Confessions of a Working Mom

The real scoop behind what it's like to be a working mom.


Random Thoughts

Freedom. It’s Not Free.

I’ve heard all my life that freedom isn’t free. I always applied this in the civil liberties context. My dad served 3 tours in Vietnam (3!) and the scars he came back with made it so very clear that securing the American way of life comes at a tremendous cost. I never expected to apply the saying to the context of a marriage.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine bought a Porsche Cayman. It’s a two-seater rocket-type of car that no married with children woman drives, ever. As soon as my friend bought it, I asked him if I could drive it next time I saw him. Without hesitation, he said, “Yes.” I immediately told my husband that I was going to get to drive this ultra-cool car and he brushed me off. I maintained my excitement for the next three weeks until the day actually arrived that my friend and I were both in the same town. We made plans to meet up and I told my husband I was off to drive the car.

Imagine my surprise when my husband looked at me, then walked away without a word. I thought maybe he was teasing me about being angry, so I kissed the kids and off I went. I didn’t really think much of it, to be honest. I met up with my friend at his home where he had the car waiting. He backed it out of the garage (so I didn’t have to worry about the shrubbery he said) and then switched spots with me. I was so nervous I was shaking.

In my experience, many men are backseat drivers. Or, they are overly protective of their cars. They believe they are the superior drivers over women. As I gingerly backed out of the driveway and got going, my friend said, “You don’t have to shift so soon. Rev the engine up.” Say what? Surely I wasn’t hearing correctly. But, yes. So, I let the engine wind a little more before shifting to the next gear. “Are you driving a Honda?” He says. “Let go!”

As soon as I ease my way out of his neighborhood, I am on a familiar, open country road. The windows of the Porsche are down on a sunny spring day, there is quasi-techno music reverberating through the car, and the engine is growling all around me.  The Cayman is a noisy beast and I want to give in.  So I do. I let the car fly.

I punch it and move quickly through first and second gears. The car picks up speed tremendously quickly and my hair is whipping around in the wind. My smile is so wide, I feel like my face was ready to split in half.  As I let the car move through third with the gas punched down, my friend says, “That’s it! This car wants to go fast. You can let go!”

And I do. I’m up to fifth gear when I realize the speedometer clocks in almost at 90. My friend is issuing words of approval and I laugh as I speed down the road. The powerful car is responding to my every touch, the music is soaring through me and I feel free. I’m not worried about my kids, my health, my husband, my marriage, my finances. My friend is telling me to let go, to do what I want to do. He’s egging me on to have fun and to fly. And all I can think is that I’m free.

When I return home to my husband and kids a couple hours later, a feeling of contentment is floating through me. I feel euphoric and so very happy. I am on top of the world. I seek out my husband to tell him my experiences with the car, and how exhilarating it was. When I approach him, he will barely look at me. When I try to talk to him, he cuts me off. “You know that’s my favorite car,” he says. “I can’t believe you drove it and I didn’t.”

Hurt ricochets through me as I realize the person who is supposed to support me and love me has let his jealousy get in the way of our friendship. I’m reminded once again that freedom really isn’t free.


Just a Dream

My life has flown by so fast. I look back now, at 41, and realize how much time I wasted. I spent so much time unhappy. Unhappy I was fat. Unhappy I couldn’t have the man I wanted. Unhappy I wasn’t living the right life. And now here I am. Unhappy in my body. Wondering if there was ever a way I could have lived the life I wanted. Not regretting my children, but regretting so many of my choices that led me to where I am.

How do I move forward when I don’t feel old but I know that I am. I want those things, still, that young people want. How do I continue on this road when there are so many things I need to rewind and do differently. I want to spend less time of my youth fat. I don’t want to have a wrecked body. I want to get back to myself, the utter confidence of self, the love I had for my life. I realize these things are lost now. They have been lost through the passage of time.

I can work or pay to get a better body, I can change my path and trajectory, I can do things differently now going forward but they don’t change the choices of the past. They don’t change that I’ll never have certain things, things I’ve always wanted. Is there a point in time where not having what you becomes acceptable? Do I just swallow my dreams and desires down and say, “this is what I have”? I live a privileged life, and I’m selfish. I want to be who I was, free to express myself and not repressed into a role. Yet here I am, pushing forward for my own repression daily. I make ties that keep me into my life. I no longer struggle to pursue my dreams. I merely wish I had and feel sadness that I didn’t.

Fatigue. Not Just Military Clothing.

Have you ever wondered how to diagnose something you can’t see with a scan, can’t physically touch, or can’t prove? The answer to that is by trial and error. The trial part being a lot of different drugs meant to help. The error part being those (expensive) drugs not working for you.

I’ve been battling something for years now. It’s been worsening in recent months, to the point where some days I do not rise from my bed. As an active type-A personality, this is frustrating for me in the extreme. As someone who wants to find out what in the hell is wrong and get it fixed, the lack of desire to leave my room in search of answers is puzzling.

Since Doctor Google is never wrong, I have self-diagnosed myself with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have five out of the list of symptoms they list as criteria, with four symptoms being the minimum threshold to “having” CFS. As I lay here in my bed with my laptop, I wonder if it really matters if I am diagnosed with CFS. After all, I’m already taking the medication typically prescribed to help with CFS. It’s not like there’s a lot of options with regard to treatment. Many of the home remedies I already employ just to get through my day. I don’t think I need an “official” diagnosis just to have an “A-Ha!” moment.

So how, then, does one live with something so physically draining and so mentally crippling as CFS? How do you explain to your employer that you’d really like to get out of bed but that today it just doesn’t seem possible? How do you fix this? I need to know because I emphatically refuse to move through life like this. I won’t even call it living, because it isn’t. It’s existing. Coping. Managing. At least guys in the military sign up to be assigned to wear their fatigues. For me, I can’t wait to get rid of them. I’m tired of wearing them day after day with nothing else to change into.

Pause, Then Continue


I had heard about Project Semicolon some time ago. The Project resonated with me on a lot of different levels but most particularly because I, too, am a survivor. I remember the first time I thought about dying. I was 13 years old. I became obsessed with it. So much so that my best friend was worried, my mom was worried, my aunt who I stayed with that summer in Florida was worried. I wasn’t worried though, because I knew waiting on the other side was peace.

The thing that held me back from dying was, what if I was wrong? What if there wasn’t peace on the other side? What if it was more of the same? Disruption, chaos, heartache, malcontent. I felt I couldn’t risk it.

As I got older, I started worrying about what would happen to those I left behind. Would they be sad? Would my death cause someone else’s? What would my dad do? Would he blame himself?

During really low times, I convinced myself that everyone would be better off without me. I was sick all the time, I wasn’t any fun. I was no kind of mother, no kind of wife. The insurance payout and the social security my death would generate was surely worth more to my family than me alive.

These thoughts are awful. It’s a pretty safe gamble to bet that anyone who suffers from depression has had them. Yet, when we go in to our practitioners for our prescription the answer is always the same when asked, “have you ever thought about suicide?” We always say, “no”. We (being the Depressed) know what will happen if we confess to these dark thoughts. We’ll be locked away, have a permanent stain on our ‘record’. We’ll be thought of as crazy. Our kids might be taken away.

What I find crazy is that the Depressed are forced to bury these thoughts that are a naturally occurring part of our disease. It’s like saying, “Oh, you’re diabetic but you never have high blood sugar? Wow, that’s awesome!” It just doesn’t happen that way. Doesn’t it stand to reason if you’re sad all the time, you’ve thought about ending it to escape the pain? Of course it does, yet our healthcare system is structured such that admitting to such a major symptom of our disease is cause for shame.

Non-depressed people think thoughts of suicide are a sign of weakness in the Depressed. Something the Depressed can control. Like hell these thoughts are a sign of weakness. I can no more control my thoughts than an amputee can regrow his leg. Does it make me weak? No. Does not taking my life make me strong? No. What choosing to continue makes me is a survivor. Nothing more, nothing less. And I don’t for one second take for granted that I am a survivor TODAY. I might not be tomorrow and I know this. I know it is a possibility of the disease I continue to battle.

In my own small way to show that I survived today, and all the days before today, I tattooed onto my body a semicolon in a VISIBLE place (something I said I’d never do). I put it on the inside of my right ring finger to remind myself that I’ve had a lot of pauses in my life. I could have chosen to end my sentence but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to continue. I can only hope that when I reach one of those low points again in my life, I’ll look at my finger and know that I have the choice to end my story or to continue it – and that because I once had the ability to survive, I will find it again and will choose to keep writing my story.

Selfie, anyone?

I hate handing over the photo gallery on my phone to just anyone. And it’s not because there are nudie pics on there or anything like that, because there aren’t. It’s because I have enough selfies in my gallery to rival a 14 year old.

I’m not vain at all. But I lived so long as a “fat girl” that it’s still shocking to me to see my new face. It’s even more shocking to see a size 4 body instead of a size 18. I love it, I do! But anyone who didn’t know me “before”, doesn’t really understand who I am “after”. The assumption is that I’ve always been thin and now when I go out, I meet women who were just like I used to be. Insecure about their weight and intimidated by my thinness. I can see how they feel because I used to be that person. I’m sure snapping selfies helps reinforce their thoughts that I’m nothing but a shallow weight-obsessed idiot.

I’m part of a private bariatric chat group where we share our weight loss problems, our concerns, and our progress. It’s a very uplifting group and, yes, we do post lots of selfies. We’re all in varying stages of weight loss in this forum. Some of us are still “fat”. Some of us have lost so much weight that we have saggy skin. Some of us just look “normal”. What we all have in common, though, is that we tried to avoid the camera for many years because we hated how we looked. We are now trying to learn to love our bodies, imperfections and all, and can do this through taking and sharing multiple selfies. We were never voiceless because we could all be anything we wanted over the phone. Our voices weren’t fat. But we never had faces. Now we do.

One of the women on the site accidentally posted her forum selfie to her regular Facebook page this week. She then reposted to the right place and said, “I’m so embarrassed – I’m sure everyone on my regular page thinks I’m so vain now!” And that’s just it. People who haven’t gone through what we have DO think we’re vain for taking and posting so many selfies. But if you had felt like you’d been wearing an ugly mask for most of your life only to have it removed, wouldn’t you want to show it off too? It’s too bad that we have to turn to private groups for support and understanding because “regular” folks just don’t get it.

Next time you ask to see my gallery and are surprised by the number of photos I have taken of myself because you didn’t think I was so vain, remember that I’m not. I’m learning to love myself. And instead of running from the camera, I now say, “But first, let me take a selfie!”

My Empire of Dirt

One of the hardest things I face as a mom is looking my 4 year old N in the eyes, listening to his sweet voice tell me he loves me, and not see echoes of Z. Z was such a loving child, full of kisses and hugs. N is like him in many ways and some days, like today, it is so painful I ache with wondering where I went wrong. Where was it that I failed Z? What could I have changed to give him a better outcome? And as I hold N close to my chest and squeeze him extra tight, I can’t help but wonder if N will hate me too. Is my time with him even more finite than I thought? How long will he love me? I find great irony in the fact that I pushed myself so hard to succeed in life to provide my family with everything they need yet all of my successes mean nothing if my family isn’t happy. What has it all been for? And I lay here and just hurt as I worry about the future in ways I never knew I needed to when Z was my sweet 4 year old.

An Understanding

I’m a big Robin Williams fan. I always have been. I loved him in Mork & Mindy, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Night at the Museum. He brought joy to my life with his quips. I’m so, so sad that he’s gone and honestly, he’s the first celebrity in my lifetime that I’ve cared is gone. I never follow this type of thing on the news media. However, with him and the cause of his death, I’m reading and watching and both encouraged and disheartened by what I’ve seen and heard.

For those of us that understand that depression really IS a disease, we get it. We’re either someone who has the disease or close to someone with the disease. We know the daily struggle of depression. I have never seen such a public outpouring of support over the tragedy of losing someone to this terrible disease as I have with Robin Williams. As much as the understanding and support has been pouring in, ignorant comments and a lack of understanding has also surfaced. This reminds me yet again just how far we have yet to go in the understanding of mental illnesses. I read on one person’s Facebook that we shouldn’t make comments like, “‘I hope you find peace’ or ‘he’s in a better place’ because what type of message does that send out to those who are currently depressed? It’s like a green light to kill yourself.” That is such an ignorant statement. Those who are or have been depressed know what it’s like to struggle day in and day out with the very task of living. There is rarely any peace for those who suffer from depression. And so yes, when someone with the disease succumbs to death, we do hope they find something better than what they had.

Although the public refers to a mental illness as a “disease”, I don’t think most people get it. The majority of the population thinks that because you can throw medication at this “disease” that might blunt some of the effects it causes, everything should be good, right? Instead, those with depression are left struggling with a disease that they can’t talk honestly or openly about. They have to hide their true nature because it isn’t socially acceptable to talk about your daily struggle with how much you hate yourself, your life, and want to die. I know this need to hide the particulars of the disease well. While I was going through my divorce at 23, I was severely depressed and contemplated ending my life daily. I was so tired of everything. Each day was an unimaginable struggle of self-hatred and despair. Even though I was a college student who was flying through my program with tremendous success; I had a beautiful little boy who I adored above anything; and parents who loved and supported me, it wasn’t enough. I was overwhelmed by my personal failures. I sought out help and I can remember my doctor asking me if I thought about suicide. I carefully navigated my way through that minefield knowing I’d not only get my child taken away by my crazy ex, I’d also get committed if I answered honestly – “no, of course not doctor,” and continued to bury how bad I was hurting and how I was barely existing. Luckily, I survived that round.

Like any insidious disease, the depression came back. This time, it came shortly after having my third baby, nearly ten years after the first round. Little B was born early, colicky, and it was a hard adjustment for everyone. I didn’t sleep for days on end trying to care for him. I remember talking to my male OB/GYN who stated to me, “if you’d just take some of the pressure out of your life, I’m sure you’d be fine. Maybe quit your job. Don’t juggle so many different things.” Right. Like that was an option… and a realistic cure to depression. Luckily I ended up with a good primary care doc who got me on meds ASAP and I got the treatment I needed. But the whole experience was a good reminder for how little our society has progressed in the thought processes of those who have never experienced a mental illness. Ignorance and lack of understanding still reigns supreme.

Can you imagine telling people with terminal cancer to just ignore it? And to me, that’s what chronic depression is. It’s cancer, and it’s one that no doctor can tell you whether or not will be terminal. You can fight it, you can try to live, but there’s no guarantee that it will ever be better. Or, if you do manage to rid yourself of depression, will it come back? And when someone dies from cancer, we certainly don’t condemn them because of the fact that they finally lost the fight. In fact, we view their struggle to live as a heroic battle and those that fight the fight and die become immortalized in our eyes because they tried so hard. For those with depression, though, once they succumb and lose the fight, they are disparaged and condemned for their “choice”.

I hope something good comes from the death of such a talented man. I hope there is greater understanding achieved for those who struggle with and fight against mental illnesses. They, we, certainly don’t “choose” to have such a nasty disease and it’s about time people begin to understand that.

Bald. Or should I say bawled?

I feel bald today. Stripped.

I think I mentioned that I had Roux En Y bypass surgery less than 2 years ago. No? Well, I did. I’ve gotten down to a trim 125. Yay, right? Yeah, not so much. Unfortunately I fell into the small percentage of people who had complication after complication. Nothing has worked right since the surgery. Several months after the surgery, in events that were seemingly unrelated, I developed blinding head pain. A year later and we’ve figured out it’s compressed discs in my neck that were probably aggravated by the loss of fatty tissue around them. I’m having a nerve burn procedure in two weeks that is SUPPOSED to help relieve the pain. I’m hinging a lot on this procedure, but at least it’s hope that the pain will go away.

During the course of figuring out the head pain, I had to try out a lot of different medication. This resulted in me having a complete revision of the Roux En Y surgery and that occurred 10 months ago. The medications caused an ulcer that had completely blocked off my small intestine, not allowing any food to pass through. I dropped down to a scary 117, and at 5’8″, is just unhealthy.

Well, despite stopping all the harmful medication, I’ve developed another ulcer. I got the news last week that I’d need another surgery. This time, we’re treating me like a cancer patient and just connecting the small intestine directly to my esophagus. You didn’t know they could do that? Yeah, get in line. Apparently that’s how they treat stomach cancer and my little tummy is going bye-bye. This news threw me for a real loop. It’s scary to contemplate. I mean, what’s going to happen when I eat? Will I just dump it out 15 minutes later? Dr. Google didn’t offer a lot on this particular topic so I’m left with lots of questions unanswered. If Dr. Google doesn’t have a solution, to me, it’s a scary situation. Can’t you find EVERYTHING through Dr. Google? So, here is me. Scared witless over this upcoming surgery that I never signed up for and know little about.

In the meantime, I’ve been put on two medications which must be taken two hours apart. One of them must be taken twice per day and it can’t be taken within an hour of meals either way. The other must be taken with meals. And I’m thinking, what meals? Do I even eat? When am I supposed to take this crap? It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m trying.

After this little fun bit of news (which has been accompanied by an inability to eat or drink much), I developed a urinary tract infection (UTI). It’s common when your fluid intake isn’t high enough as mine hasn’t been. This added another set of pills to the mix, again twice per day, but again with the meals. I’m now juggling 5 pills per day, and who knows if I’m getting it right? Am I 38 or 83? Today, I’m leaning toward the 83 because I’m pretty sure I doubled down on one of my doses after forgetting that I already took it.

Anyway, my stomach pain from the UTI had been growing increasingly worse despite the treatment of antibiotics which is pretty unusual. So last night, at the advice of my physician, I took myself off to the hospital for a CT scan to make sure I didn’t have a kidney stone. I don’t – but what I do have are two liver masses. If they’re the best kind of masses (which we don’t know yet because this was just preliminary testing), they’re completely benign but can still cause trouble if they grow too big. Most people only develop one. But I’m so special I got two! And of course I’m sitting in the ER room alone when the nurse tells me at 4:15 a.m. because my dutiful husband is at home with the kids. As she’s assuring me that she’s sure they’re benign, I just sit there confused. I came in for kidney stones, not an enlarged liver with liver masses.

After the nurse leaves the room, all I can think of is the fact that I haven’t even gotten through the stomach surgery yet, nor the neck procedure, and I’m looking at more diagnostic tests for my liver; possibly biopsies; and worst case scenarios – more surgeries. I wasn’t prepared to hear this news and I’ll admit, it hit me hard. Are my kids ever going to have a healthy mom? Will I be sick for their entire childhood? I sat in that dark ER room and just bawled like a baby. Normally I’m a kickass woman but today I felt like I was stripped bald.

Breast or Bottle? Who Cares???

I am so tired of the raging debate between mothers who breastfeed and those who bottle feed. Here’s why:

  1. Moms who bottle feed look down their noses when a mom who breastfeeds whips out her breast in the middle of Target to nurse her baby (ostensibly she has some sort of nursing cover and is not running around hanging out in the wind). Bottle fed moms, get off your high horse. Stop whispering your disbelief at the nerve of the mom to bare her breast in public. We all have breasts. Sure, they look different, but only here in Puritanical America do people have such a weird fascination with keeping them covered. Aside from that little fact, it’s not like you as a bottle feeding mom would hesitate to whip out your powdered mix and bottled water to whip up a batch of formula for a crying baby. Hello, no, you wouldn’t. You’d take care of business and feed that baby. A breast fed mom is doing the exact same thing in the same time and space you are – providing food for her hungry baby. Not only that, but many bottle fed moms don’t wean their kids from the bottle until they are somewhere around 2. Yet moms who breastfeed often start hiding the fact that they are still breastfeeding because it’s considered “odd” after the first year or so. Bottle feeding moms, you don’t get to sensationalize this entire experience into something sick and bizarre.  It’s one of the most natural things our bodies do and the length of time it’s done for varies just like bottle fed babies.
  2. Moms who breast feed look down their noses on moms who bottle feed by stating it’s the “easy way out” and state their babies are healthier and closer to their moms than bottle fed babies. Although antibodies aren’t passed on in formula, I’ve been around enough kids to know that breast fed babies bring home the same ailments from daycare that bottle fed babies do. I have mentioned I have 4 kids, right? 3 who are in the public school system and 1 who is still in daycare. So, I’ve got some insight into this particular issue. I also find it interesting that statistics state there are less absences from work with breastfeeding moms. As someone who has done HR for a number of years, moms who breastfeed and are back at work are pumping and bottle feeding. According to, in order to reap the benefits of reducing infant illnesses, statistics show the babies have to be exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months. That cuts out working moms because moms who wholly breastfeed can’t come back to a regular 8 to 5 job because they can’t bring the baby with them so clearly the statistics are skewed. As far as making claims that baby is closer to a mom who breastfeeds? This whole premise makes moms who would like to breastfeed but can’t, or moms who adopted, feel bad or lacking, like they are less of a mom because the food the baby ingests doesn’t come from their body.  Enough already with making moms who bottle feed feel bad. Moms who breastfeed are not superior just for that fact alone. 
  3. Both sides, stop assuming that the way a baby is fed is made by choice. Sometimes it is. But many times it isn’t. There are economical factors, physiological factors, and biological factors that motivate moms everywhere into the mode of feeding they choose. I’ve been in Human Resources for a lot of years and counseled a lot of expectant moms on my own experiences. Plus, I’ve been in the position to be there when moms need a place to pump when they come back. What I’ve found is that some moms would love not to nurse but they can’t afford the “good” formula at $26.00 a can. And, there are some moms who would love to nurse but simply can’t get the baby to latch. There are some moms who are blessed to adopt a newborn baby and who don’t lactate because they were never pregnant. And there are some moms who want to breastfeed and everything goes perfectly with latching and milk production and get to do exactly as they please. Lastly, there are some moms who are career-minded or are extra careful with their body and make the decision early on to bottle feed because they are returning to work or don’t want their breasts stretched out. All of these motivations for feeding methods are valid – but how many are really choices per se? Stop treating each side as though they are the enemy and realize that the motivations behind what they’ve decided are personal and should be respected no matter what. After all, aren’t you asking us to respect your motivation for your method of feeding?

The bottom line is, we are all in a true sisterhood that derives from being moms. As moms, we love our babies and want what is best for them. We should be rejoicing with other moms that we’ve been able to have them in the first place, not tearing each other down on how the babies are fed. Life as a mom is demanding and hard. Why make someone feel bad about how they feed their baby? Instead of commenting on the fact that they took “the easy way out” when you see a mom stopping to prepare a bottle; or deriding the fact that a mom is continuing to shop while attempting to put on a nursing cover and NOT flash anyone her one-of-a-kind breast – why not stop and offer assistance. Wouldn’t that be an awesome change? I can’t count the number of times when I had to make a solo run to the store to pick up formula or diapers or wipes or some item and in the middle of my trip had to feed my hungry baby while making sure my other children didn’t escape off somewhere else, and while simultaneously trying to pacify my hungry baby so he or she didn’t scream the entire store down and thereby irritate other patrons. I probably would have wept in relief if another mom had offered a hand getting out a nursing cover from my bag or offered to dig around my bag for my prepackaged formula container while I juggled my angry baby. If you’re a mom, this scenario, or something like it, has happened to you. And no matter what feeding method is occurring, you can’t help but panic. So I say, join the sisterhood of moms and offer a fellow mother a hand. Help bring someone up instead of tearing them down. After all – as a 38 year old woman who dearly loves her mother – the last thing I care about is whether I was breast or bottle fed. I just care about the fact that my mother loved me the best way she knew how.

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