) it’s like wading through treacle up a hill with no one acknowledging what I’m doing.
    ((((hugs))))
    Xx

  • I could have written this post I think like this all the time. I think that I am going to buy that book at the beginning of the comments as it looks like a fantastic read and maybe it will make me think a little more! I am actually glad that I am not the only mother feels like this xx

  • you have had some lovely comments on this post, wow, so much going on for you right now and being in a place you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself necessarily, combined with the emotions of motherhood!
    It’s funny, you know, I don’t have kids, have never wanted them and now that I’m 30 am still not sure I’m ever going to want them… but there is something compelling about your blog and seeing your kids and your life, which makes me keep coming back to see how they are growing and what you have been up to! I may have to stop visiting soon, as my biological clock starts to tick when I see your little daughter and it may influence big changes in my life :O)
    I wouldn’t call this a mummy blog, I’m not sure what category it fits, but your honesty about life and your talents at writing make it a wonderful read and I wonder if you could write a book about motherhood. it seems that what you are saying is resonating with, well, everyone who is a mother and it is so therapeutic to knw you are not alone out there in the world!
    Anyway, wishing you many happy moments for the week,
    love Alice

  • oh kat … me too. glen left for two weeks in belize again and here i am trying to be everything to everyone again and wondering when i’ll shower. i hope to post soon, but instead i might just link up to this one. i’m not cut out for it either, and i looked at ursula tonight and said, when will you grow up? (as in out of diapers and pacifiers and highchairs) and i hold flora and want her not to change a bit. quandaries and conundrums. thanks. i’ll read more comments when dinner’s done and kids are in bed. thank you, stranger-friend.

  • I’m late to respond to this I know but your post really resonates with me at the moment. I’m currently on maternity leave with my gorgeous 8 month old and today was supposed to be my first day back to full time work with F in nursery but she isnt settling and spends any time I’m not there screaming inconsolably. I’m now due back in July but we’re really questioning whether she will ever settle and looking at all the options including me staying home. My heart says I should do it and never regret it but the whole thing is tied up in feelings of guilt if I ‘throw away’ a good career.
    Right now I think your grass is greener but that’s always the way; wanting what we can’t have because we’ve been told we can have it all. Most importantly I think it is OK to acknowledge that being a Mum isn’t always fun; there are hard days just as in any job.
    Finally I wanted to say that your children are beautiful and I really enjoy your stories of them and they are lucky to have a wonderfully creative Mum like you.

  • Like other posters, I always secretly looked down on my mother for ‘just’ being a housewife. And when she did go back to work, I could never understand her complete lack of ambition. Here was a woman with a first class degree in history from Oxford, for god’s sake, who had chosen to devote her life to her children and to helping other people as a social worker. Except at the time, I didn’t see it as devotion. I saw it as madness, and was determined to never be like her. It’s only recently, when I’ve found myself in a similar position, that I’ve really began to appreciate what my Mum did, and what she continues to do. Not that this realisation makes it any easier. In an ideal world, I’d love to go back to study and do a PhD, and enter the world of academia, but I know that’s never going to happen. I’m hoping that one day I can at least gain a small amount of recognition for my children’s poems. Meanwhile, a bit of social recognition (without the whiff of patronisation it so often seems to come with) for the role of the mother might be nice.

  • I quit what was considered a “lucrative” job in order to go back to school so that I could have a career at home and raise my girls instead of letting the daycare workers do it. It’s scary and I too feel at times that I have perhaps wasted my youth/college years. Especially when I am not sure what my financial future holds. But you know, my girls are happy. My eldest is happier than she’s ever been because I’m around now. And that is why I did what I did and that is what makes this job of full-time motherhood so important and rewarding. Your children will remember your presence, as well as all of the time spent together with you. And the worry we feel now, much like labor pain, will long be forgotten once your babies are all grown up. All that being said, I applaud you and appreciate your post. Your children are lucky to have you. :)

  • Hi, found you from a comment on soulemama and this post spoke to me. I think your commenters are all right on, it’s so unAmerican to not produce, to simply raise your kids, which is a low-wage, unappreciated job when we pay others to do so.
    I was hanging out with a couple of stay at home dads the other day who were high-fiving and bonding over their current “profession.” They didn’t seem to feel any guilt or devaluing. So, maybe there’s a gender piece to it too.
    Sometimes when I feel like staying home with my kids isn’t enough I try to flash forward to a time when they are much older and I know I’ll feel grateful to look back and remember how much time we had together, and that at that time being together was more important than any career.

  • Okay, my third comment on your blog in under two minutes…had to comment on this one, however, because it resonates so much. I think trying to blend realistic and unrealistic expectations is always a difficult task when you’re staying at home. The romantic, rose-colored glasses need to slip off and maybe a magnifying glass (okay, not if it’s looking at the messy house) needs to be put into use so that you can stop & appreciate the little little things. Often times, your job is thankless, but stick it out…it has great great great rewards. (I have to remind myself of that often! :) Hope you have many encouraging days ahead.

  • something really clicked with me when someone once told me – we can have it all, but not necessarily all at the same time.