Tag Archives: sadness

When Mama Isn’t Happy, Nobody Is Happy


Kwan Yin with a baby

I’m stressed.

I got home late from work after a cluster fuck of a day.

Sorry I said the eff word, but there was no other way around it.

My last client had some complex and very dangerous stuff going on, and it would not have been ethical even in the best of times to say, “Gee I’m sorry but I need to get home to my own family now.  Good luck with everything you are going through.”

Like, I could have been sued for that shit.  And people could have been in serious danger.  Like life or death kind of stuff.

Sometimes it is really hard to have to put other families before my own.

It is especially hard at 5:25 pm when I was supposed to be home already and am stuck at work trying to convince someone that they actually want to make a safe choice.  And because of the nature of my work, I can’t really tell you any more than that.

So that stresses me out too.

Because I then get home and can’t really talk to anyone about what just happened and why I’m late.  Because ethics.  Always with these ethics.

I thought I had planned a super sweet dinner for the family with a rotisserie chicken and potatoes and stuffing and all that shit.

Sorry I said the ess word.  But there was even a vegetable, even though it was smothered in a cheese sauce.  And I had visions of eating ice cream on the porch after.

One big happy family.

All I really wanted was to sit down and have dinner together as a family, but apparently this is an unrealistic expectation.

My son refused to come out of his room because he just learned he has five weeks where he will be attending summer camp this summer instead of being on an eternal weekend for 10 weeks.

And my daughter has pronounced what a “bad mama” I am because I am already making three different meals tonight (leftover mac and cheese for the boy, leftover spaghetti for her, chicken dinner for me and the hubs) and I wouldn’t make fresh mac and cheese for her too.

My husband was quiet and sullen, trying to cajole the kids and me into all being nice on a path of least resistance.  I’ve tried and tried to tell him that the Path of Least Resistance is not the best way to raise children or “be” in a family, but he don’t care.


And deep down, I am still stressing about if someone else’s family will be safe tonight and if I did enough before leaving work.

Fuck.  It.  All.

Again, my apologies for the eff word.

Did I mention I am also in the throes of rampant and savage PMS?


So I’m unhappy.  And I’m disappointed, a little angry, and pretty frustrated that I can never fucking “nail” anything as a working mom.

Really, my feelings are just hurt.

So, no one else in the family is happy, because I’m not happy.

I’ve taken away TV.  And dessert.  No ice cream on the porch.

And as I stomp off to walk the dog and then change out of my work clothes, it strikes me what a monumental responsibility it is being a mom and trying to keep everyone happy while simultaneously implementing appropriate rules and consequences, and also balancing my career and setting up the coffee for the next morning.

Whatever I am feeling seems to trickle down, one way or another, onto the rest of the family.  Sometimes it feels like if I am not if super-chipper-robot-mode, then we are all fucked.

It seems really hard to have an authentic feeling without either going over the top and ruining everyone’s day, or retreating to a cave of solitude and ruining everyone’s day.

And happiness?  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

Most of the time I am an anxious mess trying to keep all the balls in the air, and the genuinely good moments I share with the family are few and far between and savored dearly.

In my office, I would preach emotional regulation and self care.

In my reality, if I can find the 25 minutes to write this post before I pass out in front of Netflix, then I can chalk it up to self care for the week.

Look, I realize my experience is not unique.

This is the life for which we sign up as working moms.  I don’t really think any of us could have possibly predicted what a gut busting marathon working motherhood, or just plain motherhood, truly is.  People try to tell us.  Very well-meaning people try to tell us how difficult it is, how tired we will be, and how quickly it goes by.  But no matter if we listen to them or not, we can never truly predict the reality.

It begs the question, if we had known, would we have done it?

Furthermore, what the hell are we supposed to do with this complex blend of exhaustion, frustration, anger, and confusion?  How are we supposed to express it–  how are we allowed to express it–  without upsetting the family apple cart.

Because anything we feel, the rest of the house is going to feel.

We didn’t know that either, but that’s just the way it works.

We are the emotional barometers in the home.  We set the tone and temperature for how it will be.

If we had known, would we have been crazy enough to reproduce?

It is also the path I chose when I became a clinical social worker.  And little optimist that I was, I had no fucking clue what all that meant.  It is the same path any working mom choses when they become a doctor or lawyer or supervisor or whatever where you have to put the needs of others front and center.  This was all well and good before I had kids…  but now?  It is almost unbearable.

Things fall apart.  Tantrums happen.  Doors slam and you are told what a poo poo head you are because you only have two hands.  Work spills over into home just as home spills into work.  Balls drop.  Some nights you don’t sleep.

In the end, I sort of stomped off to my corner of my room to implement a time out for myself.  It was all I could do.  I started writing this post.

And both of my kids came up to check on me.  They couched their concern in questions about other stuff, or random fun facts about their day, but I could tell that they were checking in with me, making sure I was okay, much as I check in on them and make sure they are okay.  They weren’t nervous or upset.  Their anger with me was all over and done. They were allowing me to have my feeling, but offering me a little connection, a peace offering of sorts.

I didn’t totally grasp this at the time, but later it hit me.  I’ve modeled enough emotional regulation for them–  maybe just enough—  that they get it.  They respected that I needed space, and they gave it to me, but also let me know that they were okay and present.  They knew I was upset and were modeling back for me what I have tried to model for them.

That’s kind of cool.

It sort of tempers the responsibility of keeping my shit together–  maybe just enough —  to see it reflected back to me in my kids.

So maybe I nailed that. And maybe we can all have ice cream together on the porch and be a perfect family on another night.


Down the Drain


There was an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in which he spent a good deal of time in the bathroom.  

He was trying to explain and show children that they could never go down the drains of the tub, sink, or toilet. 

As he did, he sang a song specific to the occasion. 

I’m singing this song in my head today as I prepare to leave work early for my friend, Patty’s funeral. 

Grief has a way of making me feel like I’m spiraling down some big, cosmic drain. It feels scary. There could be icky stuff on the sides of the drain that gets stuck to me. My arms and legs might lose control in the strength of the water as it cyclones down and away. 

There is a helplessness in grief. 

You can’t go back and do or say anything differently. 

You can’t say anything now that really changes the pain of the situation. 

And there is no way to truly know what the other person would say back, just our imagination that concocts situations to either comfort or chill our souls. 

When You Miss the Chance to Say Goodbye


Patty was the first and one of the only people I told I was pregnant, that first time, so many years ago.

I was in my early twenties, and in a horribly abusive relationship.  I couldn’t even say the words out loud. So, I wrote them on a yellow post-it note and pushed it over the reception desk at her.

Patty was a friend I made at my first job out of college.  She was old enough to be my mom, but we connected on a sweet and soulful level.  She had black hair that fell in natural spirals around her face.

Sometimes I called her Aunty.

Or Ladybug.  She looked amazing in red, with all that black hair and her dark eyes.

Like a brilliant Ladybug.

I’ll never forget how she looked at me when I told her that news, her face full of abiding comfort. She didn’t say much, but her quiet understanding allowed me to feel everything would be alright.

It was one of the truly kind things anyone ever did for me.

Long story short, I ended up terminating the pregnancy.  Then I went pretty crazy for about a year.

Patty never judged me.  She never chastised me.  She never made me feel anything but loved and supported.  When I look back on that time in my life, I see her as a huge part of my healing during a time when my heart and soul was torn in two.

She was a bright spot in a decade that was filled mostly with dark loneliness and trauma for me.

I learned Patty died recently.

Suddenly, but not suddenly.

She’d been ill but hopeful about her treatment.  She died in her sleep.

The last time I saw Patty was when Emily was a newborn.  We had gone to lunch and Patty held my irritable, little daughter while I wolfed down a tuna melt.  We talked about hard economic times.  We talked about her niece who was working in the City and had several kids of her own.  Patty never had children.  She never really elaborated on this fact, just that it was not meant to be for her.  She was a private person who never got deeply into her own story, but would listen to the tales of another all day.

She loved children and seemed happy to hold Emily and coo at her while I ate.

It feels like it was last week, this lunch.

We emailed a few times over the past couple years.  I took it for granted that she was there.  I thought of her when I saw sunflowers.

When I changed jobs a couple months ago, it struck me that I was working right down the street from her and that I should call her up for a lunch or a coffee.  But I was busily settling into my new job, then rushing home to tend to my family.  I figured I would get to it.  Eventually.

I figured I had all the time in the world.

I didn’t know that lunch so many years ago would be the last time I would hug my friend of nearly two decades.  I suppose she didn’t know it either.

The shock, sorrow and grief at learning of her passing filled me and overflowed in salty tears.

I remembered so many times when she was just kind to me.  Such a loyal and generous person.  Her essence fills me with gratitude that I knew her, that she touched my life.

But it still hurts.

It is frustrating trying to keep up with all the people with whom I should keep up.  Being a working mom I am pulled in so many directions, and being a highly sensitive introvert, I mostly want to hide in bed at the end of the day.  I don’t know how to balance it all.  I don’t know how to accept the grief that I missed another chance to connect with someone special and important.

May the glorious energy of her spirit soar free and tickle the flowers. 

I Don’t Know What to Say to Myself– The Immeasurable Nature of Grief


Over the past week, I’ve caught myself thinking a lot about my grandfather.  Some of you may remember he died earlier this summer.  I went to his services with my family.  I grieved.  I reconnected.

And I thought I let go and moved on.

My grandfather and I were not close in the sense that we were always around one another.  We lived far apart.  Distance and life separated us for many years on end.  I didn’t know his whole life story.  In fact, I hadn’t known he was in the army until a few years ago.

But I always knew he loved me.  And I never doubted that I was special to him, or that he would be proud of me.

He did get to meet my children, and I’ll never forget his joy and thrill at seeing his first great-grandson.  That was very special to me.  He had other grandchildren who lived closer and were closer to him in an every day kind of sense.  I liked knowing that I was special to him too, and that my children brought light to his eyes.

So, it’s been several months now since he transitioned to the realm of love and light.  I wonder why this week, in particular, I am thinking so much about him.  I wonder why I am regretting things I didn’t get to know or say.  I wonder why I am suddenly seized with the urge to cry while I am driving home from work.

I’m trying to tel myself it is okay to sit with it.

But it is uncomfortable.

If I were a client, I would tell myself, that’s how grief is.  It comes and goes in waves and sometimes it surprises you.  It’s okay.  However you feel is okay.  The intensity will lessen, and then maybe it will come back, but it is all okay.  Sit with it.  Hold it.  Comfort it.  Tell it you are aware of it and you will hold it until it is ready to go.  You will be okay.

Isn’t it strange how when it comes to ourselves, sometimes it can be so difficult to find just the words to comfort ourselves?  That sometimes it can be so easy to relate to others, to understand others, but when it comes to ourselves it can really take so much more work?

There is a picture of Grandfather on his birthday, just a week or so before he died.  I was not there, but I saw the picture.  I have this desire to be in that picture.  To be able to hold his hand and stroke it and tell him he was a really good grandpa and I loved him very much.  I want to tell him I am sorry for not being able to travel to see him more often, for being busy, for making excuses.  I want to thank him for supporting me through college, and for loving me no matter what.

Even as I write these words, tears are streaming down my face.

I remember after my grandmother died, when I was in college, I couldn’t come to grips with it.  She and I had been close, and while her death was somewhat expected, it was still very difficult for me.  I had been present at her death, had watched her take her last breath, had watched the electricity leave her body.  But I still had this sense that she was somewhere, waiting for me in a room.  And if I could just find that room, I could talk to her or hug her.

That was my grief.  It was so sharp and scary for such a long time after she died.  It was my first big loss in life, and it helped to pave the way for other losses, and what my expectations of them would be like, how it would feel to mourn, how I would be strong enough to get through it.

Maybe that was her final gift to me.

It has taken nearly 20 years for me to reflect on that.  So, I guess I need to still give myself some time with this death, this loss of my grandfather.

Thank you for being here.  Thank you for listening.  I know you are there and I’m so glad.